Associate's Degree Programs in Respiratory Therapy

An associate's degree is the common educational option for becoming a respiratory therapist. Respiratory therapists and respiratory therapy technicians work alongside physicians to identify, treat and prevent respiratory problems in patients.

Essential Information

An associate's degree in respiratory therapy is the most common academic credential among respiratory therapists. Medical internship opportunities are available with this degree. In addition to traditional coursework, students will work in clinical lab settings with simulated respiratory therapy situations. Students also learn to recognize respiratory ailments and disorders and work with physicians to treat patients. Candidates will begin to use the necessary medical equipment to perform respiratory tests.

Over the course of two years, students will have received classroom and practical training on how to treat patients and operate medical equipment. National licensure is required to work in the field, which can typically be obtained through successful completion of an accredited program and a recognized certification exam.

Associate of Science in Respiratory Therapy

Respiratory therapy courses teach students to recognize, diagnose and treat various respiratory, cardiopulmonary and general breathing disorders and conditions. Programs also include life science courses in biology, chemistry, physiology and microbiology. Typical program courses include the following:

  • Respiratory anatomy and physiology
  • Cardiopulmonary processes
  • Critical patient care techniques
  • Respiratory ventilation
  • Respiratory rehabilitation

Employment Outlook and Career Information

Respiratory therapy involves the treatment of breathing disorders and conditions. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of respiratory therapist jobs was expected to grow by 12% from 2014 to 2024 ( The BLS listed the mean annual salary for respiratory therapists as $59,640 in 2015. Most opportunities for respiratory therapists are with hospitals and medical clinics.

Continuing Education Information

An associate's degree in respiratory therapy is the most common education among respiratory therapists. Mandatory licensure is available through the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC). With licensure and certification, students can become Certified Respiratory Therapists (CRTs) and Registered Respiratory Therapists (RRTs). Many employers also require respiratory therapists to have CPR training and certification.

Respiratory therapists typically hold an associate's degree to work in this field. Upon graduation, students must become licensed and some employers may even want their respiratory therapists to be trained in CPR.

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