Best Master’s in Respiratory Therapy Programs

Respiratory therapists care for patients dealing with breathing-related conditions. Learn how to get an online master's in respiratory therapy.

portrait of Juliann Scholl, Ph.D.
by Juliann Scholl, Ph.D.

Published on July 15, 2022

Edited by Colin Weickmann
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Respiratory therapy represents a medical specialty addressing pulmonary or lung-related conditions like asthma, emphysema, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). A master's in respiratory therapy takes about two years to complete. Students might shorten that time by enrolling in an accelerated online program.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, graduate tuition and fees cost an average of $19,792 per academic year in 2020-2021. Private and out-of-state graduate school students typically pay more. In addition to tuition, students should consider other costs like transportation, student services, books and supplies, and technology fees. Students wanting to save money can pursue an online master's in respiratory therapy, which can help them avoid paying for housing and some on-campus services.

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that respiratory therapy jobs will grow 23% between 2020-2030, exceeding the average growth rate of 8% for all occupations. Respiratory therapists earned a median annual salary of $61,830 in 2021, which exceeds the average salary of $45,760 for all occupations. The bottom 10% of professionals in this field made less than $47,380, while the top 10% earned over $95,540 in the same year.

Our Top Pick

Bellarmine University - Louisville, Kentucky

Why It's #1: Bellarmine University sits at the top of our list of best master's in respiratory therapy programs. The program boasts a 66% graduation rate — one of the highest on this list. It also reports a 100% job placement rate. Tuition costs $690 per credit hour, with 100% of students receiving financial aid. This program has a number-one nationwide ranking in at least two higher education polls.

Read Our Rankings Methodology

Best Accredited Master's in Respiratory Therapy Programs

Rankings compiled by the BestColleges Ranking Team

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#1

Bellarmine University

School Information
Location Louisville, Kentucky
Admission Rate 66%
Graduation Rate 66%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 12% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Hybrid | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $690
Out of State | $690

Credits to Graduate
72

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care

Bellarmine University's master of health science in respiratory therapy allows students to pursue the health promotion and social change track or the leadership track. The program offers courses in neonatal and pediatric care, advanced life support, and clinical education.

Application requirements include a bachelor's degree, a minimum 2.75 GPA, and a "C" or higher on specified prerequisite courses. Students must also participate in an interview and submit official transcripts, two references, and a personal statement.

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#2

Rush University

School Information
Location Chicago, Illinois
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 53% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Hybrid | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $766
Out of State | $766

Semester Hours to Graduate
92

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care

Rush University in Chicago, Illinois offers a master of science in respiratory care — the only program of its kind in the state. Students can choose between the two-year MS track or the advanced MS track for those already with a registered respiratory therapist (RRT) credential.

For admission consideration, students must hold a bachelor's degree and a 2.5 cumulative and science GPA. Applicants also need to submit official transcripts, provide three references, and take part in an on-campus interview. Prospective students must also schedule a shadowing session at Rush University Medical Center.

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#3

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio

School Information
Location San Antonio, Texas
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 3% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Course Format (i.e., Self-Paced Classes or Scheduled Classes)

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $301
Out of State | $709

Credits to Graduate
33

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio offers an online MS in respiratory care for professionals with the RRT credential. The program emphasizes preparing graduates for leadership roles in respiratory care.

Admission requirements include an RRT credential or the equivalent, a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution, and two recommendation letters. The school highly recommends that applicants show evidence of physician shadowing.

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#4

Loma Linda University

School Information
Location Loma Linda, California
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 27% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Hybrid | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $612
Out of State | $612

Units to Graduate
45

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Committee on Accreditation for Respiratory Care

Linda Loma University offers a master of science in respiratory care (MSRC). Students can complete the program in one year of full-time study. Students can specialize in advanced clinical practice, education, leadership and management, polysomnography (sleep diagnostics), and research. Graduation requirements include a capstone project. 

To apply, students must hold a bachelor's from an accredited school, an RRT credential, and at least a 3.0 GPA. Applicants must also participate in an interview.

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#5

Weber State University

School Information
Location Ogden, Utah
Graduation Rate 34%
Accreditation Yes Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Percent Online Enrollment 35% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Hybrid | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $542
Out of State | $1,601

Credits to Graduate
36

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

Weber State University offers a master of science in respiratory therapy. Students choose a concentration in education, research, or health administrative services. Some out-of-state applicants might qualify for in-state tuition rates.

Admission requirements include a bachelor's degree, an RRT credential, and healthcare experience. Students should also show a minimum 3.0 GPA within the last 60 semester hours of their undergraduate curriculum. Students who do not meet the minimum GPA requirement may gain acceptance with an acceptable score on the Miller's Analogy examination or the GRE.

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#6

Youngstown State University

School Information
Location Youngstown, Ohio
Admission Rate 67%
Graduation Rate 41%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 37% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Asynchronous Courses

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $447
Out of State | Extra $15 per Credit Hour

Credits to Graduate
30

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care

Youngstown State University offers an online master of respiratory care (MRC). The core curriculum provides a foundation in clinical research, leadership development, and technology applications.

Program applicants must possess a bachelor's degree from an accredited school and a minimum cumulative 3.0 GPA. Applicants must also hold a state license and RRT credential. Prospective students should obtain membership in the American Association for Respiratory Care to access materials related to their coursework.

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#7

Texas State University

School Information
Location San Marcos, Texas
Admission Rate 81%
Graduation Rate 54%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 30% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online for Core Courses and Traditional Track, Hybrid for Polysomnography Track | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $357
Out of State | $765

Credits to Graduate
36

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

Texas State University offers a master of science in respiratory care. The program requires 24 credit hours of core courses and 12 credits in a leadership or polysomnography concentration.

To apply, students need a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution and at least a 2.75 GPA within the last 60 hours of undergraduate coursework. Applicants must also submit official transcripts, proof of an RRT credential, and resume. In addition, they must provide a purpose statement and three recommendation letters.

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Popular Online Respiratory Therapy Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

How We Rank Schools

Each year, the BestColleges Ranking Team evaluates hundreds of programs to produce our annual Best Master's in Respiratory Therapy ranking. In 2022, the team sourced the most recent data available from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and College Navigator, both of which are hosted by the National Center for Education Statistics. We identified 17 schools that qualify for our ranking list based on the following criteria.

To ensure the accuracy and quality of our final ranked list, the ranking team reviewed each qualifying school to ensure it met the criteria for our ranking, and then applied our proprietary ranking methodology to identify the best schools offering this program in the nation. Each school is ranked based on a formula measuring academic factors (60%) and affordability (40%).

The BestColleges Ranking Team is made up of contributors from our data science and product management teams. These contributors operate independently from the editorial team. All BestColleges school rankings are produced by the ranking team and are free of editorial influence. Read our Editorial Policy and Standards to learn more.

BestColleges' Ranking Factors

Frequently Asked Questions About Respiratory Therapy Programs

Is a master's in respiratory therapy worth it?

Yes. Earning an online master's degree in respiratory therapy does not limit students who want to keep their employment options open. This degree provides access to jobs in education, administration, case management, and various healthcare specialties.

In addition to the BLS's projected growth rate of 23% for respiratory therapy jobs, this career might appear especially rewarding to professionals who care about making a difference in patients' lives.

What can I do with a master's in respiratory therapy?

A master's in respiratory therapy enables individuals to work in pediatrics, adult critical care, sleep disorders, and neonatal care. These individuals provide care to patients coping with breathing issues like COPD or asthma. Some professionals with advanced degrees also pursue leadership positions.

Most respiratory therapists work closely with physicians, nurses, and other providers when caring for patients. However, duties vary depending on the workplace setting and occupation. Most successful respiratory therapists exhibit compassion and good communication skills. They also possess science and math proficiencies.

Are respiratory therapy graduates in demand?

Yes. According to the BLS, the respiratory therapy field continues to expand, and the growing number of older adults needing hands-on respiratory care drives the demand. The BLS projects about 10,100 new openings for these therapists each year on average from 2020-2030. Training in cardiopulmonary care prepares graduates for various medical careers, making them employable in many healthcare settings.

How much money can I make with a master's in respiratory therapy?

Many respiratory therapists receive relatively competitive pay, and earning a master's degree can increase a person's earning potential. The BLS reports that respiratory therapists' salaries ranged from below $47,380 to above $95,540 in 2021, varying by location, experience, and occupational setting. Therapists working in private, local, or state hospitals tend to earn slightly more than people who work for physicians or nursing homes.

What are the highest-paying jobs with a master's in respiratory therapy?

The BLS reports that the top 10% earners among respiratory therapists made more than $95,540 in 2021. Also, therapists working in hospitals tend to earn higher salaries. Graduates with an online master's in respiratory therapy can pursue high-paying jobs, such as positions in administration and management.

For example, according to the BLS, medical and health services managers earned a median salary of $101,340 in 2021, higher than the median of $97,630 for other management occupations in the same year. Managers working in hospitals or government agencies can earn even more.

Feature Image: Hispanolistic / E+ / Getty Images

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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