northeastern university seal
EXPLORE NORTHEASTERN
The Value of a Master’s Degree in Respiratory Care

Faculty Insights Healthcare

The Affordable Care Act, recent technological advances, and a growing elderly population are escalating the need for skilled respiratory therapists. To be successful, today’s respiratory care leaders must be skilled educators, department managers, respiratory care specialists, case managers, and research coordinators. In response, Northeastern University’s College of Professional Studies has developed the Master of Science in Respiratory Care Leadership (MSRCL).

Created for practicing respiratory therapists, this master’s degree in respiratory care incorporates an action-learning approach that builds leadership competencies and advances the student’s clinical knowledge.  Seven core respiratory care courses cover areas such as advanced cardiopulmonary physiology, development of clinical practice guidelines and protocols, respiratory therapist education, and applied research design.

Why Earn a Master’s in Respiratory Care Leadership?

Northeastern’s MSRCL program is designed to meet the need for registered respiratory therapists (RRTs) to increase their competency in one or more specialized practice areas: adult critical care, neonatal and pediatric intensive care, asthma, and COPD wellness coordination. The goal is to help students working in these areas to reach a competency level where they can become National Board for Respiratory Care certified specialists.

This concentration, and the Graduate Certificate Program in Respiratory Specialty Practice, require completion of four courses for a total of 16 quarter hours. Students in the graduate certificate program are able to transfer all credit hours to the MSRCL program and will have their master’s concentration courses completed on day one. This offers an opportunity to practicing RRTs who have been out of school for some time (and thus may be nervous about completing a graduate degree) to work on courses in areas where they are most likely to succeed. Earning a Graduate Certificate in Respiratory Specialty Practice prepares students for NBRC specialty examinations and documents their competency as advanced clinical specialists.

Who Should Pursue a Master’s in Respiratory Care Leadership?

master's in respiratory care

Master’s programs in respiratory care are well suited for those who wish to assume a managerial position within a healthcare organization, teach respiratory therapy in an academic setting, assume roles as clinical specialists, or become coordinators of respiratory care research. Students must be registered respiratory therapists (RRTs) and have earned an undergraduate degree—typically a bachelor’s degree in respiratory therapy or an associate degree in respiratory therapy combined with a bachelor’s degree in health sciences (or its equivalent).

Most MS in RCL students are full-time professionals in acute care hospitals as managers/supervisors or as staff RRTs assigned to adult, pediatric, or neonatal ICUs. Students may be faculty members for associate or baccalaureate RT programs. Several programs are 100 percent online, allowing students to work full-time while completing their master’s degree.

Careers and Salaries

Many alumni of Northeastern’s MS in RCL program now work as faculty members at universities with starting annual salaries of $80,000. Others work for international corporations earning $150,000 per year. Research shows that advanced degrees are particularly valuable in health and social/behavioral sciences, with graduate degree holders earning 35 percent more than those with bachelor’s degrees.

There is a great demand for RRTs with master’s degrees in respiratory care to serve as faculty members, program directors, and directors of clinical education for 440 respiratory care programs located throughout the United States. There are also many opportunities for graduates of the master’s in respiratory care programs to fill leadership positions in 3800 acute care hospitals throughout the U.S.

Experiential Learning at Northeastern

Northeastern University MSRCL students and alumni typically meet at the American Association for Respiratory Care Congress and  Summer Forum to support each other during research abstract presentations and first-time lectures and enjoy the interaction with their fellow graduate students. Several students have participated in AARC Political Advocacy Action Team (PACT) activities and have made the trip to Washington, D.C. to lobby their representatives in Congress. There are students enrolled in the MSRCL Program that have served as members of the AARC Board of Directors, AARC affiliate president and as affiliate representatives to the AARC House of Delegates. This provides a great resource for other graduate students on how to become actively involved with their professional association.

MS in Respiratory Care Leadership: Alumni Profiles

Maria Madden, MSc, RRT, RRT-ACCS, ‘18

Maria Madden

The Master of Science in Respiratory Care Leadership program with a concentration in respiratory specialty practice from Northeastern University has benefited me in many ways. It has confirmed the knowledge I have from 27 years in the clinical setting with various roles as a respiratory therapist, educator, and leader. The professors are always willing to help and encourage you to advance your skills and education.

The knowledge I have gained is contributing to my interest in research and the field of respiratory care, my continued thirst for knowledge, and my love of my profession. The MS program has led to my increased involvement with the AARC. With guidance from professors like Dr. Thomas Barnes, Dr. Dean Hess, and Dr. Aaron Light, I am now assisting the AARC with clinical practice guidelines (CPG).  The program has assisted me in expanding my research skills with courses taught by Dr. Barnes in Research Design and Applied Research in Respiratory Care.

At the 2018 and 2019 AARC Congress, I was honored to moderate several lectures and an open forum session, and have been elected chair-Elect for the AARC Adult Critical Care membership section. I also provided lectures in 2018 and 2019 at the AARC Congress, and I will be awarded the 2019 Philips Respironics Fellowship in Mechanical Ventilation there in 2019.

I am confident in my skills and the knowledge that I am enjoying educating and mentoring other respiratory therapists to grow in our field.

Daniel Gochenour, MSc, RRT, RRT-ACCS, RRT-NPS, AE-C, ’15.

Daniel GochenourAfter graduating from Northeastern University in 2015 with my Master of Science in Respiratory Care Leadership I was promoted into the role of Clinical Supervisor of Pulmonary Diagnostics & Respiratory Therapy Services at the University of Virginia Medical Center.

During that time, I had the opportunity to teach as an online adjunct faculty member in the BSRT program at Jefferson College of Health Sciences, Roanoke, Virginia. This spring I will be an online adjunct instructor for the new BSRT program at Liberty University in Virginia. I have also recently received a Governor appointed position to serve on the Virginia Board of Medicine Respiratory Therapy Advisory Board. In 2017, I began working on my Doctor of Health Sciences degree at Jefferson College of Health Sciences.

I look forward to continuing to use the skills I learned through the NEU MSRCL program to serve in leadership and educational roles in respiratory therapy.


Learn more about Northeastern’s MS in Respiratory Care Leadership Program, including program objectives, course information, and application requirements by visiting our program page.