20 Pros and Cons of Being a Respiratory Therapist

Respiratory therapists are in high demand today.

They work with people of all ages, from infants to the elderly.

Your duties may include diagnosing and treating patients with respiratory disorders, analyzing lab samples, and ensuring that patients have vital respiratory equipment. 

You can choose to specialize in a specific area, like pediatric, geriatric, critical care, or home care.

You could also work as a general respiratory therapist. 

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Pros of Being a Respiratory Therapist

Being a respiratory therapist has plenty of benefits. 

The pros of being a respiratory therapist include:

  1. Option to get a degree online
  2. Good pay
  3. High job growth
  4. Ability to work in different settings
  5. It’s never boring
  6. Flexibility
  7. Potential for career growth
  8. You’ll be helping people

1. Option to Get a Degree Online

One of the benefits of choosing to be a respiratory therapist is that you can get your education online.

This can allow you to maintain a job or family responsibilities while training for your new career. 

2. Good Pay

Respiratory therapists make an average of $75,000 a year. Salaries range from $68,000 to $71,000 yearly.

This can allow you to make a good living with a rewarding career. 

3. High Job Growth

Demand for respiratory therapists is expected to grow by 14% in the next decade.

This is much higher than the average job growth rate.

As the population, particularly the elderly population, continues to grow, demand will only grow.

This provides job security. 

4. Ability to Work in Different Settings

As a respiratory therapist, you can choose to work in many different settings.

You may work in a hospital, nursing home, or doctor’s office.

You can also visit people in their homes. 

While most respiratory therapists work in a medical facility, but you can also work from home.

Telehealth has grown in popularity in recent years. 

You can also travel.

Some respiratory therapists travel from one area to another filling in during shortages. 

5. It’s Never Boring

If you don’t want to do the same tasks each day, being a respiratory therapist may be a good career choice.

Each day is different, so it’s never boring.

You’ll have new patients and challenges constantly.  

6. Flexibility

Depending on the setting you work in, you may have some flexibility in your schedule.

If you need a flexible schedule, you should consider being a respiratory therapist. 

7. Potential for Career Growth

Once you begin your career as a respiratory therapist, you have advancement opportunities.

This generally requires continuing your education.

You can choose to go into management or a teaching position with an advanced degree. 

8. You’ll be Helping People

If helping people is important to you, you’ll love being a respiratory therapist.

You’ll see people when they are struggling, and be able to provide the help they need.

At the end of the day, you’ll know that you have truly made a difference in people’s lives. 

Cons of Being a Respiratory Therapist

Being a respiratory therapist has its downsides as well. 

The cons of being a respiratory therapist include:

  1. You’ll need a degree
  2. You must be licensed
  3. You need to be certified
  4. Hours can be long
  5. Physically demanding
  6. You’ll deal with bodily fluids
  7. You will be exposed to pathogens
  8. You may be exposed to toxins
  9. Hours can be inconvenient
  10. Emotionally demanding and stressful
  11. Life and death are in your hands

1. You’ll Need a Degree

The first con of being a respiratory therapist is that you’ll need a degree.

You can start your career with an associate’s degree, but most positions require you to have a bachelor’s degree.  

2. You Must be Licensed

To start your career, you’ll need to be licensed.

License requirements vary by state, so you’ll need to be sure you meet the requirements for the state you plan to practice in.

You’ll need to take a licensing test in most states.

Your license will be valid for 5 years. 

3. You Need to be Certified

Separate from licensing, you’ll need to be certified to practice as a respiratory therapist.

Unlike licensing, the certification requirements are uniform.

No matter where you are in the country, the certification process is the same. 

There are two potential certifications for respiratory therapists.

Once you’ve graduated, you will sit for the Therapist Multiple-Choice Exam, or TMC. 

You’ll need a certain score to pass.

If you get a lower passing score, you will receive the Certified Respiratory Therapist credential, or CRT.

If you receive a higher score, you’ll get the CRT credential and be eligible for the Clinical Simulation Examination, or CSE.

If you pass this test, you will be certified as a Registered Respiratory Therapist, or RRT. 

4. Hours Can be Long

The hours you work will vary greatly based on the setting you are in.

Respiratory therapists, like other health professionals, often work long hours.

You may be expected to work shifts that are 12 hours long, or even longer. 

If you work in other’s homes or a doctor’s office, your hours will typically be shorter.

However, you may work 5 or 6 days a week. 

If you are employed in a hospital, you will need to be prepared for long shifts.

You may work a few days of 12 hour shifts, and then have a few days off.  

5. Physically Demanding

Being a respiratory therapist is physically demanding.

You’ll be on your feet for most of your shift.

You may also need to lift patients or equipment.

Combined with the long hours, it can be a tough job.  

6. You’ll Deal with Bodily Fluids 

If you are squeamish, this isn’t the right career for you.

You’ll need to suction mucus on a regular basis.

You’ll also need to draw blood.

While this can seem gross, it’s a necessary part of the job. 

7. You Will Be Exposed to Pathogens

When you work in the healthcare field, you will be exposed to pathogens.

The blood and mucus we just discussed can harbor diseases, like HIV and other blood-borne diseases. 

 You’ll also work with patients that may have contagious diseases, including the flu and tuberculosis. 

You may also be exposed to HIV and other blood-borne diseases. 

Today, facilities take precautions to prevent the spread of disease.

However, there’s always a risk when working in the medical field.

Particularly when you are working directly with ill patients. 

8. You May be Exposed to Toxic Substances

In addition to being exposed to pathogens, you may also be exposed to toxic substances.

You’ll be administering powerful medication.

Over time, these medicines can pose a health risk, because you get frequent exposure to them. 

You’ll take precautions to avoid exposure, but you should be aware of the potential risks. 

9. Hours Can be Inconvenient

In addition to long hours, you may also work inconvenient hours.

You may need to work nights, weekends, and holidays.

If this is an issue for you, you’ll need to aim for a position in a doctor’s office or other facility that has regular business hours. 

10. Emotionally Demanding and Stressful

Along with making a difference in the lives of your patients, you’ll need to be emotionally prepared for some tough times.

Some of your patients won’t survive.

Others will need to live on oxygen, which affects their quality of life. 

It’s natural to care deeply about your patients, so it can be difficult to see them struggling or passing away. 

In addition to the emotional toll, being a respiratory therapist is stressful.

You may have pressure to move from one patient to another quickly to manage your workload. 

11. Life and Death are in Your Hands

When you are a respiratory therapist, the lives of your patients are literally in your hands.

If you make a mistake, it can be fatal for your patient.

This brings a lot of pressure and responsibility. 

You may also face legal consequences if things go wrong.   

12. You May Have Burnout 

Stressful jobs like respiratory therapists can lead to burnout. 

If you have burnout, you’ll feel exhausted emotionally, mentally, and physically.

You may lose interest in your job or dread going to work.

According to the AARC, 80% of respiratory therapists have some level of burnout. 

20 Pros and Cons of Being a Respiratory Therapist – Summary Table

Pros of Being a Respiratory TherapistCons of Being a Respiratory Therapist
1. Option to Get a Degree Online1. You'll Need a Degree
2. Good Pay2. You Must be Licensed
3. High Job Growth3. You Need to be Certified
4. Ability to Work in Different Settings4. Hours Can be Long
5. It's Never Boring5. Physically Demanding
6. Flexibility6. You'll Deal with Bodily Fluids
7. Potential for Career Growth7. You Will Be Exposed to Pathogens
8. You'll be Helping People8. You May be Exposed to Toxic Substances
9. Hours Can be Inconvenient
10. Emotionally Demanding and Stressful
11. Life and Death are in Your Hands
12. You May Have Burnout

Should You Become a Respiratory Therapist? 

If you want a job that allows you to care for patients, you should consider being a respiratory therapist.

You’ll be able to make a difference in their lives,  and you can keep them alive and comfortable. 

However, you’ll also have patients that pass away.

If you can’t cope with death, then being a respiratory therapist probably isn’t the right job for you.

The job is also physically and emotionally demanding.

You’ll need to be on your feet for long hours. 

You’ll also be exposed to pathogens and potential toxins.

If you are drawn to the positive aspects of being a respiratory therapist, and can handle the negative sides, it’s a great job.

However, it’s certainly not for everyone. 

Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

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