Radiographers use different kinds of radiation to diagnose, or treat, ill or injured patients.
There are two kinds of radiography:
Diagnostic radiography, which is the use of radiation to investigate a patient’s illness or injury, and:
Therapeutic radiography, which is the use of various kinds of radiation to treat an illness or injury.
Combine a passion for technology with sharp analytical skills and a desire to help others, and you’ll have the ideal applicant for a radiography and medical technology degree. Far from being simply technicians, radiographers can play a huge part in a patient’s journey – in fact, therapeutic radiographers will build up extensive personal relationships with patients, as they work with them daily to administer their required treatment. This is often using x-rays (and other ionising radiation) to treat cancer and tumours.
Diagnostic radiographers, on the other hand, will the use the techniques and technology at their disposal to figure out the cause of a patient’s illness, which could involve using x-rays, MRI machines, or ultrasound. Diagnostic radiographers often work in the radiology and imaging department, and use their skills to supplement patient care for most other departments in the hospital, including accident and emergency, and operating theatres.
A dedicated medical technology degree is currently unavailable at undergraduate level in the UK, but is something you could progress on to studying as a postgraduate, with either a master’s or a PhD.
To become a radiographer, you’ll need a degree that is approved by the Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC).
To do a degree in diagnostic or therapeutic radiography, you usually need at least five GCSEs or equivalents (A – C), including English, maths, and a science, plus three A levels/Scottish Highers, or equivalents (including a science subject).
A levels – Entry requirements range from CCC to BBB, with universities and colleges most commonly asking for BBB.
Scottish Highers – Entry requirements for Highers (the most common qualification) range from BBBC to ABBBB, with universities or colleges most frequently requiring BBBC. Occasionally, universities ask for Advanced Highers to supplement Highers. If Advanced Highers are requested, universities or colleges typically ask for BBB.
Vocational courses – Other Level 3/Level 6 qualifications (e.g. Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma in Science or SCQF Level 6) may be accepted as an alternative to A levels/Highers by some providers. It’s essential that you check alternative entry requirements with universities or colleges.
- Apply by 15 January
- Personal statement
- Submit a portfolio
- Audition for a place
- Attend an interview
- Pass an entry test
- Show work experience
A radiographer is trained to perform non-invasive procedures (such as radiation treatment for cancer patients) and to interpret x-ray imaging, but a formal diagnosis of a condition would come from a radiologist, who is a fully qualified, practising doctor.
As well as learning how to operate the technology involved in radiography, and the analytical skills required, you’ll also be improving your patient care and people skills.
You’ll learn about using CT (computed tomography), MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), angiography, fluoroscopy, x-ray, ultrasound, and others over the course of your studies.
The vast majority of the UK’s radiographers work for the NHS, which champions a continuous professional development scheme, so there will be a lot of scope for on-the-job learning once you’re qualified and working.
Later in your career, you can also have the opportunity to progress into a specialism or take on extra responsibilities, such as prescribing medicine, training, teaching, or managing a team. There’s even scope to work in hospitals and medical centres abroad – if you’re so inclined!
Some modules you may study are:
- Academic and professional practice
- Radiotherapy in practice
- Diagnostic imaging
- Medical ethics
- Medical law
- Diagnostic technology and physics
- Radiation physics
- Complementary image systems
- Radiography research
A recently qualified therapeutic radiographer will start on a salary of £23,023.
Studying radiography and medical technology at degree level will most often lead to a job as a:
- x-ray operator
- clinical photographer
- medical instrument technician
There's a wide variety of technical jobs available for graduates of radiography and medical technology in the health sector. The skills you’ll gain studying radiography and medical technology can help prepare you for a career as a:
- biomedical scientist
- biomedical engineer
- clinical engineer
- dental technician
- dental hygienist
- biomedical scientist
- clinical support worker
- prosthetist and orthotist
- anatomical pathology technician
You’ll spend an average of 17 hours per week attending lectures and seminars on a radiography and medical technology degree. And students are often also required to achieve a high number of placement hours each academic year. You’ll need to be really on top of your schedule to manage this, as often you’ll be accounted for almost every waking hour, if you include writing assignments, researching, revising for exams, and socialising!
Studying a radiography and medical technology degree is likely to involve:
- placement work
- clinical practice
- writing reports
- attending lectures and seminars
- conducting case studies
- research and independent study
- written and practical assessment