Respiratory Therapists: How to Choose the Right Degree Advancement Program for You
As a respiratory therapist, you are on solid career ground. Respiratory therapy positions are expected to grow 23 percent between 2016 and 2026, faster than the average rate for all jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s a fantastic occupational outlook for a career that usually only requires an associate’s degree to get into.
Once they’ve been in the field a while, however, most RTs will start to wonder if they should go ahead and get that four-year respiratory therapy degree. The advantages of a bachelor’s degree in respiratory therapy are plentiful. Let’s look at those advantages and the screening criteria to use when selecting a degree advancement program that best suits your needs.
A bachelor’s degree gives your RT career a major boost
A bachelor’s degree in respiratory therapy (BSRT) gives you three distinct advantages:
1. Greater job security. It is increasingly common for employers to seek respiratory therapists with a baccalaureate degree, the BLS reports.
2. May soon be a requirement for RTs. The American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC) aspires for 80% of practicing respiratory therapists to have earned or to be actively working toward a bachelor’s degree by 2020. Learn more here.
3. Promotion and role change opportunities. Your advanced degree positions you to explore areas of work and responsibility that you couldn’t qualify for or consider previously. New skills and knowledge gained with a BSRT may find you pursuing possible interests in disease management, clinical specialties, research or education.
How do you choose an RT degree advancement program?
If you already have an associate’s degree in respiratory therapy and you want to move on to a bachelor’s, the next step is to analyze the programs available to you to find one that best suits your needs. Know your personal, financial and time requirements and limits on the front end of your education provider search. Then, screen programs and providers carefully for quality, fit and projected outcome.
Some important questions to consider:
- Do you need an online BSRT program? Online is ideal if you have the discipline for independent study, prefer to flex your study times, are more comfortable outside a classroom environment, have transportation issues or need to choose your own pace to complete your degree.
- Do you have time/availability constraints? If you are employed, would have a long commute to campus, or have time-locked family responsibilities, online studies can bring your education goals into manageable play.
- What kind of support does the bachelor’s program provide? Look for a program and institution that provides study groups and/or instructor support. Do instructors have real-life experience in the RT field? Independent study shouldn’t mean you have to go it alone.
- What are the admission requirements? Will prior credits transfer? What is the program length? These are first-layer questions. Match your education, skills, certifications/licensures and qualifications against program pre-requisites. A green light takes you to the next level of compatibility.
- Does the BSRT program curriculum meet your career goals? Is the curriculum directed primarily to management, or is it a mixture of management, clinical specialty and education? Make sure it’s a good fit for your career ambitions.
- Does the program require the registered RT credential prior to acceptance? Ask if the program needs you to hold an active Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) credential and licensure as a Respiratory Care Practitioner. Is your associate’s degree from a CoARC– or CAAHEP-accredited program? A reputable institution’s BSRT program will require these qualifiers.
- What is the cost of tuition? Are there ancillary costs? Get an accurate number that includes textbooks and any learning materials. Is there a Student Services department at the school? Are scholarships available, and what are the application criteria? You might also be eligible for grants or federal financial aid.
- Does your current employer have a tuition reimbursement program? Ask your human resources administrator about tuition reimbursement availability and eligibility requirements. Many employers invest in staff education and training to improve their services and better secure long-term work relationships.
A bachelor’s degree in respiratory care will look good on you
Advancing your RT degree is a short-term investment of time and sacrifice for a long-term impact on your career and lifestyle. Only you can weigh the time/cost factors against the potential lifetime rewards.
If it’s time to match your ambitions with a reputable, outcome-oriented school, San Joaquin Valley College welcomes your questions. We offer an online bachelor’s degree program in respiratory therapy that’s flexible, supportive and ideal for working RRTs. 30 years of successfully training respiratory therapists make SJVC an ideal partner for your career ambitions. Call 855-667-9557 or contact us online.