Best Online Respiratory Therapy Programs
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The COVID-19 pandemic has spotlighted the importance of respiratory therapy. This profession revolves around keeping people breathing, which is more important than ever given the respiratory challenges that COVID-19 poses. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 23% job growth for respiratory therapists between 2020 and 2030, a rate that nearly triples the average projected growth rate for all occupations during that period (8%).
There are currently 89 bachelor's programs in respiratory therapy accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC). According to the BLS, respiratory therapists earned a median annual wage of $62,810 as of May 2020, so these programs are often worth the investment. Tuition is highly variable, but there are several employers willing to reimburse tuition for staff members.
Respiratory therapists need state licensure in every state except for Alaska. Many programs require internships or lab work as part of the curriculum. As the demand for these professionals grows, more colleges are offering online degrees in this field.
What Can I Expect From an Online Bachelor's in Respiratory Therapy Program?
Dedication, problem-solving skills, and knowledge of physiology are all essential ingredients for success in online bachelor's in respiratory therapy programs. Students should be as good at nurturing a patient through uncomfortable news as they are crunching numbers in the lab.
Most online bachelor's degrees in respiratory therapy consist of around 120 credits and take four years of full-time study to complete. Many students choose to complete an associate degree in the field at a community college before transferring into a four-year program.
Students can practice in specialized care fields within respiratory therapy, including the following:
- Long-Term Care: This specialty involves working with the elderly.
- Neonatal and Pediatrics: These professionals work with the smallest and youngest of patients.
- Ground and Air Transport: Ground and air transport is a high-adrenaline job that involves working on patients either in a helicopter or ambulance.
- Pulmonary Rehab: This specialty involves working with patients who have chronic lung diseases.
- Polysomnography: These respiratory therapists work in sleep labs.
- Critical Care: These professionals work in intensive care units.
- In-Home Care: These therapists work with patients in their own homes.
Two certifications dominate this field: certified respiratory therapist (CRT) and registered respiratory therapist (RRT). RRT is the more prominent of the two. The RRT credential is the gold standard of excellence in the field, according to the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC).
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Featured Online Programs
Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.
What Courses Will I Take in an Online Bachelor's in Respiratory Therapy Program?
This course teaches students to diagnose and treat pulmonary issues. Learners also delve into pharmacology. Degree-seekers learn how to communicate critical health information to patients.
Ethics of Respiratory Therapy
A strict and complete code of ethics guides every respiratory therapist. This class covers ethical decision-making in the healthcare field and usually makes use of case studies.
This course helps practitioners learn the intricacies and complexities of treating respiratory issues in babies and young children.
Respiratory Therapy Research
This course teaches students to conduct research and collect data through peer groups, research, and institutional review boards.
Critical Care/Emergency Management
This course provides students with the skills needed to keep patients breathing even under intense surgical conditions or in the midst of a natural disaster where supply management and patient prioritization are key.
What Are the Admission Requirements for an Online Bachelor's in Respiratory Therapy Program?
Students should enter respiratory therapy programs with as much knowledge of chemistry, biology, anatomy, and physiology as possible. Admission requirements are often the same for on-campus and online programs and include the following elements:
Every school requires some form of application to fill out and an associated fee. Most forms are available online. Check application deadlines for each prospective program.
Letters of Recommendation
Many bachelor's programs require 2-3 letters of recommendation from former teachers. Make sure to ask your recommenders several months in advance so that they have time to write.
Many online programs require 1-3 short essays so that admissions departments can get to know applicants on a more personal level. While essays are less frequently required for respiratory therapy programs, some schools still ask for them.
What Can I Do With an Online Bachelor's in Respiratory Therapy Degree?
According to the BLS, respiratory therapists earned a median annual salary of $62,810 as of May 2020. Between 2020 and 2030, the BLS projects 23% job growth for these professionals. The minimum education for these positions is an associate degree, but the AARC has pushed to get the industry to 80% bachelor's degree-holders.
Below are several careers that graduates with a bachelor's in respiratory therapy can pursue.
Neonatal Respiratory Therapist
These therapists work with babies and children dealing with respiratory issues or emergencies. They often work in hospitals.
Average Annual Salary: $66,190 (Payscale, as of December 2021)
Pulmonary Rehabilitation Specialist
This job centers around helping people with pulmonary issues experience the highest quality of life possible through exercise, symptom improvement, and managing anxiety from breathing issues. Many positions require certification in advanced cardiac life support.
Average Annual Salary: $58,460 (Payscale, as of December 2021)
Sleep technologists help measure breathing issues to make diagnoses that will help overall sleep improvement for each patient. Certification in a sleep disorder specialty may be required for this job.
Average Annual Salary: $52,420 (Payscale, as of December 2021)
Intensive Care Unit Respiratory Therapist
These respiratory therapists work with patients in hospital ICUs. Many respiratory therapist positions in ICUs require the adult critical care specialist certification.
Average Annual Salary: $60,070 (Payscale, as of December 2021)
Respiratory Therapy Not for You? Check Out These Related Careers.
Many continuing education opportunities in respiratory therapy involve earning certification in specialized care fields like neonatal care, critical care, and pulmonary rehab. These certifications allow respiratory therapists to specialize and excel in certain positions within the field. Some professionals decide to pursue advanced degrees to progress in their careers.
How Do I Choose an Online Bachelor's in Respiratory Therapy Program?
Costs vary widely from program to program. However, students who attend in-state, public universities generally save compared to learners at out-of-state, private schools. Students can also save on their education by earning an associate degree at a community college before transferring into a four-year program.
Many online respiratory therapy programs offer asynchronous learning, which provide additional flexibility by eliminating all live, scheduled course sessions. Some programs also offer a choice between full time and part time enrollment for students with significant professional or personal commitments.
Most online respiratory therapy programs include certain in-person requirements, as students need to gain real-world experience in healthcare facilities. Sometimes, it's easier to arrange placements for practica and internships if you attend a school close to home. If a program has on-campus requirements, you can also save on travel costs.
Getting an education from an accredited institution is of paramount importance. CoARC awards programmatic accreditation in the field. You should also attend a regionally accredited school, as you cannot receive federal financial aid unless you do.
Best Accredited Online Bachelor's in Respiratory Therapy Programs
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Frequently Asked Questions About Bachelor's in Respiratory Therapy Programs
Is a bachelor's in respiratory therapy worth it?
Thanks to a projected growth rate much faster than the average job, an online bachelor's degree in respiratory therapy is definitely worth it. These professionals earn a solid starting salary and make a real difference in their patients' lives. As such, many people consider respiratory therapy a rewarding profession, both personally and financially.
What can I do with a bachelor's in respiratory therapy?
Graduates can work as physical therapists in critical care, neonatal units, long-term care, and ambulatory care. A bachelor's degree gives graduates a leg up on associate degree-holders when applying for jobs in the field.
Are respiratory therapy majors in high demand?
Yes. The BLS projects 23% job growth for respiratory therapists between 2020 and 2030. That growth rate translates to 31,100 new jobs during that period.
How much money can I make with a bachelor's in respiratory therapy?
According to the BLS, respiratory therapists earned a median annual salary of $62,810 as of May 2020. Keep in mind that salary potential depends on several factors, including location, experience, employer, specialty, and professional certifications
What are the highest-paying jobs with a bachelor's in respiratory therapy?
The best-paid respiratory therapists work in state, local, and private hospitals, earning a median annual wage of $63,090 as of May 2020. The BLS reports that the top 10% of earners in this field earned more than $89,170 annually as of May 2020.
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BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.
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