2022 Guide: Online Respiratory Therapist Degree Programs

The best online respiratory therapist programs could provide you with an incredible opportunity to start a new career as a Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRP). Traditional college-based programs require you to travel to school and learn in a conventional classroom environment. However, online respiratory therapist degrees let you earn your certification from the comfort of your home or anywhere around the world, providing far more flexibility. 

An online respiratory therapist degree comprises classes, seminars, and practice exercises in a virtual environment. You can still communicate with tutors, network with other students, and benefit from the same career support you would find at a regular college. However, you can balance existing work and family commitments and learn at your own pace. Plus, there are no travel expenses or long commutes. All you need is a computer and internet connection. 

In this guide, discover the benefits of enrolling in one of the best

best online respiratory therapist programs and the career opportunities you can expect as a CRT. 

What Is an Online Respiratory Therapist Degree Program?

An online respiratory therapist degree program lets you earn an associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree online and become a CRT. Many universities, colleges, community colleges, and other educational institutions provide online respiratory therapist programs, providing a wealth of learning and employment opportunities. You can study for one of these programs part-time, full-time, or learn at a speed that suits you. 

Here are some skills you might learn from an online respiratory therapist program: 

  • Measuring/monitoring lung function
  • Administrating oxygen and drugs to the lungs
  • Monitoring cardiopulmonary equipment
  • Managing mechanical ventilators
  • Cardiopulmonary resuscitation
  • General healthcare skills
  • General transferrable skills like patient communication, records management, and data governance 

Typically, you learn these skills over the internet when studying for an online degree. However, some schools might combine online lessons with real-world experience in a laboratory or other healthcare environment. 

The best online respiratory therapist programs prepare you for the National Board for Respiratory Care’s (NBRC) Therapist Multiple-Choice (TMC) exam or Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) exam — two credentials that have become the industry standard for CRTs. (Many healthcare organizations won’t hire you without these certifications.) 

Once you become a CRT, you might be responsible for duties like:

  • Working alongside a doctor and healthcare team to deliver successful healthcare outcomes
  • Administering oxygen to patients
  • Administering drugs to patients
  • Treating patients with lung disease
  • Treating premature babies with underdeveloped lungs
  • Monitoring lung function
  • Managing ventilators and other equipment
  • Collecting patient information and performing other administrative duties

Working as a CRT can provide you with a rewarding career with lots of growth potential. You will be a vital part of a healthcare team and work alongside doctors and nurses to treat patients with various lung-related issues. You will use a broad range of tools and technologies, including compressors, oxygen cylinders, and mechanical ventilators.

Why Choose an Online Respiratory Therapist Degree? 

The traditional route to becoming a CRT has long been a college degree, either at the associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s level. The rise of e-learning has transformed this convention and provided radical new career opportunities for people who want to work in the healthcare sector. 

The best online respiratory therapist programs come with benefits you might not get when studying on a college campus:

  • You don’t have to travel to school
  • There’s no long commute
  • You can still maintain existing responsibilities such as family, childcare, or work commitments
  • You don’t have to pay for campus accommodation
  • You can learn your program at a pace that suits you
  • You can study from home or anywhere in the world

Online degrees have become a viable alternative to traditional classroom-based programs because they often generate similar learning outcomes and provide students with additional skills they might not develop at a regular college. These skills include:

  • Self-motivation
  • Self-determination
  • Independence
  • The ability to balance educational responsibilities with existing family/work commitments
  • Effective time management
  • Critical thinking
  • Virtual communication
  • Technology proficiency

Still, misconceptions about online respiratory therapist programs persist. There’s a belief that online students don’t benefit from the social and networking benefits of traditional college. That’s not the case. Online learners still engage with course tutors, career guidance teachers, and other students in a virtual environment, typically through email, video conferencing tools, and private forums. 

Studying for an online respiratory therapist degree can also prove lucrative, providing graduates with increased earning potential and various career opportunities. 

How Much Does a Respiratory Therapist Degree Cost? 

The cost of a degree depends on the school and the type of degree you want to study. An online associate’s degree costs less than an online bachelor’s degree because it takes quicker to complete. An online master’s or doctoral degree might cost more than a bachelor’s. That’s because there are fewer programs that specialize in these certifications. 

The average online bachelor’s degree costs between $38,496 and $60,593 in tuition fees alone, according to U.S. News. However, an online degree could work out cheaper than a traditional one because there are no travel or accommodation costs involved.

Weigh up all the costs associated with online and on-campus degrees, including registration fees, program supplies, exam fees, and other expenses. Whatever the total cost of your program, you could be eligible for a scholarship, grant, or another form of financial aid. Plus, a future employer might offer tuition fee reimbursement if you work for that organization after graduation. 

As online respiratory therapist programs are more flexible than on-campus ones, you can still work full time and earn your degree over several years. This way, you can learn at your own pace and still generate a regular income.

How Much Do Respiratory Therapist Majors Make? 

Respiratory therapists earn an average of $31.56 per hour (mean hourly wage) or $65,640 per year (mean annual wage), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). “Outpatient care centers” is the highest-paying industry type for respiratory therapists, followed by “colleges, universities, and professional schools,” “other residential care facilities,” “specialty hospitals,” and “general medical and surgical hospitals.”

Salaries for therapists fluctuate depending on the location. These five states have the highest average salaries, according to BLS:  

  1. California: $41.92 per hour ($87,190 per year)
  2. District of Columbia: $39.88 ($82,940)
  3. New York: $38.39 ($79,840)
  4. Hawaii: $37.47 ($77,930)
  5. Nevada: $37.20 ($77,380)

Here are the five metropolitan areas with the highest average salaries:

  1. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA: $50.09 per hour ($104,200 per year)
  2. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA: $48.42 ($100,710)
  3. Vallejo-Fairfield, CA: $48.12 ($100,080)
  4. Sacramento-Roseville-Arden-Arcade, CA: $47.96 ($99,760)
  5. Salinas, CA: $47.96 ($99,750)

Therapists with specific skills or those who can use more advanced equipment might earn higher salaries than the averages listed above.  

What Is the Job Outlook for Respiratory Therapist Degree Holders? 

Those who successfully complete a respiratory therapist program might get a job as a:

  • Respiratory therapist
  • Adult critical care specialist
  • Registered sleep center technologist
  • Sleep disorder specialist
  • Pulmonary function technician
  • Neonatal specialist

The job outlook for therapists is extremely positive. There will be a 20.9% increase in job opportunities for these professionals from 2018 to 2028, according to Projections Central/U.S. Department of Labor. That’s significantly greater than the average for all job roles (5.2%). There is also a shortage of professionals across the wider healthcare sector, providing therapists with ample opportunities to develop new skills and specialize in other disciplines. 

Scholarships for Respiratory Therapist Students

You could apply for a scholarship to reduce the costs associated with your online respiratory therapist program. Many organizations provide these payments to students who can demonstrate previous academic excellence or another achievement. 

The American Respiratory Care Foundation (ARCF) offers these scholarships to eligible students: 

  • Morton B. Duggan, Jr. Memorial Education Recognition Award: Open to candidates on respiratory therapy programs in any state, with preference to students in Georgia and South Carolina. Eligible students can apply for a scholarship of up to $1,000.
  • Jimmy A. Young Memorial Education Recognition Award: A $1,000 award for students from minority backgrounds.
  • NBRC/AMP Robert M. Lawrence, MD Education Recognition Award: A scholarship of up to $2,500 for those studying for a baccalaureate degree in the third or fourth year of an accredited respiratory care program.
  • NBRC/AMP Gareth B. Gish, MS, RRT Memorial Postgraduate Education Recognition Award: Awards students studying at the postgraduate level with a scholarship of up to $1,500. 
  • William F. Miller, MD Postgraduate Education Recognition Award: Honors postgraduate students with a scholarship of up to $1,500. 

Other available scholarships:

FAQs About Respiratory Therapist Degrees 

Summary 

There are three main career paths to becoming a CRT:

  • Online respiratory therapy degree programs
  • Classroom-taught respiratory therapy degree programs 
  • Degree programs that combine online learning with classroom-based learning

All three paths take the same time to complete. If you are studying for a full-time bachelor’s degree, you can earn your certification in around four years. A full-time associate’s degree takes about two years to complete. 

Benefits of online respiratory therapist degrees include:

  • No need to live on campus
  • The opportunity to develop skills you might not learn in a traditional college environment such as independence, self-motivation, and self-discipline
  • The possibility to study a degree from anywhere in the world  
  • The chance to maintain a full-time job during your studies
  • Online respiratory therapist degree costs depend on the school and the type of degree you want to study
  • An online bachelor’s respiratory therapist degree costs between $38,496 to 60,593, according to U.S. News
  • An online respiratory therapy degree could work out cheaper than a traditional degree because there are no accommodation or travel costs
  • You can apply for a scholarship or grant to support your studies, if eligible

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