Best Respiratory Therapist Programs

Oct 20, 2021

What is a Certificate Program in Respiratory Therapy?

A certificate program in respiratory therapy is designed to provide the educational requirements necessary for registration as a Registered Respiratory Therapist. Respiratory therapists specialize in the identification and treatment of cardiopulmonary disorders. The program provides practical, hands-on training as well as education on the various principles required to provide respiratory care to patients. The program also focuses on preparing students to respond to emergency and critical healthcare requirements and develop the skills necessary in a care-giving role.

As an integral part of the health care system, respiratory therapists provide such services as ventilation and airway management, oxygen and aerosol therapy, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, patient assessment and evaluation, assisting with anesthesia in the operating room and assisting at high-risk births. The certificate program provides all the skills required to carry out daily requirements in the job. The certificate program can also be a stepping stone for a degree in respiratory therapy, which allows students to study for specializations.

What is the Difference Between a Certificate and a Degree in Respiratory Therapy?

To become a respiratory therapist, one may apply to a certificate program or an advanced degree in respiratory therapy. While a certified program will allow a student to become a certified respiratory therapist, an advanced program will prepare a student to become a registered respiratory therapist. Both certified and registered respiratory therapists perform similar work.

While an entry level certificate program provides the practical knowledge to become a certified respiratory therapist, an advanced program will be much more comprehensive in teaching the basics and focusing on education as well as practical training. The certificate program focuses on coursework in anatomy, biology, respiratory care and therapeutics degree. This coursework can be used to transition into an advanced degree, which will require prior study including a bachelor's degree or a certificate program. An advanced degree and registered status also allow for specializations. With an advanced degree, the student can specialize in adult critical care, pediatrics, sleep disorders or pulmonary technology.

Should I Get a Certificate in Respiratory Therapy?

A certificate in respiratory therapy prepares a student for a career and to become an integral part of the health-care industry with no prior training or job experience. A student trained in respiratory therapy provides essential service and is always in demand. Anyone who has a desire to help people on a very practical level in a hospital setting may consider a certificate in respiratory therapy as an option.

Graduates are usually employed at hospitals and long-term care facilities, physicians' offices or other health care centers. The certificate program is also an option to enter a very enriching profession without committing the time and money required for an advanced degree in the subject. A certificate in respiratory therapy from an accredited program will usually offer credits that can be transferred to a degree to continue education in the field. Both the certificate and an advanced degree teaches therapists to perform the same functions and students are usually employed at the same places.

Career Options After Completing a Certificate Program in Respiratory Therapy

Graduates with a certificate in respiratory therapy are eligible for a variety of positions in emergency operating rooms, intensive care units, community care facilities and neonatal nurseries. Respiratory therapists are also employed in sales, education, maintenance and consulting positions.

Some common jobs that respiratory therapists do include

Most jobs with training in respiratory therapy are very well paying and have a steady growth rate. Most positions are full time and can have long work hours and include weekends, evenings or nights, as hospitals or other areas of employment are usually open 24 hours.

Respiratory Therapist Technician

Respiratory therapists care for patients who have trouble breathing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary of a respiratory therapist in 2020 was $62,810 per year. The projected growth rate for respiratory therapists from 2019-29 is 19%, which is much faster than the average growth rate of 4% for jobs in the United States.

Registered Nurse

Registered nurses provide and coordinate medical care for patients and educate them and the public about different types of health conditions. A certificate in respiratory therapy will prepare a student for further education required to become a registered respiratory therapist or registered nurse. According to the BLS, the average salary of a registered nurse in 2020 was $75,330 per year.

Health Services Manager

Medical and health services managers plan, coordinate and direct business activities of health care providers. According to the BLS, the average salary of a health services manager in 2020 was $104,280 per year. The projected growth rate for jobs in this field is 32%, again much higher than the average of 4% among jobs in the United States.

Courses for a Certificate Program in Respiratory Therapy

A certificate program in respiratory therapy focuses on a variety of subjects including the physics and dynamics of breathing, pharmacological therapies, adult pediatric, cardiopulmonary diagnostics, pediatric and neonatal critical care. Most curriculum will focus on developing a strong foundation in human biology and physiology that will allow students to provide respiratory care as therapists.

Programs will also have coursework dedicated to clinical education where students will need to work closely under the supervision of a respiratory therapist and will have the opportunity to integrate the knowledge and skills that they have learned into practice. This becomes a very integral part of the coursework and will be essential for success in the field.

Human Anatomy and Physiology

An anatomy and physiology course provides the foundations of human anatomy and introduces the students to the basic principles of physiology, anatomy, biochemistry and biophysics. The course looks at different organ systems and emphasizes the relationship between the function and structure of such systems. The maintenance of normal homeostasis within the body is studied in detail.

Respiratory Care Procedures

A respiratory care procedures course teaches students about medical gas delivery choices and basic principles of operations, use and patient application of the numerous devices used in respiratory therapy. The course lays the foundations of the practical work that students will perform as respiratory therapists later on in their career.

How Long Does a Certificate Program in Respiratory Therapy Take?

The requirements for the completion of a certificate program in respiratory therapy is much less than an advanced degree in the subject. So, the completion period for a certificate program is also significantly shorter than an advanced degree. A full-time certificate program, with a clinical internship, can be completed as quickly as less than two years, whereas a degree can continue up to three years. The time taken to complete the program may also depend on the course load, length of internship and the specialization. Some programs may also offer an option for accelerated study, reducing the length of the program further.

How to Choose a Certificate Program in Respiratory Therapy

In deciding which certificate program in respiratory therapy to choose, look for ones that have accreditation from well-known organizations such as the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care. An accredited program will ensure that your education meets all national standards; with an accredited program, you'll obtain eligibility to take the required examinations for certification and your education will be recognized by employers and the public.

A certificate from an accredited program will offer much greater mobility in one's career, as most offer credits that can be transferred to a degree program, say to become a registered respiratory therapist. Naturally location will be a factor, as well as whether the program length fits your ideal schedule and expectations.

Other important aspects of selecting a program is the kind of courses that the program has to offer and the scholarships and grants provided to the students. Choose a program that provides a strong foundation in the biological and physiological sciences yet fits your budget or offers assistance in this manner. Programs that provide a variety of internship opportunities are also very useful - a good internship and practical training looks great on the resume as graduates look for jobs and invaluable in the job itself.

How to Get into Certificate Programs for Respiratory Therapy

Certificate programs application requirements are less stringent than degree requirements and are therefore a bit more accessible. Most respiratory therapy certificate programs require students to complete a science or health prerequisite such as chemistry, psychology or biology for application along with a high school diploma or GED. Students who are interested in respiratory therapy may opt to undertake such coursework in high school. Students will also need an average GPA or approximately 2.5 or higher to be able to begin any program-specific coursework in the field.

The student will have to fill out an application form and pay the required application fees for their qualifications to be considered. Some tests may be required by competitive programs such as the Test of Essential Academic Skills or the Health Education Systems, Inc Exam (HESI exam). Other programs may also require drug tests to be eligible for admission.

Cost of a Respiratory Therapy Certificate Program

The average cost of a certificate program in respiratory therapy is $11,155 for a fifteen-month program. Cost of course depends on the institution, but note that public schools will cost much less than private institutions or degree programs. For example, at Florida State College, the average tuition for a program in respiratory care is $7,971 (though financial aid is available to those who qualify).

Some additional costs covering textbooks and equipment, drug tests and background checks may apply. Examination and further licensure fees may also be required.

Financial Aid and Scholarship Resources for Certificate Programs in Respiratory Therapy

To offset the cost of a certificate program, further financial aid and scholarships may be available to students. Programs that last longer than fifteen weeks are eligible for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). For shorter programs, the student may apply for a direct loan.

Individual schools and the government offer scholarships and grants for the study of respiratory care, so look out for these opportunities before choosing a program and before applying. The Morton B. Duggan, Jr. Memorial Education Recognition Award provides $1,000 by the American Respiratory Care Foundation for education in respiratory therapy. Other grants may be based on location or to encourage students from under-served communities to apply.

Continued Education After a Respiratory Therapy Certificate Program

Very often, a certified respiratory therapist opts for higher education to become a registered respiratory therapist, which means they'll have to pursue an associate's or bachelor's degree in respiratory therapy to qualify. As a registered respiratory therapist, you improve your scope in the job market as well as chances of success in the field and average salary for an entry-level position. All programs will include a clinical internship where students learn to apply the knowledge they learned in the classroom practically. A degree also offers specialization in a few different areas such as adult critical care, pediatric or neonatal critical care, sleep disorders, or pulmonary functioning.

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