Associate of Respiratory Care: Degree Overview
A graduate with an Associate of Science or Associate of Applied Science in Respiratory Care degree is trained to work as a respiratory therapist, evaluating, treating and assisting patients suffering from breathing problems. Respiratory therapists work under the supervision of physicians but exercise a great deal of independent decision-making.
Associate of Respiratory Care
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 associate degree program takes about two years to complete and is offered at colleges, health schools or vocational schools. Employment is available in hospitals, long-term care homes, ambulance services and with home care providers. After earning their degree, respiratory therapists can choose to specialize in areas such as neonatal care, sleep disorders or cardiopulmonary function.
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.
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
- Computer skills
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that employment for respiratory therapists would grow by 21% from 2008-2018, 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 salary for a respiratory therapist was $55,250 in May 2011, 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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