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 2015), 25.5 million people suffer from asthma, nearly 10% 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 selfless 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 2014) projects that job openings for respiratory therapists will increase 19% between 2012 and 2022, more robust than the average growth expected for all occupations (11%). Most of these jobs will be in hospitals and private practices, and it’s relatively well-compensated at an average salary of over $56,000 annually (BLS 2014).

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) certification. Some choose to complete a four-year degree and attain the higher Registered (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 Created22,700
Projected Job Growth19%
Low Salary$41,110
Average Salary (Median)$57,880
High Salary$76,750
Entry-Level EDUAssociate's Degree
Sourced from BLS, January 2015

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 A.S. or A.A.S. 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 (B.S.) 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 (A.A.S) – 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 A.A.S. in respiratory care program. They also boast significant student outcomes at 100% job placement upon graduation and 100% pass rate on the CRT exam.
  • Pima Medical Institute (A.A.S) – Students who complete this Denver-based program put in over 2000 contact and learning hours, making it one of the most extensive associate degree programs available. Not only do students in this program have a 92.4% job placement rate, but they have a perfect pass rate for the CRT exam.
  • Georgia State University (A.S., B.S., MSHS-RT) – Named by U.S. News and World Report (2015) as one of the “Top 10 Up-and-Coming Universities,” Georgia State offers an affordable and acclaimed respiratory therapy program. They offer both a traditional B.S. degree and a professional A.S.-to-B.S. degree for those students who have already completed an A.S. at a CoARC-accredited school. 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 an 88.8% job placement and 100% pass rate on both the Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) and CRT exams.
  • Bellarmine University (B.S.) – Bellarmine University is named one of the “Top 20 Southern Universities” by the U.S. News and World Report (2015). This is partly because it is one of the least expensive private schools in the area ($36,290 per year), and due to the speed with which students can complete their degree. This accelerated B.S. program is for any student who holds a B.S. and wants to become a respiratory therapist within one year.
  • Louisiana State University School of Health Sciences – LSU Health Sciences offers a four-year degree in cardiopulmonary science with an emphasis on respiratory therapy. Outcomes for this school are very high, with job placement at 100% and CRT and RRT exam pass rate at over 90%.
  • Oregon Institute of Technology (B.S.) – The bachelor’s degree of respiratory care is one of the finest hybrid programs in the nation, with a CRT pass rate of 100% and a job placement rate of over 92%. 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.

List of Respiratory Therapist Schools

Filter by state :
SchoolCityStateWebsiteTotal grads (2013)
Instituto de Banca y Comercio IncGuaynaboPuerto Ricohttp://www.ibanca.net395
California College San DiegoSan DiegoCalifornia
Ivy Tech Community CollegeIndianapolisIndianahttp://www.ivytech.edu137
Concorde Career College-North HollywoodNorth HollywoodCaliforniahttp://www.concorde.edu92
Weber State UniversityOgdenUtah
San Joaquin Valley College-Rancho CordovaRancho CordovaCaliforniahttp://www.sjvc.edu80
Concorde Career College-San BernardinoSan BernardinoCaliforniahttp://www.concorde.edu78
Concorde Career College-Garden GroveGarden GroveCaliforniahttp://www.concorde.edu72
J Sargeant Reynolds Community CollegeRichmondVirginiahttp://www.reynolds.edu70
San Joaquin Valley College-BakersfieldBakersfieldCalifornia
Ponce Paramedical College IncPoncePuerto Ricohttp://www.popac.edu55
Pima Medical Institute-MesaMesaArizonahttp://pmi.edu55
James A Rhodes State CollegeLimaOhiohttp://www.rhodesstate.edu55
Atenas CollegeManatiPuerto Rico
Butte CollegeOrovilleCaliforniahttp://www.butte.edu54
San Joaquin Valley College-OntarioOntarioCalifornia 49
Miami Dade CollegeMiamiFlorida
Centro de Estudios Multidisciplinarios-BayamonBayam?nPuerto Ricohttp://www.cempr.edu48
Kaplan Career Institute-Franklin MillsPhiladelphiaPennsylvania
Concorde Career College-San DiegoSan DiegoCaliforniahttp://www.concorde.edu47
Pima Medical Institute-Chula VistaChula VistaCaliforniahttp://pmi.edu46
Kaplan College-ModestoSalidaCalifornia
San Joaquin Valley College-VisaliaVisaliaCaliforniahttp://www.sjvc.edu42
Ferris State UniversityBig RapidsMichigan
Victor Valley CollegeVictorvilleCaliforniahttp://www.vvc.edu40
Platt College-OntarioOntarioCalifornia 40
Universidad MetropolitanaCupeyPuerto Rico 39
College of DuPageGlen EllynIllinoishttp://www.cod.edu39
Educational Technical College-Recinto de BayamonBayamonPuerto Ricohttp://www.edutecpr.com38
Texas State UniversitySan MarcosTexashttp://www.txstate.edu36
Moraine Valley Community CollegePalos HillsIllinois 36
GateWay Community CollegePhoenixArizonahttp://www.gatewaycc.edu35
Goodwin CollegeEast HartfordConnecticuthttp://www.goodwin.edu34
Georgia State UniversityAtlantaGeorgiahttp://www.gsu.edu34
Pima Medical Institute-DenverDenverColoradohttp://pmi.edu33
Middle Georgia State CollegeMaconGeorgia
El Camino Community College DistrictTorranceCaliforniahttp://www.elcamino.edu32
Concorde Career College-MemphisMemphisTennesseehttp://www.concorde.edu32
Big Sandy Community and Technical CollegePrestonsburgKentuckyhttp://www.bigsandy.kctcs.edu32
University of Alabama at BirminghamBirminghamAlabama 31
Salisbury UniversitySalisburyMarylandhttp://www.salisbury.edu31
Platt College-Los AngelesAlhambraCalifornia 31
Lone Star College SystemThe WoodlandsTexashttp://www.lonestar.edu31
Pima Medical Institute-RentonRentonWashingtonhttp://pmi.edu30
Oklahoma City Community CollegeOklahoma CityOklahomahttp://www.occc.edu30
Daytona State CollegeDaytona BeachFlorida 30
Tennessee State UniversityNashvilleTennesseehttp://www.tnstate.edu29
Tallahassee Community CollegeTallahasseeFlorida 29
Macomb Community CollegeWarrenMichiganhttp://www.macomb.edu29
SUNY Westchester Community CollegeValhallaNew Yorkhttp://www.sunywcc.edu28
Seminole State College of FloridaSanfordFlorida 28
McLennan Community CollegeWacoTexashttp://www.mclennan.edu28
Grossmont CollegeEl CajonCalifornia
Crafton Hills CollegeYucaipaCaliforniahttp://www.craftonhills.edu28
West Kentucky Community and Technical CollegePaducahKentuckyhttp://www.westkentucky.kctcs.edu27
Stevens-Henager College-MurrayMurrayUtahhttp://www.stevenshenager.edu27
Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical CollegeCumberlandKentuckyhttp://www.southeast.kctcs.edu27
Onondaga Community CollegeSyracuseNew Yorkhttp://www.sunyocc.edu27
Los Angeles Valley CollegeValley GlenCaliforniahttp://www.lavc.edu27
Jefferson Community and Technical CollegeLouisvilleKentuckyhttp://www.jefferson.kctcs.edu27
Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical CollegeBowling GreenKentuckyhttp://www.bowlinggreen.kctcs.edu26
Monroe County Community CollegeMonroeMichiganhttp://www.monroeccc.edu26
Delgado Community CollegeNew OrleansLouisianahttp://WWW.DCC.EDU26
Concorde Career College-PortlandPortlandOregonhttp://www.concorde.edu26
Bossier Parish Community CollegeBossier CityLouisianahttp://www.bpcc.edu26
Valencia CollegeOrlandoFloridahttp://valenciacollege.edu25
Siena Heights UniversityAdrianMichiganhttp://www.sienaheights.edu25
San Jacinto Community CollegePasadenaTexashttp://www.sjcd.edu25
Saint Augustine CollegeChicagoIllinoishttp://www.staugustine.edu25
Rush UniversityChicagoIllinois 25
Massasoit Community CollegeBrocktonMassachusetts 25
Foothill CollegeLos Altos HillsCaliforniahttp://www.foothill.edu25
Community College of Allegheny CountyPittsburghPennsylvaniahttps://www.ccac.edu25
Bergen Community CollegeParamusNew Jerseyhttp://www.bergen.edu25
George C Wallace State Community College-HancevilleHancevilleAlabamahttp://www.wallacestate.edu24
City Colleges of Chicago-Malcolm X CollegeChicagoIllinois
Napa Valley CollegeNapaCalifornia 24
Milwaukee Area Technical CollegeMilwaukeeWisconsin 24
Lane Community CollegeEugeneOregon 24
Hudson Valley Community CollegeTroyNew York 24
University of Medicine and Dentistry of New JerseyNewarkNew Jersey
University of Akron Main CampusAkronOhiohttp://www.uakron.edu23
Sinclair Community CollegeDaytonOhiohttp://www.sinclair.edu23
Rose State CollegeMidwest CityOklahoma 23
Gwynedd Mercy UniversityGwynedd ValleyPennsylvaniahttp://www.gmc.edu23
Darton State CollegeAlbanyGeorgiahttp://www.darton.edu23
Cuyahoga Community College DistrictClevelandOhiohttp://www.tri-c.edu23
Concorde Career College-AuroraAuroraColoradohttp://www.concorde.edu23
Community College of PhiladelphiaPhiladelphiaPennsylvaniahttp://www.ccp.edu23
Allegany College of MarylandCumberlandMarylandhttp://www.allegany.edu23
Tarrant County College DistrictFort WorthTexashttp://www.tccd.edu22
Pima Community CollegeTucsonArizona 22
Ohio State University-Main CampusColumbusOhio 22
Mt San Antonio CollegeWalnutCaliforniahttp://www.mtsac.edu22
Fayetteville Technical Community CollegeFayettevilleNorth Carolinahttp://www.faytechcc.edu22
Erie Community CollegeBuffaloNew York 22
East Los Angeles CollegeMonterey ParkCalifornia
County College of MorrisRandolphNew Jerseyhttp://WWW.CCM.EDU22
Concorde Career Institute-JacksonvilleJacksonvilleFloridahttp://www.concorde.edu22
Concorde Career CollegesKansas CityMissourihttp://www.concorde.edu22
Columbus State Community CollegeColumbusOhio
Tulsa Community CollegeTulsaOklahomahttp://www.tulsacc.edu21
Santa Fe CollegeGainesvilleFloridahttp://www.sfcollege.edu21
Orange Coast CollegeCosta MesaCalifornia 21
Northwest Mississippi Community CollegeSenatobiaMississippihttp://www.northwestms.edu21
Loma Linda UniversityLoma LindaCalifornia
Genesee Community CollegeBataviaNew Yorkhttp://www.genesee.edu21
Fresno City CollegeFresnoCaliforniahttp://www.fresnocitycollege.edu21
LIU BrooklynBrooklynNew Yorkhttp://www.liu.edu20
Kalamazoo Valley Community CollegeKalamazooMichigan 20
Florida State College at JacksonvilleJacksonvilleFloridahttp://www.fscj.edu20
Florida Agricultural and Mechanical UniversityTallahasseeFloridahttp://www.famu.edu20
Bowling Green State University-FirelandsHuronOhiohttp://www.firelands.bgsu.edu20
West Virginia Northern Community CollegeWheelingWest Virginia
Weatherford CollegeWeatherfordTexas 20
University of ToledoToledoOhio
University of South AlabamaMobileAlabamahttp://www.southalabama.edu20
Southeastern Community CollegeWest BurlingtonIowahttp://www.scciowa.edu20
Skyline CollegeSan BrunoCaliforniahttp://skylinecollege.edu20
Ohlone CollegeFremontCaliforniahttp://www.ohlone.edu20
Mt Hood Community CollegeGreshamOregonhttp://www.mhcc.edu20
University of Cincinnati-Clermont CollegeBataviaOhio 19
The University of Texas at BrownsvilleBrownsvilleTexas 19
Somerset Community CollegeSomersetKentucky
Saint Paul CollegeSaint PaulMinnesota 19
Saint Louis Community CollegeSaint LouisMissourihttp://www.stlcc.edu19
Saint Johns River State CollegePalatkaFloridahttp://www.sjrstate.edu19
Madison Area Technical CollegeMadisonWisconsinhttp://madisoncollege.edu19
Lamar Institute of TechnologyBeaumontTexashttp://www.lit.edu19
Jefferson College of Health SciencesRoanokeVirginiahttp://www.jchs.edu19
El Paso Community CollegeEl PasoTexas 19
Dakota State UniversityMadisonSouth Dakota 19
Centro de Estudios Multidisciplinarios-HumacaoHumacaoPuerto Ricohttp://www.cempr.edu19
Central Piedmont Community CollegeCharlotteNorth Carolinahttp://www.cpcc.edu19
Cape Girardeau Career and Technology CenterCape GirardeauMissourihttp://www.capectc.org19
Brookdale Community CollegeLincroftNew Jerseyhttp://www.brookdalecc.edu19
Black River Technical CollegePocahontasArkansashttp://www.blackrivertech.edu19
Indiana University of Pennsylvania-Main CampusIndianaPennsylvaniahttp://www.iup.edu18
Collin County Community College DistrictMcKinneyTexashttp://www.collin.edu18
Armstrong Atlantic State UniversitySavannahGeorgiahttp://www.armstrong.edu18
The University of Texas Medical BranchGalvestonTexashttp://www.utmb.edu18
The Community College of Baltimore CountyBaltimoreMarylandhttp://www.ccbcmd.edu18
Stony Brook UniversityStony BrookNew Yorkhttp://www.stonybrook.edu18
St Louis College of Health Careers-FentonFentonMissouri 18
Pueblo Community CollegePuebloColoradohttp://www.pueblocc.edu18
Pima Medical Institute-Las VegasLas VegasNevadahttp://pmi.edu18
Midland CollegeMidlandTexashttp://www.midland.edu18
Metropolitan Community College AreaOmahaNebraskahttp://www.mccneb.edu18
Johnson County Community CollegeOverland ParkKansashttp://www.jccc.edu18
Tidewater Community CollegeNorfolkVirginiahttp://www.tcc.edu17
Stark State CollegeNorth CantonOhiohttp://www.starkstate.edu17
Southern Maine Community CollegeSouth PortlandMainehttp://www.smccME.edu17
Pulaski Technical CollegeNorth Little RockArkansashttp://www.pulaskitech.edu17
Northern Essex Community CollegeHaverhillMassachusetts
Northeastern UniversityBostonMassachusettshttp://www.northeastern.edu17
Northeast Wisconsin Technical CollegeGreen BayWisconsin
Mountwest Community and Technical CollegeHuntingtonWest Virginiahttp://www.mctc.edu17
Lake Superior CollegeDuluthMinnesotahttp://www.lsc.edu17
Jackson CollegeJacksonMichiganhttp://www.jccmi.edu17
Indiana University-Purdue University-IndianapolisIndianapolisIndianahttp://www.iupui.edu17
Huertas CollegeCaguasPuerto Ricohttp://www.huertas.edu17
Hinds Community CollegeRaymondMississippihttp://www.hindscc.edu17
Columbia State Community CollegeColumbiaTennesseehttp://www.columbiastate.edu17
Washington State Community CollegeMariettaOhiohttp://www.wscc.edu17
Tyler Junior CollegeTylerTexashttp://WWW.TJC.EDU17
Washington Adventist UniversityTakoma ParkMaryland 16
Temple CollegeTempleTexas 16
St Catherine UniversitySaint PaulMinnesotahttp://www.stkate.edu16
Southern State Community CollegeHillsboroOhiohttp://www.sscc.edu16
Polk State CollegeWinter HavenFloridahttp://www.polk.edu16
Pima Medical Institute-AlbuquerqueAlbuquerqueNew Mexicohttp://pmi.edu16
Northern Kentucky UniversityHighland HeightsKentuckyhttp://www.nku.edu16
Mohawk Valley Community CollegeUticaNew Yorkhttp://www.mvcc.edu16
Illinois Central CollegeEast PeoriaIllinois 16
Frederick Community CollegeFrederickMarylandhttp://www.frederick.edu16
Franklin Technology-MSSUJoplinMissourihttp://16
Educational Technical College-Recinto de san SebastianSan SebastianPuerto Ricohttps://www.edutecpr.com16
Centro de Estudios Multidisciplinarios-San JuanSan JuanPuerto Ricohttp://www.cempr.edu16
Carver Career CenterCharlestonWest Virginia
Bridgemont Community and Technical CollegeMontgomeryWest Virginia 16
Bluegrass Community and Technical CollegeLexingtonKentucky
Northern Virginia Community CollegeAnnandaleVirginiahttp://www.nvcc.edu15
Naugatuck Valley Community CollegeWaterburyConnecticuthttp://www.nv.edu15
Mott Community CollegeFlintMichiganhttp://www.mcc.edu15
Molloy CollegeRockville CentreNew Yorkhttp://www.molloy.edu15
Missouri Southern State UniversityJoplinMissourihttp://www.mssu.edu15
Kapiolani Community CollegeHonoluluHawaii 15
Houston Community CollegeHoustonTexashttp://www.hccs.edu15
Gwinnett Technical CollegeLawrencevilleGeorgiahttp://www.GwinnettTech.edu15
El Centro CollegeDallasTexas
Durham Technical Community CollegeDurhamNorth Carolinahttp://www.durhamtech.edu15
Des Moines Area Community CollegeAnkenyIowa 15
American River CollegeSacramentoCalifornia
Upstate Medical UniversitySyracuseNew Yorkhttp://www.upstate.edu15
University of HartfordWest HartfordConnecticuthttp://www.hartford.edu15
Southern Crescent Technical CollegeGriffinGeorgia 15
Rockingham Community CollegeWentworthNorth Carolinahttp://www.rockinghamcc.edu15
Ozarks Technical Community CollegeSpringfieldMissourihttp://www.otc.edu15
NorthWest Arkansas Community CollegeBentonvilleArkansas 15
Volunteer State Community CollegeGallatinTennesseehttp://www.volstate.edu15
Kaskaskia CollegeCentraliaIllinois 14
Kankakee Community CollegeKankakeeIllinois 14
Indian River State CollegeFort PierceFloridahttp://www.irsc.edu14
Hillsborough Community CollegeTampaFloridahttp://www.hccfl.edu14
Hawkeye Community CollegeWaterlooIowahttp://www.hawkeyecollege.edu14
Gulf Coast State CollegePanama CityFlorida
Delta CollegeUniversity CenterMichigan
Community College of Rhode IslandWarwickRhode Islandhttp://www.ccri.edu14
Baltimore City Community CollegeBaltimoreMaryland 14
Antelope Valley CollegeLancasterCaliforniahttp://www.avc.edu14
Walters State Community CollegeMorristownTennessee 14
Stevens-Henager College-BoiseBoiseIdaho
Spencerian College-LouisvilleLouisvilleKentuckyhttp://www.spencerian.edu14
Southwestern Illinois CollegeBellevilleIllinoishttp://www.swic.edu14
Shenandoah UniversityWinchesterVirginia
Shawnee State UniversityPortsmouthOhiohttp://WWW.SHAWNEE.EDU14
Pearl River Community CollegePoplarvilleMississippihttp://www.prcc.edu14
Palm Beach State CollegeLake WorthFlorida
O C Collins Career CenterChesapeakeOhiohttp://www.collins-cc.edu14
Nassau Community CollegeGarden CityNew York
Modesto Junior CollegeModestoCaliforniahttp://mjc.edu14
Mid-State Technical CollegeWisconsin RapidsWisconsinhttp://www.mstc.edu14
North Central State CollegeMansfieldOhio 13
Newman UniversityWichitaKansas 13
Mountain Empire Community CollegeBig Stone GapVirginiahttp://www.mecc.edu13
Lakeland Community CollegeKirtlandOhiohttp://www.lakelandcc.edu13
Jackson State Community CollegeJacksonTennesseehttp://www.jscc.edu13
Itawamba Community CollegeFultonMississippi
Georgia Northwestern Technical CollegeRomeGeorgiahttp://www.gntc.edu13
Gannon UniversityEriePennsylvaniahttp://www.gannon.edu13
Del Mar CollegeCorpus ChristiTexashttp://www.delmar.edu13
Concorde Career Institute-TampaTampaFloridahttp://www.concorde.edu13
Chattanooga State Community CollegeChattanoogaTennessee 13
Central Virginia Community CollegeLynchburgVirginiahttp://www.cvcc.vccs.edu13
Central New Mexico Community CollegeAlbuquerqueNew Mexicohttp://www.cnm.edu13
Bellarmine UniversityLouisvilleKentuckyhttp://www.bellarmine.edu13
Alvin Community CollegeAlvinTexashttp://www.alvincollege.edu13
Western Technical CollegeLa CrosseWisconsin 13
University of Southern IndianaEvansvilleIndianahttp://www.usi.edu13
Pitt Community CollegeWintervilleNorth Carolinahttp://www.pittcc.edu13
Parkland CollegeChampaignIllinoishttp://www.parkland.edu13
Northland Community and Technical CollegeThief River FallsMinnesotahttp://www.northlandcollege.edu13
Northeast Iowa Community College-CalmarCalmarIowa 13
St Petersburg CollegeClearwaterFloridahttp://www.spcollege.edu12
Spartanburg Community CollegeSpartanburgSouth Carolina 12
Southwestern Community CollegeSylvaNorth Carolina 12
San Juan CollegeFarmingtonNew Mexico 12
Platt College-MooreMooreOklahomahttp://www.plattcolleges.edu12
Oakland Community CollegeBloomfield HillsMichigan 12
Kirkwood Community CollegeCedar RapidsIowahttp://www.kirkwood.edu12
Greenville Technical CollegeGreenvilleSouth Carolina 12
Edgecombe Community CollegeTarboroNorth Carolinahttp://www.edgecombe.edu12
East Central CollegeUnionMissourihttp://www.eastcentral.edu12
Dixie State UniversitySaint GeorgeUtah
Columbus Technical CollegeColumbusGeorgia
Colegio Educativo Tecnologico Industrial IncAreciboPuerto Ricohttp://www.ceticollege.com12
Casper CollegeCasperWyominghttp://www.caspercollege.edu12
Broward CollegeFort LauderdaleFlorida 12
Augusta Technical CollegeAugustaGeorgiahttp://www.augustatech.edu12
American InstituteCelebrationFlorida
Amarillo CollegeAmarilloTexas 12
St Luke's CollegeSioux CityIowahttp://www.stlukescollege.edu11
Southern University at ShreveportShreveportLouisianahttp://www.susla.edu11
Rock Valley CollegeRockfordIllinoishttp://www.rockvalleycollege.edu11
Piedmont Technical CollegeGreenwoodSouth Carolinahttp://www.ptc.edu11
Northeast Mississippi Community CollegeBoonevilleMississippihttp://www.nemcc.edu11
North Shore Community CollegeDanversMassachusettshttp://www.northshore.edu11
Meridian Community CollegeMeridianMississippihttp://www.meridiancc.edu11
Louisiana State University-EuniceEuniceLouisiana
Idaho State UniversityPocatelloIdaho
Henry Ford Community CollegeDearbornMichigan 11
Great Plains Technology CenterLawtonOklahoma 11
Forsyth Technical Community CollegeWinston SalemNorth Carolina
Eastern Gateway Community CollegeSteubenvilleOhiohttp://www.egcc.edu11
Cisco CollegeCiscoTexas 11
Carteret Community CollegeMorehead CityNorth Carolinahttp://www.carteret.edu11
Trinity College of Nursing & Health SciencesRock IslandIllinoishttp://www.trinitycollegeqc.edu11
Trident Technical CollegeCharlestonSouth Carolinahttp://www.tridenttech.edu11
Chippewa Valley Technical CollegeEau ClaireWisconsin 10
Washburn UniversityTopekaKansashttp://www.washburn.edu10
Texas Southern UniversityHoustonTexashttp://www.tsu.edu10
Springfield Technical Community CollegeSpringfieldMassachusettshttp://www.stcc.edu10
Southwest Georgia Technical CollegeThomasvilleGeorgia 10
Seward County Community College and Area Technical SchoolLiberalKansashttp://www.sccc.edu10
Santa Fe Community CollegeSanta FeNew Mexicohttp://www.sfcc.edu10
Sandhills Community CollegePinehurstNorth Carolina
Reading Area Community CollegeReadingPennsylvaniahttp://www.racc.edu10
Madisonville Community CollegeMadisonvilleKentucky
Luzerne County Community CollegeNanticokePennsylvania 10
George C Wallace State Community College-DothanDothanAlabamahttp://www.wallace.edu10
Florence-Darlington Technical CollegeFlorenceSouth Carolinahttp://WWW.FDTC.EDU10
College of Southern NevadaLas VegasNevadahttp://www.csn.edu10
Manchester Community CollegeManchesterConnecticut 9
Labette Community CollegeParsonsKansashttp://www.labette.edu9
Hannibal-LaGrange UniversityHannibalMissouri 9
Fortis Institute-ErieEriePennsylvania 9
Catawba Valley Community CollegeHickoryNorth Carolina 9
Angelina CollegeLufkinTexashttp://www.angelina.edu9
Stanly Community CollegeAlbemarleNorth Carolina 9
South Arkansas Community CollegeEl DoradoArkansashttp://www.southark.edu9
Santa Monica CollegeSanta MonicaCalifornia 9
Roane State Community CollegeHarrimanTennesseehttp://www.roanestate.edu9
River Valley Community CollegeClaremontNew Hampshirehttp://www.rivervalley.edu9
Quinsigamond Community CollegeWorcesterMassachusettshttp://www.qcc.edu9
Pickens Technical CollegeAuroraColoradohttp://www.pickenstech.org9
Moraine Park Technical CollegeFond du LacWisconsinhttp://www.morainepark.edu9
Midlands Technical CollegeWest ColumbiaSouth Carolinahttp://www.midlandstech.edu9
Wilkes Community CollegeWilkesboroNorth Carolinahttp://www.wilkescc.edu8
Wheeling Jesuit UniversityWheelingWest Virginiahttp://www.wju.edu8
University of MaryBismarckNorth Dakota
The University of MontanaMissoulaMontanahttp://www.umt.edu8
Southeast Arkansas CollegePine BluffArkansas 8
Prince George's Community CollegeLargoMarylandhttp://www.pgcc.edu8
Okefenokee Technical CollegeWaycrossGeorgia
Northern Oklahoma CollegeTonkawaOklahomahttp://www.noc.edu8
North Dakota State University-Main CampusFargoNorth Dakotahttp://www.ndsu.edu8
Marshall UniversityHuntingtonWest Virginia 8
Mansfield University of PennsylvaniaMansfieldPennsylvaniahttp://www.mansfield.edu8
L E Fletcher Technical Community CollegeSchrieverLouisiana
Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell CampusRoswellNew Mexicohttp://www.roswell.enmu.edu8
Copiah-Lincoln Community CollegeWessonMississippihttp://www.colin.edu8
Concorde Career Institute-San AntonioSan AntonioTexashttp://www.concorde.edu8
Concorde Career Institute-MiramarMiramarFloridahttp://www.concorde.edu8
Community College of AuroraAuroraColorado 8
Coahoma Community CollegeClarksdaleMississippi
Clarion University of PennsylvaniaClarionPennsylvaniahttp://www.clarion.edu8
Camden County CollegeBlackwoodNew Jerseyhttp://www.camdencc.edu8
Victoria CollegeVictoriaTexashttp://www.victoriacollege.edu7
University of Pittsburgh-JohnstownJohnstownPennsylvaniahttp://www.upj.pitt.edu7
University of Arkansas Community College-HopeHopeArkansashttp://www.uacch.edu7
Orangeburg Calhoun Technical CollegeOrangeburgSouth Carolinahttp://www.octech.edu7
Oconee Fall Line Technical CollegeSandersvilleGeorgiahttp://www.oftc.edu7
Kennebec Valley Community CollegeFairfieldMaine
Ball State UniversityMuncieIndiana 7
Northwest Kansas Technical CollegeGoodlandKansas 6
Maysville Community and Technical CollegeMaysvilleKentuckyhttp://maysville.kctcs.edu6
Great Falls College Montana State UniversityGreat FallsMontanahttp://www.gfcmsu.edu6
Educational Technical College-Recinto de CoamoCoamoPuerto Ricohttps://www.edutecpr.com6
Kent State University at AshtabulaAshtabulaOhio 5
Harrisburg Area Community College-HarrisburgHarrisburgPennsylvaniahttp://www.hacc.edu5
Concorde Career Institute-DallasDallasTexashttp://www.concorde.edu5
Ashland Community and Technical CollegeAshlandKentucky
York College PennsylvaniaYorkPennsylvaniahttp://www.ycp.edu4
Robeson Community CollegeLumbertonNorth Carolinahttp://www.robeson.edu4
Gloucester County CollegeSewellNew Jersey 4
Delaware County Community CollegeMediaPennsylvaniahttp://www.dccc.edu4
Bowling Green State University-Main CampusBowling GreenOhiohttp://www.bgsu.edu4
Baptist Memorial College of Health SciencesMemphisTennesseehttp://www.bchs.edu4
Atlantic Cape Community CollegeMays LandingNew Jerseyhttp://www.atlantic.edu4
Morehead State UniversityMoreheadKentuckyhttp://www.moreheadstate.edu3
Missouri State University-SpringfieldSpringfieldMissourihttp://www.missouristate.edu3
Burlington County CollegePembertonNew Jersey 3
Arkansas State University-Mountain HomeMountain HomeArkansas 3
South Plains CollegeLevellandTexas
Howard CollegeBig SpringTexashttp://www.howardcollege.edu2
Cumberland County CollegeVinelandNew Jerseyhttp://www.cccnj.edu2
University of the District of ColumbiaWashingtonD.C.http://www.udc.edu1
Universidad Adventista de las AntillasMayaguezPuerto Rico 1
Southwest Virginia Community CollegeRichlandsVirginia 1
Pennsylvania College of Health SciencesLancasterPennsylvania 1
Our Lady of Holy Cross CollegeNew OrleansLouisiana 1
Essex County CollegeNewarkNew Jerseyhttp://www.essex.edu1
Concorde Career Institute-OrlandoOrlandoFloridahttp://www.concorde.edu1
2013 School Data from IPEDS (Sourced in January, 2015)

Hybrid & Online programs

There are both hybrid and 100% 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 (A.S.) – This 26-month hybrid program 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. Not only do they have an 82% completion rate for the program, but have a 70% pass rate on the CRT exam, which is exceptional for hybrid programs.
  • Reynolds Community College (A.A.S) – This 72-credit course integrates both online and hands-on courses. It is also very rigorous—students must attain a pre-respiratory Career-Studies Certificate (CSC) before being accepted into the larger program. Student outcomes from this program are excellent—with a 97.7% pass rate on the CRT exam and a 90% job placement rate.
  • University of Kansas (B.S.) – This RT-to-bachelor’s-degree program is 100% 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 perfect track record for student outcomes: 100% for both job placement and exam pass rate.
SchoolCityStateWebsiteTotal grads (2013)
Independence UniversitySalt Lake CityUtahhttp://www.independence.edu301
Pima Medical Institute-TucsonTucsonArizonahttp://pmi.edu94
Boise State UniversityBoiseIdahohttp://www.boisestate.edu74
Grand Canyon UniversityPhoenixArizonahttp://www.gcu.edu48
Midwestern State UniversityWichita FallsTexashttp://www.mwsu.edu45
Southeast Community College AreaLincolnNebraska 35
The University of Texas Health Science Center at San AntonioSan AntonioTexashttp://www.uthscsa.edu28
Kansas City Kansas Community CollegeKansas CityKansashttp://www.kckcc.edu26
University of North Carolina at CharlotteCharlotteNorth Carolinahttp://www.uncc.edu24
Georgia Regents UniversityAugustaGeorgiahttp://www.gru.edu22
Oregon Institute of TechnologyKlamath FallsOregonhttp://www.oit.edu21
St Philip's CollegeSan AntonioTexas
Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing & Allied HealthOmahaNebraskahttp://www.methodistcollege.edu19
University of Missouri-ColumbiaColumbiaMissouri
University of KansasLawrenceKansashttp://www.ku.edu18
Youngstown State UniversityYoungstownOhiohttp://www.ysu.edu15
Concordia University-Saint PaulSaint PaulMinnesotahttp://www.csp.edu6
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. Specifics 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 Pathosiology 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 in most states. 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 these programs and their student outcomes—including graduation rate, job placement rate, and CRT exam pass rate.

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 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 to ensure that your school has also been regionally accredited through a body affiliated with the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). In addition, it is in your best benefit to make sure that your chosen school has an endorsement from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Programs (CAAHEP). These two endorsements will guarantee that your degree will allow you to sit for the national exam and receive a CRT license in any state.

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, 2013), jobs in the respiratory therapy industry are projected to increase by 19% by the year 2022 – much faster than the average. This figure may also reflect an increased need for respiratory specialization due potentially declining air quality over the next decade.

Respiratory therapists 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 around $56,000 per year, the highest paid respiratory therapists can make over $75,000 annually.

As with many other healthcare careers, education pays a major role in whether graduates are able to land these 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 states that are in the most need for these healthcare professionals. In fact, the best-paying jobs are in more rural areas – such as Alaska and Nevada – with average wages between $68,000 and $70,000 per year. The BLS (2012) suggests that respiratory therapists who are willing to commute to these remote areas will have the best job prospects in the next decade.

Career FactsRespiratory 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, January 2018

Licensing & Certification

In order to become licensed as respiratory therapist, you must gain certification through the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC). This requires that you 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 pass the Therapist Multiple Choice Examination (previously the Entry Level CRT Examination).

One a student has completed an accredited program and passed the CRT examination, they are registered with the NBRC and eligible to be certified in whatever state they choose. 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.