Respiratory Therapy Degrees and Colleges

Learn the job duties of respiratory therapists. Find out how to become certified in this field and which states require respiratory therapists to be licensed and review the educational requirements for these professionals and which schools offer degree programs in respiratory therapy. Schools offering Allied Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What You Need to Know

Respiratory therapists help patients of all ages who suffer from breathing disorders. Associate's degrees are the most typical educational requirement for this position; although, you can also find bachelor's and a few master's degree programs that will prepare you for this type of work.

Degrees Associate of Applied Science in Respiratory Therapy Technology, Bachelor of Science in Respiratory Therapy, Master of Science in Respiratory Care
Courses Fundamentals of medical gas therapy, respiratory therapeutic modalities, patient and ventilator management, airway care and gas exchange, pharmacology for radiation therapy
Licensing Nearly all states require licensure for radiation therapists

What Does A Respiratory Therapist Do?

In this position, you will perform diagnostic blood and breathing tests in addition to providing therapy to patients with chronic breathing problems, such as asthma and cystic fibrosis. You will also provide treatment to critical care patients by managing ventilators and life support equipment. You can work in hospitals, private offices or home health care agencies.

Which Schools Offer Respiratory Therapy Degree Programs?

It is recommended that aspiring respiratory therapists complete an educational program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC). Several community and technical colleges and even some universities across the U.S. offer accredited 2-year degree programs in respiratory therapy, respiratory care or respiratory therapist, including:

  • Tidewater Community College
  • Lone Star College
  • Goodwin College
  • Missouri Southern State University
  • Southeast Community College
  • New England Institute of Technology

Four-year and advanced degree programs can often be taken online. Some schools offering bachelor's and master's degree programs in respiratory therapy or respiratory care include:

  • Cardinal Stritch University
  • University of North Carolina - Charlotte
  • University of Missouri
  • Georgia State Univerisity
  • University of Texas San Antonio
  • Northeastern University
  • California College San Diego

Which Basic Courses Will I Take in an Associate's Degree Program?

To obtain a 2-year degree in respiratory therapy or care, you must complete some basic coursework. The curriculum for an accredited program should include patient assessment and diagnostic techniques, anatomy and physiology, and pharmacology. Other courses you are likely to take include:

  • Microbiology
  • Medical physics
  • Psychology
  • Cardiopulmonary science

What Else Will I Learn in an Associate's Degree Program?

Throughout your coursework, you should learn how to use equipment, including blood gas analyzers, ventilators and oxygen tanks. You may also learn about the relationship between the heart and the lungs. You may also have the opportunity to study breathing disorders specific to children. In addition, most programs include hands-on clinical studies. Courses you can expect to take include:

  • Principles of respiratory care
  • Mechanical ventilation
  • Cardiopulmonary pathology
  • Research in respiratory care
  • Respiratory diagnostics
  • Respiratory care sciences

Which Courses Can I Expect to Take in Other Degree Programs?

Bachelor's and master's degree programs offer more advanced studies in some of the subjects you will have taken in an associate's degree program, such as those in cardiopulmonary physiology, critical care, ventilatory support, mechanical ventilation and patient management. Courses focusing on leadership are offered in master's degree programs.

Which Degrees Will Help Me Advance My Career?

Often, bachelor's or master's degree programs in respiratory therapy are designed for working professionals who are seeking to advance their knowledge of the field. The expectation is that students will already be licensed. You will have the opportunity to cover advanced topics in patient care and cardiopulmonary and respiratory disorders while enrolled in such a program. In addition, you may have the opportunity to take courses in leadership. You may also be able to learn more about healthcare management, finance and policy. You can generally expect a required practicum or internship as well.

Do I Need a License or Certification?

In all states except for Alaska, respiratory therapists are required to have a license. To obtain a license, you must pass the Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) exam offered by the National Board for Respiratory Care and seek approval from your state licensing board. A background check may be a part of the licensure process. If you perform well on two additional exams, you can earn a credential as a registered respiratory therapist (RRT). Upon earning your license, you can also choose to become certified in a special area, such as neonatal respiratory therapy, pulmonary function or sleep disorders.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
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