Human beings take around eight million breaths each year.
But what happens when this basic function begins to stutter or even stop? Bronchitis or COPD can affect a person’s ability to breathe normally, and treatment of these issues can be the difference between life and death. This is where respiratory therapists come into play!
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What Is Respiratory Therapy?
Respiratory therapy is the assessment and treatment of patients who have either acute or chronic issues with dysfunction of the cardiopulmonary system. Respiratory therapists have a deep understanding of the techniques required to diagnose and treat patients with respiratory/cardiopulmonary issues.
How Much Money Can I Earn Working in Respiratory Therapy?
Respiratory therapists have a strong and stable job market. RTs earn above the median income in the United States, with a median salary of just under $60,000 a year. In addition to this, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 23 percent growth in the RT job market over the next decade, which is much faster than average.
This growth in an already populous industry translates to more than 30,000 new job openings coming into the market over the next few years.
Why Choose A Degree in Respiratory Therapy?
Respiratory therapy is a specific and directed discipline, with a streamlined career path with good prospects and a great salary range. Medical professions tend to have excruciating hours or endless years of training that can quickly rack up physical and financial debt for students (cancelling out the financial benefits of their new jobs).
With just the bachelor’s degree, graduates will be able to step directly into the respiratory therapy profession. No debt, but plenty of earning potential.
What Are the 5 Best Respiratory Therapy Degrees?
College Choice considers several factors including institutional merit, student fulfillment, and return on investment to develop rankings.
Institutional merit combines metrics such as student-to-faculty ratios, graduation rates and endowment to measure each school’s ability to provide excellent and cost-effective education for each student.
Student fulfillment measures how fulfilled current and former students felt with the services and programs offered at each school.
And finally return on investment looks at the fiscal benefits students are likely to receive from each school’s education, weighted against the costs of attendance, namely tuition and student loans. In the end, we believe these are the 5 best respiratory therapy degrees.
See our rankings methodology page.
Bellarmine University is a private university located in Louisville, KY. It has an affiliation with the Roman Catholic Church, and is organized into seven colleges and schools. They offer more than 50 academic majors for bachelor’s and master’s degrees, as well as five doctoral degrees. Bellarmine has around 4,000 students and an endowment of $52 million.
Bellarmine offers a Bachelor in Health Science degree program, with an emphasis in Respiratory Therapy. The major requires completion of prerequisite courses in general education and general health courses before students begin major study. Major courses include:
- Neonatal/Pediatric Respiratory Care
- Respiratory Therapy Clinical Education I-III
- Cardiopulmonary Monitoring
- Respiratory Therapy Leadership
The four-year program finishes with a senior seminar class, which culminates what students have learned throughout the major program. Students must earn minimum grades of C- in these courses for continuation towards graduation.
Students applying to the BHS program specifically must meet supplemental requirements to obtaining general admission to the university. Students must have a cumulative grade point average of at least 2.5. They must also prove language proficiency and be willing to complete a personal interview if requested by the program admission committee.
Oregon Institute of Technology
Klamath Falls, OR
The Oregon Institute of Technology, also known as Oregon Tech, is a public polytechnic university located in Klamath Falls, OR. They have 32 degree programs that focus on engineering, health sciences, and applied sciences. Oregon Tech encourages hands-on training inside and outside of the classroom to its 5,500 students.
Oregon Tech offers a Bachelor of Science degree in Respiratory Care. Students must complete one year of prerequisite courses before they can be admitted to the respiratory care program. Courses within the major include:
- Arterial Blood Gases
- Respiratory Gas Therapeutics
- Hyperinflation Therapies
- Mechanical Ventilation
Students also take courses in Clinical Care that give them hands-on experience in respiratory care. In total the degree involves completion of 187 credit-hours of study.
Students in the program have gone on to careers in respiratory therapy at institutions including the Sky Lakes Medical Center and the Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center. The programs main educational objectives are to produce graduates who can demonstrate professional behaviors, comprehend and evaluate clinical data, and demonstrate technical proficiency in all skills required to fill advanced-level respiratory therapy roles.
Boise State University is a public university located in Boise, ID. Boise State was founded in 1932 by the Episcopal Church, before becoming independent in 1934, and then a full university in 1965. They offer more than 100 graduate degree programs and have a student population of more than 24,000. They have 650 academic staff members and an endowment just short of $100 million.
Boise State has a Bachelor of Science program in Respiratory Care. This is a 120 credit-hour program. Students begin with a pre-professional year of study during their freshman year. In their upperclassmen years, students then move on to the professional program, which includes classes like:
- Respiratory Rounds
- Clinical Practicum
- Diseases and Diagnostics
- Professional Communication in Health Care
Students complete their course of study with classes involving senior theory in respiratory care and that engage them in critical review of health care research. These help to hone students’ academic and clinical skills in respiratory care.
Students also have the option of completing a respiratory care internship during their professional program. Students must provide proof of immunizations/current immune testing to help protect patients that students may come in contact with. Students must also have a minimum GPA of 2.0 from their freshman year to transition into the professional program.
Gannon University is a private university located in Erie, PA. They have an affiliation with the Catholic Church (Diocese of Erie). Their current student body has around 2,600 full-time undergraduates and 1,200 postgraduates. Gannon gained university status in 1979 and is divided between three main colleges: engineering, business, and humanities.
Gannon University offers a Bachelor of Science degree program in respiratory care. The program requires a mixture of academic classes and clinical experience. Students can identify specialized clinical rotations and take classes such as:
- Respiratory Care Procedures
- Mechanical Ventilation and Critical Care & Lab
- Neonatal/Pediatric Respiratory Care
- Liberal Studies Core Courses
Students who complete the program earn a certificate in the testing and treatment of patients with sleep disorders. There is also an associate’s degree option in RC, which involves one semester less clinical work.
The Gannon program has a 100-percent job placement rate for its graduates. Students have also had a 100-percent pass rate on the entry-level Certified Respiratory Therapist exam for many years. And students also perform above the national mean on the advanced practitioner Registered Respiratory Therapist exams.
Loma Linda University is a health sciences university located in Loma Linda, CA. Loma Linda is affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church. They have eight different schools and offer more than 100 different undergraduate and graduate degree programs. The campus also has a community church and K-12 school nearby, and has around 3,500 total students, 2,500 of which are postgraduates.
Loma Linda offers an entry-level Bachelor of Science program in Respiratory Care. The program is divided between two years of study:
- Year One: Theoretical Aspects of Respiratory Therapy Science and 20 weeks of introductory clinical fieldwork
- Year Two: Clinical training three to four days a week, along with more advanced classroom topics in management and research
It is recommended to have four to eight hours of observing a respiratory therapist participating in patient care in hospital setting before applying. Graduates of the program are able to pursue all credentialing exams offered by the National Board of Respiratory Care.
Students must apply to the program after meeting necessary prerequisites. These include achieving a minimum of 78 quarter units/52 units of transferable credit prior to admission. Students attending an Adventist college are required to take four quarter or three semester units of religion courses per year.