Associate's degree programs in respiratory therapy will teach students how to set up, maintain and operate the life-saving machines that help people breathe. Students learn to measure the health of a patient's lungs and circulatory system. Applicants must have at least a high school diploma or GED.
In order to graduate from one of these two-year programs, students must complete a clinical practicum. Graduates are usually prepared for professional licensure.
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Associate's Degree in Respiratory Therapy
In a respiratory therapy program, students typically complete coursework to gain knowledge about the human body and about respiratory therapy procedures. In addition to diagnostic procedures, topics covered in these programs commonly include:
- Medical terminology
- Cardiopulmonary physiology
- Respiratory therapy fundamentals
- Neonatal and pediatric respiratory therapy
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), respiratory therapists were expected to see a 12% growth in employment from 2014-2024. In May 2015, the BLS stated that respiratory therapists earned a median annual salary of $57,790.
Continuing Education and Certification Information
Respiratory therapists must be licensed in all states except Hawaii and Alaska, according to the BLS. The BLS also noted that while an associate's degree is the minimum education required for this field, a bachelor's or master's degree in respiratory therapy can help individuals advance their careers. The combined academic and clinical education offered by an associate's degree program can prepare students to take the assessment exams administered by the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) that lead to the Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) and the Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) credentials (www.nbrc.org). State licensure is commonly based on the NBRC certification.
Regardless of which degree option you choose, associate-level programs in respiratory therapy provide the necessary training to obtain state licensure so that you can begin work as a respiratory therapist. You also have the option to purse advanced education options to qualify for higher positions in this field.