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Respiratory Therapist

Associate of Science

Asthma. Fluid in your lungs. Emphysema. Any one of these conditions can make a person's life very difficult. If you'd like to help people breathe easier, consider becoming an RT, another in-demand, well-paying career you can achieve in just two years at Mercyhurst. Respiratory therapists work to prevent, identify, and treat acute or chronic dysfunction of the cardiopulmonary system. Classroom instruction combined with clinical experience in actual RT settings will provide you with the knowledge and hands-on skills to work in this growing field.

The goal of this program is to prepare our graduates to excel at the Registered Respiratory Therapist level and to take both the National Board for Respiratory Care Therapist Multiple-Choice Examination (TMC) and Clinical Simulation Examination, credentials required to practice as a respiratory therapist in most states.

Fast Facts

  •  Respiratory therapist was recently ranked the #16 overall best job in America and the #6 best health care job by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Sites that respiratory therapists work in include sleep disorder centers, diagnostic laboratories, rehabilitation, research and skilled nursing facilities, patient transport systems, convalescent and retirement centers, educational institutions, and wellness centers.
  • The median annual salary for a respiratory therapist is $62,810, as of 2020.
  • About 81 percent of respiratory therapist jobs are in hospitals, mainly in departments of respiratory care, anesthesiology, or pulmonary medicine. Most of the remaining jobs are in offices of physicians or other health practitioners, consumer-goods rental firms that supply respiratory equipment for home use, nursing care facilities, and home health care services.
Learning Outcomes

As the field of Respiratory Therapy continues to grow and expand it is important for students to also expand and continue to learn during their educational pursuits and as a professional. The knowledge that is gained in the program is a wonderful foundation to continue to grow on. Throughout the educational experience, students will gain the scientific knowledge needed to provide respiratory therapy to patients in need. Along with the knowledge gained the students will also gain the skills needed for applying that knowledge. Students of the Respiratory Therapist Program are encouraged to become independent and lifelong learners. Students must have the desire to graduate and continue to grow professionally. The overall task of the Respiratory Therapist Program is to provide our students with the theoretical background and the clinical experience necessary to become successful Respiratory Therapists.

  • Utilize the application of scientific principles for the identification, prevention, remediation, research, and rehabilitation of acute or chronic cardiopulmonary dysfunction thereby producing optimum health and function
  • Review existing data, collect additional data, and recommend obtaining data to evaluate the respiratory status of patients, develop the respiratory care plan, and determine the appropriateness of the prescribed therapy
  • Initiate, conduct, and modify prescribed therapeutic and diagnostic procedures
  • Document necessary information in the patient's medical record and other forms, and communicate that information to members of the health care team
  • Obtain, assemble, calibrate, and check necessary equipment
  • Use problem-solving to identify and correct malfunctions in respiratory care equipment
  • Demonstrate appropriate interpersonal skills to work productively with patients, families, staff, and co-workers
  • Accept directives, maintain confidentiality, do not discriminate, and uphold the ethical standards of the profession
  • Describe and demonstrate the proper way to protect themselves as well as the patient from infection
  • Demonstrate Basic Life Support and Advanced Life Support techniques during simulation practice and clinical settings
  • List and identify pharmacological agents used to treat cardiopulmonary patients, including indications and contraindications
Program Goal

To prepare graduates with demonstrated competence in the cognitive (knowledge), psychomotor (skills), and affective (behavior) learning domains of respiratory care practice as performed by registered respiratory therapists (RRTs).

Additional Program Goals

After graduation from the Respiratory Therapist program, the students will be able to: 

  1. Function as competent respiratory therapists as defined by the National Board for Respiratory Care’s credentialing examination content outlines.
  2. Demonstrate the ability to apply the knowledge gained throughout the program in real patient care settings.
  3. Demonstrate the communication skills needed in healthcare settings including communication with doctors, families, patients, and other healthcare workers.
  4. Successfully take the credentialing examinations that are required for state licensure.


Career Outlook

Employment of respiratory therapists is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations — by about 21 percent over the next decade. This is largely due to the growing elderly population, which widely suffers from respiratory ailments and cardiopulmonary diseases such as pneumonia, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and heart disease.

The vast majority of job openings will continue to be in hospitals. However, a growing number of openings are expected to be outside of hospitals, especially in home health care services, offices of physicians or other health practitioners, consumer-goods rental firms, or in the employment services industry as temporary workers in various settings.

The latest data from the Annual Report of Current Status is posted on the CoARC Outcomes webpage.


Admissions Requirements

In addition to Mercyhurst's standard requirements for associate degree admission, which include a high school diploma, a minimum GPA of 2.5, and either an ACT, SAT, or Mercyhurst Placement Test score, individuals applying for admission to the respiratory therapist program are subject to the following standards:

  • Applicant must be a high school graduate or GED recipient with a minimum overall C average
  • Applicant must have completed high school courses in algebra, biology, AND chemistry, with a minimum grade of C in each course
  • Preference will be given to applicants with SAT scores at or above 900 (two sections total) or a 20 composite score on the ACT test
  • Applicant may be required to take a Mercyhurst Placement Test to determine placement in appropriate English and math courses
  • If an applicant does not meet the required scores to enter into Research and Writing and/or Elementary Algebra, he or she must take preparatory classes. Placement into Research and Writing and Elementary Algebra will enable the student to enter into the two-year track program of study. If preparatory English or Math is required, a three-year track will be recommended
  • The skills test is required for students who achieved below 900 on their SATs (two section total), students who achieved below a 20 on sections of their ACTs, or have never taken the SATs or ACTs, as well as those who have been out of school for several years
  • Applicant must have current CPR certification before the start of the clinical phase of the program
  • Applicant must have a recent physical examination and records of the following immunizations before classes begin:
    • Hepatitis B
    • 2 step PPD
    • A one-time dose of the Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis Vaccine is mandatory
    • Rubella, Rubeola and Mumps titers
  • Drug testing is required.
  • A criminal record check is required.
  • State and federal child abuse clearances are required
    • Note that a legal conviction may affect a student's ability to be placed in clinical rotations, complete the RT program, and attain state licensure where required. Students are encouraged to disclose information that would relate to this nature to the Program Director for appropriate academic advising.
  • Official, final transcripts are required before the start of classes
  • Eight hours of job shadowing is suggested prior to enrolling and can be set up by the program director, if interested

Transferring in from another college? Transfer students are welcome in this program, assuming we get a final, official college transcript from each college you have attended. If you still owe another college money, and cannot get a transcript, you will not be permitted to start classes. Check out our credit transfer policies to get an idea of what credits may be transferred in.

Accreditation Status

    The Respiratory Therapist associate degree program at Mercyhurst University, program number 200556, holds Continuing Accreditation status as granted by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care.

    Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care
    264 Precision Blvd
    Telford, TN 37690

    CoARC accredits respiratory therapy education programs in the United States. To achieve this end, it utilizes an ‘outcomes based’ process. Programmatic outcomes are performance indicators that reflect the extent to which the educational goals of the program are achieved and by which program effectiveness is documented. According to CoARC: Accreditation is a status that provides assurance to prospective students, their families, and the general public that an institution (or a program) meets minimum requirements (i.e., Accreditation Standards) and that there are reasonable grounds to believe the institution (or program) will continue to meet those standards in the future.

    • Accreditation is assurance that a respiratory care program meets the quality standards established by the profession
    • Accreditation helps students and their parents choose quality respiratory care programs
    • Accreditation enables employers to recruit graduates they know are well-prepared
    • Accreditation is used by registration, licensure, and certification boards to screen applicants
    • Accreditation gives higher education institutions a structured mechanism to assess, evaluate, and improve the quality of their programs

    At its November 2023 meeting, the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC) conferred Probationary Accreditation for the AS Degree Entry into Respiratory Care

    Professional Practice Program sponsored by Mercyhurst University. Probation is a public status'and, therefore, the information provided below is in accord with the Commission’s policy on release of information (see CoARC Policy 11.05D).

    Probationary Accreditation was conferred after review of the Program’s accreditation record during the November 2022 and November 2023 CoARC Board meetings. The following

    Standard(s) is/are not in compliance:

    Standard Citation 1

    Standard 3.07 – Program Goals, Outcomes, and Assessment – Reporting Program


    Regardless of the degree awarded, all programs must, at a minimum, meet the thresholds established by CoARC for all mandated outcome measures at all program locations, notwithstanding the instructional methodology used. Programoutcomes must be submitted to the CoARC annually, on or before the mandated deadline, using the Report of Current Status (RCS) format.

    Rationale for Citation: Based on the 2023 Annual Report of Current Status, the Program did not meet the threshold for TMC High Cut Score Success (2020-2022 average results=25% [2/8], threshold=60%). The Standardized Progress Report submitted in September 2022 and Progress Report Update submitted in September 2023 addressing the TMC High Cut Score were acknowledged by the Commission.

    Please Note: Probationary Accreditation is a temporary status of accreditation (maximu duration of two (2) years) conferred when an accredited program is not in compliance with one or more Standards and/or Policies, and progress reports submitted do not demonstrate correction of these deficiencies. Probationary Accreditation can also be conferred when a sponsor receives an adverse action, as described in CoARC Policy 1.07. Following conferral of Probationary Accreditation, the program must file a Probation Report as directed by the CoARC Executive Office. If/when, to the satisfaction of CoARC, the program is able to rectify all the deficiencies that resulted in Probationary Accreditation, and thereby achieve compliance with the Standards, the CoARC will remove probationary status.

    If the program remains out of compliance with the Standards at the end of the first year of thetwo-year probationary period, the CoARC may withdraw accreditation unless the CoARC determines that the program is making a good faith effort to come into compliance with the Standards. The CoARC defines a “good faith effort” as: 1) a completed comprehensive assessment of the non-compliant Standard(s) under review; 2) development of an appropriate plan for achieving Standards’ compliance within a reasonable time frame (not to exceed the two year probationary period); 3) a detailed timeline for completion of the plan; 4) evidence that the plan has been implemented according to the established timeline; and, 5) evidence that the Public program is making progress toward achieving compliance as stated in the plan. It is the program’s responsibility to make the case that a good faith effort has been made. If compliance with all Standards is not demonstrated within the two (2) years following conferral of Probationary Accreditation, accreditation will be withheld or withdrawn. In no case will probation status exceed 2 years. Programs on Probationary Accreditation are prohibited from increasing cohort and enrollment numbers until Probationary Accreditation is removed.

    A program on probation maintains the accreditation status existing prior to conferral of probation and is therefore required to adhere to all applicable policies, including the submission of the Annual Report of Current Status (RCS) on or before the due date. However, review and approval of the RCS per se does not affect the probationary status. Because probation is not a part of the accreditation cycle, the applicable accreditation cycle dates remain in effect. When related to probation, a decision to Withdraw Accreditation is subject to reconsideration but cannot be appealed (See Policy 1.06).

    The CoARC requires a sponsor to complete a teach-out plan when a program is placed on probation, requests inactive status or when accreditation is withdrawn either voluntarily or involuntarily (see Policy 1.13). Enrolled students graduating from a program under Probationary Accreditation are considered graduates of a CoARC accredited program. (Accreditation Policy 1.053)

    The next review for Mercyhurst University is scheduled for the November 2024 CoARC Board meeting.

    This statement has been reviewed and approved by the institution.