How to become a diagnostic radiographer?
The chances are you have come across one of these at some point in your life – even if you didn’t know it at the time. The more accident prone among us are more familiar with them than we had ever hoped to be! The dictionary will tell you that a radiographer is ‘someone who makes radiographs” which, for the most part, isn’t very helpful… So we have broken the role down to get a better understanding of what exactly is involved.
What is a diagnostic radiographer?
In its very simplest form a diagnostic radiographer is a medical professional who is responsible for the production of medical images to assist in medical diagnosis and decision making…but of course its much, much more complicated than that!
A diagnostic radiographer will normally work within the radiology and imaging department of a medical establishment using a vast range of imaging technologies – as their name suggests, they are concerned with the diagnosis of medical conditions rather than their treatment. The therapeutic aspects of radiography is undertaken by a radiotherapy radiographer who is primarily involved in the administration of radiation therapy in the treatment of cancer and some other conditions – a role which we will cover in our career directory very soon.
What is the role like?
The role of diagnostic radiographer is a surprisingly varied one owing to the fact that they are used by almost all areas of medical practice. Take for example a radiographer working within a large NHS hospital, a typical day could see them carrying out diagnostic procedures across a vast range of cases using several different types of imaging techniques. Some of the technologies at the disposal of the diagnostic radiographer are computed tomography (CT), fluoroscopy, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), X-ray, Ultrasound and Angiography. Long term career prospects are also very attractive with the opportunity to specialize within a particular area as well as undertake management, research and teaching roles.
Like most medical professions, the career trajectory for diagnostic radiographers follows a strict hierarchy – the levels of which you will be able to move up through as you gain expertise, skill and experience. Here are the various tiers which you can expect to move through, and an idea of the salary which it is possible to receive;
Newly qualified – £21,000 – £ 27,000
Senior – £26,000 – £34,000
Advanced – Up to £40,000
Service Manager/Consultant Radiographer – Up to £65,000
What skills and attributes are needed?
A genuine and demonstrable interest in anatomy and physiology
The ability to learn and apply new technical skills
The ability to adapt to and embrace ever changing technologies
The desire and ability to work within a high pressure environment
The desire to work closely with patients in a professional, reassuring and discreet manner
Excellent team working ethos
Outstanding communication skills which are particularly essential when dealing with patients.
How to become a Radiographer
You won’t be surprised to learn that the route to becoming a junior diagnostic radiographer is a highly academic one. To become registered to practice, you will need to complete a diagnostic radiography degree which has been approved by the Health and Care Professionals Council (www.hpc-uk.org), check their website to browse the accredited courses. As with any degree the academic qualifications requested by universities varies quite significantly, but as a general rule you will need to hold at least 5 GCSE’s (or equivalent) to include English, maths and science as well as three solid A-levels including (at the very least) one science subject. You should check with your respective university to confirm their entry requirements. Most radiography courses are undertaken on a full time basis and last 3 years, however some Universities do offer the degree on a part time basis.
An alternative option (which is offered by a few universities) is a 2 year accelerated diploma course which is available to students who already hold a degree in a relevant field such as biology, anatomy or biomedical science.
Courses consist of a mix of classroom based learning and practical training in a number of clinical environments. Some of the topics which you can expect to study and gain essential skills in include patient care, image acquisition, image interpretation, anatomy and pathology.
If you still reckon a career as a diagnostic radiographer is the one for you then best of luck! However, if you are still trying decide what path to check then why not have a look at some of the other great guides in our career directory.