Online Respiratory Therapy Degrees 2021

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Respiratory therapists help patients who struggle with breathing issues. These professionals enjoy strong job prospects. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects jobs for respiratory therapists to grow 19% between 2019-2029. The BLS also reports that respiratory therapists earn a median annual salary of over $61,000.

This guide ranks the top online bachelor’s in respiratory therapy programs. It also covers other important information for prospective students, such as common courses and scholarship opportunities for respiratory therapy students.

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Top 10 Online Bachelor’s In Respiratory Therapy Programs


Understanding a Bachelors in Respiratory Therapy

  • Q. How many years does it take to become a respiratory therapist?

    Some respiratory therapists hold a two-year associate degree. However, a bachelor’s degree, which typically takes four years of full-time study to complete, helps candidates stand out in the job market.

  • Q. What education is required for a respiratory therapist?

    An associate degree represents the entry-level educational requirement for respiratory therapists. A bachelor’s degree may qualify respiratory therapists for more competitive positions with higher salaries.

  • Q. Is respiratory therapy a good career?

    Respiratory therapists enjoy a rewarding career helping patients manage breathing problems. These professionals benefit from strong projected job growth and above-average salaries.

  • Q. Is respiratory therapist a stressful job?

    Careers in respiratory therapy may be stressful, particularly for respiratory therapists working in emergency settings. Other settings, such as home healthcare, may offer a less stressful alternative.

Why Get a Degree in Respiratory Therapy?

Respiratory therapy degrees prepare graduates for careers in a growing field. Respiratory therapists assess patients with breathing issues, including those with chronic respiratory diseases.

As allied health professionals, respiratory therapists work in various healthcare settings, including hospitals, long-term care facilities, and home care. Graduates with a bachelor’s in respiratory therapy qualify for respiratory therapy licensure and certification.

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How Much Does a Respiratory Therapy Degree Cost?

The cost of a respiratory therapy bachelor’s degree varies by school. Many colleges offer affordable tuition rates for online respiratory therapy programs. For example, the University of Southern Indiana charges $345 per credit for its online registered respiratory therapist to bachelor’s bridge program. The University of Mary offers a similar program that charges $340 per credit.

At public colleges and universities, in-state students benefit from a tuition reduction. For example, at Thomas Edison State University, which offers a bachelor’s in respiratory therapy program, in-state students pay $399 per credit, while out-of-state students pay $519 per credit. In addition to tuition, respiratory therapy majors should research fees, textbook costs, and other education-related expenses.

An online learning format often helps students save money on their college degree. For instance, online students often avoid many of the expenses that on-campus students incur, such as housing and commuting costs. Additionally, many schools offer tuition discounts to online students.

Calculating the Cost of a College Degree

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How Much Do Respiratory Therapy Majors Make?

Respiratory therapists earn above-average salaries and benefit from high demand. According to BLS data, respiratory therapists make a median salary of over $61,000 per year. The highest-paid respiratory therapists make a median annual wage of nearly $87,000.

Respiratory therapist salaries vary by location, workplace, and education. Respiratory therapists with a bachelor’s degree typically earn more than those with an associate degree. Salaries also vary by setting; for example, respiratory therapists who work at hospitals often earn higher salaries than those at nursing care facilities.

The top-paying states for respiratory therapists include California, Nevada, New York, and Hawaii. In California, the average respiratory therapist salary reaches over $87,000 per year.

Respiratory therapists must hold a license to practice in every state except Alaska. They may also pursue voluntary certifications to move into specialized roles or increase their earning potential.

Courses in Respiratory Therapy

Bachelor’s in respiratory therapy programs build theoretical and practical skills through lecture, laboratory, and clinical courses. These courses strengthen analytical, problem-solving, and patient care skills through a blend of classroom and experiential learning.

During a respiratory therapy degree, majors take courses on topics like respiratory care, therapeutic methods, health assessment, and diagnostics. Students also complete a practicum to gain hands-on experience in a clinical setting. Courses vary by program, but this section introduces common respiratory therapy courses.

  • Introduction to Respiratory Care

    Many respiratory therapy programs begin with an introductory class that covers basic respiratory therapy techniques and theories. Students learn about equipment, infection control, respiratory therapy procedures, and therapeutics. Other topics include patient care and safety, respiratory care ethics, and physical assessments.

  • Respiratory Therapeutics

    Respiratory therapeutics courses train students in therapeutic techniques and the theory behind them. The class surveys topics such as lung expansion therapy, gas therapy, and chest physical therapy. Learners also gain hands-on skills through laboratory or simulation work that explores hyperinflation, ventilatory support, and secretion removal.

  • Health Assessment and Diagnostics

    Respiratory therapists conduct physical health assessments and draw on diagnostic tools to identify medical conditions such as pulmonary disease. This course introduces methods for assessing major organ systems and diagnosing conditions. Students learn to measure lung volumes, conduct chest and lung assessments, and analyze blood gas. The course also covers diffusion testing and exercise testing.

Certifications and Licensure for Respiratory Therapy

In every state except Alaska, respiratory therapists must hold a license from their state’s health board. The license typically requires a degree and passing scores on a qualifying examination. In addition to licensure, respiratory therapists often pursue professional certifications. The National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) offers several certifications and specialty credentials for respiratory therapists.

Certified Respiratory Therapist

NBRC offers the CRT credential for entry-level respiratory therapists. Candidates must hold a degree from an accredited respiratory therapy program. The credential also requires passing scores on a three-hour, 160-question exam. After earning the CRT credential, respiratory therapists can apply for the registered respiratory therapist credential.

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Registered Respiratory Therapist

The RRT credential recognizes experienced respiratory therapists. Candidates need a degree in respiratory therapy from an accredited program and the CRT credential. They must also pass a three-hour, 160-question exam.

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Specialty Credentials

NBRC offers several specialty credentials for respiratory therapists, including credentials in adult critical care, neonatal and pediatric respiratory care, sleep disorders, and pulmonary function technology. Candidates must pass an exam to receive a specialty credential.

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Scholarships for Respiratory Therapy

Respiratory therapy students can take advantage of financial aid opportunities to help offset the cost of their degree. Unlike loans, scholarships do not require repayment, making them ideal forms of financial aid. This section outlines several scholarship opportunities for respiratory therapy students. In addition to the following awards, students should research scholarships based on factors like their state, school, and career goals.

  • Morton B. Duggan, Jr. Memorial Education Recognition Award

    Who Can Apply: Offered by the ARCF, this award supports students in accredited respiratory therapy programs. The award committee prefers candidates from Georgia and South Carolina.

    Amount: Up to $1,000

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  • Jimmy A. Young Memorial Education Recognition Award

    Who Can Apply: This award recognizes exceptional students pursuing a respiratory care degree, with a preference for minority students. Applicants need a minimum 3.0 GPA.

    Amount: Up to $1,000

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  • NBRC William W. Burgin, Jr., MD and Robert M. Lawrence, MD Education Recognition Award

    Who Can Apply: The ARCF and the NBRC offer this award for students in accredited bachelor’s programs in respiratory therapy. Recipients attend an annual conference to accept the award.

    Amount: Up to $7,500

    Explore Here

Online Bachelor’s In Respiratory Therapy Programs 2021

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  1. East Tennessee State University

    Johnson City, TN



    Established in 1911, ETSU enrolls 14,500 students on campus in Johnson City. The bachelor of science in cardiopulmonary (respiratory) science enrolls respiratory therapists with an associate of science or associate of applied science in the major. Enrollees build on their existing knowledge with advanced training that prepares them for supervisory and managerial roles.

    The AS and AAS cover the bachelor's general education and lower-division requirements. The bachelor's in respiratory therapy explores research, leadership, and professional issues in allied health. Participants learn about gerontology and health. They develop a patient-centered practice and learn about information management for allied health professionals. Students gain practical experience during a clinical component that uses computerized clinical simulation modules.

    ETSU offers scholarships for students entering the program's final semester. Applicants need a minimum 2.5 GPA in their associate program. They also need a professional license or eligibility for a license, such as the certified respiratory therapist credential.

  2. University of North Carolina at Charlotte

    Charlotte, NC



    UNC Charlotte's distance education division offers a bachelor of science in respiratory therapy. The fully online degree enhances respiratory therapists' knowledge and skills for career advancement. The BS uses a 2+2 model, enrolling students with an associate degree in respiratory therapy. The associate degree provides the general education and lower-division requirements for this bachelor's in respiratory therapy degree.

    The bachelor's curriculum explores subjects such as cardiopulmonary pharmacotherapy, advanced critical care monitoring, and health outcomes and quality assessment. Enrollees cultivate an evidence-based practice and learn to work with different populations such as those needing neonatal or pediatric critical care. Two courses focus on critical care monitoring and mechanical ventilation. Participants culminate the degree with a respiratory therapy capstone project.

    North Carolina residents pay the most affordable tuition. Applicants need a minimum 2.0 GPA from a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care. Applicants also need an unencumbered registered respiratory therapist license in North Carolina or another state.

  3. University of Southern Indiana

    Evansville, IN



    Founded in 1965, USI administers 130 programs on campus in Evansville. USI offers a degree-completion bachelor of science in respiratory therapy (RT). Registered respiratory therapists develop advanced competencies through a fully online and affordable program. Enrollees work with faculty to develop an individualized program that integrates credits from an associate degree.

    The respiratory therapy bachelor's degree curriculum covers concepts such as RT disease management, advanced critical care management, and pulmonary rehabilitation. Courses also examine RT leadership and professional issues and management. Students can pursue independent study of special RT topics.

    Degree-seekers can complete this degree in just four semesters. Seven-week courses accelerate degree completion. Multiple start dates give students enrollment flexibility. Admission requires a minimum 2.3 GPA and the registered respiratory therapist credential from the National Board for Respiratory Care.

  4. Youngstown State University

    Youngstown, OH



    Ohio-based YSU offers an online bachelor of science in respiratory care degree-completion program. The BS enrolls certified and registered respiratory care therapists. The curriculum focuses on advanced cardiopulmonary disease management and clinical applications. Enrollees' prior experience impacts how many credits they must complete.

    The curriculum covers core topics such as pharmacotherapeutics, comparative health systems, respiratory care management, and advanced respiratory care diagnostics. Students explore leadership fundamentals for the respiratory care professional. A course teaches therapists how to apply evidence-based case management practices in transitional, acute care, and long-term care settings. Participants learn research methods and engage in directed research.

    During a course focused on technology applications, enrollees use various technologies to create digital media and e-portfolios. Applicants must submit school transcripts and need an associate degree accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care.

  5. University of Cincinnati-Main Campus

    Cincinnati, OH



    UC is a large research college with more than 400 programs, including a degree-completion bachelor of science in respiratory therapy. The 50-credit curriculum prepares students for roles such as registered respiratory therapist. Most enrollees work while they continue their education.

    The curriculum provides advanced knowledge and expertise in areas such as aging and respiratory therapy, disease management, and caregiving. Students learn how to conduct basic healthcare research, and interpret and analyze quantitative and qualitative research in RT. Students complete an internship in an RT specialty practice in preparation for National Board for Respiratory Care credentialing.

    Students must transfer up to 70 credits from an associate-level respiratory care or respiratory therapy degree. Some enrollees must complete additional coursework to earn the bachelor's degree. UC maintains articulation agreements with several community colleges. Applicants need a minimum 2.5 GPA.

  6. Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing & Allied Health

    Omaha, NE



    NMC specializes in allied health. Respiratory therapists seeking to upgrade their skills can enroll in the fully online bachelor of science in respiratory therapy. The 129-credit curriculum includes coursework transferred from an associate degree accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care. The BS offers two advanced practice tracks: healthcare management and leadership or education and research.

    The online respiratory therapy degree curriculum explores topics such as health information management, leadership in healthcare, and case management. Three courses focus on how respiratory therapists can address the wellness needs of specific populations. Students culminate the degree by creating a wellness or education program. Learners do not need to complete clinical hours. Enrollees earn prior learning credit for the registered respiratory therapist (RRT) credential.

    All students pay the same tuition regardless of residency. NMC offers comprehensive financial aid that includes scholarships and grants. Applicants need the RRT or certified respiratory therapist certification and a minimum 2.5 GPA.

  7. Concordia University-Saint Paul

    Saint Paul, MN



    CSP offers a fully online bachelor of science in pulmonary science that allows registered respiratory therapists to continue their careers. Students enter the degree-completion program with an associate degree in respiratory therapy.

    The BS offers 44 credits of advanced coursework that explores issues such as compliance and regulatory requirements, multi-specialties in respiratory therapy, and healthcare information systems. During a class on ethical decision-making, participants explore various decision-making models and the role and responsibilities of today's healthcare professional.

    Students culminate the program with a capstone research project. Enrollees may need to complete additional credits to earn the bachelor's degree. Admission requires the RRT and a minimum 2.0 GPA in an associate program.

  8. Cardinal Stritch University

    Milwaukee, WI



    Cardinal Stritch University is a Franciscan college located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The school offers an online bachelor of science in respiratory therapy degree-completion program. The program enrolls registered respiratory therapists who want to advance their careers. Cardinal Stritch University's articulation agreement with the Wisconsin Technical College System allows respiratory therapists to transfer an associate degree.

    The curriculum includes foundational literacy coursework such as Spanish language and culture and applied statistics. The major explores eight topics, including advanced concepts in mechanical ventilation, the respiratory therapist as an educator, and respiratory care research. Students also learn how to provide emergency and critical care to neonatal and pediatric patients. A respiratory capstone requires service-learning respiratory care/healthcare activities.

    The degree requires no clinicals. Six-week courses help students complete the degree in two years. Admission requires a minimum 2.3 GPA, the RRT credential, and a respiratory care license.

  9. Newberry College

    Newberry, SC



    Newberry College, a South Carolina liberal arts school, offers a respiratory therapy degree-completion program. This program provides licensed respiratory therapists with the education needed to earn their bachelor's degree online. The bachelor of science in respiratory therapy builds on training registered respiratory therapists received in an associate degree. Students begin the BS with a course that explores ethical theories and leadership concepts applicable to practitioners.

    The bachelor's in respiratory therapy curriculum develops learners' proficiencies in key areas such as applied disease management, advanced airway management, and emergency and disaster management. Degree-seekers culminate the program with a research project that demonstrates specialized knowledge in an area such as pediatric care.

    Course lengths of 7.5 weeks accelerate degree completion. All students pay the same per-credit tuition regardless of residency. Admission requires the RRT credential, a minimum 2.0 GPA, and an active respiratory therapist license.

  10. Nova Southeastern University

    Fort Lauderdale, FL



    NSU's bachelor of science in respiratory therapy enrolls practicing registered respiratory therapists. Enrollees build on their existing knowledge with an online curriculum that includes advanced coursework. The 39-credit post-professional curriculum explores topics such as outpatient services, critical care pathophysiology, and evidence-based practice.

    Enrollees complete a leadership and management course and can pursue an optional 15-credit management specialization. Participants develop in-demand managerial proficiencies in areas such as healthcare finance and strategic planning. Students use fieldwork and internship experiences to explore new areas of respiratory therapy.

    Some students may need to complete general education and other courses beyond the post-professional curriculum. Admission requires the RRT credential, a license to practice as an RRT, and a minimum cumulative 2.0 GPA.

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