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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the need for respiratory therapists is expected to grow by 14% through 2031. Students can prepare for jobs as respiratory therapists by earning a two-year associate degree or a four-year bachelor’s degree.The median annual salary for a respiratory therapist is $61,830. With further education, students who earn an online degree in respiratory therapy can pursue careers as registered nurses ($77,600 annually) or clinical lab technicians ($57,800 annually).

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average tuition for an undergraduate degree program during the 2021-22 academic year was $7,869 at public universities and $37,095 at private institutions.

How to Choose an Online Respiratory Therapy Degree Program

Choose your area of study

The first step in the college selection process is clarifying your career goals, including what type of job you want to be qualified for after graduation. This clarification will help you determine what kind of program you need regarding your degree and curriculum.

Clarifying career goals involves researching various respiratory therapy concentrations, like gerontology, pediatrics, home health, pulmonary rehabilitation, or sleep laboratories. Depending on their education level, students can pursue the following degrees:

  • Associate of Science (AS)
  • Associate of Applied Science (AAS)
  • Bachelor of Science (BS)
  • Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS)

Upon completing a bachelor’s degree, students wanting advanced degrees can pursue an online master’s in respiratory therapy degree program.

Research schools and programs

When researching online respiratory therapy degree programs, students must evaluate many factors, including cost, curriculum, online format, faculty, and graduation requirements. Students with an associate degree may want to seek out a degree completion bachelor’s program that will allow them to transfer credits.

Students should also confirm that any schools and programs they’re considering are accredited. The U.S. Department of Education oversees regional accreditation agencies, while the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC) and the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Professionals (CAAHEP) accredits individual respiratory therapy programs. Accreditation ensures that schools and programs are held to a high standard, and most employers and graduate programs require students to have a degree from an accredited school.

Students with an associate degree in respiratory therapy who want to complete their bachelor’s should speak to a transfer admissions counselor to confirm that their previously earned credits will transfer to their new degree.

Common ways to research schools include visiting their websites and social media pages, attending virtual open houses or information sessions, and speaking to program representatives and admissions counselors.

Prepare for tests and applications

The admissions department’s web page offers great information on what is needed to apply and the deadlines for submission. You can also chat directly with a program representative to verify how to prepare for tests and applications. While application requirements vary by school, students will likely need to prepare the following:

  • Application
  • Resume
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Official transcripts showing previous education
  • Personal essay

Standardized test scores are sometimes a requirement for online respiratory therapy degree programs. Bachelor’s programs typically accept ACT or SAT scores. Master’s programs may require the Graduate Record Exam (GRE).

Select your program

Once you’ve gathered sufficient information on all the programs you’re considering, look at the following factors and determine which schools meet this criteria:

  • Faculty have proper credentials/experience
  • Cost is within budget
  • Completion timeline is reasonable
  • Program format meets your needs
  • Student support services are available
  • High-quality, comprehensive curriculum

An important point to consider is that for every application a student sends, they will pay an application fee. Students should keep in mind their budget as they submit applications. If finances are a true struggle, contact the school’s financial aid department or admissions office and request an application fee waiver.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

There are numerous avenues students can explore to help them pay for an online respiratory therapy degree, including scholarships, grants, fellowships, work-study jobs, and student loans.

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first step in finding out what kind of aid you’re eligible for. Other resources students can explore include tuition assistance benefits from employers, tax benefits for education, and GI Bill benefits for veterans and military service members.

Contact the university’s financial aid office early in the application process for help accessing funding opportunities.

Best 50 Accredited Online Respiratory Therapy Degree Programs

Best Online Respiratory Therapy Degree Programs

University of Cincinnati

University of North Carolina at Charlotte

East Tennessee State University

Youngstown State University

Nebraska Methodist College

Cardinal Stritch University

University of Southern Indiana

Nova Southeastern University

Saint Leo University

Oregon Institute of Technology

University of Missouri

Liberty University

Marian University

University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio

Boise State University

Carlow University

University of Kansas Medical Center

Jacksonville State University

Northern Kentucky University

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How We Rank Schools

Our list focuses on Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in respiratory therapy. Bachelor’s programs are typically designed for individuals with an associate’s degree in respiratory therapy and looking to advance their careers. Meanwhile, master’s programs focus on advanced clinical therapy or leadership skills. All listed programs can be completed online, although some schools also offer courses on campus. You can select the program delivery type that best suits your learning preferences and availability.

The schools included on this list have accreditation through regional or national accrediting bodies. Most programs also have specialized accreditation through the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC), which guarantees excellence in education and training for respiratory therapists.

We reviewed each program’s faculty, cost, flexibility, reputation, and course strength. Then, we calculated an Intelligent Score for each program on a scale of 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out our ranking methodology.

What Can You Expect from an Online Respiratory Therapy Degree Program?

An AS or AAS in respiratory therapy will require at least 60 credit hours, while a BS or BAS requires 120 credit hours.

Students enrolled in an online respiratory therapy degree will learn skills for delivering patient care, operating equipment, completing documentation, and assisting physicians. In addition to coursework, there will be a clinical component in which students get hands-on experience in a respiratory therapy environment.

It’s essential to confirm that the program prepares students for the certification process for credentialing and, eventually, state licensure. Most U.S. respiratory therapist jobs require certification from the National Board for Respiratory Care. To get certified, students must pass an exam and provide documentation of coursework that meets educational standards.

Potential courses you’ll take in an online respiratory therapy degree program

  • Ethics and Laws in Respiratory Care. Students learn to make the best decisions when caring for respiratory therapy patients. The class covers the code of ethics and laws that apply to the industry, including privacy, boundaries, therapist-patient relationships, conflicts of interest, integrity, and state and federal laws.
  • Pharmacology for Respiratory Therapy. Students will learn the standard medications for respiratory treatments, their actions, and their interactions. Students also learn what to do in case of adverse effects.
  • Assessing Patients. Students learn to identify symptoms by assessing vital signs, observing patient behaviors, and using the stethoscope to listen to breathing patterns. Students learn to gather as much information as possible to aid doctors in developing a treatment plan.
  • Mechanical Ventilation. Students learn the anatomy and physiology of the respiratory system and their role when ventilating a patient. They also learn to avoid dangers like ventilator-associated pneumonia and remove the ventilator safely.

Online Respiratory Therapy Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an online respiratory therapy degree program?

In most cases, students can apply to a respiratory therapy degree program by submitting their application and supporting materials online. Find out if the school has deadlines or accepts applications on a rolling basis.

Students must provide documentation from their prior education, usually in official transcripts. Some schools require students to have a minimum GPA from previous education, ranging between 2.0 and 3.0. Contact the school for more information if you need clarification on your eligibility.

How much does an online respiratory therapy degree program cost?

The cost of an online respiratory therapy degree depends on various factors, such as the school’s status as a public or private institution. The tuition tends to be higher at private institutions compared to public schools. However, public schools may charge different tuition rates based on whether students are in-state or out-of-state.

However, online degrees can save students money in certain areas, such as:

  • Transportation costs (gas, parking, wear-and-tear on car)
  • On-campus student fees
  • Housing and meal plans

Also, remember that quoted tuition rates don’t include any scholarships, grants, or other types of aid students may receive.

How long does it take to earn an online respiratory therapy degree?

For full-time students, an associate degree in respiratory therapy typically takes two years, while a bachelor’s degree usually takes four. However, various factors can impact program duration, including:

  • Part-time versus full-time status
  • Accelerated or degree-completion programs
  • Program format, structured versus flexible
  • Retaking a class due to a withdrawal or failing grade
  • Unexpected obstacles, including problems at work or home

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