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Online Associate Degree Programs in Respiratory Therapy

Respiratory therapy associate's degree programs are rarely offered completely online,, although bachelor's degrees are. Learn about classes offered in associate's programs and licensure required in the field.

What Is an Online Associate's Degree Program in Respiratory Therapy?

Respiratory therapy associate's degrees, while occasionally offered online, are usually part of on-campus programs. As an online student, some of your courses can be completed online, but you may be required to participate in presentations, labs and clinical training either on-campus or in a medical setting.

Online DetailsSome courses may be completed online, though clinical and lab experiences must be completed in a medical setting
Admission RequirementsDiploma or GED, minimum GPA, prior coursework, placement test
Common Course TopicsLab techniques, cardiopulmonary science, respiratory care, therapeutic procedures, diagnosis of respiratory problems
LicensureLicensure as a Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) is available through the NBRC
Other DegreesBachelor's degrees in respiratory therapy are also available online
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 Are the Requirements?

Requirements for admission to the respiratory therapy associate's degree program are typically the same for online and on-campus programs. Although specific requirements may vary by school, general requirements typically include:

  • Must have high school diploma or equivalency
  • Must complete general education courses, such as biology, English and chemistry
  • Must complete a mathematics placement test
  • Must maintain a GPA of 2.5 or higher
  • Must complete a computer competency exam

You must also pass a physical skills exam, which may include testing in eyesight, hearing, speech, motor skills and physical strength. You may also be required to take a test to determine satisfactory emotional and psychological health, as well an intelligence exam. A criminal background check may be required prior to participating in clinical courses.

What Will I Learn?

Respiratory therapy associate's degree program includes a combination of classroom coursework, didactic coursework and clinical training. The first year of the program, you'll participate in classroom assignments, lab and lectures, while the second year will entail clinical lab settings and working with simulated respiratory therapy conditions. You'll become familiar with medical equipment used for testing and diagnosis of respiratory problems. Topics of study may include:

  • Introduction to diagnostic and therapeutic procedures
  • Basic cardiopulmonary science
  • Respiratory care procedures and theory
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation fundamentals
  • Role of pharmacology in respiratory care
  • Respiratory care in neonatal and pediatrics
  • Lab techniques for home care

How Can This Degree Help My Career?

Respiratory therapists work with doctors and health professionals in diagnosing and treating patients with respiratory and cardiopulmonary disorders. A respiratory therapist associate's degree program will provide you with the training required to provide diagnosis procedures and respiratory care treatments under the supervision of a physician.

An Associate's of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Respiratory Therapy - the most common educational credential for respiratory therapists - can lead to entry-level positions in many medical settings. A Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Respiratory Therapy will provide you with more employment options in advanced medical and leadership positions.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment outlook for respiratory therapists was expected to increase up to 23% from 2016 to 2026 (www.bls.gov). This faster-than-average increase was due in part to respiratory therapists taking a larger role in health care, including providing emergency care, disease prevention and prompt detection of pulmonary disorders. In 2018, the median wage for respiratory therapists was $60,280, with the highest number of therapists employed in medical and surgical hospitals.

Will an Online Program Prepare Me for Licensure?

In most states, in order to practice as a respiratory therapist you need to be licensed. You may also be required to earn and maintain a cardiopulmonary resuscitation certification (CPR), depending on your employer. To get your license, you must gain Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) certification from the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC).

Professional certification involves passing an exam and successfully completing a program accredited by the Committee on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC) or the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Once you've gained CRT certification, you can apply for Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) credentials upon successful completion of a written exam and clinical simulations.

Are Bachelor Degree Programs Available Online?

If you currently hold an associate's degree in respiratory therapy, you can earn a bachelor's degree in respiratory therapy online. To be eligible for this program, you must be hold the Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) credential and have one year experience working as a respiratory therapist. Because respiratory therapy associate's degree programs are seldom offered online, you may choose to pursue a bachelor's degree in RT online.