Top 10 Respiratory Therapy Programs

8 Min Read Published November 1, 2023
Best respiratory therapy programs

Image Source:  Business Journal Daily

Respiratory therapists (RTs) hold critical positions in the healthcare system. These allied professionals work alongside physicians and nurses in various patient settings, providing breathing assistance and monitoring. The patients they see may have chronic conditions such as cystic fibrosis, asthma, or critical illnesses.

Respiratory therapy is an exciting career choice, but choosing the best RT school for you requires time-consuming research. To help you along the way, we’ve compiled a list of the top-ranked respiratory therapist programs for 2024.

Top 10 Respiratory Therapy Programs

There are over 450 accredited respiratory therapy programs in the US, so choosing the best one for you can be challenging. We selected the ten best respiratory therapist schools based on academic quality, tuition, online learning availability, and more. View our ranking methodology here.

Our list includes associate and bachelor’s degree programs leading to entry into the profession, specialization, and degree advancement pathways. 

1. Youngstown State University – Youngstown, Ohio 

Youngstown State’s Respiratory Care Program offers a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree and a Master of Respiratory Care path. The university also has an accelerated respiratory therapy program, allowing students to earn their master's in one year after BS completion. 

Youngstown offers an online Bachelor of Science in Respiratory Care completion program. This path is for Certified Respiratory Therapists who want to build their skills and advance to clinical and leadership positions.

The bachelor’s program provides didactic and laboratory courses in the first two years and moves on to clinical settings in the junior year. Students gradually provide more hands-on therapies under the direction of faculty.

  • Tuition: $8,754 per year 
  • Program Length: Four years 
  • Accreditation: Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC)
  • Application Deadline: August 1
  • Contact Information: Dr. Kelly L. Colwell, Program Director 
  • Online Options Available? Yes - Online degree completion program

2. Northern Kentucky University – Highland Heights, Kentucky 

Northern Kentucky University offers an in-person, four-year Bachelor of Science in Respiratory Care degree. The school also has an online BS completion option for RRTs with associate degrees in respiratory care. Students can complete this 30-credit hour online program in just 12 months.

Conversely, the in-person BS takes four years to complete. It gives students a solid theoretical and practical foundation and the skills necessary to become successful RTs. 

The BS path provides students with didactic learning and hands-on training in the school's state-of-the-art respiratory lab. They also get hands-on experience at various clinical sites in the Cincinnati area.

  • Tuition: $425 per credit hour | $5,104 per semester 
  • Program Length: Four years 
  • Accreditation: CoARC
  • Application Deadline: January 13
  • Contact Information: Michelle Abreu, Director 
  • Online Options Available? Yes - Online degree completion program

3. Texas State University – Round Rock, Texas 

Texas State offers a four-year BS in Respiratory Care (BSRC) and a Master of Science (MS) in Respiratory Care program. It also has an RRT to BSRC online completion program that students can complete in as little as one year.

TSU hosts the largest Bachelor of Science in Respiratory Care program in the United States. It has been graduating qualified professionals since 1972 and recently received the Distinguished Respiratory Therapist Credentialing Success Award. 

The program educates students in various respiratory specialty areas, including neonatal intensive care, sleep laboratory, and surgical units. Additionally, the bachelor’s degree program has a 93% job placement rate for its graduates.

  • Tuition: $307.36 per credit 
  • Program Length: Four years 
  • Accreditation: CoARC 
  • Application Deadline: May 1
  • Contact Information: (512) 716-2682 
  • Online Options Available? Yes
    • 100% online degree completion program
    • Hybrid online master’s program

4. Gwynedd Mercy University – Gwynedd Valley, Pennsylvania 

Gwynedd Mercy offers both an Associate of Science degree and a Bachelor of Health Science degree. The bachelor's path serves as a degree completion program for RTs with an associate's degree.

This program consistently receives the Distinguished RRT Credential Success Award for its 100% pass rate on CRT and RRT exams. All graduates from Gwynedd Mercy's respiratory therapist programs achieve both credentials.

  • Tuition: $38,510 per year 
  • Program Length: 
    • AS: 3 years
    • BS: 4 years
  • Accreditation: CoARC 
  • Application Deadline: Rolling 
  • Contact Information: William Solly, Program Coordinator
  • Online Options Available? No 

5. Boise State University – Boise, Idaho 

Boise State University’s respiratory care program features small class sizes and hands-on learning experiences. The university also boasts an excellent placement rate for its students after graduation. It offers three respiratory therapist programs; An on-campus BSRC, an online RRT to BS, and an online master's in respiratory care focused on educational leadership.

  • Tuition: $8,365 per year 
  • Program Length: Four years 
  • Accreditation: CoARC 
  • Application Deadline: May 1
  • Contact Information: 
  • Online Options Available? Yes
    • Online RRT to BS
    • Online MS in Respiratory Care

6. Georgia State University – Atlanta, Georgia 

Through its association with Perimeter College, Georgia State offers the first two years of four-year allied health degrees. Students earn a Respiratory Therapy Pathway Associate of Science Degree at the end of the two-year program.

GSU also offers bachelor's and master's-level respiratory therapy programs. These programs include an integrated baccalaureate to MS in Respiratory Care pathway.

The school boasts a decade-long average pass rate of 100% for the RRT and CRT exams. Upon completing all prerequisites, the BS program is five semesters long and encompasses 66 hours.

  • Tuition: 
    • AS: $95 per credit hour
    • BS: $298.27 per credit hour 
  • Program Length: Four years 
  • Accreditation: CoARC
  • Application Deadline:
    • Early acceptance: March 1
    • Standard acceptance: May 17th
  • Contact Information: Josh Roach
  • Online Options Available? Yes - 100% online MS option

7. Loma Linda University – Loma Linda, California 

The School of Allied Health Professions at Loma Linda University offers three different respiratory care programs:

  • Entry-Level Bachelor of Science in Respiratory Care
  • Post-Professional Bachelor of Science in Respiratory Care
  • Master of Science in Respiratory Care

The BSRC option prepares students to sit for the RRT exam. The post-professional path is for practicing respiratory therapists with AS degrees. It's a one-year full-time respiratory therapy program that culminates in a BSRC.

The MSRC program is a one-year program focused on cardiopulmonary sciences that students can attend online and in person. 

Additionally, Loma Linda University offers a polysomnography certificate for those interested in sleep medicine. The program includes didactic theory and clinical application taught in person and online.

  • Tuition: 
    • First year: $32,436 
    • Second year: $37,944
  • Program Length: Two years after completion of required prerequisites
  • Accreditation: CoARC
  • Application Deadline: September 29
  • Contact Information: 
  • Online Options Available? Yes
    • Post-Professional program
    • Master of Science program

8. Ohio State University – Columbus, Ohio 

Ohio State University established its respiratory therapy program in 1971. The undergraduate program results in a Bachelor of Science in Respiratory Care degree. In addition, around 30% of OSU respiratory care graduates pursue graduate or professional degrees.

The program boasts a low student-to-faculty ratio and small class sizes where students learn to work with patients of all ages. Students work in various settings, including intensive care units, emergency departments, diagnostic laboratories, clinics, and even home settings.

Additionally, OSU's Master of Respiratory Therapy program was the first advanced practice clinical master's degree for respiratory care in the country. Graduates of the MRT program are qualified to take on independent supervised practice positions with more responsibility.

  • Tuition: $5,018.50 per semester 
  • Program Length: Four years
  • Accreditation: CoARC
  • Application Deadline: January 31 – students admitted at the sophomore level
  • Contact Information: Georgianna Sergakis, Program Director 
  • Online Options Available? Yes

9. University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences – Little Rock, Arkansas

The University of Arkansas offers several respiratory care programs, including a traditional BSRC and a degree completion path for practicing RTs. 

The school offers its traditional BS through a five-semester full-time program or a part-time eight-semester cohort. To graduate, students fulfill 58 semester credits of prerequisite coursework followed by 62 credits in the respiratory care curriculum. Graduates are eligible to earn both the CRT credential and the RRT credential.

The Associate of Science-to-Bachelor of Science program is 100% online and allows students to choose a professional specialization. The full-time cohort begins with the summer term, and the part-time cohort begins each fall.

  • Tuition: $3,900 per year 
  • Program Length: Two years following completion of prerequisites 
  • Accreditation: CoARC
  • Application Deadline: May 1st 
  • Contact Information: 
  • Online Options Available? Yes - 100% online AS to BS program

10. University of Missouri - Columbia – Columbia, Missouri 

The University of Missouri’s School of Health Professions offers three respiratory therapist programs. RT students with no prior education or experience can pursue a Bachelor of Health Science in Clinical and Diagnostic Sciences with an emphasis on respiratory therapy. After two years of prerequisite coursework and a two-year professional phase, graduates can sit for the national board exams. 

UMC also offers an online degree completion program for those holding an RRT credential and an Associate degree. Students may also earn an online master's degree at UMC.

  • Tuition: $335.80 per credit hour 
  • Program Length: Two years following completion of two years of prerequisites
  • Accreditation: CoARC
  • Application Deadline: February 1
  • Contact Information: Jennifer Keely, Program Director 
  • Online Options Available? Yes

Respiratory Therapist Program Requirements

You'll need at least an associate degree from an accredited respiratory therapy program to become an RT. However, many employers favor more advanced degrees, so attending a bachelor's RT program or higher may give you a professional advantage.

Associate's and bachelor's RT programs prepare graduates to earn a respiratory therapy certification from the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC). The NBRC offers two RT credentials- Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) and Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT).

Currently, all states require CRT certification. However, many are beginning to adopt a standard requiring RRT certification.

 FAQs About Respiratory Therapist Programs

  • How long is respiratory therapist school?

    • Respiratory school length depends on which degree you pursue. An associate degree path takes two years, while a bachelor’s degree takes four. Graduate-level RT coursework may take an additional two years or more.
  • What education does a respiratory therapist have?

    • You can become a respiratory therapist with an associate degree. However, many RTs pursue bachelor’s degrees, and higher education may make them more professionally competitive.
  • Is respiratory therapy harder than nursing?  

    • Both programs are challenging and require diligence and commitment. However, many say that the education needed to become a nurse is more difficult.
  • Is a respiratory therapist higher than a nurse? 

    • A respiratory therapist is an allied health care professional. Their role is entirely different from that of a nurse. Though they collaborate with nurses and physicians, they generally report to a respiratory therapy manager or director.
  • What is the next step after respiratory therapist school?  

    • After completing your program, you must earn RT credentials. To become a certified respiratory therapist, you must get a low cut score on the Therapist Multiple Choice (TMC) exam. The registered respiratory therapist certification requires a high-cut TMC score and passing the Clinical Simulation Exam.
Terri Heimann Oppenheimer
Terri Heimann Oppenheimer Contributor

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer is a freelance writer and editor who is driven by details. She loves to dive into research, ensuring that the information she provides educates, engages and illuminates. Before starting her own business she spent years working in advertising and raising three kids. Today she lives in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, where her she and her husband enjoy travel, the Jersey Shore, and spoiling their grandchildren.

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