Are you a practicing respiratory therapist with an associate degree? Are you ready to pursue new career opportunities by enhancing your knowledge and skills to help you advance within the profession? If so, you might be the perfect fit for the new online bachelor's in respiratory therapy program at Saint Leo University in the College of Health Professions.

We recently caught up with Dr. Kathy Van Eerden, dean of the College of Health Professions at Saint Leo, to learn about the respiratory therapy program and answer some questions you may have about this new academic offering in a high-demand area.

Q: Why did Saint Leo University decide to launch the Bachelor of Science in Respiratory Therapy program?

A: In 2015, the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC) issued a goal calling for 80 percent of respiratory therapists to either have or be working toward a Bachelor of Science in respiratory therapy degree by 2020. As a result, there has been increased interest in bachelor's degree programs. Currently, the majority of respiratory therapists have completed an Associate of Science in respiratory therapy program through community or state colleges. Following the associate degree program, they pursue licensure and are able to seek employment in the field. For respiratory therapists who aspire to attain managerial roles or professional development, this bachelor's in respiratory therapy is an excellent option.

Q: What are the admission requirements?

A: This undergraduate degree program requires that the student have a registered respiratory therapist (RRT) license and that they are in good standing with this licensure as a respiratory therapist. Students must also possess a minimum of a 2.5 or higher GPA from their associate degree program.

Q: How is this program delivered?

A: This is a strictly online program. The online format is essential for students who pursue this major because they are primarily working professionals. They may often work different shifts on different days, including weekends and holidays. The online format works well for their lifestyle since it gives them the flexibility they need for their schedules.

Q: How would you describe the curriculum in this respiratory therapy degree program?

A: This bachelor's degree program enables respiratory therapists to meet current professional goals and prepare for future roles in respiratory care. The curriculum provides a contemporary approach to respiratory care, incorporating broad exposure to best practices and current innovations.

Q: What makes this bachelor's in respiratory therapy program unique?

A: A cornerstone throughout the coursework is our Culture of Health framework. This approach prepares students to become respiratory therapists who are experts in their field and who understand the factors that impact clinician well-being and interprofessional communication. Our program ensures that students are better equipped with new skills in leadership, management, education, research, and advanced clinical practice.

I should mention that all of our College of Health Professions degree programs emphasize clinician well-being in order to prepare students for a long and rewarding career in the health field.

Q: Who are the faculty teaching in this program?

A: The faculty in this program are highly qualified respiratory therapists. Their varied backgrounds are strong in both education and practice. This makes for a balanced mix of experience that is perfect for the types of students entering this program.

Q: What are some examples of topics covered in the respiratory therapy courses?

A: The curriculum is unique while also focusing on accreditor areas of emphasis. Some of our courses address:

  • Advanced cardiac and respiratory pharmacology and pathophysiology in care management
  • Advanced neonatal and pediatric respiratory care
  • Personal and interprofessional communication in team settings
  • Teaching and research in respiratory therapy
  • Managing a respiratory therapy department
  • Project management in achieving health outcomes

Q: Are there required clinical experiences in this program?

A: The curriculum does not have a required practicum. However, it does include a capstone course that integrates prior learning in the program.

Q: What are some specific career opportunities for graduates from the program?

A: Students often aspire to a managerial or administrative role in healthcare. In addition, students may be interested in expanding their current knowledge base and skills.

Q: What does the current and future job market look like for those interested in pursuing a respiratory therapy career?

A: The job market for respiratory therapists continues to be strong. In addition, for those with an interest in advancement, we are seeing some employers showing preference for those with a bachelor's degree.

Q: Are there graduate degree programs in respiratory therapy out there that students may pursue with this bachelor's degree?

A: The number of graduate degree programs specific to respiratory therapy is limited. Some respiratory therapists with a bachelor's degree pursue a master's in a related field, such as an MBA with a healthcare focus or a master's in instructional design if the individual is interested in a teaching role.

Q: How can prospective students learn more about this bachelor's in respiratory therapy degree program?

A: Feel free to contact me directly at

The bachelor's in respiratory therapy program page also has additional information.