Accredited Online Respiratory Therapy Degree Programs - AS, BSRT

Thich Nhat Hanh—Buddhist monk and peace activist—wrote in his book The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation: “Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.” In this fast-paced information age, people are turning to mindfulness practices to become aware of their breathing and cultivate a sense of calm in their busy lives.

While many people are fortunate to be able to bring awareness to the quality of their breath and others go through their day without giving the act of breathing much thought, for some, breathing can be a daily struggle. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) 19 million adults in the United States suffer from asthma. That’s 7.7 percent of the population. As air pollution levels in the world’s most populated cities continue to rise, this number may continue to increase. As chronic respiratory diseases caused by pollution, smoke, allergens, and occupational risks increase, more people will depend on medical professionals to help them manage or improve their breathing. Respiratory therapists provide breathing solutions to those suffering from respiratory conditions.

Specializing in the diagnosis and analysis of breathing conditions and techniques, respiratory therapists help people manage their breathing ailments. Through regular care with a respiratory therapist in a clinic, hospital, or even a home-based setting, patients suffering from chronic breathing problems can learn techniques and utilize technology to cope with, recover from, and find comfort with their breathing afflictions.

With a 23 percent projected growth rate (according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics), students enrolling in respiratory health associate’s or bachelor’s degree programs can look forward to gratifying career opportunities in helping people breathe more easily and improving their quality of life.

Admissions Requirements & Accreditation

Keeping in mind that each school has unique admissions requirements, here are some documents and certifications commonly requested by respiratory therapy degree programs:

  • Application
  • 2.5 GPA
  • College-level prerequisite coursework including anatomy and physiology
  • Transcripts of all previous educational institutions

Admissions requirements specifically for bachelor’s degree programs commonly include:

  • Letter of reference from current employer
  • Proof of current registered respiratory therapist (RRT) credential through the National Board of Respiratory Care (NBRC)
  • Proof of certification for: Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), Basic Life Support (BLS), Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS), and Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP)
  • Associate’s degree from an accredited Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC) educational program

The Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC) is the leading accrediting agency for respiratory therapy associate, baccalaureate, and graduate degree programs. With a mission to ensure high quality educational programs for the field of respiratory therapy, students, employers, and educational institutions can trust the quality of instruction at CoARC-accredited institutions. CoARC accreditation is limited to programs in the United States.

Online Respiratory Therapy Programs

Below are five online respiratory therapy programs: one associate’s degree and four bachelor’s degrees. Please note that as of June 2019, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte has provisional accreditation through CoARC.

Online Associate’s Degrees in Respiratory Therapy

Southeast Community College

Southeast Community College offers a part-time online associate’s degree in respiratory care. Featuring a comprehensive curriculum in patient assessment, treatment, disease management, diagnostic evaluation, and patient care, students can apply their classroom knowledge during practical clinical learning opportunities throughout the local region.

Students who complete this program have the option of taking the NBRC credentialing exam to become RRTs or transferring their educational requirements for admission to a bachelor’s degree program in respiratory therapy. Enrollment begins fall and spring semester and most graduates from this program secure job opportunities upon completion.

  • Location: Lincoln, NE
  • Accreditation: Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC)
  • Tuition: $102 per credit for residents, $123 per credit for non-residents
  • Program length: 24 months

Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Respiratory Therapy

University of Missouri

Mizzou Online, the University of Missouri’s online degree program, offers a fully online bachelor of health science (BHS) in clinical and diagnostic sciences with an emphasis in respiratory therapy.

In order to graduate from this degree completion program, at least 30 of the final 36 credit-hours must come from courses completed prior to graduation. This is an ideal degree program for those who currently hold RRT certification and want to complete a bachelor’s degree program while working full-time in their current respiratory therapist positions.

  • Location: Columbia, MO
  • Accreditation: Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC)
  • Tuition: $11,725.50 total
  • Program length: 12 to 24 months

Nebraska Methodist College

Nebraska Methodist College offers a fully online bachelor’s of science (BS) in respiratory therapy (BSRT) degree through a degree advancement program.

There are no clinical hours required in this program and students can choose from two advanced practice tracks: education and research or healthcare management and leadership. The curriculum of this program focuses on the holistic elements of the respiratory care profession, supports the changing role of the respiratory therapist, and provides instruction in health promotion, health education, leadership, and healthcare policy.

  • Location: Omaha, NE
  • Accreditation: Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC)
  • Tuition: $580 per credit
  • Program length: 12 to 24 months

University of North Carolina – Charlotte (UNC)

The goal of the UNC Charlotte’s fully online BSRT program is to advance the knowledge and professional skills of RRTs with associate’s degrees and prepare them for more expansive careers in respiratory therapy. The program builds upon content taught in most two-year respiratory therapy programs and areas of emphasis include improved written and oral communication, how to evaluate clinical evidence, and software and web-based communication methods used in clinical administration.

Students in this program are expected to demonstrate knowledge of critical care pathophysiology and develop a research proposal related to clinical practice. This school features a “2+2 program” which admits students to the university who have been awarded a two-year associate’s degree and who want to complete the last two years of the bachelor’s degree program at UNC.

  • Location: Charlotte, NC
  • Accreditation: Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC)
  • Tuition: $157 per credit for residents, $611 per credit for non-residents
  • Program length: 24 months

University of Cincinnati (UC)

The University of Cincinnati offers an online bachelor of science in respiratory therapy with a focus on empowering medical professionals to advance their careers and become leaders in the field.

UC requires that applicants apply to the program with an associate’s degree from a CoARC-accredited institution that also holds regional accreditation. Students must be credentialed as RRTs before being eligible to matriculate into the advanced courses of the program. To make the process of transferring credits easier, UC has articulation agreements with many community colleges around the United States. Current RRTs can also earn bachelor’s degrees online through this program in less than two years.

  • Location: Cincinnati, OH
  • Accreditation: Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC)
  • Tuition: $466 per credit for residents, $481 per credit for non-residents
  • Program length: 24 months

Respiratory Therapy Professors to Know

Kelly Cummins is an instructor of respiratory care and co-chair of polysomnographic technology at Southeast Community College (SECC) in Lincoln, Nebraska. She earned her master’s of science from Peru State College and a bachelor’s of science from Wayne State College.

Ms. Cummins has taught at SECC since 2005 and brought 12 years of professional experience as an RRT in an acute care hospital to her academic appointment. Her teaching philosophy is based on the idea that learning ought to be student-driven and instructor-navigated. Ms. Cummins enjoys being a part of the transformation that students go through in becoming professional respiratory therapists.

Lisa Fuchs was named program director of the respiratory care program at Nebraska Methodist University in 2016. Previously, she taught as a clinical instructor in the respiratory care lab from 2010 to 2011 and was promoted to director of clinical education for the respiratory care program in 2011. Ms. Fuchs has presented at several local conferences on the topics of tobacco cessation, healthcare reform, and medical ethics. She is a chairperson for the American Lung Association and a member of several professional associations related to the field of respiratory health. Ms. Fuchs holds a master’s of public health from Bellevue University.

Jennifer Keely is an associate clinical professor in the respiratory therapy program at the University of Missouri, where she earned her master’s of education and bachelor of health sciences in respiratory therapy degrees. Ms. Keely teaches courses in pharmacology and principles of mechanical ventilation. She has also taught three clinical practice courses in the respiratory therapy program