How Much Do Respiratory Therapists Make?

5 Min Read Published August 24, 2023
Respiratory Therapist Salary Guide 2024

How Much Does a Respiratory Therapist Make?

The national average  respiratory therapist salary is $61,830 per year or $29.73 per hour, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The lowest 10 percent earned less than $47,380, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $95,540. 

Respiratory Therapist Salary by State


Annual Salary

Hourly Wage




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Rhode Island



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North Carolina



Via ZipRecruiter 

Respiratory Therapist Salary by Years of Experience

According to as of March 2023, respiratory therapists earn the following salaries by years of experience: 

  • Less than 1 years of experience earn an average hourly salary of $25.07
  • 1-4 years of experience earn an average hourly salary of $26.73
  • 5-9 years of experience earns an average hourly salary of $29.30
  • 10-19 years of experience earns an average hourly salary of $31.39
  • 20+ years of experience earns an average hourly salary of $33.19

Respiratory Therapist Salary by Work Setting

According to the BLS, as of May 2021, the median annual wages for respiratory therapists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

  • Hospitals; state, local, and private: $61,940
  • Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities): $60.570
  • Offices of physicians: $60,570

How to Make More Money as a Respiratory Therapist 

If you’re interested in increasing your earnings potential as a respiratory therapist, you have several good options. 


This might be uncomfortable for some respiratory therapists but is one of the most effective methods of getting an increase in pay. Respiratory therapists with experience and increased levels of training will find an easier time negotiating for a higher salary. 

The key to an effective negotiation is to do your research. Ensure you know what other facilities in your area are paying for people with your qualifications. 


Respiratory therapists who work overtime are entitled to increased pay for their additional work hours. Generally, this is considered time and a half pay.  In most cases, this means working over 40 hours a week. 

The Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires that all "non-exempt" employees receive overtime pay equal to one-and-one-half times their regular rate of pay for every hour over 40 hours worked during a work week. 

Per diem or Contract Employment

Per diem and contract employees earn a higher wage than staff members. They are paid a premium for working less desirable shifts and having shifts canceled at any given time. 

Per diem employees are not offered guaranteed hours so remember that a paycheck most likely will not be consistent. 

Shift Differential

Respiratory therapists may have an opportunity to earn more income without increasing the number of hours they work. A shift differential means making increased per-hour pay for working nights, weekends, or holidays.

Hazard Pay

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, hazard pay means “additional pay for performing a hazardous duty or work involving physical hardship.” It may also include work duty that causes “extreme physical discomfort and distress.” 

Is Becoming a Respiratory Therapist Worth it?

Respiratory therapists are one of the top healthcare professionals. U.S. News & World Report ranks RTs as the #15 best healthcare job and #36 in the 100 best jobs. 

Daniel Garett, executive director of the American Association for Respiratory Care, says “Respiratory therapists are the go-to lung experts, and the only medical professionals to receive college and clinical education in the art and science of mechanical ventilation and advanced respiratory therapies.”

RTs are in demand. The BLS reports a 14% growth from 2021 to 2031. RTs work in a variety of healthcare locations, especially in nursing homes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that there are 16 million adults in the U.S. living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. As of 2020, all baby boomers will be at least 55 and more susceptible to COPD, pneumonia, as well as other medical conditions that affect breathing.

>> Related: Top Respiratory Therapist Programs

Registered Nurse

Registered Nurses (RN) average annual salary is $77,600 as of May 2021, according to the  BLS. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $59,450, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $120,250.

Cardiovascular Technician

According to the BLS, the median annual wage for cardiovascular technologists and technicians was $60,570 in May 2021. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $29,910, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $98,070. 

MRI Technician

According to the BLS, the median annual wage for MRI technologists was $77,360 in May 2021. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $59,110, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $100,870. 

FAQs Respiratory Therapist

  • What is the Highest Paid Respiratory Therapist?

    • According to the BLS, respiratory therapists who work in hospitals (state, local, and private) earn the highest salary, with an average annual salary of $61,940.
  • Is Becoming a Respiratory Therapist Hard?

    • Any position in healthcare is hard, and becoming a respiratory therapist is no different. RTs must have a minimum of an associate degree from an accredited respiratory therapy education program by the Commission on Accreditation of Respiratory Care. Most RTs do earn a bachelor’s degree. 
  • Is Respiratory Therapist a Good Career Choice?

    • The job outlook for RTs, according to the BLS, is excellent. Employment of respiratory therapists is projected to grow 14 percent from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations.
  • Who makes more money, RNs or RTs?

    • According to the BLS, RNs earn a higher average annual salary. RNs make an average annual salary of $77,600 while RTs earn $61,830 per year. 


Kathleen Gaines
Kathleen Gaines
News and Education Editor

Kathleen Gaines (nee Colduvell) is a nationally published writer turned Pediatric ICU nurse from Philadelphia with over 13 years of ICU experience. She has an extensive ICU background having formerly worked in the CICU and NICU at several major hospitals in the Philadelphia region. After earning her MSN in Education from Loyola University of New Orleans, she currently also teaches for several prominent Universities making sure the next generation is ready for the bedside. As a certified breastfeeding counselor and trauma certified nurse, she is always ready for the next nursing challenge.

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