10 Best Online Associates in Respiratory Therapist Schools in 2024

Respiratory therapy is the study of treating lung or breathing problems. This kind of therapy is used to treat those with tracheostomy tubes, which are used to help people breathe without using their nose or mouth, as well as those who cannot breathe on their own and use a ventilator.

There are several causes of lung or respiratory problems. These include:

  • Asthma
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease)
  • Bronchitis
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Chronic respiratory diseases
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Emphysema
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Spinal Muscular dystrophy
  • Being born prematurely before lungs have fully developed
  • Accidents that cause a person to have difficulty breathing on their own.

Because of the intricacy of respiratory therapy, this type of treatment has become an essential part of medicine. This type of therapy is available in clinics, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities that provide relief for respiratory problems.

What Is Respiratory Therapy?

Respiratory therapy is the specialization of caring for treating lung and respiratory issues. Respiratory therapy also helps improve breathing for those with chronic or temporary respiratory conditions.

Newborn babies who were born prematurely, for example, may need this kind of therapy to ensure they are able to survive. This may involve breathing exercises, assessments, and progress monitoring.

Respiratory Therapist Job Outlook

According to the US Labor Statistics Bureau, employment of respiratory therapists is estimated to grow by 13% between 2022 and 2032, which is about 8,600 job openings every year on average.

Respiratory therapists, as experts in health and human services, make $74,310 annually working in clinics, nursing homes, sleep labs, hospitals, nursing homes, offices, and rehabilitation centers, to name a few.  

The highest number of employed respiratory therapists work in general medical and surgical hospitals. Meanwhile, the number one paying industry for a respiratory therapy career is the companies and enterprises management sector, offering an annual mean wage of $106,780.

States with the highest employment levels of registered respiratory therapists for RTs include California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Ohio. As for the top-paying states, these include California, New York, Alaska, the District of Columbia, and Washington.


This article is aimed at assisting students in choosing the best school that offers associate’s degrees in Respiratory Therapy. We have searched the country’s most remarkable colleges and universities to ensure we are able to list the top-rated online Respiratory Therapy programs from the nation’s leading schools.

We used the following factors to pick each of the online respiratory therapist trade schools listed below:

  • Available online or through a hybrid format so working students can earn a degree while also fulfilling other responsibilities,
  • Features associate degree courses that prepare students to become certified respiratory therapists following a degree completion program or a Bachelor’s in Respiratory Therapy program,
  • Features a generous transfer credit policy to allow students with some credits earned previously through another college or experiential learning to reduce the overall cost of tuition further,
  • Provides additional support services, such as one-to-one mentoring, job placement, career counseling, and online library services, to help make university life easier for students.
  • Offers Federal Student Aid, including scholarships, grants, and loans from private and public organizations to ensure that the costs are kept to a minimum for all students of an online Respiratory Therapy program,
  • Received proper accreditation from reputable colleges and schools commission accrediting bodies, including the CoARC or Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care, to prove that it complies with rigorous standards.

Top 10 Online Associate’s in Respiratory Therapy Schools

Hawkeye Community College

Hawkeye Community College
  • Location: Waterloo, Iowa
  • Online Delivery Method: Hybrid/Campus + Online
  • Time It Takes to Complete: 2 years
  • Completion Rate: undisclosed
  • Types of Aid: Grants and Scholarships, Employee Tuition Assistance Programs, Military Education Benefits, Private Student Loans, Federal Direct Student Loans, Federal Direct Parent PLUS Loans

Hawkeye Community College’s Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Respiratory Care program prepares students to identify and address respiratory disorders in patients of all ages. This will train them to work with newborns who have a rough start in life, adults with lung and heart complications, and children suffering from trauma and asthma.

Through this associate’s in applied science degree program, students will develop the competencies to perform the following:

  • Blood draws
  • Sleep studies
  • Pulmonary function tests
  • Patient assessments
  • Airway care
  • Lung clearance techniques
  • Breathing treatments
  • Breathing tube insertion
  • Electrocardiograms
  • Medical record documentation
  • Ventilator management

Online Respiratory Therapy degree students will have hands-on learning opportunities. They get to train in the state-of-the-art simulation lab at Van Gerpen Patient Simulator Laboratory using full-sized manikins and simulators to give them a real-world experience of patient scenarios and hospital settings in a controlled environment. They can also gain 800 hours of clinical work experience to develop the necessary skills to succeed in this field.

Program courses for Hawkeye Community College’s AAS in Respiratory Care include:

  • Airway Maintenance Procedures
  • Cardiopulmonary Therapeutics
  • Neonatal/Pediatric Respiratory Therapy
  • Respiratory Care Applications
  • Introduction to Ventilator Support

After completing the associate’s program, graduates may proceed with a Respiratory Therapy bachelor’s degree and be eligible to sit for the Respiratory Therapy State Licensure, a requirement to practice in any state. They will also be able to earn certifications in ACLS or Advanced Cardiac Life Support, Basic Life Support (BLS), Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP), and Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS).

University of Saint Francis

  • Location: Fort Wayne, Indiana
  • Online Delivery Method: Hybrid/Online Courses + On-Site Labs + Clinicals
  • Time It Takes to Complete: 18 months
  • Completion Rate: undisclosed
  • Types of Aid: Grants, Scholarships, Loans, Student Employment, and Veteran Benefits

The University of Saint Francis offers the hybrid Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Respiratory Therapy program that blends the convenience of asynchronous classes and the power of hands-on learning experiences. This associate’s degree is also designed for practicing respiratory therapists to continue their education with courses in clinical specialties, education, leadership, and research.

USF offers an education that is rooted in Franciscan values. It uses a liberal arts education approach to a premier health sciences education to develop students into compassionate, ethical, and well-rounded professionals who are passionate about serving others.

Through this program, students will gain a strong foundation in anatomy, cardiopulmonary, and medical terminologies, as well as hone their patient care and technical skills in using respiratory care diagnostic and treatment devices.

Respiratory Therapy students at USF will be able to put their learning into practice in professional environments. They will have opportunities to complete their skills training at on-campus labs and participate in clinical rotations with partner sites around the region, including Airway Oxygen, Comer Children’s Hospital, Franciscan Health – Dyer, Pillar Point, and Parkview Whitley Hospital.

This AAS RT program is CoARC-accredited and features courses that will prepare students for the Certified Respiratory Therapist examination by the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC). Students pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Respiratory Therapy must first complete this entry-to-practice AAS degree.

Graduates may also continue their education and gain more opportunities by earning additional credits or getting certifications in specialty areas, including asthma education, adult critical care specialist, pulmonary function technology, and sleep disorders specialist.

Seminole State College of Florida

  • Location: Sanford, Florida
  • Online Delivery Method: Online + In-person
  • Time It Takes to Complete: 5 terms/2.5 years
  • Completion Rate: undisclosed
  • Types of Aid: Grants, Loans, Federal Work-Study Programs, and Scholarships

Seminole State College of Florida offers the Associate in Science (AS) in Respiratory Care program that trains students to help patients breathe easier. This program provides learners with a background in a broad range of basic sciences and advanced courses in critical care medicine, cardiopulmonary physiology, and pediatrics.

At Seminole State College, classes are often made of 30 or fewer students to ensure every learner gets enough attention and guidance from their instructors.

This AS in Respiratory Care program will shape graduates with psychomotor skills, affective learning domains or respiratory care practice, and demonstrated competence in cognitive knowledge. It will teach students to provide prescribed care and life support to those with cardiopulmonary problems.

Also, they will know how to insert and maintain artificial airways, supervise the management of critically ill patients who require artificial life support and administer medical gases, bronchial hygiene therapy, and aerosolized drugs.

Featured courses for this AS in Respiratory Care program:

  • Clinical Care Techniques
  • Cardiopulmonary Physiology
  • Principles of Respiratory Care
  • Pediatric Respiratory Care
  • Intro to Pharmacology

Respiratory Therapy students can earn degree credits applicable to a bachelor’s degree at Seminole State College. Graduates also meet the clinical and educational requirements for licensing by the NBRC or National Board of Respiratory Care.

Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences

Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences
  • Location: Lancaster, Pennsylvania
  • Online Delivery Method: Online + In-person
  • Time It Takes to Complete: 2 years, six semesters
  • Completion Rate: undisclosed
  • Types of Aid: Grants, Loans, and Scholarships

Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences offers an Associate in Applied Science in Respiratory Care to set the foundation for students who are looking to have a successful career in a field that’s focused on advanced pulmonary care. This online associate’s degree will train students to work alongside other healthcare professionals to assess, diagnose, and treat various lung problems.

This AAS in Respiratory Care degree from Pennsylvania College is an award-winning program that has some of the most experienced faculty in various clinical environments. It is a Co-ARC-accredited program that utilizes an outcomes-based process, which are performance indicators that show the extent to which the academic goals of the program are achieved.

To gain hands-on experience, students get to participate in real scenarios with simulated patients at the school’s newest and most advanced clinical simulation lab.

Course requirements for Pennsylvania College’s Respiratory Care associate’s degree include:

  • Respiratory Care Procedures
  • Methods of Patient Care
  • General Psychology
  • Ethical and Legal Dimensions in the Health Sciences
  • Introduction to Sociology

Saint Paul College

Saint Paul College
  • Location: Saint Paul, Minnesota
  • Online Delivery Method: Hybrid, Online, and In-Person
  • Time It Takes to Complete: 2 years, five semesters
  • Completion Rate: undisclosed
  • Types of Aid: Grants, Loans, College Work-Study Program

Saint Paul College, a technical and community college in Minnesota, offers an Associate of Applied Science in Respiratory Therapy program to train future practitioners in addressing pulmonary and cardiac issues. They will also be taught to administer medical gas therapy, perform diagnostic tests, implement care for acute and chronically ill patients, and access and record patient emulations.

This program will teach students about patient assessment, mechanical ventilation and therapeutic procedures, and disease management. They will also learn how to use the latest industry software and instruments and perform special diagnostic procedures and cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Core courses for the AAS in Respiratory Care include:

  • Respiratory Care Essentials
  • Respiratory Care Pharmacology
  • Mechanical Ventilation
  • Neonatal/Pediatric Respiratory Care
  • Survey of Human Disease

At Saint Paul College, students are taught by professors who are top-notch in their field. They get to have practical experience through clinical training at a local healthcare facility. They also get to use state-of-the-art equipment to develop their technical skills. Because of this, graduates of this program will be able to meet the educational requirements for the professional licensure examination in Minnesota.

American Career College

  • Location: Los Angeles, Ontario, and Orange County, California
  • Online Delivery Method: Online + In-person
  • Time It Takes to Complete: 20 months
  • Completion Rate: undisclosed
  • Types of Aid: Cal Grant Program, Chafee Grant Program, Federal Pell Grant, Federal Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant, FSEOG or Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, Federal Work-Study Program, William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, Subsidized Loan, Unsubsidized Loan, Direct Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students (PLUS), Veterans’ Education Benefits, Private Loans, and American Career College Scholarships and Grants

American Career College offers an Associate of Occupational Science in Respiratory Therapy that will prepare students to assess, care, and treat individuals with breathing problems. This will train students for vital roles in patient care, working with patients to diagnose and treat respiratory problems. This means that students will be equipped to administer life-saving methods to help improve people’s lives.

Through this Respiratory Therapy program, learners will know how to properly monitor vital signs by observing patients’ responses and communicating changes to physicians. They will know how to manage equipment and operate and teach people to use various medical devices. On top of that, they will learn to provide emergency care, which includes conducting diagnostic tests and examinations.

This associate’s degree in Respiratory Therapy is a combination of classroom, clinical studies, and laboratory, allowing students to develop the essential skills. These include providing emergency care, interviewing patients, performing limited physical examinations, and conducting diagnostic tests.

Core courses for this associate’s degree in Respiratory Therapy include:

  • Introduction to Respiratory Science
  • Respiratory Procedures
  • Adult Cardiopulmonary Pathophysiology
  • Cardiopulmonary Diagnostic Testing and Pulmonary Rehabilitation
  • Neonatal/Pediatric Cardiopulmonary Pathophysiology

Southern Maine Community College

Southern Maine Community College
  • Location: South Portland and Brunswick, Maine
  • Online Delivery Method:
  • Time It Takes to Complete: 5 semesters
  • Completion Rate: undisclosed
  • Types of Aid: Basic Financial Aid Requirements, Grants, Loans, Disbursement of Financial Aid Funds, Student Loan Repayment, Student Employment, and Scholarships

Course requirements for this online associate’s program include:

  • Respiratory Therapy Patient Care
  • Gas, Humidity, and Aerosol Therapy
  • Intro to Mechanical Ventilation
  • Cardiopulmonary Renal Anatomy & Physiology
  • Cardiovascular Assessment

SMCC offers an Associate Degree in Respiratory Therapy that’s accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (Co-ARC). Students will be trained to be healthcare professionals who can diagnose and treat people with breathing problems. They will learn about treating, evaluating, diagnosing, managing, and preventing cardiopulmonary problems.

More importantly, they will know how to treat and work with patients of all ages, including newborns, children, adults, and seniors.

Upon completion of the Respiratory Care program at SMCC, students should be able to demonstrate behaviors and attitudes that are consistent with a registered respiratory therapist. They will be able to display psychomotor skills in a clinical setting. They will also be able to demonstrate cognitive behavior in a clinical setting.

SMCC’s Associate in Respiratory Therapy graduates will be eligible to sit for the state of Maine’s licensure requirements. Those who are looking to seek licensure outside of the state may contact the licensing agency to ensure they will be able to do so.

Midlands Technical College

  • Location: Columbia, South Carolina
  • Online Delivery Method: 100% Online + In-person
  • Time It Takes to Complete: 2 years, six semesters
  • Completion Rate: undisclosed
  • Types of Aid: Palmetto Fellows Scholarship, SC National Guard College Assistance Program, South Carolina LIFE Scholarship, South Carolina Lottery Tuition Assistance Program, South Carolina Workforce & Industrial Needs Scholarship, The Fairfield Promise Program, and Other Scholarships, Grants, Federal Work-Study Program, and Loans

MTC offers an Associate Degree in Respiratory Care that trains students to work efficiently with highly technical life-support teams, rehabilitation specialists, patient educators, and diagnostic labs. This program provides learners with clinical experiences to develop their competencies in the prevention, rehabilitation, and treatment of patients who are suffering from breathing problems and traumas.

Respiratory Care students are exposed to various learning experiences in both classrooms and pre-clinical laboratories on the Airport Campus in the Academic Center and a simulation lab in Lexington Hall. Internships and externships are arranged with local hospitals and other healthcare facilities affiliated with MTC.

Here are some of the course offerings for MTC’s associate in Respiratory Care:

  • Introduction to Respiratory Care
  • Clinical Applications
  • Cardiopulmonary Science
  • Respiratory Therapeutics
  • Integrated Science

Graduates of this program will be eligible to take the Therapist Multiple-Choice Examination and the Clinical Simulation Examination (CSE) by the National Board of Respiratory Care (NBRC).

Valencia College

Valencia College
  • Location: Orlando, Florida
  • Online Delivery Method: Online + In-person
  • Time It Takes to Complete: 2 years
  • Completion Rate: undisclosed
  • Types of Aid: Grants, Scholarships, Federal Direct Loan Programs, and Work-Study Programs

The Associate in Science (AS) in Respiratory Care program at Valencia College has been granted full accreditation since 1972. It started as a hospital-based program at Orange Memorial Hospital in 1968. Today, it is one of the longest-running programs in the country that offers clinical practice for its students at some of the biggest facilities in the region.

This program prepares students for a specialized role as a respiratory therapist. This trains students to assist physicians in treating patients who are suffering from lung or heart problems, such as emphysema and asthma. Moreover, it provides them with a strong foundation in therapeutic techniques, as well as practical experience at some of the major medical centers in the area.

Through this program’s combined educational and hands-on experience, learners will be able to apply their classroom knowledge in real-life situations. They will be able to assist in diagnosing and treating persons with acute and chronic cardiopulmonary diseases.

They will also know how to assist in intensive care, especially when it comes to operating mechanical ventilators. They will also be taught about balloon pump management and bedside surgical procedures in the operating room.

Respiratory therapy practitioners will be adept in treating patients with pulmonary illnesses, including premature infants with underdeveloped lungs and COPD patients with chronic lung conditions. This can lead practitioners to go into various specializations, including pulmonary rehabilitation, polysomnography, pulmonary function testing, management, and education.

Upon graduation, students will be eligible to take the licensure examination through the National Board for Respiratory Care. Graduates may also choose to pursue a bachelor’s degree to enhance their skills and advance in their careers.

Kent State University

  • Location: Kent, Ohio
  • Online Delivery Method: Mostly online
  • Time It Takes to Complete: 2 years
  • Completion Rate: undisclosed
  • Types of Aid: FSEOG or Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, Federal Nursing Loan, Federal Work-Study, Scholarships, Grants, Loans, and Federal Work-Study Programs

Students of the Associate of Applied Science in Respiratory Therapy at Kent State University gain the skills to assess, treat, and care for persons with breathing and cardiopulmonary problems. Through this program, learners will practice under the direction of a physician, teaching them to take full responsibility for all respiratory care treatments and diagnostic procedures.

Respiratory Therapy practitioners also provide complex therapy that requires independent judgment, including caring for patients on life support in intensive care units. This cohort-based major provides opportunities and access to students with diverse backgrounds. Some of the pre-admission requirements for this associate’s degree include the following:

  • Completion of a high school diploma or a passing GED score
  • A minimum 2.0 grade in required courses
  • A minimum cumulative GPA of 2.70
  • Completion of Anatomy and Physiology I
  • Completion of at least 4 hours of shadowing with a respiratory therapist

Upon acceptance to the program, students need to take each semester consecutively for two years due to the course offerings. In the event that a student fails a class, they may be readmitted to the program only once the next year at the discretion of the program director.

Major requirements for KSU’s Respiratory Therapy associate program include:

  • Introduction to Respiratory Therapy
  • Blood Gas Analysis
  • Advanced Diagnostics
  • Pulmonary Rehabilitation and Continuing Care
  • Perinatal and Pediatric Respiratory Therapy

Types of Respiratory Therapy

Prospective students must understand that Respiratory Therapy online programs lead to specific jobs based on their specialization:

Long-term care

This is for older individuals who are suffering from chronic lung disorders and, thus, need the long-term support offered by respiratory therapy.


This involves monitoring newborn babies, especially premature babies, with breathing problems or born with a pulmonary condition.

Neonatal-pediatrics respiratory therapy can also help toddlers and older children who may be living with chronic lung issues, including asthma and cystic fibrosis.

Pulmonary rehabilitation

Therapy can assist people coping with asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and pulmonary fibrosis symptoms. Aside from treatment, a respiratory therapist can educate and promote exercise programs to make it easier for patients with chronic lung diseases to breathe more easily and enhance their quality of life.

Critical care

Critical care respiratory therapy involves treating patients in the emergency room or those who are recovering from lung failure or heart surgery. This often involves complicated surgical procedures to ensure the lungs function during and after the surgery.


Polysomnography is the study of sleep and is used to diagnose sleep disorders. While lung problems and sleep disorders are unrelated, a respiratory therapist may be necessary when testing and providing relief.

Online Respiratory Therapist Trade Schools - fact

Roles and Responsibilities of Respiratory Therapists

The main responsibility of respiratory therapists is to provide care and support for those suffering from breathing problems that may be due to a chronic condition like asthma. They use scientific knowledge and theory to solve respiratory problems, as well as assume responsibility for all respiratory care modalities, which include supervising certified respiratory therapist functions.

These are the things that respiratory therapists need to do in a day:

  • Check all pulmonary functions in every patient who comes to them.
  • Request for equipment repairs whenever necessary.
  • Explain healthcare treatment procedures to gain patient’s trust and cooperation.
  • Relay blood analysis results to a physician.
  • Make emergency visits to deal with equipment problems when needed.
  • Maintain patient charts that contain their names and therapy information.
  • Measure arterial blood gases and lung capacity and review other important information that may be used to assess a patient’s condition.
  • Inspect, test, maintain, and clean respiratory therapy equipment so it functions efficiently and safely.
  • Follow specific treatment parameters.
  • Provide emergency care, such as artificial respiration, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or external cardiac massage.
  • Monitor the patient’s physiological responses to therapy, including vital signs, blood chemistry, changes in lung functions, and arterial blood gases, and consult with other medical professionals if there are any adverse reactions.
  • Set up and operate advanced cardiac life support, mechanical ventilators, aerosol generators, environmental control systems, therapeutic gas administration apparatus, and other devices.
  • Work with new and seasoned individuals in the nursing and health professions and assist with medical procedures to manage patient care.
  • Protect patients and other healthcare employees by following strict protocols.
  • Complete discharge planning by working with other medical professionals.
  • Train patients on the proper administration of treatment and use of equipment on their own.

Is a Bachelor’s Degree Necessary for Respiratory Therapists?

An online Associate’s in Respiratory Therapy education is an excellent first step for those who are looking to have a fulfilling career as a respiratory therapist. However, the AARC, or American Association for Respiratory Care has called for respiratory therapists to hold or work toward a bachelor’s degree. This is to meet the growing demands of the industry, especially when it comes to protocol-driven care and disease management.

According to the US Labor Statistics data, today’s employers may prefer that applicants possess a bachelor’s degree. This is because a Respiratory Therapy online program focuses on courses that prepare students for challenging careers as respiratory therapists, which include human anatomy, diagnostic procedures and tests, and clinical experience in treating patients under the supervision of practitioners.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the credentials needed to become a Respiratory Therapist?

After completing an associate’s degree in Respiratory Therapy, the minimum educational requirement, graduates must take and pass the Therapist Multiple-Choice (TMC) Examination to work as a respiratory therapist.

If an examinee gets a low-cut score, they will earn the Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) credential. If they get a high-cut score, they will have the CRT credential and be eligible for the Clinical Simulation Examination (CSE), if they are eligible.

If an examinee is eligible for the CSE and passes the exam, they will earn the RRT credential, which is the nationally recognized standard of excellence for respiratory care practitioners.

Aside from hospitals, clinics, and rehabilitation centers, where can graduates with a Respiratory Therapy degree work?

Respiratory therapists may choose to work in in-home care and do at-home care for patients with lung and heart problems. They will be responsible for training patients and their families in using breathing equipment and machines.

RTs may be employed in sleep disorder centers to diagnose and prepare treatment plans for patients with sleep disorders. They will also be tasked to run in-lab sleep studies and work with their patients to treat pulmonary disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea.

What are the ideal skills for Respiratory Therapists?

Respiratory therapists, as part of a medical team, need to possess a unique skill set that will allow them to multitask and, at the same time, focus on their patients’ needs and conditions.

Some of the most valuable skills that RTs need to have are:

  • Detail oriented
  • Verbal communication
  • Compassion
  • Physiological knowledge
  • Works well with a team of medical professionals
  • Good judgment
  • Quick decision-making ability
  • Time management
  • Calm bedside manner
  • Deep understanding of infectious control
  • Patience
  • Ability to train and teach patients

For more valuable information, see the following: