Respiratory therapy is a great major for those who want to help patients who have trouble breathing from chronic conditions and underdeveloped lungs. With a 19% projected growth as per the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the next 10 years, there is a positive outlook for those who want to begin a career in respiratory therapy.
There are many accredited online programs for respiratory therapy that you can take while you work. The important thing when choosing a college ensuring they are accredited by a reputable accrediting institution, like the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC). Programs with this accreditation will ensure that each student meets all of the requirements for licensure and certifications so that they are able to find a good job after graduation.
You can obtain an online associate's and bachelor's degree in respiratory therapy from many community and technical colleges across the nation. This will allow you to begin entry-level work as a respiratory therapist. After graduation you will have to pass the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) entry-level Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) and Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) exams in order to be eligible and licensed for jobs in the US.
For those who are already a practicing respiratory therapist, you can also get a master's degree in respiratory care to help advance your clinical knowledge and leadership competencies in order to hold management and other higher-level positions. Some schools also offer short advanced certification programs that typically last less than a year, including cardiopulmonary therapeutic procedures, pharmacologic interventions, mechanical ventilation, and more.
During your educational program you will gain many skills that will make you valuable to any medical institution. You will learn about respiratory care for all types of patients from pediatrics to geriatrics, healthcare operations and documentation, medical technology, ethics, caregiving, disease management and patient education, and research methods within the medical field. Though respiratory therapist is the main career field for this major, graduates can also become a health and medical services manager, medical salesperson, pulmonary function technologist, and more.
For those who graduate with a degree in respiratory therapy, you will enter into a career field with a positive outlook above the national average and a lucrative starting pay. The median pay for respiratory therapists was $55,000 in 2012 with medical facilities typically offering great benefits and retirement packages as well.