Associate of Respiratory Care: Degree Overview

Read about an associate's degree program in respiratory care and discover what students need to enroll. See the topics that are covered in the curriculum and review the employment statistics and certification details.

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Essential Information

An Associate of Science or Associate of Applied Science in Respiratory Care degree program prepares students to become respiratory therapists who evaluate, treat and assist patients suffering from breathing problems. Students participate in lecture courses, hands-on training labs and clinical experiences in hospitals or similar healthcare facilities. This program usually takes about two years to complete and is offered at community colleges, allied health schools or vocational schools. Graduates are prepared for professional licensure, which is mandatory in most areas of the country.

Educational Prerequisites

Students must have a high school diploma or a GED certificate. High school coursework in biology and chemistry is recommended. Before admission to the respiratory therapy degree program, a student usually must have completed at least 12 hours of college coursework, including chemistry and biology.

Course Topics

Respiratory therapists work under the supervision of physicians but exercise a great deal of independent decision-making. Supervising patients on ventilators, assisting physicians with procedures such as heart catheterization and developing individualized care plans are all part of a respiratory therapist's duties.

The curriculum in a respiratory care program includes anatomy and the technical aspects of patient care, but a respiratory therapist also must have a good command of chemistry and math principles. Good communications skills are essential, too. Course topics may include:

  • Principles of mechanical ventilation
  • Basic anatomy
  • Medical ethics
  • Psychology
  • Geriatrics
  • Pediatrics
  • Computer skills

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Employment may be pursued in hospitals, long-term care homes, ambulance services and with home care providers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that employment for respiratory therapists would grow by 19% from 2012-2022, due primarily to an aging population, but also due to increasing involvement of respiratory care professionals in overall case management (www.bls.gov). The median annual salary for a respiratory therapist was $55,870 in May 2012, the BLS reported.

Licensing, Professional Certification and Continuing Education

Most states require that respiratory therapists be licensed. Licensing is usually achieved by meeting the certification requirements of the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC), which offers certifications at several levels and in several specialty areas.

Opportunities for career advancement are open to respiratory therapists who hold bachelor's or master's degrees. They can move into supervisory positions in medical care facilities or become managers with home health care businesses. Some respiratory therapists teach or work with medical device suppliers and manufacturers.

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Popular Schools

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    • Eligibility and relevancy of sample programs below will vary by article and program
    School locations:
    • Online Learning
    • Arizona (3 campuses)
    • California (16)
    • Colorado (3)
    • Florida (6)
    • Georgia (5)
    • Illinois (7)
    • Indiana (2)
    • Maryland (1)
    • Michigan (1)
    • Minnesota (1)
    • Missouri (2)
    • North Carolina (2)
    • New Jersey (3)
    • Nevada (1)
    • New York (2)
    • Ohio (4)
    • Oklahoma (1)
    • Oregon (1)
    • Pennsylvania (4)
    • Tennessee (2)
    • Texas (7)
    • Utah (1)
    • Virginia (3)
    • Washington (3)
    • Wisconsin (1)

    Online and Classroom-Based Programs

    What is your classroom preference?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    • Currently not accepting applications from Texas residents
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    Online Programs

    • Associate
        • AS in Medical Assisting

    Which subject are you interested in?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must live within close proximity to school locations
    • Must be graduated from high school by 2011
    School locations:
    • Florida (2 campuses)
    • Minnesota (1 campus)
    • Texas (3)

    Classroom-Based Programs

    What is your highest level of education?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    Online Programs

    What is your highest level of education completed?

Other Schools:

  • School locations:
    • Idaho (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Boise State University include:
      • Graduate: Master
      • Non-Degree: Certificate, Coursework, Diploma
      • Post Degree Certificate: Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Medical and Health Professions
      • Dental
      • Health and Fitness
      • Medical Administrative Services
      • Medical and Health Preparatory Sciences
      • Medical Diagnostic and Treatment Professions
        • Athletic Trainer
        • Medical Radiologic Therapist
        • Respiratory Care Therapy
        • Surgical Technologies
      • Mental Health Services
      • Nursing Professions
      • Public Health and Safety
  • School locations:
    • Kentucky (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Northern Kentucky University include:
      • Graduate: First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Coursework
      • Post Degree Certificate: Post Master's Certificate, Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Medical and Health Professions
      • Health and Fitness
      • Medical Diagnostic and Treatment Professions
        • Athletic Trainer
        • Medical Radiologic Therapist
        • Respiratory Care Therapy
      • Mental Health Services
      • Nursing Professions
  • School locations:
    • Montana (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at The University of Montana include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Coursework
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Medical and Health Professions
      • Clinical Laboratory Science Professions
      • Health and Fitness
      • Medical Administrative Services
      • Medical Assisting
      • Medical Diagnostic and Treatment Professions
        • Radiological Science and Technologies
        • Respiratory Care Therapy
        • Surgical Technologies
      • Nursing Professions
      • Pharmaceutical Sciences and Administration
      • Therapeutic and Rehabilitation Professions
  • School locations:
    • Michigan (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Ferris State University include:
      • Graduate: First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Certificate, Coursework
      • Post Degree Certificate: Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Medical and Health Professions
      • Clinical Laboratory Science Professions
      • Dental
      • Health and Fitness
      • Medical Administrative Services
      • Medical and Health Preparatory Sciences
      • Medical Diagnostic and Treatment Professions
        • Medical Radiologic Therapist
        • Nuclear Medical Technologist
        • Respiratory Care Therapy
        • Ultrasound and Sonography Technologies
      • Nursing Professions
      • Optometric and Ophthalmic Services
      • Pharmaceutical Sciences and Administration
  • School locations:
    • Indiana (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Indiana University include:
      • Non-Degree: Coursework
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Medical and Health Professions
      • Clinical Laboratory Science Professions
      • Dental
      • Medical Administrative Services
      • Medical Diagnostic and Treatment Professions
        • Radiological Science and Technologies
        • Respiratory Care Therapy
      • Nursing Professions
      • Public Health and Safety
  • School locations:
    • Puerto Rico (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Universidad Metropolitana include:
      • Graduate: Master
      • Non-Degree: Coursework
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Medical and Health Professions
      • Health and Fitness
      • Medical Administrative Services
      • Medical Diagnostic and Treatment Professions
        • EMT and Paramedic
        • Respiratory Care Therapy
      • Nursing Professions

Popular Schools

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