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Associate of Respiratory Therapy: Degree Overview

Students in a respiratory therapy associate's degree program receive an applied education that emphasizes real-world, situational skill development to learn how to provide respiratory care and therapeutic support to patients.

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Essential Information

Associate's degree programs in respiratory therapy can be found at many community or junior colleges, vocational schools and even some healthcare facilities. Under the supervision of a licensed physician, students obtain valuable hands-on training and the fundamental knowledge necessary for them to pursue state licensure and enter the field of respiratory therapy.

Potential admissions requirements include CPR certification, previous coursework in math, communications, psychology and pathophysiology.


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Associate of Respiratory Therapy

Through classroom studies, lab work and clinical rotations, respiratory therapy associate's degree students learn to assess patients and equipment, measure a patient's vital signs and perform limited examinations and chest physiotherapy. Students will receive background knowledge in respiratory therapy and will take applied courses such as pulmonary function testing. Students can also develop the skills necessary to provide temporary care or emergency treatment to patients with breathing or cardiac problems. Specific classes may include:

  • Mechanical ventilation
  • Medical terminology
  • Cardiopulmonary pathophysiology
  • Diagnostic procedures
  • Pulmonary evaluation
  • Microbiology

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted a 12% employment growth for respiratory therapists from 2014-2024, which may be attributed both the expanse of responsibilities that will fall to respiratory therapists and an aging population. In 2015, the BLS stated that respiratory therapists earned a median annual salary of $57,790.

Continuing Education Info

Although a respiratory therapist qualifies for an entry-level position by earning an associate's degree, completion of a bachelor's or master's degree program may be preferred by employers or required for advancement in the field. Completion of continuing education options may lead to work in management positions or in critical respiratory therapy care.

Respiratory therapists are required to be licensed in all states, except Hawaii and Alaska. In most cases, state licensure can largely be met by earning the Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) credential through the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC). Beyond this, the NBRC also offers the Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) credential to CRTs that meet eligibility requirements, which includes completing an advanced training program.

Associate's degrees in respiratory therapy provide students with the firsthand practice and medical knowledge necessary to become effective, licensed, respiratory therapists.

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