The AARC has called for 80% of RTs to either have, or be working toward, a bachelor’s degree by 2020. The Commission on Accreditation of Respiratory Care has proposed a new standard stating that all RT programs created on or after Jan. 1, 2018 must offer a bachelor’s degree or above.
These moves were not made lightly. Respiratory care has been built by clinicians with associate degrees, and associate degrees will continue to be offered by existing programs across the country.
But the bottom line is, to succeed in 21st century health care, RTs need to keep pace with their colleagues in nursing and other disciplines, where a bachelor’s degree or higher is becoming the norm.
How can a bachelor’s degree boost your career? AARC Education Section Chair Ellen Becker, PhD, RRT-NPS, FAARC, and Chair-Elect Georgianna Sergakis, PhD, RRT, FAARC, polled a range of students and RTs to find out. Here’s their top five list —
- Additional knowledge. Whether you are returning to complete a bachelor’s degree or entering the profession, bachelor degree programs provide more time for in-depth study in clinical specialties (neonatal, pediatrics, diagnostics, sleep, disease management), a broader range of topics, and more time to refine clinical skills. An advanced degree can also lay the foundation for future career pathways such as education, management, and research.
- Enhanced communication skills. Bachelor’s degree curricula require more written papers and presentations. Also, the courses challenge you to tackle issues from multiple perspectives, which helps you identify how to better tailor your message to varied audiences.
- Problem-solving skills. Locating resources, interpreting research, and using evidence-based medicine are skills graduates need to operate more efficiently and effectively in daily clinical practice. These critical thinking skills translate across many different roles, and bachelor’s degree programs have more time to teach them.
- Career opportunities. Upper level positions in management and education require graduate degrees. Earning a bachelor’s degree at any point in your career provides you with many tools that will help you showcase your skills with patients and colleagues and puts you one step closer to a graduate degree. Employers recognize the additional tools graduates of bachelor’s degree programs have and weigh this in promotion decisions.
- Confidence and recognition. Many other health professionals graduate from programs with bachelor’s or graduate degrees. Holding a similar degree provides you with the confidence that others recognize your skills and value to the team. For some, it also serves as that extra boost to apply for advanced positions.