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Respiratory Therapists picture    Respiratory Therapists image

Respiratory therapists work with doctors and other healthcare professionals to evaluate, treat and care for patients who have breathing and other cardiopulmonary disorders. They also perform diagnostic tests and limited physical examinations. Therapists utilize complex, specialized equipment to help people breath.

They work with patients ranging in age from infants to senior citizens. Respiratory therapists work under the supervision of physicians. Most respiratory therapists are employed in hospitals. They also work in nursing care facilities and physician offices.

Therapists often treat patients with oxygen and oxygen mixtures, aerosol medications and chest physiotherapy. They provide treatments that give temporary relief for problems such as emphysema and chronic asthma. They also give emergency care to patients for heart attacks, strokes, shock and drowning. Some therapists, employed in hospitals, might work in intensive care or critical care units.

Some of the duties of therapists and technicians overlap, however the therapists have more responsibility. Therapists provide more complex therapies which need independent judgement. Respiratory therapists also consult with doctors and other healthcare personnel in order to create and modify the treatment strategies for patients.

In some hospitals respiratory therapists are involved with duties that are not traditionally part of the profession such as pulmonary resuscitation, disease prevention and smoking cessation counseling.

Responsibilities

  • Conduct diagnostic tests
  • Offer treatments with oxygen or oxygen mixtures, aerosol medications and physiotherapy
  • Evaluate patients by interviewing them and giving limited physical examinations
  • Treat people of all ages
  • Connect patients to ventilators
  • Evaluate patients' lung capacity
  • Perform regular checks on patients
  • Test people for lung abnormalities
  • Consult with doctors and other healthcare personnel to create and modify care plans
  • Make sure the equipment is working properly
  • Supervise respiratory technicians
  • Measure patients concentration of oxygen and other gases in their blood
  • Determine the pH level, which shows the acidity or alkalinity of a patient's blood

Job Characteristics

They typically work between 30 and 40 hours a week. Those that work in hospitals might be required to work evenings, nights and during weekends. They spend a lot of time walking and standing. Respiratory therapists are sometimes exposed to infectious diseases, however risks are minimized by adhering to appropriate procedures. They also handle high-pressure cylinders.

Some respiratory therapists have to use independent judgement when taking care of patients. Respiratory therapists must be detail-oriented, be sensitive to their patients' needs, follow instructions and be good at working as part of a team. Also, in order to operate some of the equipment they need to be proficient with computers.

Employment Outlook

In 2006, the median annual earnings for respiratory therapists was $47,420. In 2006, there were about 122,000 jobs in the profession. About 79 percent were employed in hospitals, primarily in departments of respiratory care, anesthesiology and pulmonary medicine.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 19% growth rate for respiratory therapists from 2006 to 2016 which is faster than average for all occupations. The growth in employment is partly due to growth in the middle-aged and elderly populations. These age groups are expected to increase the number of cardiopulmonary disease patients. Advances in medications and treatments will also increase the need for respiratory therapists.

The demand for respiratory therapists will also increase since therapists are expanding their role in disease prevention, case management, early detection of pulmonary disorders and emergency care. Most of the employment opportunities will continue to be provided by hospitals. Growth in job opportunities will also occur in other settings such as home healthcare services and doctor offices.

They typically advance in their careers by taking care of critically ill patients who have substantial problems with other organs such as kidneys or the heart. Experienced therapists, particularly those which have advanced degrees, may have opportunities to acquire supervisory or managerial positions in a respiratory therapy department.

Respiratory Therapy Schools, Certification, and Licensing

Respiratory therapists need at least an associate degree. Those with a bachelor's or a master's degree may have better opportunities for advancing in their careers. Training is provided at colleges, universities, vocational schools, medical schools and the Armed Forces. The programs usually included courses in human anatomy, microbiology, physics, mathematics, chemistry and pharmacology. Courses are also provided in therapeutic and diagnostic procedures and tests, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, respiratory health promotion, disease prevention, cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation and other topics.

Licensure is typically based on fulfilling the certification requirements of the National Board for Respiratory Care. Those that graduate from programs accredited by the CAAHEP or the Committee on Accreditation for Respiratory Care and also pass an exam are provided with a Certified Respiratory Therapist credential. Certified Respiratory therapists that graduated from advanced programs and are able to pass two separate exams receive the Registered Respiratory Therapist credential. Supervisory jobs and intensive-care specialties typically require a Registered Respiratory therapist credential.

Resources

Major Employers

Most respiratory therapists work in hospitals. Other major employers are nursing homes, respiratory therapy clinics and home care agencies.

Schools for Respiratory Therapists are listed in the Browse Schools Section.

Metro Areas Sorted by Total Employment for:
Respiratory Therapists

Listed below are metro areas sorted by the total number of people employed in Respiratory Therapists jobs , as of 2016

2016 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov; 2014-24 State Occupational Projections, Projections Central, projectionscentral.com

     
Metro Area (Alabama) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Birmingham 750 $47,690
Hoover 750 $47,690
Mobile 270 $46,900
Tuscaloosa 120 $44,450
Montgomery 120 $47,270
Dothan 110 $45,000
Jacksonville 80 $48,910
Anniston 80 $48,910
Oxford 80 $48,910
Decatur 40 $44,190
     
Metro Area (Alaska) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Anchorage 110 $71,250
     
Metro Area (Arizona) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Scottsdale 1630 $57,080
Mesa 1630 $57,080
Phoenix 1630 $57,080
Tucson 400 $47,210
Kingman 50 $52,630
Lake Havasu City 50 $52,630
     
Metro Area (Arkansas) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Conway 330 $49,900
North Little Rock 330 $49,900
Little Rock 330 $49,900
Hot Springs 30 $45,170
     
Metro Area (California) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Anaheim 6810 $74,280
Long Beach 6810 $74,280
Los Angeles 6810 $74,280
San Francisco 1860 $91,780
Hayward 1860 $91,780
Oakland 1860 $91,780
Carlsbad 1620 $76,470
San Diego 1620 $76,470
San Bernardino 1540 $72,160
Riverside 1540 $72,160
Ontario 1540 $72,160
Sunnyvale 970 $84,900
San Jose 970 $84,900
Santa Clara 970 $84,900
Sacramento 800 $92,510
Arcade 800 $92,510
Roseville 800 $92,510
Arden 800 $92,510
Fresno 360 $79,090
Ventura 330 $81,760
Thousand Oaks 330 $81,760
Oxnard 330 $81,760
Bakersfield 250 $74,560
Modesto 230 $79,890
Lodi 200 $85,770
Stockton 200 $85,770
Santa Rosa 140 $86,810
Redding 130 $75,430
Salinas 130 $88,660
Fairfield 120 $95,510
Vallejo 120 $95,510
Santa Barbara 110 $82,190
Santa Maria 110 $82,190
Porterville 80 $66,000
Visalia 80 $66,000
Paso Robles 60 $82,230
Arroyo Grande 60 $82,230
San Luis Obispo 60 $82,230
Watsonville 50 $114,200
Santa Cruz 50 $114,200
Chico N/A $71,040
     
Metro Area (Colorado) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Lakewood 990 $59,710
Denver 990 $59,710
Aurora 990 $59,710
Colorado Springs 200 $53,740
Boulder 120 $65,200
Fort Collins 90 $58,950
Pueblo 80 $56,730
Greeley 60 $57,530
     
Metro Area (Connecticut) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
East Hartford 500 $65,720
West Hartford 500 $65,720
Hartford 500 $65,720
New Haven 250 $69,750
Bridgeport 180 $73,490
Stamford 180 $73,490
Norwalk 180 $73,490
Waterbury 80 $60,190
     
Metro Area (Florida) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Miami 2790 $56,060
Fort Lauderdale 2790 $56,060
West Palm Beach 2790 $56,060
Tampa 1200 $58,490
Clearwater 1200 $58,490
St. Petersburg 1200 $58,490
Orlando 950 $57,240
Kissimmee 950 $57,240
Sanford 950 $57,240
Jacksonville 660 $52,540
Cape Coral 460 $56,950
Fort Myers 460 $56,950
Gainesville 320 $49,760
North Port 290 $58,280
Bradenton 290 $58,280
Sarasota 290 $58,280
Pensacola 250 $54,420
Ferry Pass 250 $54,420
Brent 250 $54,420
Daytona Beach 230 $53,760
Deltona 230 $53,760
Ormond Beach 230 $53,760
Lakeland 210 $56,030
Winter Haven 210 $56,030
Melbourne 170 $55,450
Titusville 170 $55,450
Palm Bay 170 $55,450
Tallahassee 140 $55,270
Ocala 120 $53,850
Port St. Lucie 110 $57,790
Panama City 100 $51,200
Naples 90 $55,210
Immokalee 90 $55,210
Marco Island 90 $55,210
Destin 70 $48,520
Crestview 70 $48,520
Fort Walton Beach 70 $48,520
Vero Beach 50 N/A
Sebastian 50 N/A
     
Metro Area (Georgia) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Sandy Springs 1850 $57,200
Atlanta 1850 $57,200
Roswell 1850 $57,200
Savannah 200 $51,890
Gainesville 110 $55,750
Athens 100 $54,360
Clarke County 100 $54,360
Warner Robins 60 $46,350
Rome 50 $57,330
Valdosta 40 $47,350
     
Metro Area (Hawaii) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Urban Honolulu 290 $68,890
     
Metro Area (Idaho) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Boise City 310 $54,760
Coeur d'Alene 50 $57,690
     
Metro Area (Illinois) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Peoria 170 $48,530
Rockford 160 $55,340
Urbana 80 $48,250
Champaign 80 $48,250
Springfield 80 $55,020
Bloomington 50 $47,550
Carbondale 50 $50,300
Marion 50 $50,300
     
Metro Area (Indiana) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Anderson 1730 $52,900
Carmel 1730 $52,900
Indianapolis 1730 $52,900
Fort Wayne 240 $53,180
West Lafayette 150 $51,650
Lafayette 150 $51,650
Terre Haute 90 N/A
Muncie 80 $59,200
Kokomo 70 $55,860
Michigan City 60 $54,030
La Porte 60 $54,030
Goshen 60 $55,940
Elkhart 60 $55,940
Bloomington 50 $53,970
Columbus 50 $67,170
     
Metro Area (Iowa) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Iowa City 140 $55,080
Waterloo 70 $47,720
Cedar Falls 70 $47,720
Dubuque 30 $54,690
     
Metro Area (Kansas) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Wichita 290 $52,060
Topeka 100 $49,060
     
Metro Area (Kentucky) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Lexington 370 $51,470
Fayette 370 $51,470
Bowling Green 120 $47,380
Fort Knox 40 $45,460
Elizabethtown 40 $45,460
     
Metro Area (Louisiana) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
New Orleans 580 $57,900
Metairie 580 $57,900
Shreveport 310 $50,050
Bossier City 310 $50,050
Baton Rouge 290 $51,290
Lafayette 200 $49,700
Alexandria 150 $52,300
Houma 130 $53,670
Thibodaux 130 $53,670
Monroe 90 $48,750
Hammond 90 $51,190
Lake Charles 60 $52,980
     
Metro Area (Maine) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
South Portland 140 N/A
Portland 140 N/A
Bangor 70 $56,640
     
Metro Area (Maryland) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Towson 800 $67,830
Columbia 800 $67,830
Baltimore 800 $67,830
     
Metro Area (Massachusetts) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Barnstable Town 100 $72,460
New Bedford 70 $57,320
Leominster 50 $71,730
Gardner 50 $71,730
     
Metro Area (Michigan) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Warren 1960 $55,890
Dearborn 1960 $55,890
Detroit 1960 $55,890
Wyoming 530 $53,920
Grand Rapids 530 $53,920
Ann Arbor 220 $56,530
Flint 210 $59,080
Saginaw 150 $54,040
Jackson 70 $51,210
Midland 60 $53,910
Battle Creek 50 $52,520
Benton Harbor N/A $56,470
Niles N/A $56,470
     
Metro Area (Minnesota) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Rochester 250 $71,160
     
Metro Area (Mississippi) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Jackson 480 $50,930
Pascagoula 150 $45,970
Biloxi 150 $45,970
Gulfport 150 $45,970
Hattiesburg 100 $46,610
     
Metro Area (Missouri) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Springfield 380 $49,190
Columbia 140 $53,860
Joplin N/A $49,430
     
Metro Area (Montana) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Billings 130 $53,500
Missoula 70 $53,660
Great Falls 50 $50,620
     
Metro Area (Nebraska) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Lincoln 170 $53,600
     
Metro Area (Nevada) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Paradise 760 $72,110
Henderson 760 $72,110
Las Vegas 760 $72,110
Reno 110 $70,450
Carson City 50 $74,890
     
Metro Area (New Hampshire) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Manchester 60 $65,700
     
Metro Area (New Jersey) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Hammonton 110 $78,070
Atlantic City 110 $78,070
     
Metro Area (New Mexico) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Albuquerque 470 $57,150
Las Cruces 90 $40,960
     
Metro Area (New York) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Cheektowaga 470 $59,200
Buffalo 470 $59,200
Niagara Falls 470 $59,200
Rochester 390 $55,510
Troy 310 $58,780
Albany 310 $58,780
Schenectady 310 $58,780
Syracuse 220 $55,640
Rome 90 $69,700
Utica 90 $69,700
Kingston 50 $73,480
Binghamton N/A $71,400
     
Metro Area (North Carolina) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Durham 460 $54,450
Chapel Hill 460 $54,450
Salem 430 $54,000
Winston 430 $54,000
Raleigh 320 $57,020
Greensboro 290 $56,240
High Point 290 $56,240
Asheville 230 $52,570
Fayetteville 150 $49,530
Greenville 130 $49,700
Hickory 100 $52,420
Lenoir 100 $52,420
Morganton 100 $52,420
     
Metro Area (Ohio) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Columbus 1190 $53,720
Cleveland 1120 $56,560
Elyria 1120 $56,560
Toledo 580 $54,950
Dayton 520 $57,110
Akron 410 $53,760
Canton 180 $55,310
Massillon 180 $55,310
Lima 80 $55,200
Mansfield N/A $53,310
     
Metro Area (Oklahoma) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Oklahoma City 570 $53,690
Tulsa 250 $52,270
Lawton 40 $47,760
     
Metro Area (Oregon) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Redmond 80 $68,460
Bend 80 $68,460
     
Metro Area (Pennsylvania) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Pittsburgh 1370 $53,530
Carlisle 300 $58,730
Harrisburg 300 $58,730
Hazleton 190 $52,500
Wilkes 190 $52,500
Scranton 190 $52,500
Barre 190 $52,500
Bloomsburg 190 $60,000
Berwick 190 $60,000
Lancaster 140 $60,560
Hanover 130 $60,030
York 130 $60,030
Erie 120 $49,290
Johnstown 80 $52,920
Reading N/A $55,560
     
Metro Area (Puerto Rico) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Caguas 280 $21,120
Carolina 280 $21,120
San Juan 280 $21,120
Ponce 40 $21,090
     
Metro Area (South Carolina) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Mauldin 390 $50,460
Anderson 390 $50,460
Greenville 390 $50,460
North Charleston 340 $63,320
Charleston 340 $63,320
Spartanburg 140 N/A
Florence 110 $57,340
     
Metro Area (South Dakota) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Sioux Falls 190 $50,260
     
Metro Area (Tennessee) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Murfreesboro 900 $51,280
Franklin 900 $51,280
Davidson 900 $51,280
Nashville 900 $51,280
Knoxville 570 $47,080
Johnson City 150 $43,380
Jackson 120 $42,300
Morristown 50 $43,340
     
Metro Area (Texas) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Dallas 3310 $59,730
Fort Worth 3310 $59,730
Arlington 3310 $59,730
Houston 2600 $59,310
Sugar Land 2600 $59,310
The Woodlands 2600 $59,310
San Antonio 1420 $56,370
New Braunfels 1420 $56,370
Round Rock 530 $56,350
Austin 530 $56,350
Mission 430 $59,320
Edinburg 430 $59,320
McAllen 430 $59,320
El Paso 320 $49,070
Killeen 260 $57,410
Temple 260 $57,410
Brownsville 230 $57,170
Harlingen 230 $57,170
Port Arthur 220 $56,350
Beaumont 220 $56,350
Lubbock 180 $48,820
Bryan 160 $59,840
College Station 160 $59,840
Amarillo 140 $49,580
Longview 130 $51,570
Tyler 120 $49,180
Abilene 80 $48,140
Odessa 70 $49,770
Waco 70 $51,540
Sherman 50 $54,230
Denison 50 $54,230
     
Metro Area (Utah) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Salt Lake City 490 $60,100
Clearfield 220 $52,910
Ogden 220 $52,910
Orem 110 $60,310
Provo 110 $60,310
     
Metro Area (Virginia) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Richmond 380 $57,110
Roanoke 190 $55,080
Charlottesville 190 $57,460
Lynchburg 80 $49,420
Radford 50 $50,480
Blacksburg 50 $50,480
Christiansburg 50 $50,480
     
Metro Area (Washington) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Seattle 1260 $70,070
Bellevue 1260 $70,070
Tacoma 1260 $70,070
Spokane Valley 360 $64,620
Spokane 360 $64,620
Walla Walla 40 $71,890
     
Metro Area (West Virginia) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Charleston 180 $46,140
Morgantown 160 $50,500
Beckley 50 $44,090
Vienna N/A $45,910
Parkersburg N/A $45,910
     
Metro Area (Wisconsin) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
West Allis 690 $62,980
Waukesha 690 $62,980
Milwaukee 690 $62,980
Madison 220 $60,730
Green Bay 130 $58,630
Eau Claire 100 $56,480
Wausau 70 $52,920
Neenah 50 $54,440
Oshkosh 50 $54,440
Racine 50 $66,030
Beloit 40 $55,130
Janesville 40 $55,130
Appleton N/A $59,170
     
Metro Area (Wyoming) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Cheyenne 30 $58,740

Career Stories (Job Profiles) for Respiratory Therapists

To find out more about building a career as Respiratory Therapists, we spoke with professionals in the field across a variety of specialties. Learn about their experiences on the job, the steps they took to complete their education, and what it takes to excel in this industry. Click the link to see a story.

All Types

Most Popular Industries for :
Respiratory Therapists

Industries representing at least 1% of total jobs for the occupation.

2016 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov; 2014-24 State Occupational Projections, Projections Central, projectionscentral.com

Industry Jobs Percent Annual Median Salary
Hospital 84,110 81% $52,090
Medical Office 5,920 5% $53,810
Office Services And Staffing 3,570 3% $61,100
Nursing And Residential Care 3,550 3% $51,900
Rental And Lease 2,760 2% $45,880
Drug Stores 1,270 1% $48,960
Click the Visit School Site buttons to go directly to a school's website and learn more about the school and programs it has to offer. School website will open in a new tab.
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Results:  10
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Programs
  • Degree - Respiratory Therapy
  • Many programs require externships, allowing students to gain real-world experience.
  • Approved A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) since 1984.
  • Offers 22 accelerated, career-focused program options including business administration, medical assisting, and more.
  • Regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
  • 11 campuses across California, with an online division as well.
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Ontario
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Programs
  • Respiratory Therapy
  • A Los Angeles-based private college offering programs in medical sciences, legal studies, and graphic design since 1985.
  • Has weekend programs, including certified  veterinary technology, nurse assistant, and hemodialysis technician.
  • Showcases visual communication students’ artwork and design through campus magazine.
  • 3 campuses in Southern California.
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
Programs
  • Respiratory Care - Associates
  • Therapy Health Technician

About Brightwood College

Brightwood College offers accelerated programs that combine flexible schedules and professional instruction to create a rewarding learning experience for individuals focused on gaining the skills for specific careers. Brightwood College is owned and operated by Education Corporation of America.

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Salida
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Programs
  • Advanced Professional Massage Therapy Program
  • Physical Therapy Aide/Sports Rehab Program
  • Offers training in various types of massage therapy, physical therapy/sports rehab, and personal fitness training & wellness.
  • Teaches in an environment that promotes learning and encourages empathetic and compassionate therapists.
  • Career service professionals work directly with students from the start of their program, and help them pursue employment in day spas, luxury hotels, cruise ships, and other locations.
  • Students can work in the SOCHI Massage Clinic to gain experience and build their career skills.
  • Financial aid representatives help students develop a personalized financial plan to finance their tuition.
Programs
  • Massage Therapy/Therapist
  • One of the largest massage therapy schools in the nation teaching since 1979.
  • First massage school in California to be nationally accredited.
  • Has a successful job placement record— 86% of graduates get placed into work in massage therapy.
  • Provides massage therapist education with multiple methods to ensure every student learns the material.
  • Offers lifetime career placement assistance and holds partnerships with a variety of employers.
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Studio City
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Programs
  • Massage Therapy
  • Esthetician / Massage Therapy
Start your career with training from Blake Austin College - Beauty Academy. We offer programs in cosmetology, massage therapy, and holistic health, plus a combination esthetics/massage program.
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Vacaville
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Programs
  • Cosmetology
  • Provides complete training and licensure preparation for aspiring cosmetologists.
  • Allows students to customize their schedule with day and night classes.
  • Offers advanced training classes in beauty and wellness.
  • Has top instructors with vast, real-world experience in the industry.
  • Teaches students important, innovative business and financial training.
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Alameda
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Programs
  • Counseling Psychology (EdD)
  • Counseling Psychology (MA)
  • Designated as a 2015 Military Friendly® School by Victory Media, publishers of G.I. Jobs®.
  • Each program is designed to instill the knowledge, ethical values, and interpersonal skills of professional practice and to foster values of social responsibility.
  • Offers several flexible learning options, including a blended format that combines campus and online learning.
  • Several scholarship opportunities are available for students who qualify.
  • Features a competency-based MBA program that allows students to test out of subjects based on prior professional experience.
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Orange
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Programs
  • Online Master of Arts in Counseling - Clinical Mental Health Counseling (CMHC)
  • Ranked #4 among the 2015 Best Regional Universities in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Designated as 2015 Military Friendly School by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Student to faculty ratio of 12:1, with an average class size of 21.
  • 85% of faculty holds a doctorate or terminal degree in their field.
  • Regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association (NCA).
Programs
  • M.A. Clinical Psychology, Marital and Family Therapy Specialization
  • Psy.D. Clinical Psychology
  • Psy.D. Applied Clinical Psychology
  • Designated a 2015 Military Friendly School by Victory Media for the 4th consecutive year.
  • Listed on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll in 2013, for the sixth consecutive year.
  • Links students to hundreds of training opportunities ( beyond their traditional internships and practicum) at their many “partner agencies” in each of their local communities. 
  • Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
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Los Angeles
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We have some additional detailed pages at the state level for Respiratory Therapists.

Numbers in parentheses are counts of relevant campus-based schools in the state; online schools may also be available.

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