Diagnostic radiographers work in a specific area of radiography, diagnosing and monitoring patients using a range of technology and equipment. They are likely to work with Xrays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computerised tomography (CT scans), fluoroscopy (a type of Xray movie), angiography (images of blood flow), radionuclide imaging (making images of parts of the body using small quantities of radioactive chemical) and ultrasound.
A diagnostic radiographer works alongside doctors, nurses and other health professionals. They use scans and imaging technologies to identify injuries, diseases and other conditions, such as broken bones, cancer, or digestive system disorders.
Typical work activities include:
- liaising with other medical staff
- scanning patients using a variety of imaging equipment and techniques
- interpreting images.
Diagnostic radiographers help doctors, nurses and other practitioners to determine injuries – for example after a patient has been brought into an accident and emergency department – or illnesses, such as whether a patient has a tumour or other disease. They may also monitor a patient's progress, for example to see how effective a treatment has been, or whether a disease has spread.
Most diagnostic radiographers work for the National Health Service either at a hospital, a dedicated clinic or a specialist unit. A standard week is around 37.5 hours, which may be split into shifts to cover evenings, nights and weekends as well as outpatient appointments and consultants' clinics. A qualified radiographer can choose to specialise in certain areas, such as mammography, or with a certain type of patient, for example with children. Some radiographers go into private practice or work at private hospitals, others specialise in teaching at universities, or work for the companies that manufacture and develop the equipment used by radiographers.
Vacancies can be found on the Society of Radiographers' own website, on NHS trust sites and the central NHS jobsite. Roles in a similar field to diagnostic radiographer include radiography assistant, imaging support worker and therapeutic radiographer. Sonographers specialise in the use of ultrasound scanning. Clinical radiologists are doctors who work with radiographers and staff from other specialties.
Personal Qualities and Skills
Key skills for diagnostic radiographers
- Good at communicating with people
- Enjoys working in a team
- Caring manner, calm approach and able to reassure nervous patients
- Enjoys working with technology and learning about new developments
- Attention to detail and accuracy.
Pay And Opportunities
Typical employers of diagnostic radiographers
- The National Health Service
- Scanning and radiography equipment manufacturers
- Private medical practices
- Private hospitals.
Qualifications and training required
Before you can be called a radiographer you must hold a relevant degree as 'radiographer' is a protected title. Radiographers are regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). Entry into the profession is via a full-time three- or four-year degree course, and there's a two-year accelerated option for postgraduates with a relevant first degree. The Society & College of Radiographers offers membership, support and ongoing learning opportunities to anyone working in clinical imaging across all levels, including student radiographers.
Diagnostic radiographer training
The current training process involves the following...
An undergraduate degree course in radiography typically lasts three years in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and four years in Scotland. It results in a BSc. The course is split into two elements, studying subjects such as anatomy, imaging techniques and oncology, for example, and working at supervised clinical placements. The year one modules may include working in healthcare, image acquisition and manipulation. Examples of year two modules include clinical imaging and technology, and trauma, orthopaedic and mobile imaging. In year three students may opt to study modules such as advances in diagnostic imaging, image interpretation, and becoming a practitioner, or they may opt to undertake a research project or individually negotiated study.
An MSc two-year course in diagnostic therapy covers similar modules to the BSc, alongside a professional development programme and clinical placements. Other routes into the profession include studying for a postgraduate certificate (PgCert) or postgraduate diploma (PgDip) if you already hold a first degree at 2:2 or above, or an equivalent professional qualification together have two years of experience as a qualified practitioner.
Applying for courses
Requirements for the BSc degree course vary according to the institution offering the course, but typically, you may be asked for two or three science A levels such as physics, chemistry and biology, plus five GCSEs including maths, English and science. Scottish universities may ask for four SQA Highers, to include English, and at least two from biology/human biology, physics, chemistry or maths. Other qualifications that may be approved are a BTEC, HND or HNC with science, relevant NVQs, or a relevant access course. Candidates may also have to pass a selection process, which may be an interview or aptitude tasks.
The MSc option is aimed at students who already have a healthcare or science degree at 2:1 or above. Other requirements, such as five GCSEs (or the Scottish equivalent) including maths and English and at least one pure science (biology, chemistry or physics) grade C or above may be required if you don't hold an A level or Scottish Higher in a pure science subject, or your first degree is not a pure science. Work experience at a radiography department may also be asked for.