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Degree Overview: Associate of Arts (A.A.) Degree in Respiratory Therapy

Majors Overview January 25, 2014

Receive information about an Associate of Arts (A.A.) degree in respiratory therapy and its education requirements, coursework, career choices, and licensure and continuing education choices.

A.A. Programs in Respiratory Therapy

Students enrolled in an associate degree program in respiratory therapy are taught about monitoring and evaluating patients, providing basic patient care, explaining procedures and recommending treatment plans. Schools may not offer these programs under an Associate of Specialized Technology title, though they usually offer Associate in Science and Associate of Applied Science programs.

Students can also expect to become adept at giving respiratory care, taking arterial blood gas samples and administering oxygen. An enrolled student typically learns about the most appropriate response in an emergency and quickly assessing a patient’s respiratory condition. A program usually aims at preparing enrolled students to seek entry-level occupations in the field of respiratory therapy.

Education Requirements

Students seeking admission to a respiratory therapy program usually have to satisfy special requirements over and above the usual need to hold a GED certificate or high school diploma. A drug screening, criminal background check, insurance, health screening and physical exam are among the requirements students may have to satisfy before they are admitted. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification and basic computer skills may also be demanded of prospective students.


Respiratory therapy and general education courses are augmented in program coursework, with the addition of courses in basic and advanced science. Coursework combines classroom and laboratory instruction, in addition to training in hands-on environments. Such coursework may cover topic areas such as:

•Pediatric respiratory care
•Patient assessment
•Therapeutic procedures
•Cardiopulmonary pharmacology
•Cardiopulmonary pathology
•Diagnostic procedures

Career Choices

Students who successfully complete the programs may seek entry-level jobs as respiratory therapists, in medical facilities such as specialty centers, care centers, and hospitals in different aspects of respiratory care such as:

•Diagnostic testing

Licensure and Continuing Education Choices

Licensure was mandatory for prospective respiratory therapists, in all states, as of March 2012, with the exceptions of Hawaii and Alaska. Licensure norms require candidates to satisfy the requirements as defined by the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC), to qualify for the Certified Respiratory Therapist credential offered by the organization. Qualification for the certification includes graduation from a respiratory therapy program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Programs, with only 31 such programs accredited by the organization in 2012 (BLS).

Enrolling in a bachelor’s or master’s degree program in respiratory therapy would prove beneficial to individuals seeking to advance their career prospects in the field. A candidate can aspire to become a Registered Respiratory Therapist (an advanced credential) through the NBRC by completing an approved accreditation program.

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