What should I know before becoming a radiographer?
By Dan Allard
Radiography is a great career choice for those with an interest in medicine, who are keen to use cutting edge technologies. Radiographers do not just diagnose illnesses, but they can work closely with doctors and nurses to interpret images and formulate treatment plans.
What are the different types of radiography?
There are two key types of radiography: diagnostic and therapeutic.
Diagnostic radiographers specialise in areas such as X-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans, MRI scans, nuclear medicine, or mammography. The work is based upon using imaging technology to diagnose illnesses.
Therapeutic radiography is about using equipment to plan and deliver accurate treatments. An example would be working in oncology departments, using complex equipment to accurately treat cancerous tumours.
What qualifications do I need to become a radiographer?
Different degrees are available for diagnostic and therapeutic radiography, so we recommend undertaking due diligence to decide which type of career you are most interested in.
When choosing to apply for a radiography or medical imaging degree, you will need at least 3 A-Levels including a science subject or maths.
Your degree will take four years, and you will be expected to complete clinical work placements which will allow you to put theoretical knowledge into practice. Students can benefit from funding support of at least £5,000 per year. Upon completion, you will need to be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).
Where would I work as a radiographer?
Larger hospitals may have large radiography teams and work will usually be undertaken within the radiography department. However, you could work in A&E, operating theatres, or as part of outpatient clinics. Some hospitals may have portable or mobile scanners that can be used in wards.
Is radiography just X-rays or are there opportunities to progress my career?
At the start of your career, you will likely work as a general radiographer (Band 5). This means that your focus will primarily be working on X-Rays. However, after 1-2 years, you may progress into a Band 6 radiography job which could allow you to expand your role further into areas such as supervision.
There is plenty of scope for further training for radiographers. Some hospitals will offer in-house training to help build skills for MRI or CT scans, whilst others will need to benefit from postgraduate training, which allow them to work in areas such as mammography or ultrasounds.
The Society of Radiographers has a great infographic that outlines the career progression of a radiographer. As technology continues to develop, we anticipate that new areas of medical imaging could emerge.
What are the usual working hours of a radiographer?
Those working in general radiography or specialising in an area such as mammography will likely work 9am-5.30pm, Monday to Friday. Those working in specialist roles such as CT or MRI may work longer shifts for three consecutive days, and then have four days off.
How much do radiographers earn?
Radiography salaries are set by the Agenda for Change pay scales. Depending on experience, you may start at Band 5 (£24,907+), with opportunities to progress up to Band 7 (£38,890+).
Those choosing to work as a locum radiographer can benefit from enhanced hourly rates as well as the opportunity to choose contracts that suit your experience, interests, and preferred working hours.
Our careers hub is packed full of resources to help you learn more about working in the NHS.