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How to Become a Respiratory Therapy Technician (Therapist Assistant)
Respiratory therapy technicians operate equipment and perform other tasks to assist respiratory therapists. Either students currently studying to become a therapist or others with some training in the field can get a job as a technician.
For those who can get this job, it pays pretty well for an occupation that does not require a college diploma. In May of 2010, the average median salary was $45,210, according to the United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics.
However, there are not so many positions for respiratory therapy technicians. In 2010, there were about 13,500 technicians that were assisting respiratory therapists. Thus, you will greatly increase your chances of getting this job by getting at least some relevant training in the field. In fact, the minimum requirement may be at least a certificate or associate's degree.
There are not many degree programs entitled "respiratory therapy technology," so the normal route to a technician job would be to get a degree in respiratory therapy. You may end up actually being qualified to work as a respiratory therapist but take a lower-salary technician job to get your foot in the door. Considering that actual therapists averaged a salary of $54,000 in the same study cited above, it may be more beneficial to take a respiratory therapy technician job than to pull up stakes and move. It all depends on your personal life situation. On the other hand, there are over 100,000 jobs for therapists, so the technician job should generally be looked at as an introductory first step to becoming a full respiratory therapist.
To get training, you should try to attend an accredited school. There are many schools accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care that award an associate's degree. Having earned an associate's degree, you would then at least qualify for a technician job if you prefer to work and then complete your therapist education in your spare time.
There are also some accredited programs that award a bachelor's degree in respiratory therapy. These will certainly qualify you for work as a regular respiratory therapist, not just a technician (assistant). Use the link below to access a database of accredited degree programs for this field.
Once qualified, you can look for technician jobs at hospitals. The vast majority are in general hospitals, but work may be more plentiful in hospitals that specialize in respiratory or similar care.
Texas and Florida have the most jobs for respiratory therapy technicians, and California, Pennsylvania, and Illinois round out the top 5.
Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care
Bureau of Labor Statistics: Jobs and Salary for Respiratory Therapy Technicians