We’ve done the analysis and found the Best Online Colleges for Respiratory Therapy in the 2017-18 school year. Dive into details on Respiratory Therapy degree programs, tuition and fees, related career outlooks, employable skills and much more.
Nov 17, 2017 | By OnlineColleges Editors
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Respiratory therapists focus on cardiology and pulmonology, addressing issues of airway management and respiratory care so they can help patients do the single action most necessary for a person to survive: breathe.
Though they are health care professionals, respiratory therapists are not limited to working in hospitals by any means. Opportunities abound in doctor's offices, home health service companies, nursing homes and even businesses that rent out respiratory therapy equipment. However, whatever type of facility you ultimately see yourself working for, the education that can help you make a start in the field can be found at many schools, including those that are available online.
Best Online Colleges for Respiratory Therapy in 2018
To help students choose a school that will meet their needs and emphasize their talents, we compared 17 schools that offer online respiratory therapy degree programs, using data from the National Center for Education Statistics' Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). We analyzed this data using our unique methodology and created a list of the top 10 online colleges for respiratory therapy, visible below.
When it comes to online respiratory therapy degrees, Midwestern State University offers its own take on this field. Through its registered respiratory therapist to B.S. in respiratory care (RRT-to-BSRC) program, the school endeavors to help its students reach the highest ranks in respiratory therapy at hospitals and clinics around the country. This school scored second place in our study based primarily on their high percentage of awarded respiratory therapy degrees and their affordable tuition.
Another factor that sets this school and program apart is the fact that the RRT-to-BSRC program is a "bridge program," meaning it was created for individuals who already have an associate degree in this field. Thanks to the flexibility of this online degree program, those already working in respiratory therapy can pursue their bachelor's degrees from the comfort of their own homes and on their own timelines.
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
Oregon Institute of Technology offers a unique degree completion program for registered respiratory therapists who want to earn a bachelor's degree. A degree completion program is a program specifically designed for students who previously completed some of the courses and credits for their degree, but have been separated from the university setting for a period of time. Offering flexibility and accelerated learning due to recognizing previous work, this program is ideal for anybody who was forced to leave school due to financial, medical or familial reasons.
Among online bachelor's degrees for respiratory therapy, this school ranked No.3 in no small part due to having the third highest percentage of respiratory therapy degrees awarded in 2015. Oregon Tech was also recognized recently for their ranking in the top 2 percent of respiratory therapy degree programs by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC), and as a recipient of the Distinguished Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) Credentialing Success Award.
Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
3201 Campus Drive Klamath Falls, Oregon 97601-8801
Boise State University offers another excellent RRS-to-BS bridge program, like Midwestern State before it. Created for working respiratory therapists who already have an associate degree, this program offers flexible online courses that are easy to complete during evenings and weekends, or in your spare time. The courses for this program are offered asynchronously, meaning that there is no set time for classes; while there are still deadlines for assignments, students can engage with their course materials at any time that is most convenient for them.
Between its third-most affordable tuition and fourth-highest admissions rate, both out of all 17 schools analyzed, it's no surprise that this school secures the No.4 ranking on our list.
Florida National University made this list of best online colleges for respiratory therapy based on its innovative Bachelor of Science in respiratory therapy program. This program is another bridge program, created with working respiratory therapists in mind. Due to the overall flexibility and online nature of the program, professionals already in this field can pursue a bachelor's degree in their spare time.
This university is the only other institution on our list to have an open admissions program, as Independence University does, making it highly accessible to hopeful applicants. Florida National also earned solid ratings for its percentage of respiratory therapy degrees awarded and percentage of students who graduated in 2015.
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
4425 West. Jose Regueiro (20th) Avenue Hialeah, Florida 33012
Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing and Allied Health
The Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing and Allied Health offers the only online bachelor's degree completion program in the region. This degree program was created for registered respiratory therapists with an associate degree who want to become a leader in their field. Students can complete all their coursework online and from their own homes. Best of all, this school offers rolling application dates and opens their program to new students in August, January and May each year.
Getting into the Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing and Allied Health is not easy; the school is quite selective and has many applicants each year. However, if you make the cut, you can rest easy knowing that the college boasts the highest graduation rate of any school analyzed in this study, as well as the second highest percentage of respiratory therapy degrees awarded amongst its graduating students.
Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
In 1935, Armstrong Junior College was opened to a mere 175 students in the halls of a historical mansion donated by the family of George F. Armstrong. Having since expanded and changed its name to Armstrong State University, this institute resides in a brand new, state of the art facility and is the second most affordable college for online respiratory therapy out of the 17 we reviewed for this study. This would be quite a recommendation on its own, but Armstrong also achieved respectable No.8 ranks both for admissions and for percentage of respiratory therapy degrees awarded.
Like some of the other schools on this list, Armstrong State's respiratory therapy degree program is a degree completion program, and offering such a flexible program is just one sign of the college's accommodating nature. In 2015, Armstrong was named a top performing school for underrepresented minority students by the Education Trust, and in 2016 the college was also named a top school for veterans and military spouses.
Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (COARC)
While there are many interesting respiratory therapy degree programs offered by the schools on this list, the University of North Carolina offers a particularly special take on the subject. With their 2+2 program, you can join the program with an associate degree and complete the last two years of your education online. Upon completion of this online program, you'll have a bachelor's degree that can help you excel in your career and learn an even greater breadth of skills.
The University of North Carolina at Charlotte is, bar none, the No.1 most affordable college out of all 17 schools reviewed in our study, and it even ranked seventh place for graduation rate in the bargain. Students interested in respiratory therapy completion programs should certainly consider the University of North Carolina for its affordable tuition rates and dynamic offerings.
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) Commission on Colleges
9201 University City Blvd Charlotte, North Carolina 28223-0001
Augusta University earned its spot on this list of top online colleges for respiratory therapy in large part due to its manageable tuition costs. Of the 17 schools evaluated, Augusta was the fifth most affordable. Like many other schools that provide online degree programs in respiratory therapy, Augusta University offers a degree completion program that leads to bachelor's degrees in respiratory therapy. By enrolling in this program, respiratory therapists with an associate degree can increase their learning and advance their careers. Students who join this program will need to complete 120 credit hours, with the option to pursue online learning part-time.
unclear; the University hosted an onsite visit for reaffirmation of SACSCOC accreditation and received no recommendations from the review team. The final decision from SACSCOC is expected in December 2016.
The University of Cincinnati offers an accredited online respiratory therapy degree completion program for certified respiratory therapists and registered respiratory therapists. In this program, working professionals can study online and earn a bachelor's degree in as few as 20 months.
Not only does this school feature a robust curriculum focused on the intricacies of respiratory therapy practice and research, but our analysis shows that it has the third highest admissions rate and the fourth highest graduation rate of the 17 schools we looked at. Registered respiratory therapists interested in pursuing a bachelor's degree to secure higher pay or promotions should consider this program and what it can offer.
In most cases, entering the field of respiratory therapy requires at least an associate degree. As such, those who want to enter this field will have to prepare themselves for at least some amount of schooling. The section below describes some of the coursework that students might take in programs and the skills they may want to focus on developing during that time.
Online Respiratory Therapy Courses
Online education for respiratory therapy programs cover different topics based on the degree level they are set at. The following list describes some of the common courses students might cover at these various degree levels.
Certificate programs in respiratory therapy may be hard to find. Because the American Association for Respiratory Care accredits programs at the associate degree level and higher, students interested in respiratory therapy careers may want to opt for those instead.
An online associate degree in respiratory therapy will generally introduce students to basics of the field such as cardiopulmonary disease, patient assessment, general pharmacology and special care and procedures for infants and adults. An externship experience can give students the opportunity to further develop their skills in a real-world setting.
Online bachelor's degree programs in respiratory therapy cover a broader spectrum of topics than associate programs. Potential topics in a bachelor's program include adult critical care, pediatric respiratory care and pulmonary rehabilitation. Elective courses in external subjects, particularly health, psychology or sociology, may be beneficial for a bachelor's student in this field, giving some important perspective and alternate approaches to the major courses. Many online bachelor's programs in respiratory therapy are completion programs from a two-year degree.
Numerous online master's degrees in respiratory therapy are available, covering material such as advanced cardiopulmonary physiology, applied research and design, leadership practice and evidence-based medicine. Students may be able to select a concentration in such a program, such as health management or respiratory management practice.
Doctoral degrees in respiratory therapy are few and far between, so students looking to extend their studies or job prospects to their utmost may want to opt for online programs in broader yet related areas instead, such as management, hospital administration or healthcare education.
Career-Related Skills to Develop
If they're paying attention, students working on an online program for respiratory therapy should learn more than just the proper way to use a CPAP machine. Respiratory therapy professionals benefit from having not only technical skills, but also kindness and empathy for the patients they will work with.
Technical knowledge: An understanding of different types of healthcare tools is essential in a respiratory therapist career. The coursework of online programs for respiratory therapy is structured to improve a student's knowledge of oxygen tents, tracheotomy masks, incentive spirometers and other oft-used devices.
Detail-oriented: Patients may need to receive a specific treatment or medication on a regular basis. A respiratory therapist must keep track of several such patients and attend to their differing needs and treatment schedules. Keeping so many fine details straight is a challenge for anybody, so learning how to utilize different methods to record and organize these details efficiently and responsibly is very important.
Empathy: Professionals in the respiratory therapy field need to understand the frustrations and emotions that patients are experiencing in order to help them be comfortable in the healthcare setting. Patients might be in pain, sleep-deprived or socially reluctant to accept treatment; being prepared to address these possibilities will make your own life easier in the long run.
Problem solving: In all medical fields, professionals may quickly learn that patients may not themselves recognize when they are having a problem. If someone has breathed the same way all their life, it can be difficult for them to realize that there is room for improvement. Respiratory therapists must be on the lookout for tiny clues that can indicate a problem, then be able to assess that problem and discover the best solution for their patient's health.
Respiratory Therapy Career Outlook
People with conditions like emphysema and asthma can literally breathe a sigh of relief because of the work done by professionals in the respiratory therapy field. Between our aging population, a growing emphasis on reducing readmission to hospitals, and the prevalence of air pollution and products such as cigarettes, this is a field that is increasingly acquiring the breathing room it deserves.
Projected Job Openings
Projected Job Growth
Patients with breathing challenges receive treatment from professionals in respiratory therapist careers. Respiratory therapists have job duties such as examining patients with cardiopulmonary disorders; performing tests on lungs to measure their capacity; providing emergency care such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation and external cardiac massage; inspecting equipment to ensure it is functioning properly; and keeping track of patients' condition and altering treatments as they progress.
In most states, respiratory therapists are required to earn a certification from The National Board for Respiratory Care in order to work in the field. The certification process may involve completing a degree from an accredited school and passing a licensing examination administered by the state.
Respiratory Therapy Technicians
Projected Job Openings
Projected Job Growth
Respiratory therapy technicians — also known as pulmonary function technicians, respiratory care assistants, respiratory therapy assistants and registered pulmonary function technologists — support respiratory therapists as they treat patients. In order to do this, these professionals are required to ensure patient records are complete and up-to-date; monitor patients are they are being treated; inform respiratory therapists of any irregularities that occur during patient care; calibrate equipment to control the flow of oxygen, mists, gases or aerosols to patients; and perform clinical intakes. People who work in respiratory therapy technician careers may find employment at general hospitals, doctor's offices, substance abuse centers, nursing homes, psychiatric hospitals and medical supply wholesalers.
Associate of Science in Respiratory Care, Independence University, https://www.independence.edu/healthcare/associates/respiratory-therapy
Bachelor's Degree for Respiratory Therapists, Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing and Allied Health, http://www.methodistcollege.edu/allied-health/bachelor-degrees/respiratory-care
Bachelor of Science in Respiratory Care, Boise State University, https://online.boisestate.edu/bachelors-degrees/respiratory-care/
Bachelor of Science in Respiratory Care, Oregon Tech, http://www.oit.edu/online/degrees/respiratory-care
Bachelor of Science in Respiratory Care with an Advanced Clinical Practice Concentration, Independence University, https://www.independence.edu/healthcare/bachelors/respiratory-care-advanced-clinical-practice-concentration
Bachelor of Science in Respiratory Therapy, Florida National University, http://www.fnu.edu/respiratory-bs-rrt-bachelor-science-degree-rrt-bs-rrt-advanced/
BS in Respiratory Therapy, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, http://distanceed.uncc.edu/programs/bs-respiratory-therapy
Bachelor of Science in Respiratory Therapy Degree Completion for RRTs, Augusta University, http://catalog.augusta.edu/preview_program.php?catoid=27&poid=3850&returnto=3348
Online Bachelor of Science in Respiratory Therapy, University of Cincinnati, http://cahsonline.uc.edu/bachelors-respiratory-therapy/
Oregon Tech's Respiratory Therapist Program Receives High Honors and Recognition from Top National Accrediting Commission, Oregon Tech, http://www.oit.edu/news/2015/04/16/oregon-tech-s-respiratory-therapist-program-receives-high-honors-and-recognition-from-top-national-accrediting-commission
Respiratory Therapists, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017-18 Occupational Outlook Handbook, December 17, 2015, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/respiratory-therapists.htm#tab-4
Respiratory Therapy, Online Degree Advancement, Mizzou Online, University of Missouri, Accessed August 2017, http://www.cps.neu.edu/degree-programs/graduate/masters-degrees/masters-respiratory-care-leadership.php
Respiratory Therapy Program, Pima Medical Institute, Accessed August 2017, https://pmi.edu/programs/associate/respiratory-therapy
To be included in these rankings, all colleges had to meet the following criteria for the specific subject being ranked:
Offer an undergraduate degree (either associate or bachelor's) in that subject online
Have awarded at least one degree or certificate in that subject in 2015-16