Associate Degree Program in Respiratory Therapy

An associate's degree program in respiratory therapy provides you with the skills necessary to become a certified respiratory therapist and work with patients who have breathing problems. Review the classroom and clinical components of a 2-year program in respiratory therapy, and check the requirements for certification. Learn more about the job duties and salary potential of certified respiratory therapists. Schools offering Allied Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What are the Prerequisites for a Respiratory Therapy Program?

Earning your Associate of Applied Science in Respiratory Therapy means you will have to complete coursework in a respiratory therapy program (RPT), a clinical rotation component and general education requirements. In addition to undergoing interviews and a criminal background check, to apply to the program, you will need to submit:

  • CPR certification
  • Strong grades in biology, chemistry, anatomy and physiology, and microbiology
  • Passing scores on respiratory entrance exam, if required
  • Medical examination results, including drug screen

PrerequisitesCPR certification, entrance exam may be required, prior high school coursework in the sciences, interviews, criminal background check
Common CoursesCritical care, pharmacology, cardiopulmonary evaluation, respiratory care principles, airway management
CertificationThe National Board for Respiratory Care offers the CRT certification; after two year's experience, can achieve the RRT certification
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 23% growth (for respiratory therapists)*
Median Salary (2018)$60,280 (for respiratory therapists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Courses Will I Take?

Once you are accepted to the respiratory therapy program, you will begin taking your core classes. Most of these classes will be coupled with a laboratory component or clinical rotation in a medical facility. Full time students can complete the program in two years. Students learn about:

  • Respiratory care principles
  • Airway management
  • Pharmacology
  • Respiratory physiology
  • Critical care
  • Cardiopulmonary evaluation
  • Pediatric respiratory therapy
  • Professional examination preparation

Can I Get Certification?

After graduation, you will be able to sit for the Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) examination given by The National Board for Respiratory Care. The CRT is an entry-level certification that proves skill set, comprehension and knowledge of respiratory care. With an associate's degree, CRT certification and two years of professional experience, you can take the board's examination for the Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) credential.

How Do Graduates Help People?

An associate's degree in respiratory therapy will provide opportunities to work immediately in your chosen healthcare setting. While most jobs are located in hospitals, you may choose to work in many medical fields, including pediatrics. Your job will vary based on the needs of your patients and supervising physicians. While you will help people breathe, you may also teach patients how to use ventilation equipment for independent care. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job opportunities are expected to grow by 23% between 2016 and 2026.

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