There are two types of radiographer. Diagnostic radiographers deal with patients with a variety of injuries and illnesses. They assess patients’ needs before using a range of sophisticated equipment to produce images to diagnose the injury or disease.
Therapeutic radiographers plan and deliver programmes of radiation treatment to cancer patients. They explain and agree treatments with patients, their relatives and carers, as well as monitoring progress throughout the treatment.
Radiographers work mainly in hospital imaging departments, accident and emergency departments, operating theatres and wards. The work can be physically demanding as well as emotionally stressful.
Salaries in the NHS range from at least £21,388 for new entrants up to £68,000 a year for a consultant radiographer.
A radiographer should:
- feel comfortable operating complex, high-tech equipment
- have good IT, communication and teamwork skills
- be self-confident, think quickly and make decisions independently
- be able to build good relationships with patients
- be physically fit and emotionally resilient
- be interested in science and people’s health
Most radiographers work in NHS hospitals. Currently there is a shortage of both types of radiographer.
To become a radiographer you need a recognised first degree or accelerated postgraduate qualification, but diagnostic radiographers and therapeutic radiographers have to study separate degree subjects. You will usually need at least five GCSEs (A-C), including English, maths and (preferably) a science, plus three A levels (including biology or physics). Other qualifications such as an Access to Higher Education or Diploma in Health and Social Care or Applied Science may be accepted.
Another route into radiography is to start as a radiography assistant and work your way up to assistant practitioner. At practitioner level, your employer may give you the opportunity to work and study part-time for a degree and professional qualification as a radiographer.
Radiographers can move on to more senior posts with management responsibility. Geographical mobility may be needed to achieve promotion. They can also move into research, teaching, or quality assurance as well as other NHS roles.
There are good opportunities to work abroad.