Students in respiratory therapy associate degree programs are trained in respiratory care, which includes taking arterial blood gas samples and administering oxygen. Students also learn to respond in an emergency and to make quick assessments of a patient's respiratory condition. Traditional classroom learning is typically combined with time spent in laboratory and hands-on settings. Graduates are effectively prepared to obtain the required professional licensure and enter the workforce.
A physical exam, health screening, insurance, criminal background check, and drug screening are among the requirements for admission to this degree program. Applicants could also need basic computer skills and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification.
Associate of Science in Respiratory Therapy
A 2-year respiratory therapy program is typically offered as an Associate of Science or Associate of Applied Science degree, depending on the college or university. In either case, students are trained to become healthcare professionals specializing in respiratory care, via both coursework and hands-on experiences. The curriculum includes basic and advanced science courses, general education courses and respiratory therapy courses. Topics covered may include:
- Cardiopulmonary pathology
- Cardiopulmonary pharmacology
- Pediatric respiratory care
- Diagnostic procedures
- Therapeutic procedures
- Patient assessment
Popular Career Options
After completing a program, individuals are prepared to find work in the field of respiratory care and work in hospitals, care centers, specialty centers and other medical facilities. Individuals may work in different areas of respiratory care, including:
- Diagnostic testing
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), faster-than-average employment growth of 12% is expected for respiratory therapists over the period spanning 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). The May 2015 median annual pay was $57,790.
Continuing Education and Licensure Information
As of 2016, respiratory therapists were required to be licensed in every state except for Alaska. Licensing usually includes meeting the requirements of the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC), which offers the Certified Respiratory Therapist credential to qualified professionals. Associate degree holders must have graduated from a respiratory therapy program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Programs to qualify for this certification. According to the BLS, the organization has accredited few entry-level programs.
To advance in this field, individuals may consider earning a bachelor's or master's degree in respiratory therapy. Accredited programs are much more common at these levels, and successful completion of an approved program can qualify an individual to become a Registered Respiratory Therapist through the NBRC, which is a more advanced credential.
Students who complete an associate degree program in respiratory therapy will likely be required to obtain licensure before practicing. Various courses students should expect to take include diagnostic procedures and cardiopulmonary pathology.