Respiratory Therapy Workforce in North Carolina

Source: North Carolina Health Professions Data System

The Council for Allied Health in North Carolina (Council), the North Carolina Area Health Education Centers (NC AHEC) Program, and the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Sheps Center) are pleased to provide you with a copy of The State of Allied Health in North Carolina: A Focus on the Respiratory Therapy Workforce.

The report is a snapshot of the respiratory therapists – practitioners who evaluate, treat and manage patients with respiratory illnesses and other cardiopulmonary disorders. The publication includes a discussion on the supply, distribution and demographic characteristics of respiratory therapists and examines North Carolina’s respiratory therapy educational programs.

Sample findings from the report include:

  • There are 3,169 actively practicing respiratory therapists in North Carolina, yet 13 counties do not have a licensed respiratory therapist indicating primary practice location. Over half of these counties are in the eastern region of the State;
  • Since licensure of respiratory therapists in North Carolina was fully enacted in 2002, nearly 99% of all available training spaces in the 13 community college educational programs have been filled.
  • There will be little increase in the number of new graduates entering the respiratory therapy workforce in North Carolina without program expansion or improved student retention. Attrition from the programs is estimated at 30%;
  • Less than 15% of respiratory therapists practicing in North Carolina hold a baccalaureate or advanced degree, a factor that may contribute to difficulty in recruiting qualified faculty and directors necessary to meet educational program accreditation requirements;
  • North Carolina does not currently offer a baccalaureate degree education in respiratory therapy; there are 13 accredited community college programs which award associate’s degrees. Twenty-four states, including the neighboring states of Virginia, Tennessee and Georgia all offer baccalaureate degree programs in respiratory therapy;
  • Over one-third of the respiratory therapy workforce in North Carolina is male; approximately 15% of respiratory therapists are from a racial or ethnic background;
  • Salary estimates for respiratory therapists in North Carolina are relatively high compared to other allied health professions requiring the same educational preparation.

Respiratory therapists are the fifth allied health profession to be studied under the joint collaboration of the Council, NC AHEC and the Sheps Center, with funding provided through a grant from The Duke Endowment. Additional copies of the report can be found at or contact or (919) 966-7112.