Associate's Degree Programs in Respiratory Therapy

Respiratory therapists and respiratory therapy technicians work alongside physicians to identify, treat and prevent respiratory problems in patients. An associate's degree is the common educational option for becoming a respiratory therapist.

Essential Information

An associate's degree in respiratory therapy is the most common academic credential among respiratory therapists. Most programs require two years of study and offer medical internship opportunities. In addition to traditional coursework, students will work in clinical lab settings with simulated respiratory therapy situations. Students also learn to recognize respiratory ailments and disorders and work with physicians to treat patients. Candidates will begin to use the necessary medical equipment to perform respiratory tests.

Over the course of two years, students will have received classroom and practical training on how to treat patients and operate medical equipment. National licensure is required to work in the field, which can typically be obtained through successful completion of an accredited program and a recognized certification exam.

  • Prerequisites: High school diploma and official transcripts
  • Other Requirements: SAT or ACT scores

Associate of Science in Respiratory Therapy

Respiratory therapy courses teach students to recognize, diagnose and treat various respiratory, cardiopulmonary and general breathing disorders and conditions. Programs also include life science courses in biology, chemistry, physiology and microbiology. Typical program courses include the following:

  • Respiratory anatomy and physiology
  • Cardiopulmonary processes
  • Critical patient care techniques
  • Respiratory ventilation
  • Respiratory rehabilitation

Employment Outlook and Career Information

Respiratory therapy involves the treatment of breathing disorders and conditions. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of respiratory therapist jobs was expected to grow by 19% from 2012 to 2022 ( The BLS listed the median annual salary for respiratory therapists as $56,730 in 2014. Most opportunities for respiratory therapists are with hospitals and medical clinics.

Continuing Education Information

An associate's degree in respiratory therapy is the most common education among respiratory therapists. Mandatory licensure is available through the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC). With licensure and certification, students can become Certified Respiratory Therapists (CRTs) and Registered Respiratory Therapists (RRTs). Many employers also require respiratory therapists to have CPR training and certification.

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