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How to become a radiographer

Interested in a career in healthcare but not sure what other jobs you can do instead of becoming a doctor or a nurse? Why not find out how to become a radiographer?

'If you like helping people, radiography could be a great career choice if you don't want to become a doctor or a nurse'

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What is a radiographer?

Radiographers are healthcare workers who use radiation and other imaging techniques to diagnose illnesses and injuries, and to treat patients. This usually takes place in a hospital environment.

What does a radiographer do?

Before we dive into what a radiographer actually does, the first thing you should know is that there are two main types or radiography - diagnostic and therapeutic: 

Image of a chest x-ray
Diagnostic radiographers take images of inside the body

Diagnostic radiographers

Diagnostic radiographers take images of inside the body to take a closer look at injuries and diagnose illnesses. This can include the use of a variety of imaging technology such as x-rays, ultrasounds, MRI scans and CT scans.

Typical duties of a diagnostic radiographer can include:

  • Assessing patients to decide which imaging technique is best to use
  • Producing and interpreting high-quality images to help with diagnosis
  • Make sure equipment is used safely to protect yourself and patients

Therapeutic radiographers

Therapeutic radiographers on the other hand, use doses of radiation to treat illnesses such as cancers or tumours for example. This also involves helping to come up with a treatment plan, and helping patients to manage any negative side effects.

Typical duties of a therapeutic radiographer can include:

  • Planning a treatment programme with other departments/colleagues involved in the patient’s care
  • Calculating the right dose of radiation needed
  • Explaining treatments to patients and their families, keeping track of their progress and conducting follow up appointments

Whichever route you choose to go down though, you should be prepared to be working shifts. This means that you’ll have to work some early mornings, evenings, and weekends, so radiography probably isn’t the career for you if you like the idea of a typical 9 - 5.

Image of a medical professional writing on a clipboard
You'll need to register with the Health and Care Professions Council 

What qualifications do I need to become a radiographer?

To actually practice as a radiographer, you’ll need to be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). But, before you can do that, you’ll need to successfully complete an approved radiography degree or degree apprenticeship

Many universities will also like to see that you have some work experience on your CV in a radiography department, so it’s a good idea to contact your local hospital and try and get some work experience under your belt before applying. The good news is that by studying a health-related degree, you could be entitled to financial support from the NHS through the NHS Learning Support Fund. You could receive at least £5,000 per year of study, and the best part? You won’t have to pay it back.

To get onto a radiography course, you’ll typically need:

  • Four or five GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) or equivalent, including English, maths and science
  • Three A-levels, or equivalent, including at least 1 science

Make sure to double check the requirements of the course you are interested in though, as this can vary slightly.

What skills do I need to become a radiographer?

As with all healthcare careers, to be a radiographer, you’ll have to be caring and good at dealing with the public, but some other useful skills and qualities include:

  • Being a team player
  • Adaptability
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills
  • Ability to work under pressure
  • Observational skill and attention to detail

Typical salary and career progression

If you decide to work in the NHS, you can expect to start on a salary of around £24,000 - £25,000 per year, with this increasing as you become more experienced. As you work your way up through the ranks, you could decide to specialise in a specific type of imaging, with certain patients (such as cancer or stroke patients), or even eventually manage your own radiography team!

Want to work in health but not sure if university is for you? Check out these apprenticeships you could do instead.