If you’re considering returning to education as a mature student, you’ll have plenty of questions. How much will it cost? What are the time commitments? Will I fit in?
Mature students play a huge part in the life of the UK’s higher education sector, and the healthcare professions in particular welcome the experience that mature students can bring.
CASE STUDY Find out how mature student Claire balanced a full time degree course and family commitments.
If you like the idea of an exciting and rewarding job that lets you work closely with patients, cutting-edge technology and a large medical team, then radiography could be for you.
Radiography is a varied and challenging profession with opportunities to move into advanced or consultant level practice, as well as management, education or research.
There are two types of radiographer
Diagnostic radiographers take the lead responsibility for the management and care of patients undergoing the spectrum of imaging examinations, together with associated image interpretation.
Therapeutic (or therapy) radiographers take the lead responsibility for the management and care of patients undergoing radiotherapy during the pre-treatment, treatment delivery and immediate post-treatment phases. Their role supports patients and their families through the entire cancer journey from health promotion to end of life care.
What qualifications do I need?
A large proportion of radiography students are mature students who have come into higher education via many routes. If you don’t have the standard entry qualifications (generally good maths and English GCSE/standard grade passes and A levels/highers or equivalent in science subjects), universities will often look at your educational achievements and experience to see if they can offer you a place.
If you don't have the relevant science background, there is the option of taking an access course. Access to higher education courses are flexible programmes for adult learners (19+) who do not have the traditional qualifications required to study at degree level. Science access courses are preferable to healthcare ones – a full list of courses can be found on the Access to Higher Education website.
There are 24 universities around the UK approved to offer radiographic education and 14 universities approved to offer radiotherapy education. Check each university’s specific A level (or equivalent) entry requirements, as there are many differences between courses. Take a look at the SCoR's directory of university courses.
How much will it cost?
If you are accepted onto a university course, your tuition fees will be paid in full by the National Health Service (NHS). You may also receive a means-tested bursary – money to support you in your studies.
Speak to the university/universities you’re interested in to find out if the course is approved and what financial support you could receive. You can also find more information on student bursaries at NHS Careers and NHS Student Bursaries.
I want to study radiography. What do I need to know?
Study is at degree level and full-time only. Most courses are BSc (Hons) which are three years in length, four in Scotland. Applications for undergraduate BSc (Hons) courses are through UCAS.
If you already hold a BSc (Hons) in a scientific or healthcare related subject you may be able to do a PgD or MSc course which could take two or three years. Check your chosen universities' websites for details of postgraduate courses.
You will spend around half of your time working on clinical placement. Many universities operate an extended academic year to allow you to gain the necessary clinical experience. This may mean you have reduced holidays compared to a non-vocational degree course.
Working days can vary but generally your clinical work will involve a 9am to 5pm commitment, whereas university days may start a little later and/or finish a little earlier.
To find out more, check out the courses (and the associated time commitments) at the universities that interest you. Feel free to contact the university if you’ve got more questions. They’ll be only too pleased to help.
Each university course varies but core subjects include communication skills, oncology or digital imaging, anatomy, treatment or imaging techniques, radiation physics and research methods.
There are also opportunities to travel abroad to broaden your horizons and develop your skills even further! Some universities offer the Erasmus international exchange programme. The university admissions tutor will be able to tell you more about this.
A number of organisations offer ‘elective placements’, providing students with unforgettable healthcare and cultural experiences abroad. To find out more, visit Work the World and Global Medical Placements.
See for yourself!
It’s important to explore both disciplines – diagnostic and therapeutic – before deciding which to study. Some departments and centres hold open days for members of the public who would like to be shown round. Why not contact your local hospital's imaging or radiotherapy department to find out whether any open days are scheduled, or whether they'd allow you to visit on another day? It's a great way to get a ‘feel’ for the environment.
You can also organise a day’s work experience in a department either via your chosen universities, or by contacting the imaging or radiotherapy department direct.