Respiratory Therapy Degrees

What type of degree is required to become a respiratory therapist?

Respiratory therapist must obtain a minimum of an associate’s degree but many baccalaureate degrees are now available and new programs are continually starting. The respiratory therapy associate’s degree programs typically take two years to complete and the bachelor’s programs take four years. There are accelerated programs available. Most RT programs are available at community colleges.

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Do respiratory therapy programs have to be accredited?

In order for students to be eligible for the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) exams, they must graduate with a minimum Respiratory Therapy Degreesof an associate’s degree from an accredited program. Without accreditation, the school cannot graduate respiratory therapists. Programs are accredited through the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and facilitated by the Committee on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC). In order for programs to become accredited they must submit an application, submit self study documents, and have the accrediting body visit and approve their program. The accreditation status is reviewed every three to ten years.

What is the cost of tuition for most respiratory therapist programs?

The cost of a program is dependent upon the institution and location. Schools can range from $8,000 to $50,000 for a two-year degree, typically costing somewhere in the middle. It depends largely on whether the school chosen is public or private.

Are there typically prerequisites for entry into a respiratory therapist program?

Most schools require chemistry and algebra courses to be complete prior to enrolling in a respiratory therapy program but this can vary based on the specific school.

What kinds of courses are included in a respiratory therapist program?

    • Cardiopulmonary anatomy and physiology

    • Physics

    • Pharmacology

    • Therapeutics

    • Mechanical ventilation

    • Beginning and advanced patient assessment

    • Pediatrics and neonatology

    • Cardiopulmonary diseases

  • Clinical (internships in hospitals)

Are internships required to graduate from these programs?

Typically programs require clinical rotations in various areas of the hospitals such as pulmonary function labs, critical care, emergency room, adult, pediatric and neonatal care. It is typical for a program to require over 1,000 clinical hours prior to graduation.

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How many students are admitted into respiratory therapy programs typically?

Each school is different but a typical program admits approximately 20 students and may have 16 who graduate. Some RT programs have a yearlong waiting list due to keeping the student/teacher ratio low and other programs don’t have a waiting list.

What is the typical make up of students in a respiratory therapist program?

The types of students in respiratory therapy programs can run the gamut. These programs consist of new high school graduates, displaced workers, graduates from other types of degrees who cannot find work in their field, and students who want to use this profession as a stepping stone to get into another field in health care like nursing, radiography, physician assistant or even a doctor. Students who initially want to use the field as a stepping stone oftentimes decide to stay in respiratory therapy when they learn how exciting and rewarding it can be to take care of critically ill patients and be part of an emergency life saving team.

Respiratory Therapy Schools

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