Students who earn an associate's degree in exercise science may be prepared for roles as fitness instructors or recreation assistants, while associate's programs in respiratory therapy can qualify graduates for licensure as respiratory therapists. Fire science associate's programs can lead to work in firefighting, though nearly all firefighters complete fire academy training through fire departments. CPR training may be an admissions prerequisite for some fire science associate's programs, rather than a component of the curriculum. Standalone CPR training is also available from public and private agencies, including the American Heart Association and the American Red Cross.
All three associate's degrees generally last two years. They require students to have a high school education to enroll, with some recommending students have some college-level science experience before admission. Respiratory therapy programs will offer clinical training.
Associate's Degree in Exercise Science
An associate's degree program in exercise science is an introduction into the study of the human body, movement through exercise, and overall fitness. Exercise science associate's degree programs typically provide a detailed look at how exercise fits into overall wellness, along with nutrition, human development, and strength training.
It can be used as a foundation to pursue further study in a health-related field, such as physical therapy or athletic training, or to pursue career paths as a coach, fitness instructor, personal trainer, or life coach. Similar associate's degree programs in health and fitness or sports management may also include CPR training.
Students in this type of program learn how to test for fitness, devise effective fitness programs, and conduct health screenings. These programs also include general education courses, such as math and social science, and an internship. Major course topics might be:
- Fitness assessment
- Health and wellness promotion
- Exercise science principles
- Nutrition for sport and wellness
- Physiology and anatomy
Associate Degree in Respiratory Therapy
CPR training is common in associate's degree programs for respiratory therapy, which provides the entry-level training for healthcare workers who specialize in helping people with breathing and related disorders. This type of program offers coursework in human anatomy, physiology, chemistry, and more to teach aspiring respiratory therapists how to run tests and administer basic care to patients under the direction of a doctor. The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs and the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care approve respiratory therapy programs.
An associate's degree program in respiratory therapy offers training through courses and clinical experiences. In addition to general education classes, course topics may include:
- Respiratory care for babies and children
- Mechanical ventilation for respiratory therapists
- Caring for the critically ill patient
- Diagnosing cardiopulmonary problems
- Advanced life support
Associate Degree in Fire Science
The associate's degree program in fire science offers an entry-level core curriculum for those interested in careers in the fire department. Individuals enrolled in associate programs learn entry-level skills as a firefighter along with how to respond to a variety of emergencies. The associate's degree program also normally includes general education coursework.
The typical associate's degree in fire science offers coursework in the many different areas involved in firefighting and emergency response. Course topics are:
- Responding to emergencies
- Basic and advanced skills for firefighters
- Hydraulics and water supplies
- Investigating fires
- Fire prevention basics
Popular Career Options
The associate's degree program in exercise science can prepare individuals for entry-level jobs or further study in a health-related field. Some possible job titles may be:
- Fitness instructor
- Personal trainer
- Recreation assistant
- Activity director
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has predicted jobs for firefighters to grow by 5% from 2018 to 2028, which is average for all occupations. Applicants with paramedic and firefighting education, high test scores, and excellent physical fitness should have the best prospects. The median annual salary for firefighters was $49,620 in May 2018, as reported by the BLS.
The BLS has predicted employment of respiratory therapists to grow by 21% from 2018 to 2028, faster than average, fueled by an increasing aging population. The median salary for respiratory therapists was $60,280, as reported by the BLS in May 2018.
Continuing Education Information
According to the BLS, many firefighters enter employment with a high school diploma. Municipal fire departments may have their own training academies and test trainees on skills and knowledge. Departments may require that firefighters have at least basic emergency medical technician training, although larger departments may stipulate that firefighters have advanced paramedic training, according to the BLS.
Firefighters who wish to advance may consider taking courses in public relations, budgeting procedures, management, public speaking, writing, and building construction. Advancing to an administrative position, such as chief or deputy chief, generally requires a bachelor's degree in public administration, fire science, or a related area.
Many of the associate's degree programs in exercise science or a related area are geared toward further study in a health-related bachelor's program. For those who pursue personal training or fitness instruction, certification programs are available through the American College of Sports Medicine, among others.
Most states require that respiratory therapists be licensed, which is based largely on certification that acknowledges training and education. The National Board for Respiratory Care has several credentialing programs, but the entry-level certification is Certified Respiratory Therapist. Applicants must have graduated from an approved associate's degree program and passed an exam. Continuing education is required to maintain certification. The organization also keeps track of licensing requirements for each state.
Earning a fire science, exercise science, or respiratory therapy associate's degree can provide students with CPR training while preparing them for a career. There are many options for continuing education depending upon a student's particular career path after graduation, including bachelor's degrees, licensure, and professional certification.