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Why Earn a Bachelor’s in Respiratory Care

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the vital role respiratory care plays in the healthcare system. Effective respiratory care can save the lives of patients with severe breathing and lung illnesses. It is also essential for the continued treatment of people with chronic respiratory problems.

For working, credentialed respiratory care professionals, Northern Kentucky University (NKU) offers an online Bachelor of Science in Respiratory Care (BSRC) degree completion program — one of fewer than 20 accredited bachelor’s-level degree programs of its kind in the United States. Earning such a degree can open various career advancement opportunities for the goal-oriented respiratory therapist (RT).

What Is Required to Become a Respiratory Therapist?

Licensure is required for respiratory therapists in all states except for Alaska. Most states require professionals to have passed a state or professional certification exam for licensure.

The Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) credential and the Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) credential, both offered by the National Board for Respiratory Care, are the leading professional certifications. Completing a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (such as NKU’s) is necessary for these certifications.

NKU’s online B.S. in Respiratory Care degree completion program allows students serving as credentialed respiratory care professionals to become bachelor’s-prepared therapists.

Why Earn a Bachelor’s if I Am Already an RRT with an Associate’s Degree?

Although an associate degree in respiratory care is the minimum educational requirement for certification, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states, “employers may prefer applicants who have a bachelor’s degree.”

The shift towards higher education attainment reflects current initiatives of professional associations. In 2015, the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC) began one such initiative, calling for “80 percent of respiratory therapists to either have or be working toward a bachelor’s degree by 2020.”

In describing why this goal is important, former AARC president Brian Walsh stated that “baccalaureate-prepared RTs get paid more…[and] have more advanced credentials…[and] have a higher level of minimum competency.” Current AARC president Karen Schell also noted that “increasing the education of our therapists is necessary to keep up with the advancements in health care.”

Essentially, raising the bar for education in the healthcare field advances the industry, professionals’ competencies and opportunities and patient quality of care.

Uniquely, NKU’s online bachelor’s degree completion program is designed for working RRTs who already have their associate degrees. By transferring previous credits, students can complete their bachelor’s in as few as 12 months. With the fully online program, students can continue working, gaining valuable experience and earning an income while earning their BSRC.

What Will I Learn in NKU’s Online BSRC?

The principal, intrinsic benefit of earning a bachelor’s in respiratory care is developing the professional skills and attributes that can maximize one’s effectiveness in various roles within the healthcare field.

NKU’s online Bachelor of Science in Respiratory Care degree completion program helps students achieve their goals through coursework that goes far beyond typical associate-level programs. In-depth studies cover subjects of relevance for today’s working RRTs, including topics like:

  • Advanced critical care
  • Health informatics
  • Advanced pathophysiology
  • Statistical analysis
  • Research methods
  • Mentorship and teaching skills
  • Leadership and management

These studies provide students with the technical skills needed to navigate today’s healthcare technology systems and the advanced professional skills required to excel in modern respiratory care. The study of management and teaching skills helps students advance into mentorship and leadership positions.

The knowledge and educational credentials gained from NKU’s online BSRC completion program can also help students pursue specialized certification in the field and graduate degrees in respiratory care, enabling them to instruct others in academic settings.

Respiratory care is critical in modern-day healthcare. Reflecting this, BLS reports an impressive 19% projected job growth for RTs between 2019 and 2029. A bachelor’s in the field can help improve professional opportunities leading to supervisory roles, education coordinator positions, administrative roles and even successful home care entrepreneurial pursuits. With such clear benefits, earning an online BSRC from NKU can be a smart career move for RTs today.

Learn more about Northern Kentucky University’s Bachelor of Science in Respiratory Care online degree completion program.


American Association for Respiratory Care:
Career Pathways Move RTs Forward Through Degree Advancement
Why the AARC Issued the Bachelor’s Degree Goal
Credentials — CRT and RRT

Chron: The Advancement Possibilities for a Respiratory Therapist

Commission of Accreditation for Respiratory Care: Homepage

National Board for Respiratory Care

US Bureau of Labor Statistics: Respiratory Therapists

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