What Can You Do With a Master's in Respiratory Therapy Illustration

What Can You Do With a Master’s in Respiratory Therapy?

by | Updated: Apr 12, 2024

A master’s degree in respiratory therapy can open up a world of opportunities for professionals in the healthcare field.

As respiratory therapists play a crucial role in assisting patients with breathing problems and cardiovascular issues, obtaining a master’s degree in this discipline can significantly advance one’s career.

From leadership roles in clinical settings to research, education, and policy advocacy, a master’s level education equips respiratory therapists with the tools necessary to enhance the quality of patient care and advance the field.

This article explains the various opportunities and paths that a master’s degree in respiratory therapy can unlock for its recipients.

The Importance of a Master’s Degree in Respiratory Therapy

Respiratory therapists play a crucial role in healthcare, focusing on the treatment, management, and care of patients with breathing difficulties and other cardiopulmonary conditions. While an associate’s degree in respiratory care is often enough for entry-level positions, pursuing a master’s degree in respiratory care can open doors to new opportunities and professional growth.

Higher education is valuable in refining and expanding the knowledge and skills of respiratory therapists. With a master’s degree, these professionals can access more specialized positions within the field, such as working with complex disease management or critical care patients.

Furthermore, a master’s degree may lead to increased job responsibilities, helping respiratory therapists make a more profound impact on patient outcomes and overall healthcare quality.

Advanced Education in Respiratory Care

Advanced education is also essential for those looking to transition into leadership roles or the academic side of respiratory care.

A master’s degree equips respiratory therapists with the skills and knowledge to manage respiratory departments in large hospitals or teach and inspire the next generation of professionals at educational institutions.

Coupled with experience and expertise, a master’s degree in respiratory therapy can provide a competitive edge in job markets and increase earning potential. Those with advanced degrees often have an easier time finding employment and negotiating their salaries and benefits.

Summary: Obtaining a master’s degree in respiratory therapy offers numerous advantages in terms of career growth and opportunities. Advanced education enhances respiratory therapists’ skills and knowledge, providing a strong foundation for specialized care, leadership roles, and academic positions. Investing in a master’s degree can indeed be a valuable step for those seeking to make a significant impact in respiratory care and patients’ lives.

Career Advancements with a Master’s Degree

A master’s degree in respiratory therapy opens up numerous opportunities for career advancement in the field.

By obtaining a higher level of clinical understanding and management skills, respiratory therapists can transition into various leadership roles and managerial positions within hospitals and healthcare organizations.

Respiratory Therapy Students at Graduation with a Masters Degree Illustration

Department Manager or Supervisor

One potential career path for those with a master’s degree is becoming a department manager or supervisor.

In these roles, respiratory therapists oversee and manage the operations of their department, ensuring quality patient care, staff management, and efficient use of resources.

They may also play a role in developing departmental policies and procedures, as well as participating in budget planning and financial management.

Director or Administrator

Respiratory therapists with a master’s degree can also pursue a leadership role in respiratory care, such as becoming a director or administrator.

These positions typically involve higher levels of responsibility, including strategic planning, program development, and implementation of new initiatives.

Directors and administrators also work closely with other healthcare professionals, such as physicians and nurses, in order to ensure that respiratory care services are aligned with the overall goals of the organization.

Disease Management and Case Management

Furthermore, the advanced knowledge and skills acquired through a master’s degree can qualify respiratory therapists for roles in disease management and case management.

In these positions, professionals apply their expertise to coordinate care for patients with chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma or COPD.

This may involve developing individualized treatment plans, monitoring patient progress, and making necessary adjustments to the care plan based on the patient’s response.


In addition to these opportunities in healthcare settings, a master’s degree in respiratory therapy can also lead to a career in teaching.

Many experienced respiratory therapists choose to become educators and academic faculty, helping to train future generations of professionals in this field.

This could involve developing curricula, delivering lectures, supervising clinical training, and conducting research.

Note: Obtaining a master’s degree in respiratory therapy can significantly enhance a professional’s career potential by opening doors to various leadership roles and specialized positions in both clinical and academic settings.

Specific Job Roles for Respiratory Therapists with a Master’s Degree

Hospital Respiratory Care Manager

A hospital respiratory care manager is a registered respiratory therapist (RRT) with a master’s degree who oversees the operations of the respiratory therapy department in a healthcare facility.

They are responsible for managing staff, setting budgets, and ensuring the highest quality of care for patients receiving respiratory treatments.

Hospital respiratory care managers work closely with other medical professionals and administrators to integrate respiratory services with other areas of patient care.

They may also be involved in managing hospital policies and procedures related to respiratory care. Their role demands expertise in both the clinical and administrative aspects of the respiratory therapy field.

Respiratory Therapy Educator

Respiratory therapy educators are RRTs who hold a master’s degree and specialize in teaching respiratory therapy to students and medical professionals.

They may work as faculty members in educational institutions, developing and delivering the curriculum for respiratory therapy programs.

In addition to teaching, they may also be responsible for supervising students on clinical placements and providing mentorship to newly qualified respiratory therapists.

Respiratory therapy educators are well-versed in the latest advancements in the field and are passionate about sharing their knowledge to build the next generation of skilled respiratory therapists.

Clinical Specialist in Respiratory Therapy

As a clinical specialist in respiratory therapy, a professional with a master’s degree in the field applies their in-depth knowledge to specific areas of practice, such as neonatal, pediatric, or adult care.

They provide clinical leadership in the development, implementation, and evaluation of respiratory care protocols and practices within their chosen specialty.

A clinical specialist in respiratory therapy works closely with other healthcare providers and registered respiratory therapists (RRTs) in a clinical setting, offering expert consultation and guidance on complex cases.

They may also be involved in research activities to advance the overall understanding of respiratory care and contribute to the development of new therapies and techniques in the field.

Educational Requirements for a Master’s in Respiratory Therapy

To pursue a master’s degree, respiratory therapists must first possess a bachelor’s degree. While an undergraduate degree in any field is generally acceptable, students need to have successfully completed relevant coursework, including anatomy and physiology, microbiology, statistics, public health, chemistry, and physics.

For those interested in an online master’s program, the University of Cincinnati offers a Master of Science in Respiratory Therapy that can be completed in under two years.

This program is designed for registered respiratory care workers who already hold a bachelor’s degree.

Admission requirements typically include a minimum GPA, often set around 2.5 or above, and the submission of a professional resume highlighting relevant experience in the field.

Additionally, applicants may need to provide letters of recommendation and complete an interview as part of the application process.

Prospective students should prioritize enrolling in a program holding provisional accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC). CoARC ensures that educational programs meet or exceed industry standards and adequately prepare students for successful careers in respiratory therapy.

Earning Potential and Job Outlook

A master’s degree in respiratory therapy can lead to rewarding careers in various healthcare settings. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 23% growth in demand for respiratory therapists between 2020 and 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations.

This positive job outlook is largely due to the aging population and advancements in respiratory therapy treatments.

The median annual wage for respiratory therapists is approximately $62,000. However, acquiring a master’s degree in respiratory therapy can potentially lead to higher salary opportunities and advanced positions such as supervisory roles, clinical specialist positions, or hospital management.

Salaries for these professionals vary depending on factors such as experience, location, and industry. For instance, respiratory therapists working in general medical and surgical hospitals tend to have higher median salaries compared to those working in nursing care facilities or outpatient care centers.

Furthermore, certain states like California and Nevada pay higher than the national average wage.

Summary: Pursuing a master’s degree in respiratory care can lead to promising career opportunities with competitive compensation packages. The job outlook for this field is positive, with a growing demand for skilled professionals due to increasing respiratory health challenges among the aging population and advancements in medical technology. A master’s degree in this field not only provides candidates with increased earning potential but also opens doors to diverse career paths within the healthcare sector.

Licensure and Certification

A master’s degree in respiratory therapy can open up various opportunities for a professional in this field. One crucial aspect of a respiratory therapist’s career is obtaining the proper licensure and certifications.

Licensure is typically required for practicing respiratory therapy, and the specific requirements may vary by state.

In most states, respiratory therapists must be licensed, and obtaining the Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) credential from the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) is the first step. The CRT credential demonstrates a commitment to excellence in respiratory care and is used by all states that regulate the practice of respiratory care as the basis for state licensure.

After achieving the CRT credential, respiratory therapists can further their career by obtaining the Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) certification, also offered by the NBRC. The RRT credential signifies a higher level of expertise in respiratory care and is often preferred or required for advanced positions in the field.

The next step is to earn a bachelor’s degree, which must be completed before applying to a master’s program. A master’s degree in respiratory therapy can enhance a professional’s qualifications and open up opportunities for leadership and teaching roles.

With a strong foundation in clinical knowledge, management skills, and advanced training, graduates of master’s programs are well-prepared to excel in various positions within the healthcare field.

Note: By acquiring the necessary licensure and certifications, respiratory therapists with a master’s degree can expect to thrive in their careers and contribute to the advancement of the respiratory therapy profession.

Research Opportunities with a Master’s Degree

A master’s degree in respiratory therapy opens doors to various research opportunities in the field. Graduates may find themselves working as researchers, specifically focusing on clinical research or leading research projects.

Clinical research in respiratory therapy examines new techniques and technologies for patient care. Master’s degree holders can work alongside healthcare professionals, investigating novel ways to diagnose, treat, and manage respiratory diseases.

They may also contribute to the development of medical devices and equipment to improve patient outcomes.

Research projects may cover a wide range of topics, from understanding the pathophysiology of respiratory illnesses to exploring new therapeutic interventions.

As a researcher, individuals with a master’s degree may collaborate with other professionals in multidisciplinary teams. These projects not only advance the field of respiratory care but also contribute to the improvement of overall public health. Furthermore, Master’s degree holders can serve as research coordinators in various healthcare settings, such as hospitals or educational institutions.

In this role, they are responsible for overseeing research studies, ensuring regulatory compliance, and coordinating with research teams and stakeholders.

This position provides an opportunity for respiratory therapists to apply their expertise in research design, data analysis, and interpretation of results to advance the profession.

Summary: A master’s degree in respiratory therapy creates numerous research opportunities for graduates, allowing them to contribute significantly to the advancement of the field and the improvement of patient care through clinical research and innovative research projects.

Additional Skills and Knowledge Gained

Pursuing a master’s in respiratory care equips students with a deeper understanding and mastery of various subjects related to their field. Studying anatomy and physiology provides a solid foundation, as these subjects allow students to comprehend the human body’s structures and assess patients’ status accurately.

These skills become essential when it comes to making appropriate interventions to treat respiratory-related conditions.

The study of microbiology and chemistry enables respiratory care graduates to understand the interaction of microorganisms and chemical compounds with the human body.

This knowledge is crucial for making informed diagnostic and treatment decisions concerning respiratory infections and understanding how medications interact with respiratory system components.

Physics plays a vital role in mastering respiratory care equipment and machines, as it forms the basis for understanding air pressure, flow, and gas exchange. Through physics, graduates learn to manipulate and optimize such machinery to ensure the best possible outcomes for their patients.

Clinical experience provides students with opportunities to apply their theoretical knowledge in real-world scenarios.

By working alongside healthcare professionals, future respiratory care experts develop practical skills such as patient evaluation, therapy administration, and ongoing patient care management.

Final Thoughts

A master’s degree in respiratory therapy serves as a beacon for professionals seeking to rise above standard practice and make significant contributions to the field of respiratory care.

This advanced degree not only enhances clinical acumen but also opens doors to diversified roles in leadership, research, policy-making, and education.

As healthcare complexities grow and the demand for specialized care intensifies, those equipped with a master’s level education in respiratory therapy are well-poised to lead change, influence best practices, and ensure that patient care remains top-tier.

For any respiratory therapist contemplating career progression and broader impact, this degree offers a compelling pathway forward.

John Landry, BS, RRT

Written by:

John Landry, BS, RRT

John Landry is a registered respiratory therapist from Memphis, TN, and has a bachelor's degree in kinesiology. He enjoys using evidence-based research to help others breathe easier and live a healthier life.


  • Respiratory Therapists : Occupational Outlook Handbook: :    U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 8 Sept. 2022.
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