Online Respiratory Therapy Degree Programs
Respiratory therapy refers to the evaluation and treatment of patients with breathing or lung disorders. Respiratory therapy is practiced on patients of all ages with a wide array of disorders. This can include premature babies born with lungs that are not fully developed or elderly people who suffer from various lung and heart conditions. Breathing difficulty can be the result of chronic conditions such as asthma and emphysema, infections such as pneumonia or bronchitis, or smoke or chemical inhalation. In cases of drowning, heart attack, stroke, or shock, breathing can cease all together. In all cases, respiratory therapists play a critical role by ensuring patients are maintaining oxygen levels sufficient to prevent further damage. Respiratory therapists usually work under the direction of a physician, and are responsible for a wide range of therapeutic treatments and diagnostic procedures.
Respiratory Therapy Education
An associate's degree is sufficient to become a licensed respiratory therapist, but career advancement may be limited if you don't have a bachelor's or master's degree. The course load is very heavy on the sciences, including courses in human anatomy and physiology, pathophysiology, chemistry, physics, microbiology, and pharmacology. Other course work will focus on mathematics, diagnostic procedures, and patient assessment. Many colleges, vocational schools and medical schools offer degree programs in respiratory therapy. Training is also available through the Armed Forces and via online degree programs.
All states except Hawaii and Alaska also require respiratory therapists be licensed, a process that includes graduating from an accredited respiratory therapy program and passing a licensing exam. An advanced certification is also available for graduates of advanced programs who pass two additional licensing exams. The advanced certification is generally required to be eligible for supervisory positions or intensive care specialties.
Career Prospects for Respiratory Therapists
The vast majority (80 percent) of respiratory therapists work in hospitals. Because hospitals operate twenty-four hours a day, respiratory therapists often enjoy greater scheduling flexibility, making it a good option for those who have family or other obligations during typical daytime work hours. The downside of this is that a standard nine-to-five, Monday through Friday work week is often not an option.
Career prospects in respiratory therapy are quite favorable, with a job market that it is expected to grow considerably faster than the job market overall. This growth will primarily be the result of a rapidly increasing middle-aged and elderly population in the United States, which will result in an increase in cardio-pulmonary disease overall. Another contributor is improved neo-natal care. The result is an especially fertile job market for respiratory therapists with cardiopulmonary (heart-lung) skills or experience working with infants.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the median average annual salary for respiratory therapists was $47,000 in 2006, the most recent year for which data is available.
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