People working in cardiopulmonary disciplines don't always need a bachelor's degree as an entry-level qualification. However, they may find it useful. A bachelor's degree can qualify them to work on complex procedures, move into specialty fields and management roles, or work in non-clinical jobs in community education or teaching. A bachelor's degree in cardiopulmonary science leads to various career paths.
Working in Respiratory Care
Respiratory therapists treat patients who have breathing or related cardiopulmonary disorders. Working with physicians, they run different kinds of tests, such as lung capacity measurements and blood gas analysis, to help evaluate the extent of breathing difficulties. After diagnosis, therapists administer treatments, such as physiotherapy and ventilation. They may also help patients and their families learn how to manage their own respiratory treatments in the home.
Jobs in Polysomnography
Polysomnography focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders. Some graduates of cardiopulmonary science programs specialize in this discipline, learning how to complete sleep histories, identify common disorders and run monitoring tests as part of their studies. Techs evaluate patients as they sleep, recording various functions, including breathing, heart rhythms, eye movements and brain activity. This data help physicians identify underlying problems or disorders and establish treatment plans.
Working in Cardiovascular Care
A bachelor's in cardiopulmonary science also opens doors to various cardiovascular jobs. For example, some graduates find work as cardiac or vascular technologists or sonographers. Cardiac specialists use ultrasound techniques to evaluate the condition of the heart. They run echocardiograms while patients are resting or exercising. Vascular specialists use ultrasound and blood pressure monitoring to diagnose and evaluate blood flow and volume in patients with a focus on the circulatory system.
Working in Education
Some cardiopulmonary science graduates work in education. They might take on teaching roles, helping to train future medical professionals, or find work as community health educators. The latter position involves educating people to help prevent and manage illness, making them aware of risk factors, teaching them healthy living skills, and helping them cope if they do develop cardiopulmonary problems. For example, an educator may work as part of a cardiovascular outreach program, or may give advice on how to quit smoking.
Bachelor Degree Programs in Cardiopulmonary Science
Although bachelor's degrees typically take four years to complete, students who already have an associate degree in the discipline may be eligible for a conversion program that fast-tracks them from an associate's to a bachelor's. The time this takes depends on whether students study full-time, part-time or online. As well as focusing on general cardiopulmonary teaching, most programs expect students to specialize in their chosen fields as part of their studies. Some require students to have work experience in a cardiopulmonary job and to hold a professional certification.
2016 Salary Information for Respiratory Therapists
Respiratory therapists earned a median annual salary of $58,670 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, respiratory therapists earned a 25th percentile salary of $49,340, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $70,650, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 130,200 people were employed in the U.S. as respiratory therapists.