Getting an Advanced Degree in Respiratory Care

Is it Worth the Time and Trouble?

Getting an Advanced Degree in Respiratory CareIs getting an advanced degree worth it? Yes, say most respiratory therapists.

Respiratory care programs across the country do a great job of preparing entry-level practitioners in the profession. But in today’s increasingly competitive job market, moving up the ladder often requires something more than the A.S. degree.

A few weeks ago, we turned to the AARC Specialty Section discussion lists to find out why members went back to school to earn an advanced degree, how difficult it was to fit that degree into their work and family lives, and whether or not they believe it was all worth it in the end.

Nearly 80 people replied to the post, suggesting this is not just a topic worthy of discussion among thought-leaders in the field, but one that strikes a chord with the rank and file as well.

Here’s a brief overview of our very informal findings —

The degrees people are getting: Thirty-four of the AARC members who responded to our post said they had earned a master’s degree and 24 said they’d gone back to school for a bachelor’s degree. Sixteen noted earning both and five reported earning a doctorate. While majors ran the gamut from respiratory care to anthropology, most people chose to focus on a management or education related area of study, with many opting for a health care track within their major.

Who is getting these degrees: Responses were pretty evenly split between educators and managers, with 25 in the former category and 27 in the latter. But RTs working in other roles reported advanced degrees as well, including four hospital-based educators, 14 in clinical positions, and three who work on the industry side of the profession. (Not everyone reported a current job position.)

Why they went back to school: Again, responses were all over the map, but for the most part people said they returned to school to advance their careers. Other reasons included always wanting to complete their education, personal satisfaction in accomplishing the goal, and a desire to be a more well-rounded RT.

Challenges faced in completing the degree: On this score, most respondents agreed: going back to school as an adult isn’t all that easy. Forty-three cited some degree of difficulty in balancing school, work, and home life, with those who had small children during the years they spent in school noting the most problems. However, 27 of those who answering this question said completing the program wasn’t really that hard. These tended to be folks who didn’t have young children at home at the time or who had the luxury of quitting their jobs or scaling back their work hours in order to attend classes. Those who opted for online education often cited an easier road as well.

Was it worth it? The answer to that question is an overwhelming yes. Among the 75 respondents who addressed the issue, 68 said getting an advanced degree in the respiratory care profession has paid off for them big time, whether in terms of career advancement, personal satisfaction in completing their goal, or both. Among the seven respondents who were less positive about the value of their degrees, more than half were recent grads who were still hopeful they would soon see a concrete benefit come their way.