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)

List of Respiratory Therapist Schools

Filter by state :
School City State Website GRADS ('21)
Ivy Tech Community College Indianapolis Indiana 132
San Joaquin Valley College-Visalia Visalia California 130
Pima Medical Institute-Tucson Tucson Arizona 82
Weber State University Ogden Utah 78
San Joaquin Valley College-Rancho Cordova Rancho Cordova California 77
University of North Carolina at Charlotte Charlotte North Carolina 71
Concorde Career College-Garden Grove Garden Grove California 68
San Joaquin Valley College-Bakersfield Bakersfield California 66
San Joaquin Valley College-Ontario Ontario California 61
Texas State University San Marcos Texas 58
Victor Valley College Victorville California 56
American Career College-Anaheim Anaheim California 55
Butte College Oroville California 54
Pima Medical Institute-Mesa Mesa Arizona 54
Pima Medical Institute-Las Vegas Las Vegas Nevada 50
Platt College-Los Angeles Alhambra California 49
Pima Medical Institute-Renton Renton Washington 47
Los Angeles Valley College Valley Glen California 46
Valencia College Orlando Florida 46
Concorde Career College-North Hollywood North Hollywood California 45
Concorde Career College-Memphis Memphis Tennessee 43
Lone Star College System The Woodlands Texas 40
Miami Dade College Miami Florida 40
Jacksonville State University Jacksonville Alabama 39
San Jacinto Community College Pasadena Texas 39
American Career College-Ontario Ontario California 38
El Camino Community College District Torrance California 38
GateWay Community College Phoenix Arizona 38
J Sargeant Reynolds Community College Richmond Virginia 38
St Louis College of Health Careers-Fenton Fenton Missouri 38
Platt College-Ontario Ontario California 37
Concorde Career College-Aurora Aurora Colorado 36
Florida State College at Jacksonville Jacksonville Florida 36
San Joaquin Valley College-Temecula Temecula California 36
East Los Angeles College Monterey Park California 35
Skyline College San Bruno California 35
Southeast Community College Area Lincoln Nebraska 33
Pima Medical Institute-San Marcos San Marcos California 32
Concorde Career College-San Bernardino San Bernardino California 31
Foothill College Los Altos Hills California 31
Jefferson Community and Technical College Louisville Kentucky 30
Modesto Junior College Modesto California 30
Bergen Community College Paramus New Jersey 29
Concorde Career Institute-Miramar Miramar Florida 29
Georgia State University Atlanta Georgia 29
Tennessee State University Nashville Tennessee 29
Crafton Hills College Yucaipa California 28
George C Wallace State Community College-Hanceville Hanceville Alabama 28
Florida SouthWestern State College Fort Myers Florida 27
Ohio State University-Main Campus Columbus Ohio 27
Oklahoma City Community College Oklahoma City Oklahoma 27
Piedmont Technical College Greenwood South Carolina 27
Universidad Ana G. Mendez-Cupey Campus San Juan Puerto Rico 27
County College of Morris Randolph New Jersey 26
Allegany College of Maryland Cumberland Maryland 25
Bluegrass Community and Technical College Lexington Kentucky 25
CUNY Borough of Manhattan Community College New York New York 25
Tallahassee Community College Tallahassee Florida 25
Community College of Philadelphia Philadelphia Pennsylvania 24
Milwaukee Area Technical College Milwaukee Wisconsin 24
Napa Valley College Napa California 24
Pima Community College Tucson Arizona 24
SUNY Westchester Community College Valhalla New York 24
Grossmont College El Cajon California 23
Hillsborough Community College Tampa Florida 23
Ohlone College Fremont California 23
Salisbury University Salisbury Maryland 23
City Colleges of Chicago-Malcolm X College Chicago Illinois 22
Concorde Career College-San Antonio San Antonio Texas 22
Sinclair Community College Dayton Ohio 22
South Dakota State University Brookings South Dakota 22
Stony Brook University Stony Brook New York 22
Concorde Career College-Kansas City Kansas City Missouri 21
Concorde Career College-Portland Portland Oregon 21
East Tennessee State University Johnson City Tennessee 21
Hartnell College Salinas California 21
Macomb Community College Warren Michigan 21
Madison Area Technical College Madison Wisconsin 21
Mt San Antonio College Walnut California 21
Pueblo Community College Pueblo Colorado 21
The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston Galveston Texas 21
Bowling Green State University-Firelands Huron Ohio 20
Brookdale Community College Lincroft New Jersey 20
Central Piedmont Community College Charlotte North Carolina 20
College of DuPage Glen Ellyn Illinois 20
Community College of Allegheny County Pittsburgh Pennsylvania 20
Erie Community College Buffalo New York 20
Fresno City College Fresno California 20
Kalamazoo Valley Community College Kalamazoo Michigan 20
Nassau Community College Garden City New York 20
Rose State College Midwest City Oklahoma 20
St Philip's College San Antonio Texas 20
University of Akron Main Campus Akron Ohio 20
Frederick Community College Frederick Maryland 19
Gwinnett Technical College Lawrenceville Georgia 19
Illinois Central College East Peoria Illinois 19
Pima Medical Institute-Houston Houston Texas 19
Seminole State College of Florida Sanford Florida 19
Tulsa Community College Tulsa Oklahoma 19
Delgado Community College New Orleans Louisiana 18
Fayetteville Technical Community College Fayetteville North Carolina 18
Hudson Valley Community College Troy New York 18
Jefferson State Community College Birmingham Alabama 18
Keiser University-Ft Lauderdale Fort Lauderdale Florida 18
McLennan Community College Waco Texas 18
Metropolitan Community College Area Omaha Nebraska 18
Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Perkinston Mississippi 18
Orange Coast College Costa Mesa California 18
Pearl River Community College Poplarville Mississippi 18
Southern Crescent Technical College Griffin Georgia 18
Stark State College North Canton Ohio 18
University of Arkansas-Pulaski Technical College North Little Rock Arkansas 18
Utah Valley University Orem Utah 18
Bellarmine University Louisville Kentucky 17
Broward College Fort Lauderdale Florida 17
Collin County Community College District McKinney Texas 17
Community College of Baltimore County Baltimore Maryland 17
Del Mar College Corpus Christi Texas 17
Georgia Southern University Statesboro Georgia 17
Hutchinson Community College Hutchinson Kansas 17
Manchester Community College Manchester Connecticut 17
Massasoit Community College Brockton Massachusetts 17
Monroe County Community College Monroe Michigan 17
St Petersburg College St. Petersburg Florida 17
Tyler Junior College Tyler Texas 17
American River College Sacramento California 16
Big Sandy Community and Technical College Prestonsburg Kentucky 16
El Paso Community College El Paso Texas 16
George C Wallace Community College-Dothan Dothan Alabama 16
Gulf Coast State College Panama City Florida 16
Gwynedd Mercy University Gwynedd Valley Pennsylvania 16
Harrisburg Area Community College Harrisburg Pennsylvania 16
Kapiolani Community College Honolulu Hawaii 16
Madisonville Community College Madisonville Kentucky 16
NorthWest Arkansas Community College Bentonville Arkansas 16
Shawnee State University Portsmouth Ohio 16
Springfield Technical Community College Springfield Massachusetts 16
Walters State Community College Morristown Tennessee 16
Cisco College Cisco Texas 15
Concorde Career College-Dallas Dallas Texas 15
Dallas College Dallas Texas 15
Delta College University Center Michigan 15
Edgecombe Community College Tarboro North Carolina 15
Ferris State University Big Rapids Michigan 15
Marshall University Huntington West Virginia 15
Missouri Southern State University Joplin Missouri 15
Mott Community College Flint Michigan 15
New England Institute of Technology East Greenwich Rhode Island 15
Northern Virginia Community College Annandale Virginia 15
Norwalk Community College Norwalk Connecticut 15
Saint Paul College Saint Paul Minnesota 15
Shelton State Community College Tuscaloosa Alabama 15
South Texas College McAllen Texas 15
Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College Cumberland Kentucky 15
Tarrant County College District Fort Worth Texas 15
Union County College Cranford New Jersey 15
Columbia State Community College Columbia Tennessee 14
Georgia Northwestern Technical College Rome Georgia 14
Luzerne County Community College Nanticoke Pennsylvania 14
Midlands Technical College West Columbia South Carolina 14
North Central State College Mansfield Ohio 14
Northeast Wisconsin Technical College Green Bay Wisconsin 14
Ozarks Technical Community College Springfield Missouri 14
Pickens Technical College Aurora Colorado 14
Somerset Community College Somerset Kentucky 14
University of Toledo Toledo Ohio 14
Washburn University Topeka Kansas 14
Weatherford College Weatherford Texas 14
Black River Technical College Pocahontas Arkansas 13
Community College of Aurora Aurora Colorado 13
Concorde Career Institute-Tampa Tampa Florida 13
Eastern Florida State College Cocoa Florida 13
Hawkeye Community College Waterloo Iowa 13
Horry-Georgetown Technical College Conway South Carolina 13
Johnson County Community College Overland Park Kansas 13
Loma Linda University Loma Linda California 13
Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing & Allied Health Omaha Nebraska 13
Northwest Kansas Technical College Goodland Kansas 13
Oakland Community College Bloomfield Hills Michigan 13
Pima Medical Institute-Albuquerque Albuquerque New Mexico 13
Pittsburgh Career Institute Pittsburgh Pennsylvania 13
Rock Valley College Rockford Illinois 13
Santa Fe Community College Santa Fe New Mexico 13
St Catherine University Saint Paul Minnesota 13
Trident Technical College Charleston South Carolina 13
Alvin Community College Alvin Texas 12
BridgeValley Community & Technical College South Charleston West Virginia 12
Chattanooga State Community College Chattanooga Tennessee 12
Chippewa Valley Technical College Eau Claire Wisconsin 12
Concorde Career Institute-Jacksonville Jacksonville Florida 12
Cuyahoga Community College District Cleveland Ohio 12
Dixie State University Saint George Utah 12
Eastern Oklahoma State College Wilburton Oklahoma 12
Goodwin University East Hartford Connecticut 12
Itawamba Community College Fulton Mississippi 12
Kankakee Community College Kankakee Illinois 12
Kaskaskia College Centralia Illinois 12
Louisiana State University-Eunice Eunice Louisiana 12
Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science Rochester Minnesota 12
Mohawk Valley Community College Utica New York 12
Molloy College Rockville Centre New York 12
Moraine Valley Community College Palos Hills Illinois 12
Mountain Empire Community College Big Stone Gap Virginia 12
Naugatuck Valley Community College Waterbury Connecticut 12
North Shore Community College Danvers Massachusetts 12
Santa Monica College Santa Monica California 12
Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College Mount Gay West Virginia 12
Western Technical College La Crosse Wisconsin 12
Albany State University Albany Georgia 11
Ball State University Muncie Indiana 11
Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University Tallahassee Florida 11
Forsyth Technical Community College Winston-Salem North Carolina 11
Houston Community College Houston Texas 11
Kennebec Valley Community College Fairfield Maine 11
Lake Superior College Duluth Minnesota 11
Long Island University Brookville New York 11
Mid-State Technical College Wisconsin Rapids Wisconsin 11
Moraine Park Technical College Fond du Lac Wisconsin 11
North Dakota State University-Main Campus Fargo North Dakota 11
Palm Beach State College Lake Worth Florida 11
Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College Bowling Green Kentucky 11
Stanly Community College Albemarle North Carolina 11
Texas Southmost College Brownsville Texas 11
The University of Montana Missoula Montana 11
Tidewater Community College Norfolk Virginia 11
University of Cincinnati-Clermont College Batavia Ohio 11
University of Mary Bismarck North Dakota 11
Antelope Valley Community College District Lancaster California 10
Augusta Technical College Augusta Georgia 10
Community College of Rhode Island Warwick Rhode Island 10
Des Moines Area Community College Ankeny Iowa 10
Greenville Technical College Greenville South Carolina 10
Idaho State University Pocatello Idaho 10
Indiana University of Pennsylvania-Main Campus Indiana Pennsylvania 10
Jackson State Community College Jackson Tennessee 10
Kent State University at Ashtabula Ashtabula Ohio 10
New Mexico State University-Dona Ana Las Cruces New Mexico 10
Oconee Fall Line Technical College Sandersville Georgia 10
Saint Louis Community College Bridgeton Missouri 10
Southern Maine Community College South Portland Maine 10
Spartanburg Community College Spartanburg South Carolina 10
Volunteer State Community College Gallatin Tennessee 10
Amarillo College Amarillo Texas 9
Baltimore City Community College Baltimore Maryland 9
Carteret Community College Morehead City North Carolina 9
Casper College Casper Wyoming 9
Copiah-Lincoln Community College Wesson Mississippi 9
Delaware County Community College Media Pennsylvania 9
Fletcher Technical Community College Schriever Louisiana 9
Hinds Community College Raymond Mississippi 9
Howard College Big Spring Texas 9
Indian River State College Fort Pierce Florida 9
Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis Indianapolis Indiana 9
Jackson College Jackson Michigan 9
Lakeland Community College Kirtland Ohio 9
Lincoln Land Community College Springfield Illinois 9
Northeast Iowa Community College Calmar Iowa 9
Northeast Mississippi Community College Booneville Mississippi 9
Northern Oklahoma College Tonkawa Oklahoma 9
O C Collins Career Center Chesapeake Ohio 9
Parkland College Champaign Illinois 9
Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences Lancaster Pennsylvania 9
Pima Medical Institute-Denver Denver Colorado 9
Rush University Chicago Illinois 9
Southeastern Community College West Burlington Iowa 9
Southwestern Community College Sylva North Carolina 9
Southwestern Illinois College Belleville Illinois 9
St. Augustine College Chicago Illinois 9
Sullivan County Community College Loch Sheldrake New York 9
Temple College Temple Texas 9
York College of Pennsylvania York Pennsylvania 9
Augusta University Augusta Georgia 8
Cape Girardeau Career and Technology Center Cape Girardeau Missouri 8
Catawba Valley Community College Hickory North Carolina 8
Cincinnati State Technical and Community College Cincinnati Ohio 8
Columbus Technical College Columbus Georgia 8
Dalton State College Dalton Georgia 8
Mineral Area College Park Hills Missouri 8
Northern Essex Community College Haverhill Massachusetts 8
Saint Johns River State College Palatka Florida 8
Seward County Community College Liberal Kansas 8
Texas Southern University Houston Texas 8
Universidad Ana G. Mendez-Gurabo Campus Gurabo Puerto Rico 8
University of Hartford West Hartford Connecticut 8
Washington State Community College Marietta Ohio 8
Arkansas State University Mid-South West Memphis Arkansas 7
Blessing Rieman College of Nursing and Health Sciences Quincy Illinois 7
Coastal Pines Technical College Waycross Georgia 7
Durham Technical Community College Durham North Carolina 7
Florence-Darlington Technical College Florence South Carolina 7
Florida National University-Main Campus Hialeah Florida 7
Kirkwood Community College Cedar Rapids Iowa 7
Laurel Business Institute Uniontown Pennsylvania 7
Meridian Community College Meridian Mississippi 7
Northwest Mississippi Community College Senatobia Mississippi 7
River Valley Community College Claremont New Hampshire 7
Robeson Community College Lumberton North Carolina 7
Rockingham Community College Wentworth North Carolina 7
Southern Regional Technical College Thomasville Georgia 7
University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown Johnstown Pennsylvania 7
Victoria College Victoria Texas 7
Andrew College Cuthbert Georgia 6
Angelina College Lufkin Texas 6
Central Virginia Community College Lynchburg Virginia 6
Eastern Gateway Community College Steubenville Ohio 6
Gannon University Erie Pennsylvania 6
Great Falls College Montana State University Great Falls Montana 6
Maysville Community and Technical College Maysville Kentucky 6
Prince George's Community College Largo Maryland 6
South Plains College Levelland Texas 6
Berkshire Community College Pittsfield Massachusetts 5
Bowling Green State University-Main Campus Bowling Green Ohio 5
Coahoma Community College Clarksdale Mississippi 5
Mansfield University of Pennsylvania Mansfield Pennsylvania 5
Missouri State University-Springfield Springfield Missouri 5
NUC University Bayamon Puerto Rico 5
Radford University Radford Virginia 5
Wilkes Community College Wilkesboro North Carolina 5
Baptist Health Sciences University Memphis Tennessee 4
CEM College-San Juan San Juan Puerto Rico 4
Huertas College Caguas Puerto Rico 4
Labette Community College Parsons Kansas 4
Marywood University Scranton Pennsylvania 4
Midland College Midland Texas 4
Morehead State University Morehead Kentucky 4
Newman University Wichita Kansas 4
Quinsigamond Community College Worcester Massachusetts 4
Reading Area Community College Reading Pennsylvania 4
Sandhills Community College Pinehurst North Carolina 4
Southeast Arkansas College Pine Bluff Arkansas 4
St Luke's College Sioux City Iowa 4
CEM College-Humacao Humacao Puerto Rico 3
College of Southern Nevada Las Vegas Nevada 3
Columbus State Community College Columbus Ohio 3
University of Rio Grande Rio Grande Ohio 3
Ashland Community and Technical College Ashland Kentucky 2
Clarion University of Pennsylvania Clarion Pennsylvania 2
Midland University Fremont Nebraska 2
Mountwest Community and Technical College Huntington West Virginia 2
Polk State College Winter Haven Florida 2
San Juan College Farmington New Mexico 2
Southern University at Shreveport Shreveport Louisiana 2
University of Indianapolis Indianapolis Indiana 2
Blue Ridge Community College Weyers Cave Virginia 1
Southern Illinois University-Carbondale Carbondale Illinois 1
YTI Career Institute-Altoona Altoona Pennsylvania 1
'20-'21 School Data from IPEDS (Sourced in September, 2023)

Hybrid & Online Respiratory Therapy Degree Programs

Texas State University
Carlow University
University of Cincinnati Online

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 ('21)
Boise State University Boise Idaho 178
San Joaquin Valley College-Visalia Visalia California 130
Midwestern State University Wichita Falls Texas 85
Pima Medical Institute-Tucson Tucson Arizona 82
University of North Carolina at Charlotte Charlotte North Carolina 71
University of Cincinnati-Main Campus Cincinnati Ohio 56
Platt College-Los Angeles Alhambra California 49
St Louis College of Health Careers-Fenton Fenton Missouri 38
The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio San Antonio Texas 36
Southeast Community College Area Lincoln Nebraska 33
Santa Fe College Gainesville Florida 28
Liberty University Lynchburg Virginia 26
University of Southern Indiana Evansville Indiana 25
Siena Heights University Adrian Michigan 24
Kansas City Kansas Community College Kansas City Kansas 23
Youngstown State University Youngstown Ohio 23
Oregon Institute of Technology Klamath Falls Oregon 23
Bossier Parish Community College Bossier City Louisiana 22
University of Kansas Lawrence Kansas 22
Nova Southeastern University Fort Lauderdale Florida 21
Pueblo Community College Pueblo Colorado 21
Mt Hood Community College Gresham Oregon 19
Utah Valley University Orem Utah 18
Middle Georgia State University Macon Georgia 18
Northern Kentucky University Highland Heights Kentucky 17
Henry Ford College Dearborn Michigan 17
James A. Rhodes State College Lima Ohio 16
Lamar Institute of Technology Beaumont Texas 15
University of Toledo Toledo Ohio 14
Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell Campus Roswell New Mexico 14
Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing & Allied Health Omaha Nebraska 13
Roane State Community College Harriman Tennessee 13
Loma Linda University Loma Linda California 13
Upstate Medical University Syracuse New York 12
University of Mary Bismarck North Dakota 11
Kent State University at Ashtabula Ashtabula Ohio 10
University of Michigan-Flint Flint Michigan 9
Cardinal Stritch University Milwaukee Wisconsin 8
National Park College Hot Springs Arkansas 8
Florida National University-Main Campus Hialeah Florida 7
Northland Community and Technical College Thief River Falls Minnesota 7
Concordia University-Saint Paul Saint Paul Minnesota 7
Carlow University Pittsburgh Pennsylvania 7
Columbia College Columbia South Carolina 4
Northeastern University Professional Programs Boston Massachusetts 4
Canisius College Buffalo New York 2
'20-'21 School Data from IPEDS (Sourced in September, 2023)

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, MEd
Rachel Drummond, MEd Writer

Rachel Drummond has contributed insightful articles to since 2019, where she offers valuable advice and guidance for those pursuing careers in the healthcare field, combining her passion for education with her understanding of the critical role that healthcare professionals play in promoting physical and mental well-being.

Rachel is a writer, educator, and coach from Oregon. She has a master’s degree in education (MEd) and has over 15 years of experience teaching English, public speaking, and mindfulness to international audiences in the United States, Japan, and Spain. She writes about the mind-body benefits of contemplative movement practices like yoga on her blog, inviting people to prioritize their unique version of well-being and empowering everyone to live healthier and more balanced lives.