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Associate of Applied Science (AAS): Respiratory Therapy Degree Overview

Oct 15, 2019

Accredited Associate of Applied Science programs in respiratory therapy or respiratory care technology can be found at several community colleges and technical schools. Learn about the program, coursework and job outlook in the field.

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Essential Information

Students pursuing an Associate of Applied Science in Respiratory Therapy or Respiratory Care get trained to evaluate, treat and care for patients with cardiopulmonary or respiratory disorders. They learn through a blended curriculum of classroom instruction, laboratory experiences and supervised clinical education.

Applicants to these 2-year programs are usually required to have a high school diploma or its equivalent. Students may be required to undergo a background and/or physical check. Some schools might require prerequisite coursework in chemistry and biology.

Common requirements for the clinical component of a program include providing proof of liability insurance, completing a physical examination, submitting to a background check and supplying a record of current immunizations. Students are typically required to obtain CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) certification prior to application.


Associate of Applied Science (AAS) Respiratory Therapy Overview

In an associate's programs in respiratory therapy, students learn to assist with administering drugs to patients, evaluating clinical data, performing pulmonary function testing and developing respiratory care plans. These tasks typically require therapists to work closely with a patient's physician and other medical professionals. During the clinical portion, they perform actual tests and procedures on patients using knowledge and skills gained in the lab. Candidates might also be required to spend a designated number of hours in residence prior to graduation.

Course topics often include:

  • Respiratory care
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Respiratory critical care procedures
  • Respiratory pharmacology
  • Bioethics
  • Patient education and health promotion

Career Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of respiratory therapists was projected to grow 21% between 2018 and 2028, but growth for respiratory therapy technicians is expected to decrease by 57%. The aging population and the increasing use of respiratory therapists to aid in early detection and care of pulmonary problems and respiratory illnesses both contribute to the employment potential. In May 2018, the BLS reported the mean annual salary for respiratory therapists in the U.S. was $62,500. Respiratory therapy technicians earned a mean annual wage of $51,380 in May 2018.

Continuing Education Info

Although an AAS program typically qualifies graduates for entry-level respiratory therapist or respiratory therapy technician positions, students who pursue further training and professional certifications could improve their employment and advancement opportunities. Education options include pursuing a bachelor's or higher-level degree in respiratory therapy or a related field at colleges or universities.

Most states require respiratory therapists to be licensed or certified. Passing the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) certification examination is usually a requirement for obtaining licensure. Those who take the NBRC exam can also earn the Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) credential. Additionally, therapists who have completed advanced training could earn the Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) credential.

An Associate of Applied Science in Respiratory Therapy or Respiratory Care trains students in patient and respiratory care in order for them to work as respiratory therapists or respiratory therapy technicians. Graduates will most likely need to obtain state licensure or certification. In addition, graduates can pursue bachelor's degrees in respiratory care to further boost their employment prospects.

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