The field of respiratory therapy is experiencing unprecedented growth and demand. It’s the perfect time to get into this career, but it can’t be done on a whim. The first thing to consider is education and there’s no shortage of respiratory therapist schools competing for your hard earned tuition dollars.
We put together a list of the top qualities you should put on the must-have list when searching for a school. Education will be the bedrock of your career, so it’s important to check out as many programs as possible before making your decision.
1. Accredited Degree Program
An A.A.S. (associate of applied science) degree is an increasingly popular choice for those seeking respiratory therapist schools. Associate degrees usually take two years to complete, but can be done faster by taking a larger course load and summer classes. This option allows students to finish schooling and jump into a new career more quickly. Many local colleges, vocational schools and medical educational institutions offer an A.A.S. The downside? You may find yourself competing with people who have earned a four-year degree, but demand is high enough that this shouldn’t be a big problem, although your salary will probably be a little lower than someone with a bachelor’s degree.
A bachelor’s degree is another option. This takes four years to complete, but respiratory therapists with a four-year degree will become a hot commodity in the profession, which is expected to grow explosively – 44 percent through 2020. Many for-profit and not-for-profit universities offer a bachelor’s degree in respiratory therapy and there’s no difference in the quality of education you’ll receive. In fact, many for-profit universities offer great support systems for students. After all, it’s a business and they want to keep customers (students) happy.
Want to get the best of both words? Go for the A.A.S. degree first, and work toward your four-year degree while working in the industry. It’s hard work, but night school will be a lot easier if your days are not spent slinging burgers.
Many hospitals and clinics that hire respiratory therapists require specific certification. If such certification needs to be obtained through state or federal exams, you’ll want to make sure the school you choose will adequately prepare you to pass any exam that might come your way. If the respiratory therapist schools you are considering can place students in clinical rotations, put those ones high on the list. There’s no substitute for hands-on experience when it comes to proper preparation.
3. Flexible Scheduling
Life can get pretty crazy, especially if you are like the thousands of people trying to juggle a full-time job with schooling. The school you choose should offer flexible scheduling and night school options. Many students do well with a hybrid online and in person class schedule. This allows students to get the hands-on and clinical setting experience while taking other courses online. Cutting down on classroom and travel time can help make your educational experience more manageable and less daunting.
4. Experienced Staff
You’ll want the people teaching you to have plenty of industry experience. Instructors who either still work in the field, or spent plenty of years working as a respiratory therapist before going into teaching make the best professors. It wouldn’t hurt to type the names of professors in to a search engine to see what pops up. Articles in medical journals, industry recognitions and awards are all signs your potential professor is a leader in the industry.
Serious respiratory therapy schools should have a good reputation. If the school you go to is well known, odds are the people who will be interviewing you for a job will have heard the name, and perhaps even attended the school themselves. The reputation will also impact your life as a student. There’s a certain amount of pride that comes with attending a well-established school with a high emphasis on educational quality and student life.
6. Financial Aid and Scholarships
Medical training can get a little expensive. Schools have to pay for up-to-date equipment and provide a lab setting for students. Those costs add up and unfortunately, are often passed on to the students. Be sure to pick a school with access to financial aid and low-interest student loans. The federal government offers both student loans and grants, but not all schools are eligible to offer government financial aid. If you seek financial assistance through the private realm, be sure to get as low of an interest rate as possible. Don’t forget to look into different scholarship programs and grants. There are plenty out there and there’s nothing wrong with a little bit of free money to help you get through school.
7. Get the Stats
The numbers are as important as anything else when looking for a school. Be sure to ask advisers or recruiters about the instructor to student ratio in both the classroom and lab setting. You’ll also want to find out how many clinical hours are required to complete the program. One often overlooked aspect many students forget to inquire about is the respiratory therapist schools record of job placement. The AARC recommends asking what percentage of students were placed in jobs over the past three years.
Enroll With Confidence
Your educational experience will be much more fulfilling when you aren’t second-guessing you choice of schools. Proper research will provide peace of mind when you finally do pick a program. Your career and future depend in large part on the school you choose. Picking one that will set students up to succeed from the start is a sure-fire way to see a return on your educational investment.