Is a Respiratory Therapy Degree Right for You?

Respiratory therapy is an area of medicine focused on patients with breathing and other cardiopulmonary disorders. An online respiratory therapy bachelor’s degree program will equip you with the knowledge and skills needed for a career in this field. You will learn about human anatomy and physiology, various aspects of respiratory therapy, and how to properly assess, evaluate, treat, and care for patients with respiratory issues.

Advice for Earning Your Respiratory Therapy Degree Online

Institutional accreditation is important when considering a school, no matter what degree you are seeking because it is a guarantee that the school, overall, is providing students with a high-quality education. When trying to decide on a respiratory therapy program in particular, you want to look for programmatic accreditation, as well. The Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC) is the nationally-recognized accrediting organization for associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree programs in respiratory care. This guarantees that the education you receive through the program will fully prepare you for your career and qualify you for licensure, should your state require it. Also, employers often only accept candidates holding CoARC-accredited degree because they are confident in the education they have received.

You also want to look for an online respiratory therapy program with internship and clinical opportunities. This will allow you to apply what you have learned and gain valuable hands-on experience in a real-world setting under the direction and supervision of a professional respiratory therapist. Other features of the online program that you want to consider to make sure it’s a good fit for you include the length of each, which will determine the pace at which you will need to complete your assignments, types of media (text-based forums, video lectures, live chat sessions, etc.), and the types of assignments and deadlines you will be given.

Required Courses

Online bachelor’s degree programs in respiratory will incorporate basic courses, such as history, psychology, and biology. You will also take foundational medical courses that will familiarize you with human anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, health care ethics, and effective communication. Some of the courses directly related to respiratory therapy that you may find in your program include Concepts in Respiratory Therapy, Mechanical Ventilation Theory, Respiratory Therapy Procedures, Respiratory Therapy Pharmacology, Lung Hyperinflation Therapy, and Mechanical Ventilation Management and Advanced Monitoring.

Common Career Paths

Earning a respiratory therapy bachelor’s degree online can lead to a successful career in the medical industry. While the majority of respiratory therapy graduates choose to become respiratory therapists, there are other options available to you. Two other career paths where a degree in respiratory therapy can be beneficial include athletic training and nursing.

  • Respiratory Therapist

    This is the most common career for those who earn a bachelor’s degree. This will allow and require you to apply everything you learned through your degree program to examining and treating patients with breathing and other cardiopulmonary disorders. Most of your job opportunities can be found in hospitals, but nursing care facilities and home health service providers hire respiratory therapists as well. Before you can begin your career, all states (except Alaska) require you to become licensed. Requirements vary by state. You may also want to consider becoming certified through the National Board for Respiratory Care. Even though certification may not be required, it can give you an advantage in the competitive job market.

    According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for respiratory therapists is expected to increase by 28% from 2010 to 2020. The BLS also shows that the average income for respiratory therapists is $56,260 a year. However, job availability and what you earn will depend on factors such as the type of facility, your employer, your location, and your amount of experience.

  • Athletic Trainer

    While many athletic trainers care for patients with muscle and bone injuries, an athletic trainer with a degree in respiratory therapy can work with athletes dealing with a variety of cardiopulmonary issues, such as trouble breathing, hyperinflation of the lungs, and asthma. You will work with patients to help them recover from or cope with these disorders and find ways to improve their physical performance. As an athletic trainer, you will need to obtain licensure and certification in most states, though specific requirements vary by state.

    The BLS shows that employment for athletic trainers is expected to increase by 30% from 2010 to 2020, which is much faster than most other occupations. The BLS also shows that the average income for athletic trainers is $44,640 a year. These figures may differ for you, depending on your amount of experience, location, and employer.

  • Registered Nurse

    Another option is to use your degree toward a career as a registered nurse. You can become a registered nurse with an associate degree, which can then be transferred to a bachelor’s in respiratory therapy program.

    According to the BLS, employment for registered nurses is expected to grow by 26% from 2010 to 2020. The BLS also shows that the average salary for registered nurses is $69,110 a year. Job availability and salary will depend on many factors, such as your specialty, location, employer, and amount of experience.


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