Accredited Respiratory Therapy Schools & Programs

Respiratory therapists, use evaluation and therapeutic techniques to help patients assess, manage, and treat breathing issues. Work involves helping individuals who have a variety of chronic lung diseases or who have suffered a traumatic injury to their lungs. Patients may be dealing with bronchitis, cystic fibrosis, asthma, emphysema, newborn undeveloped lungs in newborn children, or other issues.

Most respiratory therapists work in hospitals but recent years have seen an increase of therapists working in-home care agencies, nursing homes, respiratory clinics and emergency centers. Today, over 120,000 individuals in the U.S. work as respiratory therapists and the industry foresees growth of 26,300 new jobs from 2019-2029. Seventy-five percent of which will work in general medical and surgical hospitals.

Respiratory therapists earn an annual median salary of $61,330 per year or $29.48 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


According to the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC), respiratory therapists need an associate’s degree at minimum, but most employers prefer a bachelor’s degree or higher. The American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC) is the central accrediting body for respiratory therapy schools and programs.

There are three levels of respiratory therapy programs, according to CoARC: 200, 300, and 400

  • 200-level
    • These programs prepare graduates with competence in cognitive, psychomotor, and affective/behavior learning in regards to respiratory care practice. Graduates from 200-level programs can sit for the National Board for Respiratory Care Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) and Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) credentials. The CRT credential is a prerequisite for admission to the Registry Examination.
  • 300-level
    • These programs are conducted at satellite campuses geographically independent from the main location (base program) where all respiratory core classes and laboratory coursework are offered. Programs can be a hybrid of online distance or online education programs.
  • 400-level
    • These programs prepare graduates with competence in cognitive, psychomotor, and affective/behavior learning in regards to sleep disorder polysomnography practice. Graduates in 400-level programs develop core competencies of sleep disorder specialists and have the opportunity to earn both the National Board for Registry Care’s Sleep Disorders Specialty (SDS), the Board of Registered Polysomnographic Technologists (BRPT), and the Registered Polysomnographic Technologist (RPSGT) credential examinations.

According to the most recent report from CoArc (2014), there is a total of 447 accredited respiratory programs, 25 of which hold provisional accreditation.

Where to Attend

Vocational, Technical, Medical Institutes

These types of schools offer diplomas, certificates, and associate’s degrees focused on specific careers. Graduation from a vocational school allows students to seek entry-level positions. Respiratory therapy programs at these schools consist of class and lab work, and clinical practicums. Successful completion of the respiratory therapy program qualifies graduates to earn both the Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) and Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) credentialing examinations from the National Board for Respiratory Care.

Community Colleges

Community colleges, also known as junior colleges, offer a low-cost option for aspiring respiratory therapists. Traditionally, these colleges offer a wider variety of degree options and do not focus on a specific career. Community colleges typically offer two degree tracks for the respiratory field – Associate in Applied Sciences in Respiratory Therapy (AS) and Associate of Science in Respiratory Therapy (AS). The AAS focuses on professional and career development while the AS focuses on research that can be transferred into further higher education attainment. Successful completion of either track qualifies graduates to earn both the Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) and Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) credentialing examinations from the National Board for Respiratory Care.

4-Year Schools

Public and private four-year institutions offer students the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree in respiratory therapy or care. Typically these colleges and universities provide a broader scope of the academic curriculum that blends general education in the liberal arts with coursework in respiratory therapy. Four-year schools generally provide two tracks for students – 1. A two-year bachelor’s degree with an associate’s degree and NBRC certifications or 2. A four-year bachelor’s degree program with the first-time professional in respiratory therapy. 47 four-year schools offer an associate degree program in respiratory.

Respiratory Therapist Schools and Programs

The beginning of becoming a registered therapist begins with completing education requirements.

Respiratory Therapist Degrees

CoArc divides respiratory therapy programs into three main degree types and combinations. The three major categories are

  • Associate of Science (AS)
  • Associate in Applied Science (AAS)
  • Bachelor of Science (BS)
  • Master of Science (MS)

The associate’s degree is the most common degree for becoming a respiratory therapist. According to CoArc, associate’s degrees make up 85% of all accredited therapy degree programs, while bachelor’s degrees only make up 13%.

Degree Type CoARC Accredited Programs
Associate of Science 215
Associate in Applied Science 161
Associate in Specialized Technology 3
Associate in Occupational Studies 2
Bachelor of Science 57
Master of Science 3
Grand Total 441

States with the Highest Number of Accredited Respiratory Therapy Degree Programs

  1. California (38)
  2. Pennsylvania (26)
  3. Florida (24)
  4. Ohio (22)
  5. Georgia (15)



Best Respiratory Therapy Schools and Programs

Online Associate’s Degree in Respiratory Therapy

J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College – Division of Instructional Technologies and Distance Education

Located in Richmond, Virginia, this community college offers an AAS in Respiratory Therapy completely online. This program only accepts in-state students. 72 credit hours are required for graduation and can be completed in as little as 2 years. This is a great respiratory therapy program for students who may not have had great grades in high school. According to Peterson’s, the minimum GPA to get into JSRCC is 2.50 out of 4.0. The program at this public community college is accredited by the Regional Accreditation Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges.

Delaware Technical Community College-Owens

Deleware Technical Community College in Georgetown, Deleware offers a respiratory therapy technician/assistant program at the associate-level. Students who graduate from this respiratory therapy program are eligible to apply for accreditation by the National Board of Respiratory Care as a Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) and/or a Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT). In-state tuition for the 2015-2016 academic year was $3,632 per year making this a very affordable option for a respiratory therapy degree.

Delaware Technical Community College-Stanton/Wilmington

The associate degree program in respiratory care at DTCC – Stanton/Wilmington is designed to help students learn the proper skills, procedures, and attributes of a successful respiratory therapist. Graduates of this two-year program can transfer to a four-year school or take the national exams to jumpstart your career as a certified respiratory therapist. Tuition at this school was $3,632 per year for the 2015-2016 academic year (in-state).

Middle Georgia State University

MGSU offers an associate’s of science in respiratory therapy. This is a five-semester degree program. Tuition at Middle Georgia State University for the 2015-2016 academic year was $3,890 with a solid 68% freshman/first-year student retention rate.

More to come…

Online Bachelor’s Degree in Respiratory Therapy

Middle Georgia State University

MGSU offers both an associate’s and a bachelor’s of science in respiratory therapy. This program consists of fieldwork and continuing education for the perfect career training and advancement opportunity. The net price for MGSU was $9,313 per year for the 2014-2015 academic year. The percentage of full-time, first-time students who graduate from MGSU within 6 years of enrollment is 24%.

Dalton State College

For those with RRT certification and have completed an associate’s degree in respiratory therapy/care, Dalton State College offers a bachelor of science completion program in respiratory therapy. Located in Northwest Georgia, DSC is a fully accredited, four-year institution. Tuition at Dalton State, for the 2015-2016 academic year was $4,052, with a net price of $5,957 in 2014-2015 and an impressive 74% retention rate.

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