Associate of Science (AS) Degree in Respiratory Care
Meet the Tremendous Demand for Respiratory Therapists
Gwynedd Mercy University’s Associate Degree in Respiratory Therapy provides a quick path to professional competency as a respiratory therapist. The program is offered by the Frances M. Maguire School of Nursing and Health Professions, renowned for its long and celebrated history of preparing competent, caring, and compassionate respiratory therapists.
Launch Your Career at St. Luke's!
Through GMercyU's special partnership with St. Luke's University Health Network, you could receive:
- Generous scholarship & other tuition funding (up to $100,000!)
- Mentoring from St. Luke's
- Guaranteed employment at St. Luke's
Learn more here
Not familiar with this exciting field of healthcare? Watch this quick overview.
An Award-Winning Program
In 2023, GMercyU's Respiratory Care Program was:
- One of 11 schools out of 400+ programs nationwide to receive the American Association for Respiratory Care’s (AARC) APEX Award.
- Recognized with CoARC's President’s Award for Excellence in Credentialing Success, the only school in Pennsylvania — and just one of 18 schools of 400+ nationwide — to receive it in 2023.
Outstanding Pass Rates
GMercyU respiratory care students have a 100% pass rate on the Certified Respiratory Therapist exam (administered by the National Board for Respiratory Care) and 100% pass rate on the Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) exam.
In 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022 the program has been recognized by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC) to receive the Distinguished RRT Credentialing Success Award with a 90+% pass rate over the 3-year cycle.
The program is fully accredited as a Base Program for entry into Respiratory Care Professional Practice by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care, www.coarc.com.* 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. The School CoARC number is 200274.
Gwynedd Mercy University is proud to offer educational opportunities unrivaled to other Associate of Science in Respiratory Care programs in PA. *To register a complaint, please contact: Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC) https://coarc.com/students/complaint-process/
In just three years, you can:
- Receive an Associate Degree in Respiratory Care
- Attain the program goal of acquiring the knowledge, skills and professional behaviors to practice as a competent, caring and compassionate health care practitioner
- Be eligible to sit for the NBRC Therapist Multiple Choice Examination and the NBRC Clinical Simulation Examination
- Apply for a temporary permit from the State of Pennsylvania (or other state agency) and secure temporary employment as a graduate therapist
- Your temporary permit becomes a permanent license once you successfully complete the NBRC Therapist Multiple Choice Examination at the designated level
- After completion of the NBRC Therapist Multiple Choice Examination at the designated level, you will be eligible to sit the NBRC Clinical Simulation Examination and secure the title of Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) -- the highest level credential of professional practice.
As a GMercyU Respiratory Care major, you will:
- Gain hands-on experience from clinical specialists at world-renowned health care institutions
- Benefit from our low student-faculty ratios (16:1 in the classroom setting and 8:1 in the laboratory)
- Work with junior and senior respiratory care students serving as tutors and mentors
- Make the most of GMercyU’s 21 regional health care affiliations
- Have the flexibility to extend your studies by one year for a BS degree in Respiratory Care and greater employment opportunities
- Learn in GMercyU’s state-of-the-art Respiratory Care Laboratory with the latest technology, including a broad array of equipment, models, mannequins, simulators — and a new state-of-the-art ASL-5000 lung simulator, capable of replicating a wide range of lung conditions for patients of all ages
In addition to general education requirements, you will complete the following courses:
Respiratory Care Courses: 63 Credits
|RC 200||Introduction to AH - 2 Credits|
|RE 210||Medical Terminology – 1 Credit|
|RC 230||Respiratory Theory I – 4 Credits|
|RE 231||Respiratory Theory II – 3 Credits|
|RC 232||Respiratory Theory III – 3 Credits|
|RC 233||Respiratory & Cardiac Physiology – 3 Credits|
|RC 234||Respiratory Pharmacology – 3 Credits|
|RC 240||Respiratory Procedures I – 1 Credit|
|RC 241||Respiratory Procedures II – 1 Credit|
|RC 242||Respiratory Procedures III – 1 Credit|
|RC 250||Clinical Respiratory Care I – 3 Credits|
|RC 251||Clinical Respiratory Care II – 3 Credits|
|RC 330||Advanced Respiratory Theory I – 3 Credits|
|RC 331||Advanced Respiratory Theory II – 3 Credits|
|RC 332||Advanced Respiratory Theory III – 3 Credits|
|RC 333||Respiratory Pathophysiology – 3 Credits|
|RC 334||RC Research – Capstone – 3 Credits|
|RC 335||Respiratory Seminar – Capstone – 3 Credits|
|RC 340||Advanced Respiratory Procedures I – 1 Credit|
|RC 341||Advanced Respiratory Procedures II – 1 Credit|
|RC 342||Advanced Respiratory Procedures III – 1 Credit|
|RC 350||Advanced Clinical Respiratory I – 2 Credits|
|RC 351||Advanced Clinical Respiratory II – 3 Credits|
A minimum of 99 credits is required for the associate degree in respiratory care. See the undergraduate catalog for more information and course descriptions.
Increase the value of your associates in respiratory therapy degree by adding an undergraduate minor that best meets your personal and professional goals.
William R. (Randy) Solly MS, RRT, RPFT, AE-C
Position: Professor of Practice and Program Coordinator, Respiratory Care
Did You Know? Solly has presented at the local, state, and national levels on topics such as pulmonary function testing, updated spirometry standards, interventional bronchoscopy, disaster medicine, and health care provider burnout.
William Galvin, MSEd, RRT, CPFT, AE-C, FAARC
Position: Professor Emeritus, Respiratory Care
Did You Know? Galvin authored and edited the 60-chapter comprehensive textbook, Respiratory Care: Principles and Practice, which has been adopted and used by RC students nationally. He is the recipient of numerous honors and awards.
Melissa Thornborough, RRT, RRT-ACCS, AE-C
Position: Instructor and the Director of Clinical Education, Respiratory Care
Did You Know? She has worked at Jefferson Abington Hospital as a staff therapist for most of her career -- the last nine years, serving as supervisor. She is still currently on staff on an as-needed basis.
Melissa Ash, RRT-ACCS, RRT-NPS
Position: Instructor, Respiratory Care
Did You Know? Ash holds specialty credentials in both Critical Care and Neonatal/Pediatrics. She has presented at both state conferences and international conferences and has been published multiple times.
Barbara Schuster, MSEd, RRT
Position: Assistant Professor, Respiratory Care
Did You Know? Schuster's specialties include Acute Care, Advance Cardiac Life Support, Invasive Cardiac Monitoring, Cardiopulmonary Anatomy & Physiology, and Neonatal & Pediatrics.
In 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023, all GMercyU respiratory care graduates secured immediate employment in top area institutions.
Juniors in our program are already being recruited, some with signing bonuses and other compelling incentives.
—Randy Solly, MS RRT RPFT, Professor of Practice and Program Coordinator of the Respiratory Care Program
GMercyU’s Respiratory Care students have gained hands-on clinical experience at the following locations:
- Abington Memorial Hospital
- Aria Health Systems (Frankford Hospitals)
- Cancer Treatment Centers of America
- Chester County Hospital
- The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
- Doylestown Hospital
- Einstein Montgomery Hospital
- Fox Chase Cancer Center
- Grandview Hospital
- HCR Manor Care
- The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania
- Jeanes Hospital
- Lankenau Hospital
- Lehigh Valley Hospital Center
- Lehigh Valley Medical Center and Health Care System
- Mercy Hospital of Philadelphia
- Montgomery Einstein Hospital
- Mercy Suburban Hospital
- St. Luke's Health Care System (specifically Upper Bucks)
Temple University Health System, including:
- Temple University Hospital
- Jeanne's Hospital
Fox Chase Cancer Center
- Thomas Jefferson University Medical Center
Demand for Respiratory Therapists
Respiratory therapists have cared for an overwhelming number of COVID-19 patients who've required advanced and life-sustaining ventilator care. Yet even before the pandemic, there was an urgent need for more respiratory therapists due to an aging population and an increase in chronic diseases such as asthma and COPD.
In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a 13% increased demand for respiratory therapists through 2032 – more than four times the growth of all occupations.
U.S. News Best Healthcare Job Ranking
Respiratory care has been recognized as a career with a great return on investment. In 2022, the profession ranks #15 on U.S. News’ list of “Best Health Care Jobs” and #36 on their “100 Best Jobs” list.
Average Salary for Respiratory Therapists
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for respiratory therapists was $70,540 in May 2022, with the top 10% earning more than $100,520.
Possible Careers for Respiratory Care Majors
- Adult critical care specialist
- Pulmonary function technologist
- Sleep technologist
- Asthma educator
- Neonatal/ pediatric specialist
- Patient advocate
- Tobacco cessation counselor
- Pulmonary rehabilitation specialist
- Clinical preceptor
Areas of Specialization
- Medical/ surgical care
- Adult Critical Care
- Pulmonary diagnostics
Additional education and training may be required for some of these positions.
As a respiratory therapist, you’ll use a combination of physical examination and sophisticated technology to diagnose and treat patients with cardiopulmonary disorders. You will learn to administer oxygen therapy, deliver inhaled medications, and initiate and monitor patients on life support, such as mechanical ventilators.
This fulfilling work can take you to a variety of settings, from hospitals to home care, and provides the opportunity to work with patients of all ages, from neonatal to elderly.
Noel Beers '23, RRT
As a Respiratory Care major, Noel also served as Vice President of Voices of Gwynedd and worked as an EMS worker off-campus. As a student, he loved the warmth of the GMercyU community and the access he had to his professors. "If my respiratory care professors have specific office hours, I wouldn't even know. I feel comfortable just stopping by to ask questions, and I know my fellow students have the same mindset," he has said.
Today, Noel works at Lehigh Valley Hospital. Read more about Noel's GMercyU experience.
Ben Dean '22, RRT
As a student, Ben completed rotations at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Leigh Valley Cedar Crest Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. “Students are paired with a Respiratory Therapist and work hands-on to learn how to administer nebulizer treatments, manage ventilators, and give life-saving care to real patients,” Ben explained.
After graduation, Ben accepted a job at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Read more about Ben's GMercyU experience.
Kristina Velez '22, RRT
At GMercyU, Kristina participated in the Griffin Student Leadership Institute (GSLI) and was inducted into Alpha Eta Honor Society. She was also elected as a class representative within the Respiratory Care program. “I love everything about our program, between the small class size, the access to all types of equipment in our lab, and our Respiratory Care professors who are personally dedicated to our success,” Kristina said.
After graduation, she begins her career at one of her clinical sites, Penn Presbyterian Medical Center. Read more about Kristina's GMercyU experience.
Catharine Hay '21, RRT
Catherine's first clinical experience confirmed that she was on the right career path. "When I placed my stethoscope on the patient’s back to listen to their breath sounds, I had a moment that made me realize that I was about to embark on a career that makes a huge difference," she said.
Catharine landed her job as an RRT at the Lehigh Valley Health Network before she graduated, and loves what she does for a living. Read more about Catharine's GMercyU experience.
Omar Duggan '16, RRT
"[GMercyU] is more of a family-oriented school. Everyone’s really close, and the teachers really care about you and want you to succeed," said Omar. “My clinical work at HUP and at Magee made me see many different types of patients – and some of the equipment I used I haven’t even seen yet at my current hospital.”
Today, he is a respiratory therapist at The Brooklyn Hospital Center. Omar has also worked for Electromed, Inc., the company that makes SmartVest®, a device that helps keep airways clear for patients prone to illnesses such as pneumonia. Read more about Omar's GMercyU experience.
[During my first clinical], when I placed my stethoscope on the patient’s back to listen to their breath sounds, I had a moment that made me realize that I was about to embark on a career that makes a huge difference.
—Catherine Hay '21, RRT at the Lehigh Valley Health Network
Have questions about GMercyU's admissions requirements or transferring eligible credits? Contact us! Our Admissions staff is ready to walk you through the process of applying to GMercyU’s AS in Respiratory Care Program.
Have a bachelor's degree but are looking to change careers to become a respiratory therapist? See what credits you may have already earned towards this three-year associate's degree. Contact Emma Campell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-641-5529 ext. 21529.
Please note: Students enrolling in this program must have the ability to obtain a U.S. background check and other clearances for placement in a U.S. clinical/school setting. U.S. citizenship or permanent residency is also a requirement for licensure within certain academic programs. International students and students who are under DACA status or are undocumented should carefully review the licensure requirements in their state before enrolling in a degree program that leads to licensure. Additional information can be found on the National Conference of State Legislatures website.
Licensure: This program was designed to meet the licensure requirements of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. If you reside in a different state, you should carefully review your home state’s licensure requirements prior to enrolling in this program. For more information, please visit our Program Licensure Requirement page.
As a field with tremendous demand, respiratory therapy is a smart career move. Credits from your bachelor's degree may already count towards a GMercyU associate degree in Respiratory Care, allowing you to become a respiratory therapist in as few as 20 months.
Find out how many credits from your bachelor's degree are transferable — contact our transfer admissions counselor, Emma Campbell at email@example.com.
(Students earning a second undergraduate degree generally are not eligible for federal financial aid.)
At GMercyU, we strive to make a quality education accessible to all through financial aid, scholarships, and grants. As a military-friendly university, we welcome service members and participate in all VA educational benefits programs.