What is a diagnostic radiographer?

Diagnostic radiographers play a key role in large medical teams, helping the NHS to provide a healthcare service that meets our patients' needs.

Using the latest imaging technology, diagnostic radiographers take high-quality images of the inside of the body. These images are used to diagnose and monitor illnesses or injuries, so patients receive the correct treatment.

To work in the NHS, art therapists must be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

Career story

Hear from Aminah, a diagnostic radiographer working in a hospital radiology department.

My name is Aminah and I am a diagnostic radiographer. A diagnostic radiographer is an allied health professional who is responsible for taking x-rays of patients. We use specialised imaging equipment to take pictures of bones and anatomy within the body to help doctors diagnose patients.  

We work mainly in the hospital environment, in the radiology departments. We have some departments in accident and emergency area of the hospital as well. We also carry out work in the operation theatres, taking images for surgeons in order to help them carry out procedures. 

Every day is different. Sometimes we have patients that come in through appointments. We also have patients that just come in, who go to their GP and need an X-ray that day, so we X-ray them. We also have accident and emergency people, so people who are hurt and need an X-ray there and then as well. So, it’s all different, every day we do different things. 

I think you have to have patience. You need to have a caring attitude and you need to be willing to take on challenges because there is a lot of problem-solving and a lot of using your initiative. 

There’s a 4-year university course, and throughout the course, I did a lot of placements in hospitals. So, it was a 13 weeks hospital placement and training, and 13 weeks academics, so that’s when you attend lectures and that’s how I became a radiographer. 

I think someone should train to be a diagnostic radiographer because it’s a rewarding job. We get to see sometimes patients that are really ill get better and I feel like we’ve helped to make this patient better. We also get to work with lots of fancy equipment, taking images and it’s quite an exciting job. 

How you can become a diagnostic radiographer

Choosing subjects at school

To get on a course that could lead to a career as a diagnostic radiographer, useful subjects include:

  • Human Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Maths
  • English

Work placements and volunteering

You may find it helpful to get some experience of working in healthcare by doing a work placement. There may also be opportunities to volunteer. This could help you when applying to university, college, or a new job with NHSScotland.


Foundation Apprenticeship

A Foundation Apprenticeship could give you the skills, knowledge and work experience you need to start your career as a diagnostic radiographer.

Discover more about a Foundation Apprenticeship in Social Services and Healthcare.

College and university

You'll need a degree to become a diagnostic radiographer. Most universities accept a wide range of qualifications, giving you the option of applying directly from school or going to college first. At college, you could do an HNC in a science-based subject before applying to university to do an undergraduate programme.

Widening access

Widening participation supports adult learners who want to go to university. If you’re an adult with few or no qualifications, you can get into higher education through the Scottish Wider Access Programme (SWAP). Many universities also provide access programmes to help you gain the degree entry qualifications you need.

Diagnostic radiographer degree

Three universities in Scotland offer degree courses in Diagnostic Radiography or Diagnostic Imaging approved by the HCPC:

  • Glasgow Caledonian University
  • Queen Margaret University
  • Robert Gordon University

Pre-registration undergraduate programmes take 4 years full-time.

If you already have relevant qualifications and healthcare experience, you can do a postgraduate diploma or master's in Diagnostic Radiography. Pre-registration postgraduate programmes usually take 2 years.

For more information on related further and higher education courses, search My World of Work

Diagnostic radiographer role

As a diagnostic radiographer, you’ll take images using different imaging techniques, such as:

  • x-rays
  • ultrasound
  • fluoroscopy
  • CT (computed tomography)
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
  • nuclear medicine
  • angiography
  • mammography

Your expert knowledge and skills would be used to identify injuries and illnesses, including cancers or coronary artery disease (CAD).

What you’ll do

Tasks include:

  • assessing patients’ illnesses or injuries
  • carrying out radiographic examinations
  • producing high-quality images
  • evaluating radiographic images
  • checking equipment regularly so it can be used safely and accurately
  • assisting doctors or surgeons with complex radiological examinations
  • supervising and training radiography assistants and students
  • adhering to UK radiation legislation
  • adhering to health and safety legislation

Top skills

You’ll need these skills:

  • caring
  • decision-making
  • organisation
  • communication
  • teamwork
  • critical thinking

You’ll also need to use technical, computerised imaging equipment with good hand-to-eye coordination. It’s also important that you keep up to date with new imaging techniques and technologies.

Who you’ll work with

Diagnostic radiographers usually work in a team with other healthcare professionals, including:

  • doctors
  • surgeons
  • nurses
  • healthcare support workers
  • porters

Working environment

You could work in:

  • hospital radiography departments
  • outpatient clinics
  • accident and emergency departments
  • wards
  • operating theatres

Useful information

To work as a diagnostic radiographer in NHSScotland, you’ll need to:

Did you know?

Around 90% of patients in hospitals are supported by the radiography workforce. There are more than 34,500 registered radiographers in the UK and over 1,800 diagnostic radiographers working in the NHS in Scotland.

Learning and development

During your career, you'll have to keep your skills and knowledge up to date with Continuing Professional Development (CPD). The Society and College of Radiographers (SCoR) provides courses, conferences and seminars where you can exchange ideas and update skills.

Career progression

You may choose to specialise in a particular type of imaging, such as MRI or sonography. Some diagnostic radiographers work with specific patient groups, such as breast screening, children, stroke patients or cancer patients.

You could also move into management, either within radiography services or general management. There is also the option to consider a career in research, education, or within the independent sector.

Professional bodies

When you become a student, you can join the Society and College of Radiographers (SCoR).

When you complete your HCPC accredited degree, you’ll also be able to register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

NHSScotland vacancies

Visit our recruitment website to find your perfect career in NHSScotland.

Information leaflet

Download our diagnostic radiographer careers information leaflet.