Respiratory Therapist

At a Glance

Years in School (after high school graduation):


Hourly Wage:

$27.11-$42.73 (Mean $34.11)

One-page Description (PDF):

Respiratory Therapist

Professional Activities

Respiratory therapy is an important part of the multidisciplinary care team that treats patients with respiratory illnesses. During breathing emergencies, respiratory therapists perform procedures necessary for maintaining life. They help in reviving patients whose heart or lungs are not working properly (Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation or CPR), and they use specialized equipment to support patients’ breathing (mechanical ventilators).

Respiratory therapists perform the following therapeutic modalities that assist patients in breathing: suctioning (to clear air passages of fluids and other materials), handheld nebulizer treatments (to deliver bronchodilators to open airways), Chest PhysioTherapy (CPT) (to help loosen and mobilize secretions so patients can clear their airways), Incentive Spriometry (IS) (coaching patients to take af deep breath to prevent collapse of the alveoli), delivering medical gases (oxygen), and evaluating patient breathing status.

Respiratory therapists perform diagnostic studies: Pulmonary Function Tests (PFTs) (measuring the speed and amount of air exhaled), Arterial Blood Gases (ABG’s) (drawing arterial blood to measure the patient’s metabolic status), and Transcutaneous CO2 monitoring (monitoring patient’s CO2 and making interventions when indicated). Respiratory therapists also educate patients and families on use of medications, disease processes, and Asthma.

In Alaska, respiratory therapists are usually employed in the larger regional hospitals that have intensive care units, newborn nurseries, surgery, and emergency rooms.

Educational Requirements

  • Graduation from high school with coursework in math, science, and English.
  • Two-year Associate degree programs in respiratory therapy are available in many community colleges. Respiratory therapists who have an Associate’s degree can enroll in shortened programs that allow them to complete a Bachelor’s degree.
  • Four-year Bachelor’s degree programs are available at some colleges and universities. Most of the duties of the Associate and Bachelor’s degree respiratory therapists are the same, but the Bachelor’s degree will generally provide better career options.

Academic Programs

There are no accredited respiratory therapy programs in Alaska. For a list of accredited programs in the U.S., visit the American Association of Respiratory Care’s website:


State Contact:

Alaska Society for Respiratory Care (ASRC)

National Contact:

American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC)
9425 N. MacArthur Blvd. Suite 100
Irving, TX 75063-4706
Phone: (972) 243-2272

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