Getting it Right and Getting the Jobs

Respiratory Therapy Students Breathing Fresh Air into the Workforce

“The Respiratory Therapy program at Kent State Ashtabula was impressive and prepared me extremely well for the job in the real world." - Jake Lines '15

The Respiratory Therapy program at Kent State University at Ashtabula is hard to beat. While many students are graduating from colleges across the country only to discover the painful reality that there are no jobs for them, Kent State Ashtabula has a better story tell: 100% of RT students in the Fall 2018 class have jobs waiting for them after they graduate. They are excited about their future and say the program at Kent State Ashtabula has been incredible.

The two-year Associate of Applied Science Degree in Respiratory Therapy program started in 2009 and saw its first graduating class in 2011. Director of the program, Yvonne George M.Ed., RRT, says that respiratory therapy began as a profession in the 1960s but feels that even today, it is a career that people don’t know a lot about. She says it’s an excellent educational path and career choice for potential students who are deciding on their education options and future career plans.  

“This is a great profession that provides intensive care to patients, improves their quality of life and saves lives — it has a high level of personal satisfaction — and also provides an excellent income as a full-time career,” George says. She added that therapists play a major role in health care because they are part of the collaborative healthcare team and are at the bedside, providing care 24/7 alongside doctors and nurses.

Graduating RT's see a median salary of $59,700 per year, and many receive a signing bonus of up to $6,000 as well as other incentives

Kent State Ashtabula’s program has a capacity for 22 students a year. After completing the first year of in-class studies, students can seek work in a hospital - earning as much as $17 an hour - while they continue their academic curriculum. At the end of the two years, after graduation and passing the credentialing exams these new respiratory technologists are sought after by numerous hospitals, see a median salary of $59,700 per year, and many receive a signing bonus of up to $6,000 as well as other incentives. 

George says it is a challenging program, but students have the full support of the faculty and work very hard to be successful. She reveals many students coming into the program are passionate about respiratory therapy — some have personal connections for choosing the RT program such as a family member with respiratory problems or illness.

Kent State Ashtabula has a ‘positive placement’ in the program of 99% of graduating students passing their credentialing exam and finding work before they graduate or immediately after. It is an excellent job market as the demand for qualified respiratory therapists is high. George says that at least a third of the graduating students return to Kent State Ashtabula’s online program to earn their Bachelor of Science Degree in Respiratory Care (BSRC), which can be completed in two years and has the potential to warrant additional increases in pay. Many of those returning for their BSRC receive tuition reimbursement as part of their benefits package from their teaching hospital where they currently work, which means they can continue to work full-time, take their classes, and receive tuition compensation at the same time.

The 2018 graduating students themselves can’t say enough good things about the program.

“A lot of people think of respiratory technology as just giving breathing treatments, but it is so much more than that,” says Allen McGath. Classmate Shawne Durey adds “We respond every time there is an emergency anywhere in the hospital for anything. We are at the head of the bed ready to intubate or do whatever is necessary; the patients are trusting us with their life, and the doctors consult with us on treatments and value our opinions.”

“A lot of people think of respiratory technology as just giving breathing treatments, but it is so much more than that” - Allen McGath, Class of 2018

“Our instructors, Amy (Rodenhausen) and Megan (Alicea) are the most inspiring and supportive teachers we could have asked for. They were laid back — not drill sergeants at all, they were committed to seeing us succeed and we could talk to them any time,” the students said collectively, each wanting to express their profound gratitude. “We respect them so much, they are both RT’s themselves and are still working in the field, so they know what is going on in the real job — they are awesome.”

When asked if they had any advice for incoming students, Hayley Sichko said, “This is definitely a challenging program, and you have to commit wholeheartedly.” Joe Senz agreed and said, “Take your clinical rotations seriously, be open to learning, and aim to excel — don’t just go for a passing grade. This is important and intense work and the doctors, nurses and patients depend on your knowledge.” 

This class had many job options to choose from: Gabrielle Harner accepted a job at the Ashtabula County Medical Center; Sichko and Durey will be staying with UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital in pediatrics where they are currently concluding their clinical work; and Senz and McGath accepted jobs at the Cleveland Clinic and Alliance Hospital, respectively. Each is very excited to begin their career and looking forward to a very bright future. 

Having jobs waiting for the students in the program is not a one-time phenomenon. Alumnus Jake Lines, who graduated with his associate degree in 2015, says that every one of his classmates also had jobs when they graduated.

“My class did their field work at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, and they were super impressed with our clinical skills,” said Lines. He added, “The Respiratory Therapy program at Kent State Ashtabula was impressive and prepared me extremely well for the job in the real world. The professors, the student office staff, the financial aid service — everyone was awesome and could not have been more supportive or helpful, and they did everything they could to help me and my classmates succeed.” 

Lines says his only regret is not going straight into the online bachelor’s program after he graduated with his associate degree. He has been working as a respiratory therapist for three years at University Hospital in Cleveland and is currently enrolled in the online BSRC program at Kent State Ashtabula. UH pays for Lines’ tuition as part of its on-going continuing education for their employees. Lines isn’t sure why he delayed continuing his education but plans on getting his BSRC in the next two years, which will give him greater earnings potential and administrative/management opportunities. He is considering going another two years after earning his bachelor’s degree to become a Physician Assistant or Anesthesiology Assistant. Both of those jobs have starting salaries over $104,000 a year.

For more about the Respiratory Therapy program and admission information, visit

POSTED: Thursday, November 15, 2018 - 12:45pm
UPDATED: Friday, November 16, 2018 - 1:23pm
Karen Wiese, Kent State Ashtabula Communications and Marketing Intern