Respiratory Therapist Schools

George Steinbrenner—a successful businessman and former owner of the Yankees—famously exclaimed, “Winning is the most important thing in my life, after breathing. Breathing first, winning next.” Even for a fiercely competitive man such as Steinbrenner, the act of breathing was more important than anything.

While many take it for granted, the sad truth is that breathing is a daily struggle for some people. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 25.2 million people suffer from asthma, more than 8 percent of the population. As pollution levels continue to climb and cities grow more congested, this figure may continue to rise in the coming years. From emphysema to other chronic respiratory diseases, from smoking-related maladies to birth defects, several people rely on the help of medical professionals specializing in breathing assistance and rehabilitation. Enter the respiratory therapists.

These professionals monitor, diagnose, and treat breathing abnormalities to make people’s lives easier. Respiratory therapy is a growing career in the U.S. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2022) projects that job openings for respiratory therapists will increase 14 percent between 2021 and 2031, more robust than the average growth expected for all occupations (5 percent). Most of these jobs will be in hospitals and private practices (82 percent), and with median annual salaries of $68,190, it’s a relatively well-compensated career (BLS May 2021).

So how does a person become a respiratory therapist? Students typically begin with a two-year associate’s degree through a school accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC). Once candidates successfully pass a national exam, they can receive the Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) credential. Some choose to complete a four-year degree and attain the higher Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) designation, or even continue on with a master’s degree in respiratory management or education.

The following sections explore possible educational paths for people interested in attending an accredited program. There are many flexible and reputable respiratory therapist schools to choose from, including those offering traditional campus experiences and partially online (i.e., hybrid) programs. There are also hundreds of CoARC-approved programs that can help a person become certified and assist in job placement upon graduation.

“As natural as breathing” has become a clichéd expression, and people have continually compared this most essential of human activities to things that are natural, unstoppable, or inevitable. For people looking to make a real difference in the world, a career in respiratory therapy may be an excellent option.


Respiratory Therapist fast facts
Projected Jobs Created18,400
Projected Job Growth14%
Average Salary$68,190
Low Salary$47,380
High Salary$95,540
Entry-Level EDU Associate's Degree
Sourced From BLS May 2021

Respiratory Therapy Degree & Certification Programs – On-Campus

There are several levels of respiratory therapy education which can lead to certification. An associate degree program is typically the first step. An associate of science (AS) or associate of applied science (AAS) degree from an accredited CoARC school makes students eligible to sit for the Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) or Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) exam.

The RRT exam is usually only taken by students who have completed a four-year degree, or two-year degree in addition to a CRT certification. The bachelor of science (BS) in respiratory therapy or respiratory care is the chosen program level for students interested in the RRT certification.

Finally, students interested in respiratory research or management may be interested in pursuing a master’s degree. This advanced degree is often required to get some of the highest-paying jobs as a hospital administrator or in a research lab. Pima Medical Institute (AAS) – Pima Medical Institute has campus locations offering their AAS program across the western part of the U.S., including Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico. Students who complete this program put in over 2,000 contact and learning hours, making it one of the most extensive associate degree programs available.

Each campus has different student success rates, but more than 85 percent of all students from PMI pass the CRT examination, with some boasting success rates up to 96 percent.

  • Location: Campuses across the United States
  • Duration: 21 months
  • Accreditation: Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC)
  • Tuition: $12,024 per year

Georgia State University (AS, BS, MSHS-RT) – Ranked #2 on the list of Most Innovative Schools by the U.S. News and World Report (2022), Georgia State University in Atlanta offers an affordable and acclaimed respiratory therapy program in the Lewis College of Nursing and Health Professions.

GSU offers both a traditional BS degree and a professional AS-to-BS bridge degree for those students who have already completed an AS at a CoARC-accredited school and are Registered Respiratory Therapists but want to earn a bachelor’s degree. In addition, GSU provides an accelerated program for completing both a bachelor’s and master’s of science health sciences in respiratory therapy. GSU has incredibly high student outcomes, with a 100 percent job placement and a 100 percent pass rate on the Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) and CRT exams.

  • Location: Atlanta, GA
  • Duration: Two to four years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC)
  • Tuition: $298.27 per credit (residents); $932.87 per credit (non-residents)

Bellarmine University (BS) – Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky was named on the list of Best National Universities in the South by the U.S. News and World Report in 2022. Bellarmine offers a standard bachelor of health science (BHS) track, an AS to BHS bridge program for registered respiratory therapists, a master of health science (MHS) health promotion and social change track, and an MHS leadership track.

Students in this program earn more than 800 hours of clinical experience in healthcare settings such as intensive care units, neonatal intensive care units, pediatric intensive care units, emergency rooms, and sleep laboratories. This range of options makes Bellarmine an attractive choice to aspiring respiratory therapists at virtually any career level.

  • Location: Louisville, KY
  • Duration: Two to four years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC)
  • Tuition: $45,630 per year

Louisiana State University School of Health Sciences (BS) – LSU Health Sciences offers a four-year degree in cardiopulmonary science with an emphasis on respiratory therapy at its New Orleans campus. The bachelor of science program can be completed in two or four years and accepts students who have earned two years of general college or university credits.

This program prepares graduates to become registered respiratory therapists at the national and state levels. CoARC has awarded LSU a Distinguished RRT Credentialing Success Award for its record of credentialing 90 percent of its graduating classes in the past eight years.

  • Location: Shreveport, LA
  • Duration: Two to four years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC)
  • Tuition: $4,193.25 per year (residents); $8,541.75 per year (non-residents)

SELECT * FROM `mts_online_offline_data` WHERE `page_url` = '/respiratory-therapist' AND ( `table_type` = 'Offline' OR `table_type` = 'BOTH (Online + Offline)' ) ORDER BY `grads` DESC

List of Respiratory Therapist Schools

Filter by state :
School City State Website grads (2018)
San Joaquin Valley College-Visalia Visalia California 266
Pima Medical Institute-Tucson Tucson Arizona 134
Ivy Tech Community College Indianapolis Indiana 106
Weber State University Ogden Utah 86
University of North Carolina at Charlotte Charlotte North Carolina 78
J Sargeant Reynolds Community College Richmond Virginia 68
Midwestern State University Wichita Falls Texas 61
Butte College Oroville California 59
California College San Diego San Diego California 52
Concorde Career College-Garden Grove Garden Grove California 51
Los Angeles Valley College Valley Glen California 48
Pima Medical Institute-Mesa Mesa Arizona 48
Valencia College Orlando Florida 46
San Jacinto Community College Pasadena Texas 43
Concorde Career College-North Hollywood North Hollywood California 42
Platt College-Ontario Ontario California 42
Texas State University San Marcos Texas 40
Concorde Career College-Memphis Memphis Tennessee 38
East Los Angeles College Monterey Park California 38
American Career College-Anaheim Anaheim California 37
Concorde Career College-Aurora Aurora Colorado 37
Jefferson Community and Technical College Louisville Kentucky 36
Lone Star College System The Woodlands Texas 35
American Career College-Ontario Ontario California 33
GateWay Community College Phoenix Arizona 33
Rutgers University-New Brunswick New Brunswick New Jersey 33
Victor Valley College Victorville California 33
El Camino Community College District Torrance California 32
Ferris State University Big Rapids Michigan 32
George C Wallace State Community College-Hanceville Hanceville Alabama 32
Georgia State University Atlanta Georgia 32
Universidad Ana G. Mendez-Cupey Campus San Juan Puerto Rico 32
Skyline College San Bruno California 31
Concorde Career College-Portland Portland Oregon 30
Crafton Hills College Yucaipa California 29
Milwaukee Area Technical College Milwaukee Wisconsin 29
Massasoit Community College Brockton Massachusetts 28
Pima Medical Institute-Las Vegas Las Vegas Nevada 28
College of Southern Nevada Las Vegas Nevada 27
James A Rhodes State College Lima Ohio 27
Macomb Community College Warren Michigan 27
Oregon Institute of Technology Klamath Falls Oregon 27
Salisbury University Salisbury Maryland 27
Big Sandy Community and Technical College Prestonsburg Kentucky 26
Community College of Allegheny County Pittsburgh Pennsylvania 26
Seminole State College of Florida Sanford Florida 26
Southeast Community College Area Lincoln Nebraska 26
Tennessee State University Nashville Tennessee 26
Concorde Career College-San Antonio San Antonio Texas 25
Tulsa Community College Tulsa Oklahoma 25
College of DuPage Glen Ellyn Illinois 24
Florida SouthWestern State College Fort Myers Florida 24
Mt San Antonio College Walnut California 24
Napa Valley College Napa California 24
Pima Medical Institute-Albuquerque Albuquerque New Mexico 24
Pima Medical Institute-Denver Denver Colorado 24
Pima Medical Institute-Renton Renton Washington 24
Sinclair Community College Dayton Ohio 24
Somerset Community College Somerset Kentucky 24
The University of Texas Medical Branch Galveston Texas 24
Bergen Community College Paramus New Jersey 23
Foothill College Los Altos Hills California 23
Harrisburg Area Community College Harrisburg Pennsylvania 23
Long Island University Brookville New York 23
Pima Medical Institute-Chula Vista Chula Vista California 23
Ponce Paramedical College Inc Ponce Puerto Rico 23
South Texas College McAllen Texas 23
Grossmont College El Cajon California 22
Modesto Junior College Modesto California 22
Central Piedmont Community College Charlotte North Carolina 21
Daytona State College Daytona Beach Florida 21
Erie Community College Buffalo New York 21
Ohio State University-Main Campus Columbus Ohio 21
Universidad Ana G. Mendez-Gurabo Campus Gurabo Puerto Rico 21
University of Akron Main Campus Akron Ohio 21
Greenville Technical College Greenville South Carolina 20
Madison Area Technical College Madison Wisconsin 20
Monroe County Community College Monroe Michigan 20
New England Institute of Technology East Greenwich Rhode Island 20
Oklahoma City Community College Oklahoma City Oklahoma 20
Pima Community College Tucson Arizona 20
Platt College-Moore Moore Oklahoma 20
Chattanooga State Community College Chattanooga Tennessee 19
Huertas College Caguas Puerto Rico 19
Indiana University of Pennsylvania-Main Campus Indiana Pennsylvania 19
Mt Hood Community College Gresham Oregon 19
Ohlone College Fremont California 19
St Petersburg College Clearwater Florida 19
St Philip's College San Antonio Texas 19
YTI Career Institute-Altoona Altoona Pennsylvania 19
Miami Dade College Miami Florida 18
Allegany College of Maryland Cumberland Maryland 18
Collin County Community College District McKinney Texas 18
Columbia State Community College Columbia Tennessee 18
Concorde Career College-Dallas Dallas Texas 18
Frederick Community College Frederick Maryland 18
Hartnell College Salinas California 18
Hudson Valley Community College Troy New York 18
Moraine Valley Community College Palos Hills Illinois 18
Trident Technical College Charleston South Carolina 18
Bossier Parish Community College Bossier City Louisiana 17
Des Moines Area Community College Ankeny Iowa 17
Florida State College at Jacksonville Jacksonville Florida 17
Kalamazoo Valley Community College Kalamazoo Michigan 17
McLennan Community College Waco Texas 17
Nassau Community College Garden City New York 17
Oakland Community College Bloomfield Hills Michigan 17
Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College Cumberland Kentucky 17
Southern Crescent Technical College Griffin Georgia 17
Tallahassee Community College Tallahassee Florida 17
Tyler Junior College Tyler Texas 17
Volunteer State Community College Gallatin Tennessee 17
Weatherford College Weatherford Texas 17
Orange Coast College Costa Mesa California 16
American River College Sacramento California 16
City Colleges of Chicago-Malcolm X College Chicago Illinois 16
Community College of Baltimore County Baltimore Maryland 16
Concorde Career College-San Bernardino San Bernardino California 16
Concorde Career Institute-Jacksonville Jacksonville Florida 16
County College of Morris Randolph New Jersey 16
Dixie State University Saint George Utah 16
Franklin Technology-MSSU Joplin Missouri 16
Gwinnett Technical College Lawrenceville Georgia 16
Hinds Community College Raymond Mississippi 16
Kankakee Community College Kankakee Illinois 16
Middle Georgia State University Macon Georgia 16
Missouri Southern State University Joplin Missouri 16
Mott Community College Flint Michigan 16
Naugatuck Valley Community College Waterbury Connecticut 16
North Central State College Mansfield Ohio 16
Northeast Wisconsin Technical College Green Bay Wisconsin 16
Northeastern University Lifelong Learning Network Boston Massachusetts 16
Northern Virginia Community College Annandale Virginia 16
Ozarks Technical Community College Springfield Missouri 16
Pearl River Community College Poplarville Mississippi 16
Rose State College Midwest City Oklahoma 16
Southwestern Illinois College Belleville Illinois 16
Stark State College North Canton Ohio 16
Stony Brook University Stony Brook New York 16
Tarrant County College District Fort Worth Texas 16
Washburn University Topeka Kansas 16
Brookdale Community College Lincroft New Jersey 15
Broward College Fort Lauderdale Florida 15
Cincinnati State Technical and Community College Cincinnati Ohio 15
Colegio Educativo Tecnologico Industrial Inc Arecibo Puerto Rico 15
Community College of Aurora Aurora Colorado 15
Del Mar College Corpus Christi Texas 15
Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University Tallahassee Florida 15
Fresno City College Fresno California 15
Georgia Southern University Statesboro Georgia 15
Metropolitan Community College Area Omaha Nebraska 15
Mohawk Valley Community College Utica New York 15
Mountain Empire Community College Big Stone Gap Virginia 15
New Mexico State University-Dona Ana Las Cruces New Mexico 15
Northern Essex Community College Haverhill Massachusetts 15
O C Collins Career Center Chesapeake Ohio 15
Oconee Fall Line Technical College Sandersville Georgia 15
Pickens Technical College Aurora Colorado 15
Saint Johns River State College Palatka Florida 15
Tidewater Community College Norfolk Virginia 15
University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown Johnstown Pennsylvania 15
University of South Alabama Mobile Alabama 15
University of Toledo Toledo Ohio 15
Walters State Community College Morristown Tennessee 15
Bellarmine University Louisville Kentucky 14
Bluegrass Community and Technical College Lexington Kentucky 14
Bowling Green State University-Firelands Huron Ohio 14
BridgeValley Community & Technical College South Charleston West Virginia 14
Central New Mexico Community College Albuquerque New Mexico 14
Community College of Philadelphia Philadelphia Pennsylvania 14
Community College of Rhode Island Warwick Rhode Island 14
Delgado Community College New Orleans Louisiana 14
El Paso Community College El Paso Texas 14
Gannon University Erie Pennsylvania 14
Itawamba Community College Fulton Mississippi 14
Jackson College Jackson Michigan 14
Johnson County Community College Overland Park Kansas 14
Luzerne County Community College Nanticoke Pennsylvania 14
Rock Valley College Rockford Illinois 14
Saint Louis Community College Bridgeton Missouri 14
Southwestern Community College Sylva North Carolina 14
Augusta Technical College Augusta Georgia 13
Berkshire Community College Pittsfield Massachusetts 13
Carteret Community College Morehead City North Carolina 13
Central Virginia Community College Lynchburg Virginia 13
Concorde Career College-San Diego San Diego California 13
Dakota State University Madison South Dakota 13
Delta College University Center Michigan 13
El Centro College Dallas Texas 13
Fayetteville Technical Community College Fayetteville North Carolina 13
George C Wallace Community College-Dothan Dothan Alabama 13
Jefferson College of Health Sciences Roanoke Virginia 13
Kapiolani Community College Honolulu Hawaii 13
Kent State University at Ashtabula Ashtabula Ohio 13
Kirkwood Community College Cedar Rapids Iowa 13
Lamar Institute of Technology Beaumont Texas 13
Laurel Business Institute Uniontown Pennsylvania 13
Northwest Mississippi Community College Senatobia Mississippi 13
Norwalk Community College Norwalk Connecticut 13
Saint Paul College Saint Paul Minnesota 13
Sandhills Community College Pinehurst North Carolina 13
Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College Bowling Green Kentucky 13
Southern Maine Community College South Portland Maine 13
Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College Mount Gay West Virginia 13
Stanly Community College Albemarle North Carolina 13
Texas Southmost College Brownsville Texas 13
Fletcher Technical Community College Schriever Louisiana 13
Alvin Community College Alvin Texas 12
Catawba Valley Community College Hickory North Carolina 12
CEM College-Bayamon Bayamón Puerto Rico 12
Columbus Technical College Columbus Georgia 12
Concorde Career Institute-Tampa Tampa Florida 12
Copiah-Lincoln Community College Wesson Mississippi 12
Edgecombe Community College Tarboro North Carolina 12
Georgia Northwestern Technical College Rome Georgia 12
Louisiana State University-Eunice Eunice Louisiana 12
Meridian Community College Meridian Mississippi 12
Moraine Park Technical College Fond du Lac Wisconsin 12
North Dakota State University-Main Campus Fargo North Dakota 12
River Valley Community College Claremont New Hampshire 12
Shawnee State University Portsmouth Ohio 12
Shelton State Community College Tuscaloosa Alabama 12
Springfield Technical Community College Springfield Massachusetts 12
St Catherine University Saint Paul Minnesota 12
Temple College Temple Texas 12
Texas Southern University Houston Texas 12
University of Hartford West Hartford Connecticut 12
Western Technical College La Crosse Wisconsin 12
Loma Linda University Loma Linda California 11
Albany State University Albany Georgia 11
Arkansas State University Mid-South West Memphis Arkansas 11
Atenas College Manati Puerto Rico 11
Ball State University Muncie Indiana 11
Casper College Casper Wyoming 11
CEM College-Humacao Humacao Puerto Rico 11
Cuyahoga Community College District Cleveland Ohio 11
Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell Campus Roswell New Mexico 11
Florida National University-Main Campus Hialeah Florida 11
Forsyth Technical Community College Winston-Salem North Carolina 11
Gwynedd Mercy University Gwynedd Valley Pennsylvania 11
Henry Ford College Dearborn Michigan 11
Hillsborough Community College Tampa Florida 11
Idaho State University Pocatello Idaho 11
Lake Superior College Duluth Minnesota 11
Molloy College Rockville Centre New York 11
Palm Beach State College Lake Worth Florida 11
Piedmont Technical College Greenwood South Carolina 11
Roane State Community College Harriman Tennessee 11
Rockingham Community College Wentworth North Carolina 11
Saint Augustine College Chicago Illinois 11
University of Cincinnati-Clermont College Batavia Ohio 11
University of Mary Bismarck North Dakota 11
Upstate Medical University Syracuse New York 11
Washington State Community College Marietta Ohio 11
Angelina College Lufkin Texas 10
Antelope Valley College Lancaster California 10
Cape Girardeau Career and Technology Center Cape Girardeau Missouri 10
Cisco College Cisco Texas 10
Delaware County Community College Media Pennsylvania 10
Eastern Florida State College Cocoa Florida 10
Florence-Darlington Technical College Florence South Carolina 10
Illinois Central College East Peoria Illinois 10
Kaskaskia College Centralia Illinois 10
Manchester Community College Manchester Connecticut 10
Marshall University Huntington West Virginia 10
Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science Rochester Minnesota 10
Northeast Mississippi Community College Booneville Mississippi 10
NorthWest Arkansas Community College Bentonville Arkansas 10
Parkland College Champaign Illinois 10
Pittsburgh Career Institute Pittsburgh Pennsylvania 10
Prince George's Community College Largo Maryland 10
Pueblo Community College Pueblo Colorado 10
Quinsigamond Community College Worcester Massachusetts 10
Robeson Community College Lumberton North Carolina 10
Southeastern Community College West Burlington Iowa 10
Spartanburg Community College Spartanburg South Carolina 10
University of Arkansas-Pulaski Technical College North Little Rock Arkansas 10
Gulf Coast State College Panama City Florida 9
Camden County College Blackwood New Jersey 9
Carver Career Center Charleston West Virginia 9
Chippewa Valley Technical College Eau Claire Wisconsin 9
Columbus State Community College Columbus Ohio 9
Concorde Career College-Kansas City Kansas City Missouri 9
Educational Technical College-Recinto de san Sebastian San Sebastian Puerto Rico 9
Goodwin College East Hartford Connecticut 9
Great Falls College Montana State University Great Falls Montana 9
Hawkeye Community College Waterloo Iowa 9
Houston Community College Houston Texas 9
Indian River State College Fort Pierce Florida 9
Midlands Technical College West Columbia South Carolina 9
Mountwest Community and Technical College Huntington West Virginia 9
Newman University Wichita Kansas 9
North Shore Community College Danvers Massachusetts 9
Northland Community and Technical College Thief River Falls Minnesota 9
Pitt Community College Winterville North Carolina 9
Shenandoah University Winchester Virginia 9
Southeast Arkansas College Pine Bluff Arkansas 9
Stevens-Henager College Boise Idaho 9
Stevens-Henager College Murray Utah 9
SUNY Westchester Community College Valhalla New York 9
Trinity College of Nursing & Health Sciences Rock Island Illinois 9
Baltimore City Community College Baltimore Maryland 8
Durham Technical Community College Durham North Carolina 8
Lincoln Land Community College Springfield Illinois 8
Mansfield University of Pennsylvania Mansfield Pennsylvania 8
Mineral Area College Park Hills Missouri 8
Northeast Iowa Community College Calmar Iowa 8
York College of Pennsylvania York Pennsylvania 8
Amarillo College Amarillo Texas 7
Black River Technical College Pocahontas Arkansas 7
CEM College-San Juan San Juan Puerto Rico 7
Cochise County Community College District Sierra Vista Arizona 7
Hutchinson Community College Hutchinson Kansas 7
Mid-State Technical College Wisconsin Rapids Wisconsin 7
Midland College Midland Texas 7
Morehead State University Morehead Kentucky 7
Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing & Allied Health Omaha Nebraska 7
Northern Kentucky University Highland Heights Kentucky 7
Northwest Kansas Technical College Goodland Kansas 7
Polk State College Winter Haven Florida 7
Rowan College at Gloucester County Sewell New Jersey 7
Santa Fe Community College Santa Fe New Mexico 7
South Arkansas Community College El Dorado Arkansas 7
South Plains College Levelland Texas 7
The University of Montana Missoula Montana 7
Victoria College Victoria Texas 7
Wheeling Jesuit University Wheeling West Virginia 7
Wilkes Community College Wilkesboro North Carolina 7
Coahoma Community College Clarksdale Mississippi 6
Clarion University of Pennsylvania Clarion Pennsylvania 6
Coastal Pines Technical College Waycross Georgia 6
Lakeland Community College Kirtland Ohio 6
Madisonville Community College Madisonville Kentucky 6
Maysville Community and Technical College Maysville Kentucky 6
Missouri State University-West Plains West Plains Missouri 6
Pima Medical Institute-Houston Houston Texas 6
Reading Area Community College Reading Pennsylvania 6
Southern State Community College Hillsboro Ohio 6
Southern University at Shreveport Shreveport Louisiana 6
Elizabethtown Community and Technical College Elizabethtown Kentucky 5
Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis Indianapolis Indiana 5
Labette Community College Parsons Kansas 5
Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences Lancaster Pennsylvania 5
University of Indianapolis Indianapolis Indiana 5
University of Rio Grande Rio Grande Ohio 5
Sullivan County Community College Loch Sheldrake New York 4
Jacksonville State University Jacksonville Alabama 4
Bowling Green State University-Main Campus Bowling Green Ohio 4
Canisius College Buffalo New York 4
CEM College-Mayaguez Mayaguez Puerto Rico 4
Concorde Career Institute-Miramar Miramar Florida 4
Howard College Big Spring Texas 4
Missouri State University-Springfield Springfield Missouri 4
Orangeburg Calhoun Technical College Orangeburg South Carolina 4
Rush University Chicago Illinois 4
San Juan College Farmington New Mexico 4
St Luke's College Sioux City Iowa 4
Union County College Cranford New Jersey 4
Educational Technical College-Recinto de Bayamon BAYAMON Puerto Rico 3
Rowan College of South Jersey Vineland New Jersey 3
Educational Technical College-Recinto de Coamo Coamo Puerto Rico 3
Essex County College Newark New Jersey 3
Santa Monica College Santa Monica California 3
Ashland Community and Technical College Ashland Kentucky 2
Atlantic Cape Community College Mays Landing New Jersey 2
Baptist Memorial College of Health Sciences Memphis Tennessee 2
Blessing Rieman College of Nursing and Health Sciences Quincy Illinois 2
Dalton State College Dalton Georgia 2
Hudson County Community College Jersey City New Jersey 2
Midland University Fremont Nebraska 2
Seward County Community College Liberal Kansas 2
Universidad Adventista de las Antillas Mayaguez Puerto Rico 2
University of Holy Cross New Orleans Louisiana 2
Middlesex County College Edison New Jersey 1
Northeast Community College Norfolk Nebraska 1
Raritan Valley Community College Branchburg New Jersey 1
Rowan College at Burlington County Mount Laurel New Jersey 1
Samford University Birmingham Alabama 1
2017-2018 School Data from IPEDS (Sourced in November, 2019)

Hybrid & Online Respiratory Therapy Degree Programs

There are both hybrid and fully online programs for students who need more flexibility in getting their degree. Usually, a fully online program requires that a student already has an associate degree from a school accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC). For students without any prior experience, a hybrid program is a good option. This allows students to take didactic courses online and completed hands-on components in an approved on-site clinical location.

Here are some featured flexible online programs in respiratory therapy.

Southeast Community College (AAS) – Southeast Community College offers an associate of applied science in respiratory care, which can be completed in just over one year. With a comprehensive curriculum, graduates will be prepared to take the National Board for Respiratory Care exams and apply for state licensure.

The respiratory therapy program accepts students for fall and spring semesters and is recognized in all 50 states. As a State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement Institution (NC-SARA), Southeast Community College is dedicated to providing quality education to students across the country.

  • Location: Campuses across Nebraska
  • Duration: Four semesters
  • Accreditation: Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC)
  • Tuition: $10,023 total

University of Missouri Online (BS) – The University of Missouri’s online Bachelor of Health Science in Clinical and Diagnostic Sciences with an emphasis in respiratory therapy is designed for those already working in the field. Up to 30 transfer credits can be accepted, making it easy for respiratory therapists to continue their education while maintaining their current job. The program is 100 percent online, allowing students flexibility and convenience.

Students are taught by faculty from the University of Missouri-Columbia’s School of Health Professions and Department of Clinical and Diagnostic Sciences. Applicants with the NBRC RRT credential or Canadian equivalent are eligible for this program, ensuring a high level of education and expertise. And with a 100 percent job placement rate, graduates can feel confident in their future career prospects. This program offers respiratory therapists the opportunity to advance their knowledge and skills while remaining in the field.

  • Location: Columbia, MO
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC)
  • Tuition: $13,720.60 total (for transfer students)

Oregon Institute of Technology (BS) – The bachelor’s degree of respiratory care at the Oregon Institute of Technology is one of the finest hybrid programs in the nation, with a CRT pass rate of more than 97 percent and a job placement rate of over 95 percent. Students who engage in this program must already have an associate degree from a CoARC-accredited school and be working at an approved respiratory therapy practice.

  • Location: Klamath Fall, OR
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Tuition: $294 per credit

University of Kansas (BS) – The University of Kansas Medical Center offers a fully online RT-to-bachelor’s-degree program for students who already have a Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) certification. In addition to being one of the most flexible programs for gaining a bachelor’s degree, it also has a good CRT success rate, with 97 percent of graduates passing the exam.

Graduates from this program are eligible to take specialized credentialing exams, including adult critical care specialist (ACCS), neonatal and pediatric specialist (NPS), and/or the asthma educator (AE-C) national board exams.

  • Location: Kansas City, KS
  • Duration: Four semesters
  • Accreditation: Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC)
  • Tuition: $342.14 per credit
School City State Website grads (2018)
Independence University Salt Lake City Utah 207
Boise State University Boise Idaho 136
Pima Medical Institute-Tucson Tucson Arizona 134
University of North Carolina at Charlotte Charlotte North Carolina 78
University of Cincinnati-Main Campus Cincinnati Ohio 64
St Louis College of Health Careers-Fenton Fenton Missouri 36
Santa Fe College Gainesville Florida 35
Platt College-Los Angeles Alhambra California 34
The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio San Antonio Texas 34
East Tennessee State University Johnson City Tennessee 26
Youngstown State University Youngstown Ohio 26
Siena Heights University Adrian Michigan 25
University of Kansas Lawrence Kansas 23
American College for Medical Careers Orlando Florida 22
Kansas City Kansas Community College Kansas City Kansas 18
Nova Southeastern University Fort Lauderdale Florida 18
University of Southern Indiana Evansville Indiana 17
Augusta University Augusta Georgia 15
Kent State University at Ashtabula Ashtabula Ohio 13
Loma Linda University Loma Linda California 11
Florida National University-Main Campus Hialeah Florida 11
Cardinal Stritch University Milwaukee Wisconsin 10
National Park College Hot Springs Arkansas 10
Concordia University-Saint Paul Saint Paul Minnesota 7
Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing & Allied Health Omaha Nebraska 7
2017-2018 School Data from IPEDS (Sourced in November, 2019)

Core & Elective Courses in Respiratory Therapy Programs

At typical respiratory therapy schools, students complete both classwork and hands-on training throughout the program. Initially, students may need to complete core curriculum like English, math, and biology. This eventually gives way to studies of anatomy, medical terminology, medical law, and ethics.

Once fully accepted into a respiratory care program, students will need to complete vital courses such as:

  • Mechanical ventilation – This course is focused on teaching students the theory and practical applications of how to use typical mechanical respiration devices. Specific topics include negative pressure ventilation, correcting gas exchange abnormalities, and identifying different types of respiratory monitoring for various illnesses.
  • Cardiovascular diagnostics – Students in this course identify and analyze the various diagnostic assessments used in cardiopulmonary healthcare. Specific diagnostic exams may include blood gas levels, pulmonary function testing, EKGs, chest radiographs, spirometry, and other advanced diagnostic studies.
  • Pediatric and geriatric pathobiology and critical care – These two courses study the respiratory care of the very young and very old. Specifically, students will learn how to monitor respiratory diagnostics during sleep, set up initial monitoring equipment for those with high potential risks, and different therapeutic interventions for these demographic groups.
  • Pharmacology – In this course, students learn the effects of typical cardiopulmonary medications, and what these medicines are typically prescribed for. They also learn the typical side effects and what medicines cannot be prescribed concurrently (i.e., contraindications). Specific types of medicines include adrenergic bronchodilators, mucus-controlling medications, and xanthines.
  • Clinical practicum – This is a series of hands-on training sessions in an approved hospital or clinical setting. Students will learn how to assess and monitor the respiration of various types of patients. They will also learn how to analyze diagnostic results in a real-world setting and counsel attending professionals regarding diagnosis and pharmacological options. In the later stages of the practicum, students may also receive direct training on how to pass the CRT exam.

Accreditation of Respiratory Therapy Programs

Students must be careful to choose an appropriately accredited program or may not be eligible for certification upon graduation. To receive a license in all states except Alaska, students must complete a degree program from a college that the Commission has approved on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC). The CoARC has a list of approved programs and their student outcomes—including graduation rate, job placement rate, and CRT exam pass rate -- available on their website.

Universities must go through a rigorous process to meet the criteria set up by CoARC. Firstly, the university must be regionally accredited by a body approved by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE). Then, the program undergoes a thorough review, which includes an assessment of the staff, facilities, and curriculum. Finally, several on-site visits verify the program's strength and that all areas of the program correlate with the proposed plan.

Remember, it is vital for applicants to ensure that a school has also been regionally accredited through a body affiliated with the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). In addition, it is in a student's best interest to ensure that their chosen school has an endorsement from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Programs (CAAHEP). These two endorsements will guarantee that the degree will allow graduates to sit for the national exam and receive a CRT license.

Career Outlook

Respiratory therapy is one of the fastest growing industries in the nation, probably due to the increased need for healthcare among the baby boomer generation. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in the respiratory therapy industry are projected to increase by 14 percent from 2021 to 2031 – much faster than the average for all occupations. This figure may also reflect an increased need for respiratory specialization due to potentially declining air quality over the next decade.

Respiratory therapists have a large projected job pool and can expect to be some of the highest-paid non-doctoral healthcare workers in the next decade. Although the average wage is $61,810 annually, the highest-paid respiratory therapists can make more than $95,000 annually.

Like many other healthcare careers, education plays a major role in whether graduates can land top-paying jobs. Those who become Certified Respiratory Therapists (CRTs) or Registered Respiratory Therapists (RRT) often have the best job prospects in the highest-paying areas – outpatient care centers and universities.

Although the most highly-concentrated areas for jobs in the respiratory therapy industry are California, Texas, and Florida, they are not the only states that are in the most need of these healthcare professionals. In fact, some of the best-paying jobs are in more rural areas – such as Alaska and Hawaii – with average wages hovering around $82,000 per year. The BLS suggests that respiratory therapists who are willing to commute to these remote areas will have the best job prospects in the next decade, from 2021 to 2031.

Career Facts Respiratory Therapist
Related CareersRadiation Therapist, Diagnostic Medical Sonographer, Radiologic Technician
Common Job TitlesCardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Respiratory Therapist, Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT)
Technology & EquipmentArterial Blood Gas Monitors, Medical Aerosol Tents, Nebulizer
Source: BLS Sept. 2022

Licensing & Certification

To become licensed as a respiratory therapist, it is necessary to gain certification through the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC). This requires that a prospective respiratory therapist not only complete a program that has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC) or the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Care Education Programs (CAAHEP), but also that they pass the Therapist Multiple Choice Examination.

Once a student has completed an accredited program and passed the CRT examination, they are credentialed with the NBRC and eligible to be certified in whatever state they choose. Successful completion of the CRT exam makes an individual eligible to go on to complete the Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) credential by sitting for another exam and submitting to a clinical skills simulation examination. Additionally, most states require a state-specific course in medical law and ethics to receive a license to practice as a CRT or RRT.

Licensure is required to become a respiratory therapist in all states except Alaska. And, while completing an accredited program is the most traditional way to gain a license, it is possible to gain certification with an appropriate set of passing exam scores in addition to significant experiences as a respiratory therapist in a professional setting.

Rachel Drummond
Rachel Drummond Writer

Rachel Drummond is a freelance writer, educator, and yogini from Oregon. She’s taught English to international university students in the United States and Japan for more than a decade and has a master’s degree in education from the University of Oregon. A dedicated Ashtanga yoga practitioner, Rachel is interested in exploring the nuanced philosophical aspects of contemplative physical practices and how they apply in daily life. She writes about this topic among others on her blog (Instagram: @racheldrummondyoga).