For the first time, the American Association for Respiratory Care is advocating an industry-wide shift to baccalaureate degrees in an effort to “ensure the workforce is adequately prepared to meet the challenges it will face in terms of protocol-driven care and disease management,” according to an AARC announcement1 accompanying a revised education position statement released on January 6.

Read the official AARC education position statement here.

In the revised statement, the AARC emphasized the need for formal academic preparation to meet the growing needs of modern healthcare. From the statement:

“Training and education for entry-to-practice as a respiratory therapist should be provided within programs awarding a bachelor’s or master’s degree in respiratory care (or equivalent degree titles) and all newly accredited respiratory care educational programs must award, as a minimum, the bachelor’s degree in respiratory care (or equivalent degree title).” 2

According to AARC president Frank Salvatore, “the time has come” for the respiratory therapy profession to advance it’s education level. “Respiratory therapists today need more clinical time in order to fully learn the advanced technologies we work with today…” Salvatore explained in the AARC announcement.1

The AARC noted that nursing profession, for one, has benefitted from an emphasis on advanced degrees, such as a bachelor’s.1

Salvatore urged current RT students to “begin thinking” about continuing their educations into a baccalaureate program, according to the AARC announcement.1

At the same time, the AARC assured “AS-degreed RTs who currently work in the profession will be able to maintain their roles, and students enrolled in AS programs will not be impeded from entering the profession,” according to the announcement.1

More from the education position statement:

“Associate degree respiratory care programs which are currently accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC) should be allowed to continue in good standing as long as they remain in compliance with all other CoARC policies and standards. The AARC supports existing and future articulation agreements between associate and baccalaureate respiratory therapy programs.” 2

On the association’s LinkedIn page, the majority of comments seemed to be in favor of the bachelor’s emphasis but not without several contributors voicing concern over additional education costs.


  1. “AARC Calls for a Shift to RT Bachelor’s Degree Programs.” AARC. 6 Jan 2016.
  2. “Position Statement: Respiratory Therapist Education.” AARC. Revised Nov 2015.