So, you’ve read about respiratory care and you like what you see. You think it could be a good fit for you. You’ve also heard about the process to become a registered respiratory therapist and the educational requirements you must meet before you can practice. But what you may have heard little about is how much it all costs. We’re here to answer that question for you as best as we can. There are a ton of different colleges with varying tuition rates so it’s hard to give you an exact number. But what we can do is give you average college costs and tailor that to different degree paths and lifestyles. Some of the figures listed in this post represent an average college cost and are not specific to someone pursuing a respiratory therapy degree.

We will look at how much schools normally cost at a community college where you’ll get your associates and a four-year program at a university. We’ll also give you info on how being an out-of-state student or going to a private school can affect how much you pay. There are some calculations we left out like personal expenses and transportation. These types of costs can vary a lot based on your lifestyle and where you live. However, please consider these factors when selecting your school.

As you read each scenario think about what is important to you in a learning environment. Would you want to live on campus, or would you want to stay at home? Do you want to go to a school in your hometown?  These are the kinds of questions you should be asking yourself. They may help you to determine what your budget is for college.

Before we get started, please please please don’t get overwhelmed by the cost of school. It is a normal feeling but it’s also a problem that’s been concurred by many people. There are a ton of financial resources that can assist with paying for a school like, government financial aid (FAFSA), university grants and scholarships, along with subsidized options like federal and private loans. What we are trying to say is you have many financial options to fund your education and college is doable if you are willing to put in the work. Of course, there may be challenges along the way but always reach out to your school’s financial office if you have any trouble because they will have the best options for you.

 

Scenario I: The Frugalist John

In-State Community College

You become interested in respiratory care because you enjoy biology and you heard about how short the process is to earn good money compared to nursing. You also want to get your education and find a job as quickly as possible. You end up enrolling at the best community college in your area because it’s close to home and it’s not too far from your part-time job. The four-year year college was on your wish list of schools, but you decided against it because it’s a 45-minute drive from your house and it’s almost double the price of a two-year school. You didn’t do too well while you were in high school, so you only received federal loans as your financial aid. But that’s okay because your part-time job can cover the costs.

Your first year at the community college is going great. You’re able to make some RT friends in their second year. They decide to help you out and loan you some of the books and supplies you need for your classes. You also decide not to buy the other books you need and either go to the library to read what you need or find free copies of the books online (poor publishers 🙁 ). This helped you to save $655 per year.

You’re now in your second year and you will be doing clinicals. You’ve been told you will need to get a few scrubs, some white shoes, and a stethoscope. You buy four scrubs, two pairs of shoes, and a brand-new stethoscope your friend recommended. Your mentor compliments you on your shoes during your clinical.

Now, this is the moment you’ve been waiting for. You just graduated!! We are so happy for you. But all your hard work isn’t done yet. You still need to obtain two certificates and get that state license before you can legally practice as a respiratory therapist. Many people become respiratory therapists in as little as two years so these simplified steps are what some people take to become a practicing respiratory therapist.

Summary of total costs for John.

Average cost for In-district Community college Program

CategoryReal-life Average Cost
In-district Tuition and Fees for 2 years$7,460
Room and Board for 2 years$0
Textbooks for 2 years$0
Other Supplies for 2 years$1,610
Clinicals uniform: 4 Scrubs, 2 pairs of white shoes, and a stethoscope$436
CRT credential$190
RRT credential$200
State License (varies by state)$105
Grants and Scholarships$0
Estimaged Costs Before Grant$10,001
Estimated Costs After Grant$10,001

Scenario II: Studious Jane

In-State Public University

You enjoy helping people and you know a few family members who have suffered from asthma. Biology was your favorite subject in school, and you want to work in respiratory therapy. You end up enrolling at the best school in your state because it provided you with the best financial aid package of about $10,000 a year.  It was also the cheapest one of your options and its respiratory care program has a stellar reputation. Unfortunately, the school is a two-hour drive away from your parent’s house, so you’ll be staying in a dorm while you attend school. Since financial aid doesn’t cover all your college costs, you will be getting a part-time job as a waiter.

Your first year at the school is off to a good start. You join a few student organizations and you become friends with upperclassmen in your major. They let you borrow half of the books you need for all your classes. You buy the remaining books and supplies used from the college bookstore. You end up saving about $328 per year.

You did well in your sophomore and junior year of college. You had to cut back hours at your job because of your course load. You’re now in your fourth year and you will be doing clinicals. You’ve been told you will need to get a few scrubs, some white shoes, and a stethoscope. You buy four outfits, two pairs of shoes, and a brand-new stethoscope your friend recommended. Your mentor compliments you on your new stethoscope and the rhinestones you added to it.

Now, this is the moment you’ve been waiting for. You just graduated!! We are so happy for you.  But all your hard work isn’t done yet. You still need to obtain two certificates and get that state license before you can legally practice as a respiratory therapist. The additional knowledge you gain through a four-year program gives you a deeper understanding of respiratory care and it opens you to more career opportunities like management.

Summary of total costs for Jane.

Average cost for In-State University Program

CategoryReal-life Average Cost
In-State Tuition and Fees for 4 years$41,760
Room and Board for 4 years$46,040
Textbooks for 4 years$1,310
Other Supplies for 4 years$3,220
Clinicals uniform: 4 Scrubs, 2 pairs of white shoes, and a stethoscope$436
CRT credential$190
RRT credential$200
State License (varies by state)$105
Grants and Scholarships$9,520
Estimaged Costs Before Grant$93,261
Estimated Costs After Grant$83,741

Scenario III: Prep-school Sarah

Out-of-State Private University

You just graduated high school and you’re happy about the new path you’re embarking on. You’re excited about learning respiratory care and all that college has to offer. You want to go to a private school out of state because it’s in a big city you always dreamed about living in. You end up enrolling at your second-choice private school with a financial aid package of about $10,000 a year. The package doesn’t even cover half of your school costs, so your parents agree to cover the remaining costs of your education. 

Your first year at the university is going great. You’re studying hard in your science classes and you even rushed for a sorority! You also made friends in other majors, but they didn’t have the same books you used in your classes. You end up getting all your books and supplies new from the bookstore because it’s the easiest and quickest option. This costs you about $655 per year.

Your sophomore and junior year were good to you. You’re now in senior year and will be doing clinicals. You’ve been told you will need to get a few scrubs, some white shoes, and a stethoscope. You buy four outfits, two pairs of shoes and a brand-new stethoscope your professor recommended. Your mentor compliments you on your comfortable-looking leather shoes during your clinical.

Now, this is the moment you’ve been waiting for. You just graduated!! We are so happy for you. But all your hard work isn’t done yet. You still need to obtain two certificates and get that state license before you can legally practice as a respiratory therapist. It did take you four yours to finish but you gained so many fun experiences and you learned a lot about the cardio-pulmonary system which has helped you a lot in job interviews.

Summary of the total costs for Sarah.

Average cost for Out-of-state Private University Program

CategoryReal-life Average Cost
In-district Tuition and Fees for 4 years$147,520
Room and Board for 4 years$51,960
Textbooks for 4 years$2,620
Other Supplies for 4 years$3,220
Clinicals uniform: 4 Scrubs, 2 pairs of white shoes, and a stethoscope$436
CRT credential$190
RRT credential$200
State License (varies by state)$105
Grants and Scholarships$9,520
Estimaged Costs Before Grant$206,251
Estimated Costs After Grant$196,731

About the numbers used in this post

In the provided scenarios, we use real national averages along with common choices and lifestyles. For instance, some RTs may graduate from community college, but they may not all need to purchase textbooks. Your educational costs will depend on your lifestyle and the type of program you pursue. 

Three estimated figures are textbooks, clinical uniforms, state licensing. These numbers were made to give you perspective and should not be taken as expected costs when pursuing your career.

 

Final Thoughts

The most important factor in choosing your school is not cost; it’s the opposite. What benefits can a school provide you that others cannot? Is the university affiliated with  a great network of clinics in the area? Does the school offer full-ride scholarships? What is the reputation of the respiratory program at the school? Cost is an important factor, but it should not be the only factor when considering which school to attend. If you’re think about what other factors, you should consider when picking a school check out this other guide we made. Happy hunting!