Since you are considering pursuing a master’s degree, we’re going to assume you already know what a respiratory therapist is

Being a respiratory therapist is a rewarding job where you care for patients with breathing problems and start making money in as little as two years. But why would you want a master’s degree, if you can become a respiratory therapist with an associate’s? That’s a good question. You may have seen master’s degrees being offered by schools but you’re not sure if this is the right option for you, or if it is even worth it. We’ll help you understand who these master’s degrees are targeted at and if it’s a good fit for you.


Why would you pursue a master’s in respiratory care?

Some people get a master’s because they want to rise to a managerial position, or they want to become a respiratory care educator. Others do it just to have a better understanding of respiratory care. In a small survey by the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC), about 43 percent of survey participants stated they had gone back to school for their masters. Most of these individuals went back to school to move towards management or education in their careers.

When you just have an associate’s degree and you are already a respiratory therapist, it can be difficult to compete with other job applicants who have similar credentials as you. In some cases, everyone may even have the same certifications, which makes it more difficult to stand out from other applicants for higher roles. An advanced degree such as a bachelor’s or even a master’s can help give you a competitive advantage.

Through the AARC survey, there was a mixed view of how easy it was to complete a master’s degree as an adult. About 54 percent said they had some degree of difficulty balancing their school, work, and personal life while they were obtaining their master’s. 

Before deciding to embark on getting your next degree make sure you are comfortable with balancing the workload. It is also a good idea to understand your purpose for returning to school, whether it’s for career advancement, personal goals, or even extra cash in your pocket. Of the survey participants, about 85 percent said they were satisfied with their decision to return to school.


How much more can I make by obtaining my master’s?

This one depends on several factors and there are not many resources available to give an accurate estimate. We do know the average respiratory therapist makes between  [minimum] and [maximum], according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. We would assume you would make more with a degree but that also depends on your level of experience and what roles are open to you. If you are just starting out, having a master’s degree may not benefit you much as someone who has a few years of experience with a degree.


What other positions can you get with a master’s?

Clinical director – Coordinator positions like this usually require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. These professionals may create development programs to teach the medical team new skills and improve the level of service provided to patients.

Educator – Educators provide clinical teaching to schools and within their departments at hospitals. They get the opportunity to train the next generation of respiratory therapists.  These professionals also help others by teaching strategies that improve the clinical environment or management tactics in order to support the medical team.

Manager – Managers of respiratory care professionals focus less on the day-to-day tasks of caring for patients and more on the finance and operations side. If you are already in a management position, the courses taken can also help you to perform your job more effectively.

Other Career opportunities:

  • Quality Manager
  • Researcher
  • Sales agent


What are the educational requirements for getting your master’s?

  • Must possess a bachelor’s degree prior to entering the program. You must have completed relevant coursework in anatomy and physiology, microbiology, statistics, public health, chemistry, and physics during your undergraduate degree.
  • In some cases, you may be required to have at least a year of relevant work experience in healthcare
  • If you are already employed as an RT, you may need to provide proof of your credentials.
  • A resume or curriculum vitae may be required, along with a list of professional references.


What’s the average cost of a master’s degree vs a bachelor’s?

We want to give you an idea of what you are looking at spending if you choose to get a master’s degree compared to a standard undergraduate degree. Please keep in mind these numbers are national averages for degrees and do not reflect what you will pay. Your actual cost will also be lower if you receive financial aid from the school or government. Most master degrees that focus on respiratory care last for two years so you will not spend as much compared to a four-year undergraduate degree.

Comparison of costs between an undergrad an graduate degree

CategoryMaster’s Degree (2-year program) Bachelor’s Degree (4-year program)
Tuition and Fees$35,736$41,760
Room and Board for Total Years$23,020$46,040
Textbooks & Supplies$1,884$3,768
Avg. Grants and Scholarships$18,470$9,520
Total College Cost Before Grant$60,640$91,568
Total Cost After Grant$42,170$82,048

Does it really help when applying as a respiratory therapist?

Obtaining an advanced degree isn’t a 100% guaranteed way to boost your career. However, it can open you to new opportunities and provide you with better incentives at the jobs you already have. These benefits can include a pay raise or more stimulating responsibilities. As respiratory care moves toward a bachelor’s as the entry-level degree, those who have already earned a four-year degree or higher will be ahead of the curve.

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