Careers with an Associate Degree in Respiratory Therapy

What if someone told you that a two-year associate degree can lead you to:

  • A career that allows you to work at the forefront of healthcare delivery?
  • A career that lets you work with cutting-edge technology in the field of medicine and promises multiple advancement opportunities?
  • A career that provides you the satisfaction of helping people at their most vulnerable and weakest moments?
  • A career that gives you the potential to earn an average of $54,280 per year (depending on location, education, and experience? *

It may sound too good to be true, but true it is. The career we are talking about is respiratory therapy, and the academic program in question is an associate degree in respiratory therapy.
Here’s an overview of the Associate’s of Respiratory Therapy.
Respiratory therapy degree: A brief outline
An associate’s degree in respiratory therapy is a two-year undergraduate program offered at colleges, universities, technical schools and the armed forces. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, an associate degree in respiratory therapy is the minimum credential required for the role of a respiratory therapist (RT).
The objective of a respiratory therapy degree is to provide graduates the clinical competencies needed to work with patients suffering from breathing difficulties. Therefore, the curriculum of a typical respiratory therapy program not only includes theoretical instruction, but also clinical and laboratory experience.
The coursework is heavily focused on health and life sciences courses, in addition to topics specific to respiratory care. Students at a respiratory therapy school are required to earn credits in courses like:

  • Microbiology
  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Math
  • Chemistry
  • Pulmonary Anatomy and Physiology
  • Cardiopulmonary Pathophysiology
  • Respiratory Care
  • Pulmonary Rehabilitation

Some respiratory therapy schools may also incorporate courses in business, management, communication, and computers in the curriculum to provide graduates the skills they may need for professional advancement.

Perhaps one of the most important components of a respiratory therapy degree is the clinical experience portion, which exposes students to hands-on patient care in a variety of healthcare settings.
Is respiratory therapy for me?
Before you start planning a career in this flourishing healthcare field, it’s important to know if you are fit for respiratory therapy school.
According to the Department of Labor, respiratory therapists should have qualities like compassion, attention to detail, and patience. Additionally, they must demonstrate exceptional interpersonal and problem-solving skills.
You may find yourself on a solid ground for your postsecondary training in respiratory therapy if you take courses in math, biology, chemistry, physics, and health sciences in high school.
What will I do as a respiratory therapist?
As a respiratory therapist, you will take care of patients with respiratory or cardiopulmonary disorders. The scope of your duties may include examining patients, performing diagnostic tests on them, assisting physicians in providing treatment, managing patients on life support systems, and rehabilitating and educating patients and their families.
RTs work in a variety of healthcare settings, such as the cardiopulmonary or pediatric departments of hospitals, emergency and operating rooms, home healthcare services, diagnostic labs, rehabilitation centers, offices of physicians, air transport and ambulance services, smoke cessation programs, etc.
So far as advancement is concerned, RTs who excel at their job may not have any problem moving from a staff therapist position to supervisory roles and beyond with some additional training and experience.
Some RTs branch out into hospital administration, while others venture into business roles with equipment manufacturers. Teaching and research are also options for respiratory therapists who enjoy academia.