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Associate of Applied Science Degree in Respiratory Care

The Associate of Applied Science Degree in Respiratory Care degree program provides a quality Advanced-Practitioner respiratory care education to the geographically large and rural service area of East Tennessee. The program prepares individuals to apply to become registered respiratory therapists. Upon completion of the program, graduates are eligible to take the credentialing examinations offered by the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) to become registered respiratory therapists.

A.A.S in Respiratory Care Curriculum and Admissions Requirements

Apply Online

Respiratory Care: What is it?


You can live without food for weeks. You can live without water for days. But if you are deprived of air, you will die within minutes. In terms of life or death, breathing is your most important need.

Many people have trouble breathing. Because of a serious disease or accident, many people have impaired or non-functioning lungs. Respiratory Practitioners are the health care specialists who evaluate and treat patients with breathing disorders.

YOU can make the difference!

The need for Respiratory Care Practitioners is expected to grow above the national average for all job growth. As the number of elderly persons grow, the need for respiratory care will increase as well.

The respiratory care profession has a bright future with a great job outlook and opportunity for advancement. Once you enter the profession you can specialize in an area such as neonatal care, cardiopulmonary support, helicopter transport, critical care, education or management.


If you want to join this exciting field, you must be sensitive to those who have serious physical impairments. You must work well as a member of a team. The ability to pay close attention to detail, and follow instructions independently are prerequisites for practitioners. Since some of the work therapists do center on the equipment you use, you should have an interest in the mechanics of medical technology.

If you want to be a respected, essential member of a health care team who treats patients from newborns to the elderly, work with advanced technology and sustain lung and breathing activity, then consider Respiratory Care as a profession dedicated to saving and sustaining life!

Why Choose the WSCC Respiratory Care Program

  • 100% of graduates find employment in Respiratory Care
  • Area employers prefer WSCC graduates
  • Students earn an Associate of Applied Science Degree
  • Outstanding faculty who are dedicated to helping student success
  • High NBRC credentialing exam pass rates


The Respiratory Care Program is located at the WSCC Greeneville/Greene County Campus . All respiratory classes and laboratories are located in Greeneville.


What do Respiratory Care Practitioners (RCPs) do?

RCPs may work in general care wards, neonatal, pediatric, and/or adult intensive care units, pulmonary function labs, rehabilitation, etc.

Typical duties include:

  • Performing physical exams relating to heart and lung function;
  • Performing diagnostic tests for heart and lung function;
  • Administering medical gases and inhaled medications;
  • Performing treatments to expand the lung and clear mucus;
  • Performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR);
  • Monitoring and maintaining patients on life support;
  • Drawing and analyzing arterial blood for oxygen, carbon dioxide, and acid levels;
  • Teaching patients methods of managing their diseases and enhancing their quality of life.

Take a moment and view the video . A Matter of Life and Breath This video shows the roles and responsibilities of respiratory care practitioners and interviews with real-life therapists, students, and physicians, and shows the various work settings and types of patients, as well as educational requirements. 6 minute streaming Windows Media or QuickTime movie.

Where do RCPs work?
Most Respiratory Care Practitioners work in hospitals. Some RCPs are employed in physician offices, medical supply companies, and home care companies.
What skills or abilities are needed?
Respiratory Care Practitioners must be able to prioritize tasks and work both independently, and as part of the health care team. RCPs should be somewhat computer literate, and able to effectively communicate orally and in writing. RCPs must have good manual dexterity, good interpersonal skills, and be able to solve problems when necessary - and be able to prevent problems when possible. Most of all, RCPs must be caring individuals who are advocates for their patients. Integrity, a desire for life-long learning, and professionalism are all characteristics of successful RCPs.
What kind of work schedule do RCPs have?
Because hospitals remain open evenings, nights, weekends, and holidays, RCPs must expect to work a variety of shifts and days. It is not unusual for new employees to work evenings or nights, every other weekend, and rotating holidays. RCPs who work in pulmonary function lab, pulmonary rehabilitation, and other specialty areas typically work Monday through Friday day shifts.
Can I work with just one age group, like kids?
Some hospitals specialize in patients of a certain age group, like pediatrics. However, most hospitals will see patients of any age.
Are lots of jobs available?
Yes. Respiratory Care is considered one of the fastest growing fields. Respiratory Care positions are expected to grow by 28% by the year 2020, faster than the average for all occupations.
How much do RCPs get paid?
The average starting hourly rate, in Tennessee, is $16-$20 per hour. Hospitals provide a shift differential for evenings and weekends; overtime is frequently available. Pay will also increase with greater levels of work responsibility, such as being a supervisor. Salaries are generally higher on the east and west coasts, however, so is the cost of living.
Do employers provide health insurance?
Yes, hospitals offer health insurance to employees. Full-time practitioners are generally eligible for full benefits.
Does the program prepare me for the "real" world?
Graduates of the program feel they are very well prepared for work in the hospital. Employers of our graduates speak very highly of them, and of our program. Many hospitals seek graduates of our program because of the preparation they receive.
Can I contact someone in my region for a tour?
If you would like to contact a Respiratory Therapist in your area, please email us or call our Department at (423) 798-7965 for the name of a contact person in your area. We may be able to help you set up a time when you can meet with a local Respiratory Therapist and spend time observing them work.
Can I work in East Tennessee after graduation?
Most of the students remain in upper East Tennessee after graduation. Even though the local medical community employs most of the graduates, there is no guarantee that you will be able to secure a position in East Tennessee; however, every year we receive more requests from hospitals for our graduates.
How long is the program?
The program is two-years long, leading to an Associate of Science Degree after the student has completed all general education courses and prerequisites for the program. See the curriculum page for a more detailed proposed course of study.
Can I take courses part-time?
The Pre-Clinical and General Education courses can be taken part-time at any accredited college or university. None of the respiratory care (RESP) courses may be taken part-time; please check with the faculty for further details.
Can I take courses via distance education?
None of the respiratory care courses are offered via distance education at this time; however, some of the general education courses are offered via distance education.
If I already have a degree, will my credits transfer to the Respiratory Care program?
Most of the credits taken at any accredited college or university will transfer. The Program Director will need a copy of your college transcripts to provide specific information regarding your transfer credits.
If I have a degree from a foreign country, will my credits transfer to the Respiratory Care program?
Most of the credits taken at any accredited college or university will transfer. The Admissions Office can assist foreign students applying for admission. The College will need a copy of your college transcripts to provide specific information regarding your transfer credits.
What is a typical class schedule?
Once you begin the clinical phase of the program in the fall term, you can count on being either in class/lab or clinicals Monday through Friday from 8:00 to 4:00. Some clinical sites require a start time of 6:00 a.m. If you plan on taking other general education class work after beginning the clinical phase, you will only be able to schedule late afternoon or evening classes.
What supplies and uniforms will I need?
You will need to purchase scrubs, a laboratory jacket, stethoscope, watch with a second hand, and a few miscellaneous items.
How much does the program cost?
Tuition costs are approximately $7,900. Books cost around $800 for the entire program. Liability insurance, professional society dues, uniforms, equipment, physical examination, immunizations add another $2,500 to the program cost. Generally, the cost for the entire Respiratory Care Program is about $10,500.
Do I need a car?
Because students are required to perform clinical at the various hospitals in upper East Tennessee, a car is mandatory. Car pooling is can be done on class days, but because of the number of clinicals sites, students cannot rely upon a car pool to attend clinicals.
Is it possible to work and go to school at the same time?
Yes, although since the course work is difficult, we recommend working no more than twenty hours per week. You should plan on spending 3-hours of study/practice for every hour spent in the classroom or laboratory. To continue working and meet the program's requirements, you need a flexible work schedule and a supportive family.
Is financial aid available?
All students at WSCC are eligible for some type of financial aid. It is important to contact the financial aid office to get the details on applying.
What is the deadline for applications to the program?
Applications are due no later than April 30th of each year. After final grades are posted for the spring semester, the program will inform those applicants who have been selected to enter the clinical portion of the program.
How many people apply to the program each year?
It is not unusual to receive 40-60 applications each year. We typically enroll 22 students each year.
Do I need to complete all of the prerequisite courses before applying to the program?
No, we will accept students who are still completing general education courses. However, it is mandatory that the prerequisites be completed before the end of the spring semester of the year in which you apply. The prerequisites are: BIOL 2010/2011, 2020/2021 and computer competency. If you have concerns about courses that you cannot complete before the end of the spring semester, speak with an advisor regarding your plans for future semesters.
I took many of my prerequisites several years ago. Are those courses "still good"?
Yes, we will accept older courses with the following restrictions. All biology courses must have been taken within the last ten years and must have a grade of "C" or better. Other general education courses have no time limit associated with them.
Will I need a license to work in Tennessee?
Yes. After graduating from an accredited program, you are eligible to take the National Board for Respiratory Care RRT Examination. After passing this Exam, you can apply for a license with the Respiratory Care Council.
How much does it cost to get licensed?
It costs $210 for the application and $110 every two years to renew the license.
If I graduate from WSCC's program, can I only work in Tennessee?
No. After graduating from an accredited Respiratory Care Program, you are eligible to apply for a license anywhere in the country.
Is there a professional society?
The national professional society is the American Association for Respiratory Care . The state professional society is the Tennessee Society for Respiratory Care.
What's the difference between a CRT and an RRT?
A Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) is someone who has graduated from an entry-level Respiratory Care Program and has passed the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) Entry Level Examination.
A Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) has graduated from an Advanced Practitioner Respiratory Care Program, passed the NBRC Entry Level Examination, and then passed the Written Registry and Clinical Simulation Examinations.
Are the Respiratory Care course credits transferable to other colleges or universities?
Most of the credits taken at any accredited college or university will transfer. You should contact the school to which you want to transfer to get information about which credits they will accept. In part, the credits transferred depend upon the major that you are seeking.

Respiratory Care Mission Statement

The mission for the Respiratory Care Program is to provide excellent Respiratory Care education for our students. The combination of classroom instruction, laboratory, and clinical teaching in local hospitals provides each student with the knowledge and skills to become a safe, proficient respiratory therapist. The experienced faculty give students an excellent education and prepares the students for their careers as registered respiratory therapists.