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).

Starting your career

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

A Foundation Apprenticeship in Social Services and Healthcare, taken in S5 or S6, could help you gain new skills and valuable work experience.

Find out more about apprenticeships at apprenticeships.scot.

Work placement

If you’re at school or thinking of changing career, doing a work placement could help you when applying to college, university or for a job in healthcare. You’ll learn new skills, improve your knowledge and discover what it’s like to work in the health service. Find out how to apply for work experience with the NHS.

College and university

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 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 Widening Access Programme (SWAP). Many universities also provide access programmes to help you gain the degree entry qualifications you need.

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 a relevant qualification and healthcare experience, you can do a postgraduate diploma or masters 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. You should check specific entry requirements before applying.

The 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 health and safety legislation

Top skills

You’ll need these skills:

  • caring
  • decision-making
  • organisation
  • communication
  • teamworking
  • 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 hospital 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

On your first day of being a student, you can join the Society and College of Radiographers (SCoR). There is a dedicated part of the SCoR website just for student radiographers.

During your career, you'll have to keep your skills and knowledge up to date with Continuing Professional Development (CPD). The 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.