Respiratory therapists typically need either an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree. Online bachelor's degree completion programs are available in respiratory therapy for those who've already completed an associate's degree program. These programs may specify that the associate's degree be earned in an on-campus format. In addition, these require extensive prerequisite coursework and professional credentialing. Almost all states require licensing for respiratory therapists; check for state-specific requirements when choosing a program.
Not as widely available are associate's and master's degree level programs in respiratory therapy.
Respiratory Therapy Bachelor's Degree
Because most respiratory care bachelor's degree programs are designed as degree-completion programs, students must be registered practitioners through the National Board for Respiratory Care before applying. Prerequisite undergraduate coursework may also be required of applicants before admittance; many of these requirements can be met through an associate's degree program. The common degree outcome is the Bachelor of Science in Respiratory Therapy. In this program, students gain an in-depth understanding of diagnostic principles, patient treatments and leadership skills within the industry. Advanced coverage is given to subjects like airway management, cardiopulmonary pharmacology and cardiac physiology.
Information and Requirements
Respiratory therapy degree-completion programs are available entirely online. Programs generally consist of 130 credit-hours and can be completed in four years or less. Some programs can be completed in as little as 16 months if the candidate has met all the prerequisites. Many programs require that students hold respiratory therapy associate's degrees which typically cannot be obtained online. Testing periods are often specified on a week-to-week basis, wherein the student is given a specified time to take a test and can complete it at anytime during that week.
Students must have a computer with a word processing program, Web browser and Adobe Reader. In addition, the computer must have access to a high-speed Internet connection.
List of Common Respiratory Therapy Courses
Because this is a bachelor's degree completion program, general education courses are included in the curriculum. Some schools allow a student to customize his or her curriculum depending on what coursework has already been completed through an associate's degree program.
Respiratory Care Diagnostics
This course outlines diagnostic techniques and equipment used to find lung problems. These techniques include breathing waveform analysis and blood pressure monitoring. Students learn how to analyze a patient's ability to open and close his or her throat, determine lung volume and diagnose conditions like sleep apnea.
Respiratory Therapy Pharmacology
This course provides insight into which drugs are administered to respiratory therapy patients with various conditions. Students are also instructed on the different abbreviations and symbols used for certain drugs. In addition, dosages, drug classification and drug administration techniques are outlined.
Students learn how to educate chronically ill patients about specific heart or lung ailments. The course incorporates sample prescription development and respiratory care techniques into the discussion.
Principles of Healthcare Management
Management principles and trends are outlined in this course. Topics include budgeting, management theory and personnel management.
Students who obtain bachelor's degrees can hold the title of advanced respiratory therapist and accept managerial positions in hospital respiratory therapy departments. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for respiratory therapists was expected to increase by 12%, faster than the average for all occupations from 2014-2024. The median annual wage for respiratory therapists as of May 2015 was $57,790, according to the BLS.
Continuing Education Information
Master's degree programs are available in respiratory therapy but rarely offered online. Student's who wish to continue their education often do so in hopes of acquiring upper-level management positions.
Bachelor's degree programs in respiratory therapy are available fully online, preparing students for management-level positions in respiratory therapy departments. As such, coursework involves management principles in addition to respiratory care and therapy training.