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Respiratory Therapy School: Summary of College Education Programs

Respiratory therapy programs teach students to evaluate, diagnose and treat breathing and other respiratory disorders and ailments. Respiratory therapists work with physicians to deliver respiratory treatment and care for patients in hospitals and other healthcare settings.

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Community colleges, health sciences schools and 4-year colleges and universities offer programs in respiratory therapy. An associate's or bachelor's degree and state licensure are required to work as a respiratory therapist; state licensure usually requires passing the Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) national certification exam provided by the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC).

10 Schools with Respiratory Therapy Programs

The following list includes a number of public and private schools that offer undergraduate degrees in respiratory therapy.

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered* Undergraduate Tuition (2015-2016)**
Bunker Hill Community College Boston, MA 2-year, Public Associate's In-state $3,576; Out-of-state $8,520
CUNY Borough of Manhattan Community College New York, NY 2-year, Public Associate's In-state $5,170; Out-of-state $8,050
Delaware Technical Community College - Stanton/Wilmington Georgetown, DE 2-year, Public Associate's In-state $3,632; Out-of-state $8,522
Highline College Des Moines, WA 4-year, Public Associate's, Bachelor's In-state $3,846; Out-of-state $4,253
Kansas City Kansas Community College Kansas City, KS 2-year, Public Associate's In-state $3,240; Out-of-state $8,040
Keiser University - Ft Lauderdale Ft. Lauderdale, FL 4-year, Private Associate's $17,664
Middle Georgia State College Macon, GA 4-year, Public Associate's, Bachelor's In-state $3,890; Out-of-state $10,919
Northern Michigan University Marquette, MI 4-year, Public Associate's In-state $9,620; Out-of-state $15,020
Seattle Central College Seattle, WA 4-year, Public Bachelor's In-state $3,891; Out-of-state $9,083
South Texas College McAllen, TX 4-year, Public Associate's In-district $3,486; In-state $3,770; Out-of-state $4,440

Sources: *School websites, **National Center for Education Statistics

School Selection Criteria

When choosing a respiratory therapy school, students may want to keep the following considerations in mind:

  • When selecting a school, students should consider whether the program's curriculum fulfills all of the requirements for the NBRC's certification exam.
  • Students with an interest in working in a particular field of respiratory care or with a specific population may want to attend a program that offers clinical experience or specific classroom instruction in their field of interest.
  • Some programs may offer courses through online study, which allows for flexible scheduling for independent learners.
  • Tuition costs vary widely based on the school type, location, and program length.

Associate of Science in Respiratory Therapy

Students in an associate's degree program learn to recognize and treat breathing disorders, work with physicians and other medical professionals and provide care to respiratory patients. Most programs require two years of study and qualify students for entry-level opportunities in hospitals, clinics and physicians' offices. Some schools may require applicants to have completed prior college-level coursework or to have volunteered or observed in a respiratory care setting. Laboratory work and supervised clinical training are included in the curriculum.

Bachelor of Science in Respiratory Therapy

A 4-year bachelor's degree program in respiratory therapy teaches students advanced medical knowledge and leadership principles. These programs may be more appropriate for students interested in pursuing supervisory positions in healthcare. In these programs, students learn how to treat respiratory patients by conducting various respiratory tests, record results and work with physicians and respiratory therapy technicians to find appropriate treatments. Additionally, many bachelor's degree programs offer internship and clinical training opportunities with local hospitals and medical clinics. Some programs are available to students with a high school diploma, while others provide continuing education to licensed respiratory therapists.

A number of 2- and 4- year colleges and universities offer respiratory therapy programs. Students can opt to pursue an associate's or bachelor's degree in this field at a public or private institution.

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