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Degree Overview: Bachelor of Science (B.S.) Degree in Respiratory Therapy

Majors Overview March 18, 2015

Get information about a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree program in Respiratory Therapy and its education requirements, coursework, career choices, job and wage outlook, and continuing education, certification, and licensure choices.

Bachelor of Science (B.S.) Degree Programs in Respiratory Therapy

Students enrolled in respiratory therapy bachelor’s degree programs are not only provided with the academic knowledge and clinical experience necessary to become respiratory therapists, but also taught leadership skills in research, education, and management. Students take about four years to complete most programs that combine classroom lectures with student interaction with clinical staff, including therapists, nurses, and doctors.

Respiratory therapists also perform collaborative work within a medical team that is adept at providing patient care; the program also hones their critical-thinking and communication skills, in addition to their ability to demonstrate self-direction and judgment.

Education Requirements

Those already currently employed as respiratory therapists may enroll in bachelor’s degree programs offered by some schools as continuing education programs that admit individuals with a current status as a Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) or a Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) with the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC).

Students enrolled in other programs are ready for entry-level careers as respiratory therapists; those seeking admission to this type of program may be required to have completed some years of prerequisite courses before they can apply. Admission criteria may also require incoming students to have a minimum GPA standing in core coursework areas.


Core coursework may cover topic areas such as the following:

•Mechanical ventilation
•Respiratory disease and treatment methods
•Respiratory pharmacology
•Biomedical ethics
•Cardiopulmonary anatomy and physiology
•Patient care monitoring
•Patient assessment
•Respiratory care research
•Respiratory care education
•Pediatric, neonatal, and geriatric respiratory care

Career Choices

Those who complete a bachelor’s degree program in respiratory therapy can expect to become adept at diagnosing respiratory-related ailments, providing respiratory therapy, analyzing patient information, and documenting patient data. They may choose from popular career settings such as:

•Home health agencies
•Research facilities
•Equipment rental companies

Job and Wage Outlook

A faster-than-average job growth rate of 19% has been predicted for respiratory therapists over the 2012 – 2022 decade (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). In May 2012, these professionals brought in an average annual wage of $55,870 (BLS).

Continuing Education, Certification, and Licensure Choices

After completion of a bachelor’s degree program, some graduates may opt for continuing education to boost their career prospects in managerial or teaching positions. They may pursue master’s degree programs such as a Master of Science (M.S.) program for Respiratory Care Education or Respiratory Therapy.

Students who seek to become CRTs must pass an NBRC-administered examination. Successful completion of two other exams can also enable them to become RRTs. Licensure is compulsory in all but two states; certification typically enables automatic licensure. Additionally, these professionals may commonly be required to obtain CPR certification.

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