Respiratory care is one of the nation's fastest growing health professions, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the employment outlook for respiratory therapists will increase by 28 percent during the next several years. Respiratory therapists treat patients experiencing breathing issues because of asthma, bronchitis, emphysema and other respiratory diseases. The best respiratory therapy schools offer accredited degree programs with sufficient preparation for certification exams and professional career opportunities, according to the American Association for Respiratory Care.

Tacoma Community College

Tacoma Community College is recognized as one of the nation's top 50 community colleges in the 2013 edition of Washington Monthly, which selected the college for the honor based on criteria related to graduation and retention rates. Tacoma Community College offers an Associate in Applied Sciences degree in respiratory therapy. Accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory care, the program prepares students to take the exam given by the National Board of Respiratory Care. Because entrance into the program is extremely competitive, many students who apply for admission are not accepted. Course work covers topics related to such areas as pulmonary functions and pediatric respiratory care.

University of Alabama-Birmingham

Students can earn a Bachelor of Science degree in respiratory therapy at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. The respiratory therapy degree program at UAB is one of only two of its kind in the entire state. The degree program is housed at a major research and medical center, and students enroll in courses related to pulmonary pathology and respiratory care pharmacology. The 2014 edition of "U.S. News & World Report" ranks the University of Alabama-Birmingham as a top school in its national universities category. The university maintains a spot on the list due to factors associated with student retention rates, faculty accessibility and its highly regarded academic reputation.

University of Mary/St. Alexius Medical Center

At the University of Mary/St. Alexius Medical Center in North Dakota, students choose one of three specialty areas: patient care/diagnostic, education or management. The university awards a Master of Science in respiratory therapy requiring 37 credit hours of graduate course work. With a faculty-student ratio of 4-to-1 in the classroom, students receive a significant amount of personalized instruction. The 2014 volume of "U.S. News & World Report" ranks the University of Mary as one of the most elite schools in the Midwest because of high graduate rates, reputable academic programs and adequate financial resources for student spending.

Northeastern University

The Master of Science at Northeastern University in respiratory leadership offers seven specialization areas: health management, higher education administration, adult and organizational learning, nonprofit management, regulatory affairs, clinical trial design, project management and advanced leadership. The entirely online graduate program consists of 43 quarter hours of course work, and students can graduate in a year if enrolled full time. Northeastern University secured a spot among Forbes’ top 100 American colleges in the Northeast in 2013. Student satisfaction and post-graduate success rates earned the institution this prestigious recognition.

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