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 for some people, breathing is a daily struggle. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC 2016), 20.4 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 coming years. From emphysema to other chronic respiratory diseases, from smoking-related maladies to birth defects, there are a number of people who 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 2017) projects that job openings for respiratory therapists will increase 23 percent between 2016 and 2026, more robust than the average growth expected for all occupations (7 percent). Most of these jobs will be in hospitals and private practices, and it’s relatively well-compensated at an average salary of over $61,000 annually (BLS 2017).

So how does a person become a respiratory therapist? Students typically begin with a two-year associates 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 not only become certified but also 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 Created30,500
Projected Job Growth23%
Low Salary$43,120
Average Salary (Median)$61,810
High Salary$83,030
Entry-Level EDU Associate's Degree
Sourced from BLS, June 2018

Degree & Certification Programs

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 who are 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.

  • University of Arkansas Community College (AAS) – WIth campuses in South Main Hope and Texarkana, Arkansas, the University of Arkansas Community College program is particularly known for its very small class size—just nine graduates in 2012, according to the CoARC site. This school has a 1:1 ratio for teachers and students within their AAS in respiratory care program.
  • Pima Medical Institute (AAS) – Pima Medical Institute has campus locations offering their AAS program across the western part of the U.S., including Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico. Students who complete this program put in over 2000 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 do pass the CRT examination with some campuses boasting success rates up to 96 percent.
  • Georgia State University (AS, BS, MSHS-RT) – Named by U.S. News and World Report (2018) as one of the Top 5 Most Innovative Schools, Georgia State University in Atlanta offers an affordable and acclaimed respiratory therapy program. 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 100 percent pass rate on both the Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) and CRT exams.
  • Bellarmine University (BS) – Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky was named one of the Top 20 Regional Universities in the South by the U.S. News and World Report (2018). This is partly because it is one of the least expensive private schools in the area ($41,800 per year in tuition and fees), and due to the variety of programs available. 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. This range of options makes Bellarmine an attractive choice to aspiring respiratory therapists at virtually any level of their career.
  • 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. Outcomes for this school are very high, with job placement at 92.3 percent and CRT exam pass rate at over 96 percent.

List of Respiratory Therapist Schools

Filter by state :
School City State Website Total grads (2013)
Instituto de Banca y Comercio Inc Guaynabo Puerto Rico 395
California College San Diego San Diego California 157
Ivy Tech Community College Indianapolis Indiana 137
Concorde Career College-North Hollywood North Hollywood California 92
Weber State University Ogden Utah 83
San Joaquin Valley College-Rancho Cordova Rancho Cordova California 80
Concorde Career College-San Bernardino San Bernardino California 78
Concorde Career College-Garden Grove Garden Grove California 72
J Sargeant Reynolds Community College Richmond Virginia 70
San Joaquin Valley College-Bakersfield Bakersfield California 55
James A Rhodes State College Lima Ohio 55
Pima Medical Institute-Mesa Mesa Arizona 55
Ponce Paramedical College Inc Ponce Puerto Rico 55
Butte College Oroville California 54
Atenas College Manati Puerto Rico 53
Miami Dade College Miami Florida 49
San Joaquin Valley College-Ontario Ontario California 49
Centro de Estudios Multidisciplinarios-Bayamon Bayam?n Puerto Rico 48
Concorde Career College-San Diego San Diego California 47
Kaplan Career Institute-Franklin Mills Philadelphia Pennsylvania 47
Pima Medical Institute-Chula Vista Chula Vista California 46
Kaplan College-Modesto Salida California 44
Ferris State University Big Rapids Michigan 42
San Joaquin Valley College-Visalia Visalia California 42
Platt College-Ontario Ontario California 40
Victor Valley College Victorville California 40
College of DuPage Glen Ellyn Illinois 39
Universidad Metropolitana Cupey Puerto Rico 39
Educational Technical College-Recinto de Bayamon Bayamon Puerto Rico 38
Moraine Valley Community College Palos Hills Illinois 36
Texas State University San Marcos Texas 36
GateWay Community College Phoenix Arizona 35
Georgia State University Atlanta Georgia 34
Goodwin College East Hartford Connecticut 34
Pima Medical Institute-Denver Denver Colorado 33
Big Sandy Community and Technical College Prestonsburg Kentucky 32
Concorde Career College-Memphis Memphis Tennessee 32
El Camino Community College District Torrance California 32
Middle Georgia State College Macon Georgia 32
Lone Star College System The Woodlands Texas 31
Platt College-Los Angeles Alhambra California 31
Salisbury University Salisbury Maryland 31
University of Alabama at Birmingham Birmingham Alabama 31
Daytona State College Daytona Beach Florida 30
Oklahoma City Community College Oklahoma City Oklahoma 30
Pima Medical Institute-Renton Renton Washington 30
Macomb Community College Warren Michigan 29
Tallahassee Community College Tallahassee Florida 29
Tennessee State University Nashville Tennessee 29
Crafton Hills College Yucaipa California 28
Grossmont College El Cajon California 28
McLennan Community College Waco Texas 28
Seminole State College of Florida Sanford Florida 28
SUNY Westchester Community College Valhalla New York 28
Jefferson Community and Technical College Louisville Kentucky 27
Los Angeles Valley College Valley Glen California 27
Onondaga Community College Syracuse New York 27
Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College Cumberland Kentucky 27
Stevens-Henager College-Murray Murray Utah 27
West Kentucky Community and Technical College Paducah Kentucky 27
Bossier Parish Community College Bossier City Louisiana 26
Concorde Career College-Portland Portland Oregon 26
Delgado Community College New Orleans Louisiana http://WWW.DCC.EDU 26
Monroe County Community College Monroe Michigan 26
Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College Bowling Green Kentucky 26
Bergen Community College Paramus New Jersey 25
Community College of Allegheny County Pittsburgh Pennsylvania 25
Foothill College Los Altos Hills California 25
Massasoit Community College Brockton Massachusetts 25
Rush University Chicago Illinois 25
Saint Augustine College Chicago Illinois 25
San Jacinto Community College Pasadena Texas 25
Siena Heights University Adrian Michigan 25
Valencia College Orlando Florida 25
City Colleges of Chicago-Malcolm X College Chicago Illinois 24
George C Wallace State Community College-Hanceville Hanceville Alabama 24
Hudson Valley Community College Troy New York 24
Lane Community College Eugene Oregon 24
Milwaukee Area Technical College Milwaukee Wisconsin 24
Napa Valley College Napa California 24
Rose State College Midwest City Oklahoma 23
Sinclair Community College Dayton Ohio 23
University of Akron Main Campus Akron Ohio 23
University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey Newark New Jersey 23
Allegany College of Maryland Cumberland Maryland 23
Community College of Philadelphia Philadelphia Pennsylvania 23
Concorde Career College-Aurora Aurora Colorado 23
Cuyahoga Community College District Cleveland Ohio 23
Darton State College Albany Georgia 23
Gwynedd Mercy University Gwynedd Valley Pennsylvania 23
Columbus State Community College Columbus Ohio 22
Concorde Career Colleges Kansas City Missouri 22
Concorde Career Institute-Jacksonville Jacksonville Florida 22
County College of Morris Randolph New Jersey http://WWW.CCM.EDU 22
East Los Angeles College Monterey Park California 22
Erie Community College Buffalo New York 22
Fayetteville Technical Community College Fayetteville North Carolina 22
Mt San Antonio College Walnut California 22
Ohio State University-Main Campus Columbus Ohio 22
Pima Community College Tucson Arizona 22
Tarrant County College District Fort Worth Texas 22
Fresno City College Fresno California 21
Genesee Community College Batavia New York 21
Loma Linda University Loma Linda California 21
Northwest Mississippi Community College Senatobia Mississippi 21
Orange Coast College Costa Mesa California 21
Santa Fe College Gainesville Florida 21
Tulsa Community College Tulsa Oklahoma 21
Bowling Green State University-Firelands Huron Ohio 20
Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University Tallahassee Florida 20
Florida State College at Jacksonville Jacksonville Florida 20
Kalamazoo Valley Community College Kalamazoo Michigan 20
LIU Brooklyn Brooklyn New York 20
Mt Hood Community College Gresham Oregon 20
Ohlone College Fremont California 20
Skyline College San Bruno California 20
Southeastern Community College West Burlington Iowa 20
University of South Alabama Mobile Alabama 20
University of Toledo Toledo Ohio 20
Weatherford College Weatherford Texas 20
West Virginia Northern Community College Wheeling West Virginia 20
Black River Technical College Pocahontas Arkansas 19
Brookdale Community College Lincroft New Jersey 19
Cape Girardeau Career and Technology Center Cape Girardeau Missouri 19
Central Piedmont Community College Charlotte North Carolina 19
Centro de Estudios Multidisciplinarios-Humacao Humacao Puerto Rico 19
Dakota State University Madison South Dakota 19
El Paso Community College El Paso Texas 19
Jefferson College of Health Sciences Roanoke Virginia 19
Lamar Institute of Technology Beaumont Texas 19
Madison Area Technical College Madison Wisconsin 19
Saint Johns River State College Palatka Florida 19
Saint Louis Community College Saint Louis Missouri 19
Saint Paul College Saint Paul Minnesota 19
Somerset Community College Somerset Kentucky 19
The University of Texas at Brownsville Brownsville Texas 19
University of Cincinnati-Clermont College Batavia Ohio 19
Armstrong Atlantic State University Savannah Georgia 18
Collin County Community College District McKinney Texas 18
Indiana University of Pennsylvania-Main Campus Indiana Pennsylvania 18
Johnson County Community College Overland Park Kansas 18
Metropolitan Community College Area Omaha Nebraska 18
Midland College Midland Texas 18
Pima Medical Institute-Las Vegas Las Vegas Nevada 18
Pueblo Community College Pueblo Colorado 18
St Louis College of Health Careers-Fenton Fenton Missouri 18
Stony Brook University Stony Brook New York 18
The Community College of Baltimore County Baltimore Maryland 18
The University of Texas Medical Branch Galveston Texas 18
Columbia State Community College Columbia Tennessee 17
Hinds Community College Raymond Mississippi 17
Huertas College Caguas Puerto Rico 17
Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis Indianapolis Indiana 17
Jackson College Jackson Michigan 17
Lake Superior College Duluth Minnesota 17
Mountwest Community and Technical College Huntington West Virginia 17
Northeast Wisconsin Technical College Green Bay Wisconsin 17
Northeastern University Boston Massachusetts 17
Northern Essex Community College Haverhill Massachusetts 17
Pulaski Technical College North Little Rock Arkansas 17
Southern Maine Community College South Portland Maine 17
Stark State College North Canton Ohio 17
Tidewater Community College Norfolk Virginia 17
Tyler Junior College Tyler Texas http://WWW.TJC.EDU 17
Washington State Community College Marietta Ohio 17
Bluegrass Community and Technical College Lexington Kentucky 16
Bridgemont Community and Technical College Montgomery West Virginia 16
Carver Career Center Charleston West Virginia 16
Centro de Estudios Multidisciplinarios-San Juan San Juan Puerto Rico 16
Educational Technical College-Recinto de san Sebastian San Sebastian Puerto Rico 16
Franklin Technology-MSSU Joplin Missouri http:// 16
Frederick Community College Frederick Maryland 16
Illinois Central College East Peoria Illinois 16
Mohawk Valley Community College Utica New York 16
Northern Kentucky University Highland Heights Kentucky 16
Pima Medical Institute-Albuquerque Albuquerque New Mexico 16
Polk State College Winter Haven Florida 16
Southern State Community College Hillsboro Ohio 16
St Catherine University Saint Paul Minnesota 16
Temple College Temple Texas 16
Washington Adventist University Takoma Park Maryland 16
American River College Sacramento California 15
Des Moines Area Community College Ankeny Iowa 15
Durham Technical Community College Durham North Carolina 15
El Centro College Dallas Texas 15
Gwinnett Technical College Lawrenceville Georgia 15
Houston Community College Houston Texas 15
Kapiolani Community College Honolulu Hawaii 15
Missouri Southern State University Joplin Missouri 15
Molloy College Rockville Centre New York 15
Mott Community College Flint Michigan 15
Naugatuck Valley Community College Waterbury Connecticut 15
Northern Virginia Community College Annandale Virginia 15
NorthWest Arkansas Community College Bentonville Arkansas 15
Ozarks Technical Community College Springfield Missouri 15
Rockingham Community College Wentworth North Carolina 15
Southern Crescent Technical College Griffin Georgia 15
University of Hartford West Hartford Connecticut 15
Upstate Medical University Syracuse New York 15
Volunteer State Community College Gallatin Tennessee 15
Antelope Valley College Lancaster California 14
Baltimore City Community College Baltimore Maryland 14
Community College of Rhode Island Warwick Rhode Island 14
Delta College University Center Michigan 14
Gulf Coast State College Panama City Florida 14
Hawkeye Community College Waterloo Iowa 14
Hillsborough Community College Tampa Florida 14
Indian River State College Fort Pierce Florida 14
Kankakee Community College Kankakee Illinois 14
Kaskaskia College Centralia Illinois 14
Mid-State Technical College Wisconsin Rapids Wisconsin 14
Modesto Junior College Modesto California 14
Nassau Community College Garden City New York 14
O C Collins Career Center Chesapeake Ohio 14
Palm Beach State College Lake Worth Florida 14
Pearl River Community College Poplarville Mississippi 14
Shawnee State University Portsmouth Ohio http://WWW.SHAWNEE.EDU 14
Shenandoah University Winchester Virginia 14
Southwestern Illinois College Belleville Illinois 14
Spencerian College-Louisville Louisville Kentucky 14
Stevens-Henager College-Boise Boise Idaho 14
Walters State Community College Morristown Tennessee 14
Alvin Community College Alvin Texas 13
Bellarmine University Louisville Kentucky 13
Central New Mexico Community College Albuquerque New Mexico 13
Central Virginia Community College Lynchburg Virginia 13
Chattanooga State Community College Chattanooga Tennessee 13
Concorde Career Institute-Tampa Tampa Florida 13
Del Mar College Corpus Christi Texas 13
Gannon University Erie Pennsylvania 13
Georgia Northwestern Technical College Rome Georgia 13
Itawamba Community College Fulton Mississippi 13
Jackson State Community College Jackson Tennessee 13
Lakeland Community College Kirtland Ohio 13
Mountain Empire Community College Big Stone Gap Virginia 13
Newman University Wichita Kansas 13
North Central State College Mansfield Ohio 13
Northeast Iowa Community College-Calmar Calmar Iowa 13
Northland Community and Technical College Thief River Falls Minnesota 13
Parkland College Champaign Illinois 13
Pitt Community College Winterville North Carolina 13
University of Southern Indiana Evansville Indiana 13
Western Technical College La Crosse Wisconsin 13
Amarillo College Amarillo Texas 12
American Institute Celebration Florida 12
Augusta Technical College Augusta Georgia 12
Broward College Fort Lauderdale Florida 12
Casper College Casper Wyoming 12
Colegio Educativo Tecnologico Industrial Inc Arecibo Puerto Rico 12
Columbus Technical College Columbus Georgia 12
Dixie State University Saint George Utah 12
East Central College Union Missouri 12
Edgecombe Community College Tarboro North Carolina 12
Greenville Technical College Greenville South Carolina 12
Kirkwood Community College Cedar Rapids Iowa 12
Oakland Community College Bloomfield Hills Michigan 12
Platt College-Moore Moore Oklahoma 12
San Juan College Farmington New Mexico 12
Southwestern Community College Sylva North Carolina 12
Spartanburg Community College Spartanburg South Carolina 12
St Petersburg College Clearwater Florida 12
Carteret Community College Morehead City North Carolina 11
Cisco College Cisco Texas 11
Eastern Gateway Community College Steubenville Ohio 11
Forsyth Technical Community College Winston Salem North Carolina 11
Great Plains Technology Center Lawton Oklahoma 11
Henry Ford Community College Dearborn Michigan 11
Idaho State University Pocatello Idaho 11
Louisiana State University-Eunice Eunice Louisiana 11
Meridian Community College Meridian Mississippi 11
North Shore Community College Danvers Massachusetts 11
Northeast Mississippi Community College Booneville Mississippi 11
Piedmont Technical College Greenwood South Carolina 11
Rock Valley College Rockford Illinois 11
Southern University at Shreveport Shreveport Louisiana 11
St Luke's College Sioux City Iowa 11
Trident Technical College Charleston South Carolina 11
Trinity College of Nursing & Health Sciences Rock Island Illinois 11
Chippewa Valley Technical College Eau Claire Wisconsin 10
College of Southern Nevada Las Vegas Nevada 10
Florence-Darlington Technical College Florence South Carolina http://WWW.FDTC.EDU 10
George C Wallace State Community College-Dothan Dothan Alabama 10
Luzerne County Community College Nanticoke Pennsylvania 10
Madisonville Community College Madisonville Kentucky 10
Reading Area Community College Reading Pennsylvania 10
Sandhills Community College Pinehurst North Carolina 10
Santa Fe Community College Santa Fe New Mexico 10
Seward County Community College and Area Technical School Liberal Kansas 10
Southwest Georgia Technical College Thomasville Georgia 10
Springfield Technical Community College Springfield Massachusetts 10
Texas Southern University Houston Texas 10
Washburn University Topeka Kansas 10
Angelina College Lufkin Texas 9
Catawba Valley Community College Hickory North Carolina 9
Fortis Institute-Erie Erie Pennsylvania 9
Hannibal-LaGrange University Hannibal Missouri 9
Labette Community College Parsons Kansas 9
Manchester Community College Manchester Connecticut 9
Midlands Technical College West Columbia South Carolina 9
Moraine Park Technical College Fond du Lac Wisconsin 9
Pickens Technical College Aurora Colorado 9
Quinsigamond Community College Worcester Massachusetts 9
River Valley Community College Claremont New Hampshire 9
Roane State Community College Harriman Tennessee 9
Santa Monica College Santa Monica California 9
South Arkansas Community College El Dorado Arkansas 9
Stanly Community College Albemarle North Carolina 9
Camden County College Blackwood New Jersey 8
Clarion University of Pennsylvania Clarion Pennsylvania 8
Coahoma Community College Clarksdale Mississippi 8
Community College of Aurora Aurora Colorado 8
Concorde Career Institute-Miramar Miramar Florida 8
Concorde Career Institute-San Antonio San Antonio Texas 8
Copiah-Lincoln Community College Wesson Mississippi 8
Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell Campus Roswell New Mexico 8
L E Fletcher Technical Community College Schriever Louisiana 8
Mansfield University of Pennsylvania Mansfield Pennsylvania 8
Marshall University Huntington West Virginia 8
North Dakota State University-Main Campus Fargo North Dakota 8
Northern Oklahoma College Tonkawa Oklahoma 8
Okefenokee Technical College Waycross Georgia 8
Prince George's Community College Largo Maryland 8
Southeast Arkansas College Pine Bluff Arkansas 8
The University of Montana Missoula Montana 8
University of Mary Bismarck North Dakota 8
Wheeling Jesuit University Wheeling West Virginia 8
Wilkes Community College Wilkesboro North Carolina 8
Ball State University Muncie Indiana 7
Kennebec Valley Community College Fairfield Maine 7
Oconee Fall Line Technical College Sandersville Georgia 7
Orangeburg Calhoun Technical College Orangeburg South Carolina 7
University of Arkansas Community College-Hope Hope Arkansas 7
University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown Johnstown Pennsylvania 7
Victoria College Victoria Texas 7
Educational Technical College-Recinto de Coamo Coamo Puerto Rico 6
Great Falls College Montana State University Great Falls Montana 6
Maysville Community and Technical College Maysville Kentucky 6
Northwest Kansas Technical College Goodland Kansas 6
Ashland Community and Technical College Ashland Kentucky 5
Concorde Career Institute-Dallas Dallas Texas 5
Harrisburg Area Community College-Harrisburg Harrisburg Pennsylvania 5
Kent State University at Ashtabula Ashtabula Ohio 5
Atlantic Cape Community College Mays Landing New Jersey 4
Baptist Memorial College of Health Sciences Memphis Tennessee 4
Bowling Green State University-Main Campus Bowling Green Ohio 4
Delaware County Community College Media Pennsylvania 4
Gloucester County College Sewell New Jersey 4
Robeson Community College Lumberton North Carolina 4
York College Pennsylvania York Pennsylvania 4
Arkansas State University-Mountain Home Mountain Home Arkansas 3
Burlington County College Pemberton New Jersey 3
Missouri State University-Springfield Springfield Missouri 3
Morehead State University Morehead Kentucky 3
Cumberland County College Vineland New Jersey 2
Howard College Big Spring Texas 2
South Plains College Levelland Texas 2
Concorde Career Institute-Orlando Orlando Florida 1
Essex County College Newark New Jersey 1
Our Lady of Holy Cross College New Orleans Louisiana 1
Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences Lancaster Pennsylvania 1
Southwest Virginia Community College Richlands Virginia 1
Universidad Adventista de las Antillas Mayaguez Puerto Rico 1
University of the District of Columbia Washington D.C. 1
2013 School Data from IPEDS (Sourced in January, 2015)

Hybrid & Online 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.

Some of the most flexible programs include:

  • Independence University (AS) – The 26-month hybrid program at Independence University offers all courses except for practicum experiences via online training. As a CoARC-accredited school, it is a perfect choice for students who want flexibility as well as a valid CRT license upon completion of the program. It is important to note for this program that although it meets licensure requirements for most states, graduates are not eligible for licensure in California, Florida, Oregon, Washington, or Wisconsin due to those states’ stricter standards.
  • 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.
  • University of Kansas (BS) – This RT-to-bachelor’s-degree program is 100 percent online, although it is only available 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.
School City State Website Total grads (2013)
Independence University Salt Lake City Utah 301
Pima Medical Institute-Tucson Tucson Arizona 94
Boise State University Boise Idaho 74
Grand Canyon University Phoenix Arizona 48
Midwestern State University Wichita Falls Texas 45
Southeast Community College Area Lincoln Nebraska 35
The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio San Antonio Texas 28
Kansas City Kansas Community College Kansas City Kansas 26
University of North Carolina at Charlotte Charlotte North Carolina 24
Georgia Regents University Augusta Georgia 22
Oregon Institute of Technology Klamath Falls Oregon 21
St Philip's College San Antonio Texas 21
Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing & Allied Health Omaha Nebraska 19
University of Missouri-Columbia Columbia Missouri 19
University of Kansas Lawrence Kansas 18
Youngstown State University Youngstown Ohio 15
Concordia University-Saint Paul Saint Paul Minnesota 6
2013 School Data from IPEDS (Sourced in January, 2015)

Core & Elective Courses

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 a variety of specific illnesses.
  • Cardiovascular diagnostics – Students in this course identify and analyze the various diagnostic assessments that are 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, how to set up initial monitoring equipment for those with high potential risks, and different types of 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 provide council to 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.


Students must be careful to choose a program that is appropriately accredited, or they 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 has been approved by the Commission 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 in order 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, there are several on-site visits to verify the strength of the program 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 the best interest of a student to make sure that his or her 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 (BLS 2017), jobs in the respiratory therapy industry are projected to increase by 23 percent from 2016 to 2026 – much faster than the average for all occupations. This figure may also reflect an increased need for respiratory specialization due potentially declining air quality over the next decade.

Respiratory therapists have not only a large projected job pool but can expect to be some of the highest-paid non-doctoral healthcare workers in the next decade. Although the average wage is $61,810 per year, the highest paid respiratory therapists can make more than $83,000 annually.

As with many other healthcare careers, education plays a major role in whether graduates are able to 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 in California, Texas, and Florida, they are not the only states that are in the most need for these healthcare professionals. In fact, some of the best-paying jobs are in more rural areas – such as Alaska and Nevada – with average wages hovering around $73,000 per year. The BLS (2017) suggests that respiratory therapists who are willing to commute to these remote areas will have the best job prospects in the next decade.

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
Sourced from BLS, June 2018

Licensing & Certification

In order to become licensed as respiratory therapist, it is necessary to gain certification through the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC). This requires that a prospective repiratory 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.

One 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 in order to receive a license to practice as a CRT or RRT.

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