A Respiratory Therapist is a licensed health care practitioner who works under the direction of a physician and in coordination with a health care team to evaluate, treat and care for individuals with breathing and/or cardiopulmonary disorders. In all states except Hawaii and Alaska they are required to be licensed. The minimum education required to be a Respiratory Therapist is an Associate Degree, however a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree will be more important for advancement and does affect the respiratory therapy salary.
In 2010 there were 109,270 respiratory therapist employed in the United States. The mean annual Respiratory Therapist salary was $55,200, or $26.54 hourly. The middle 50% earned in the range of $46,106 to $63,510 mean annual wage or $22.19 to $30.54 hourly. The highest paid 10% of respiratory therapists earned $73,410 mean annual wage or $35.29 hourly or more, and the lowest paid 10% earned $39,990 mean annual wage or $19.22 hourly or less.
As with all health care professions, salary earnings are determined by many variables, and industry is one of those factors. In 2010, the Respiratory Therapist salary was highest in Colleges, Universities and Professional schools with an annual mean wage of $66,450 or $31.95 hourly. The next highest paying industries in order of high to low are Local Governments (OES designation), Employment Services, Offices of other Health Professionals, and Commercial and Industrial Machinery and Equipment Rental and Leasing. These range from respectively $62,940 ($30.26 hourly) down to $58,980 ($28.36 hourly) mean annual wage.
Geographical location is another variable affecting Respiratory Therapy salary. The state paying out top salaries for this occupation is California with a mean annual salary of $69,970 or $32.68 an hour. This is followed by Nevada at $66,710, New Jersey at $66,080, Maryland at $66,020, and Connecticut at $64,530 mean annual wages. Hourly these figure out as $32.07 down to $31.02 respectively.
Within these geographical locations are other variables affecting wages and Metropolitan area is one of these. The state of California holds 8 out of 10 of the top 10 highest respiratory therapist salary Metropolitan areas. If California is a state in which anyone planning on working in this field is interested, you could expect to earn anywhere from $88,780 in Salinas CA down to $71,620 mean annual salary in the Oakland/Fremont/Hayward CA Metropolitan Division. These are well above the averages for wages across the states. Even the tenth top highest paying Metropolitan area in Waterbury CT is $70,510 annually or $33.90 hourly.
The highest respiratory therapy salary in a non-metropolitan area remains in California in the Northern Mountains Region at $70,530 annually or $33.91 hourly, still well above state average.
Given the lowest paying 10% salary at $39,990 compared to the statistics for the California area, there is a huge gap in salaries within North America. It definitely pays to do research if relocation is an option for anyone becoming a Respiratory Therapist. However always remember that these are averages and take into account many variables such as years of experience and education. The higher levels you obtain in any of these, the higher your wages are going to be in a matter of time.