Respiratory Therapist Advancement Opportunities

Respiratory therapists work with patients who have chronic or acute breathing difficulties. Respiratory therapists may wish to advance by obtaining specialty certification, taking on a management position, or obtaining additional education to help those struggling with breathing disorders.

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Career Growth Opportunities for Respiratory Therapists

Respiratory therapists play a crucial role for patients who struggle with breathing disorders. They use various types of tests and treatment modalities to ensure that breath function is maintained. After working as a respiratory therapist, some professionals may wish to obtain credentials to allow them to specialize in particular areas of respiratory therapy. Others may wish to pursue additional education to allow them to treat patients with breathing difficulties in other ways. Some examples are provided below.

Job Title Median Salary Job Growth (2016-2026)* Education
Respiratory Services Manager $81,706(2018)** 20%(medical and health services managers) Bachelor's degree
Registered Polysomnographic Technologist $50,456(2018)** 20%(health technologists, all other) Registered polysomnographic technologist credential
Physician Assistant $104,860(2017)* 37% Master's degree
Pulmonary Medicine Physician $266,460(2018)** 11%(physicians and surgeons, all other) Medical degree, residency, and fellowship

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **PayScale

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Career Information

Respiratory Services Manager

Respiratory therapists may wish to advance to a managerial position as a respiratory services manager. In this position, professionals direct the respiratory services program that is offered by a hospital or clinic. They ensure a balanced budget for their department, and that staff are following applicable laws and regulations. Respiratory services managers typically have extensive experience as a respiratory therapist and hold a bachelor's degree.

Registered Polysomnographic Technologist

Respiratory therapists may wish to specialize in areas where their experience as a respiratory therapist will be useful. One option is that of a polysomnographic technologist. These professionals specialize in working with patients undergoing sleep studies. They gather information about a patient's sleep habits and observe and monitor them as they sleep. To enter this field, respiratory therapists will require additional education in sleep disorders. They must then take a specialty exam in polysomnographic technology and be awarded the registered polysomnographic technologist certification.

Physician Assistant

Respiratory therapists may possess excellent clinical skills. Those who wish to increase their opportunities to provide patient care may consider becoming a physician assistant, or PA. PAs can be primary care providers for patients. They examine and test patients in order to properly diagnose an illness and develop care plans. Physician assistants may write prescriptions and they frequently collaborate with other health care professionals. To become a physician assistant, most candidates must have a bachelor's degree in a scientific field and then apply to a master's degree program. Candidates with patient care experience such as respiratory therapists possess are favored in applications to these programs.

Pulmonary Medicine Physician

Respiratory therapists are specialists in caring for patients with pulmonary illnesses. As such, obtaining more education and becoming a pulmonary medicine physician would be an excellent next step. These doctors specialize in providing medical care for patients with respiratory illnesses. They may perform various diagnostic tests, and prescribe medications or therapies to assist patients with lung functions. To become a physician specializing in pulmonary medicine, one must first receive a bachelor's degree, typically in a scientific area. They would then graduate from medical school and perform a residency in internal medicine. A one to three year fellowship in a pulmonary specialty would follow.

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