15-19 year old
You’re probably thinking about what to do when you leave school and wondering where your skills and interests will take you.
There are so many choices – college, university, training as an apprentice or going straight into a job – and making a decision can feel almost impossible.
If you like the idea of an exciting and rewarding career in healthcare that lets you work closely with patients, technology and a large medical team, then radiography could be for you.
Radiography is about imaging and radiotherapy and it is one of 15 allied health professions. The allied health professions are distinct from nursing or medicine and provide direct patient care and support services that are critical to the healthcare system.
There are two types of radiographer
Diagnostic radiographers – they diagnose illnesses and injuries;
Therapeutic (or therapy) radiographers – they treat and care for people with cancer.
Radiography is a very varied profession and there’s plenty of scope for clinical development – many diagnostic radiographers choose to specialise in certain areas, for example, ultrasound which uses high frequency sound waves to check a baby in the womb, or trauma/accident and emergency care.
Therapeutic radiographers specialise in the planning and administration of radiotherapy treatment for patients, most of whom have cancer. They have regular contact with patients over the course of their treatment and play a vital role in supporting them and their families and carers, from initial referral through to post-treatment follow-up care.
Both diagnostic and therapeutic radiography offer opportunities to move into advanced and consultant level practice, as well as management, education or research.
What makes a great radiographer?
Radiographers work very closely with patients so it’s important to enjoy meeting new people. A great radiographer is:
- Caring and supportive and able to put patients at ease;
- Calm under pressure (for example, dealing with medical emergencies);
- Good at communicating and enjoys working as part of a team;
- Confident working with leading-edge technology;
- Adaptable and has the ability to learn new skills (radiography is constantly changing).
What qualifications do I need?
Universities set their own entry requirements so look at their websites for more information. Generally, you'll need:
- 240 to 300 UCAS tariff points;
- Good maths and English GCSE/standard grade passes;
- A levels/highers or equivalent in science subjects.
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.
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.
You will spend around half of your time working on clinical placement. This means you’ll be learning by working in a real hospital department, with real patients!
Each university course varies but core subjects include communication skills, oncology or digital imaging, anatomy, treatment or imaging techniques, radiation physics and research methods.
Applications for undergraduate BSc (Hons) courses are through UCAS. To find out more about what’s on offer, check out the courses available at the universities that interest you. Go online or ask for a prospectus for more information. Also, feel free to contact the university if you’ve got more questions – they’ll be only too pleased to help you.
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 so ask the admissions tutor for further information.
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.
How much will it cost?
The financial support available for students taking approved courses in radiography is changing from 1 August 2017. You will now need to apply for a student loan rather than receive an NHS bursary. Additional financial support may be available for students with child dependents, those facing severe hardship and those incurring excess travel costs to attend practice placements.
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.
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.