We know it’s not all about your salary. But pay matters.

Respiratory therapists work to help their patients breathe easier. This is a rewarding field in which you can make good money as you give back to your community.

When choosing a career, there are a lot of factors that decide where you work. It can be your desire to help people, your interest in the field, or your willingness to contribute to society. Regardless of what your reasons are, looking at your potential salary is essential because it can determine where you want to live, which environments you want to work in, and what you wish to your responsibilities to be.


RT Industries with the highest employment levels


IndustryEmploymentHourly WageAnnual Wage
General Hospital98,960$30.08$62,570
Nursing Care Facilities6,070$30.09$62,590
Physicians' Office2,620$29.35$61,050


How much does a respiratory therapist make?

So, you may have heard a little about respiratory therapists, and now you’re wondering how much they bring home. Typically, it takes a minimum of a two-year degree, two certifications, and a license to become a certified respiratory therapist. And the average person can complete these requirements in about two years. For this amount of work, respiratory therapists on average make around $60,000 per year. Now, this number can fluctuate a little depending on your location, but it gives you a ball-park estimate of how much you can make as a respiratory therapist. The lowest-paid 25 percent of RTs make about $50,000 a year while the highest-paid 25 percent earn close to $72,000 per year.

A lot of respiratory therapists work in general hospitals and make an average of $62,570 annually. If a nursing care facility employs you, you can make around $62,590 a year. Therapists employed at a doctor’s office will average about $61,050 per year. The highest-earning wage is reported by therapists employed at colleges and universities at $75,370 per year, but they make up a smaller percentage of overall RTs.


What determines your salary as a respiratory therapist?

We all know there are a ton of reasons why you may make more, or even less, money. The factors that influence your income can include your credentials, years of experience, location, and where you work. If you want to be a well-paid respiratory therapist, you must take the necessary training and get the relevant qualifications. For instance, therapists with bachelor’s degrees tend to make more than those with just an associate’s degree. Though, it does seem that many organizations prefer a four-year degree over a two-year one. Each certification you earn can significantly help you, in the beginning, to establish yourself as a professional and gain the best salaries. Once you graduate from your program, you will have the option of applying for the Certified Respiratory Therapist exam. If you do well on this exam and pass it, you will have the opportunity to take another exam for a more advanced certification, which would make you a Registered Respiratory Therapist and is the highest level for practical certifications in respiratory care.

How does your pay progress as you gain experience?

Pay by experience for RTs

According to Payscale.com, professionals make about $22.41 per hour in their first year of respiratory therapy. As they gain experience and better understand the work environment, they can earn upwards of $30.56 per hour. If you obtain certifications along the way, you can likely be higher. 

Where can you earn the most money?

Top paying industries for respiratory therapists

IndustryEmploymentHourly WageAnnual Wage
Local Government270$37.20$77,380
Outpatient Care Centers1,260$36.54$76,000

Not all respiratory therapists work in hospitals. Some work at colleges, private companies, and local governments. When you switch to a different industry, what you focus on may be different from work in a traditional hospital. For instance, educators will focus more on academic research and preparing their students to be the next generation of RTs. On the contrary, respiratory therapists at a private company may focus on the benefits of respiratory products they are marketing to consumers. Remember what we said about how your salary depends on your location to make more money. Well, we have a quick list of the best-paying states for people in this field. Now, keep in mind that some places may offer more money due to a higher cost of living, and it’s best to research living costs and taxes before packing up your bags.

Top-paying states for respiratory therapists

StateAnnual Wage
Washington D.C.$78,540
New York$74,890

How is the salary outlook?

If you are wondering if you can make more money as you gain experience, the answer is yes! There are some growth opportunities for RTs through additional certifications and by attaining an advanced degree like a master’s. Plus, the average salary for this field has been steadily on the rise for several years now, so there are options for you to take home more money.

What is the job market like?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, respiratory therapist jobs are expected to rise by 12 percent between through 2026. Life expectancy is on the rise and as people become older, they may have more issues breathing. One prevalent condition for the elderly is sleep apnea. As diseases like this become more frequent, there will be an increased need for respiratory therapists. 

How much do I make compared to other medical jobs?

Respiratory therapists earn an annual wage of approximately $60,000.  Some may say this is a good wage due to the minimum time it takes to become a RT, compared to other medical careers. Comparatively, Registered Nurses make an average of $75,000, and Physical Therapist Assistants earned an annual income of about $57,000.

What’s next?

Now that you have an idea of what a respiratory therapist makes, we can look at what it takes to get there. There are a few educational requirements you need to have before you can be a full-fledged practicing respiratory therapist. Let’s cover them to make sure you have everything you need to get started on your next journey.  

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