Therapeutic radiographer

Therapeutic radiographers working in the NHS in Scotland are graduate healthcare professionals who play a vital role in the delivery of radiotherapy services. Extensively involved at all stages of the patient’s cancer journey, they are the only healthcare professionals qualified to plan and deliver radiotherapy. 

They are responsible for the planning and delivery of accurate radiotherapy treatments using a wide range of technical equipment. The accuracy of the treatment is critical to treat the tumour and destroy the diseased tissue, while minimising the amount of exposure to surrounding healthy tissue.

Working as a therapeutic radiographer, you would be essential to the planning and delivery of a course of radiation treatment. This includes the use of high energy radiation, accurate calculation of radiation dose and use of dedicated equipment. You would also explain the process to patients, including possible side effects, and answer any of their questions or concerns. During treatment, you would assess patients each day, monitor side effects and provide support.

Some of the typical tasks you would carry out as a therapeutic radiographer include:

  • working with oncologists and physicists to produce patient treatment plans
  • delivering radiation treatment safely and accurately
  • calculating radiation dosage to maximise impact on malignant tumours or tissue defects, while minimising damage to healthy tissue
  • using highly technical equipment confidently, safely and responsibly
  • carrying out patient reviews and follow-up consultations
  • supervising radiography assistants and students, providing education and training
  • adhering to UK radiation and health and safety legislation

To become a therapeutic radiographer in NHSScotland, useful skills include:

  • technical and practical skills, with an excellent attention to detail and good hand to eye coordination
  • decision-making skills
  • strong communication skills
  • team working skills
  • committed to the wellbeing of patients
  • professional with an excellent work ethic
  • strong IT skills
  • good level of physical fitness

Useful abilities include:

  • flexibility and the ability to adapt to developments in working practices
  • the need to keep up to date with new techniques and treatments
  • confidence in using new technologies
  • the ability to work under pressure

To practice as a therapeutic radiographer in NHSScotland, you must be registered with the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC). You will need to study an approved pre-registration programme, which can take 2 - 4 years full-time.

In Scotland the following universities offer undergraduate4-year education programmes in therapeutic radiography:

The minimum academic entry requirements for these degree courses vary, but most universities in Scotland require SQA Higher BBBC grades, including English and two science subjects. A pass in SQA National 5 English, Maths and Physics grade A - C is also required, if these subjects are not achieved at SQA Higher grade.

Students with an SQA HNC in a science-based subject may be allowed entry to year 1.

Some universities require you to have visited a radiotherapy department before they will accept your application. You should consider visiting a radiotherapy department which may be part of a major cancer centre before applying. This will give you valuable insight to what the job entails and support your personal statement in your application.

Entry requirements vary depending on the university or other educationprovider. Specific entry requirements, including other accepted qualifications, are provided on each university website.

To apply for a therapeutic radiography programme you must use the UCAS application process.

You can visit the HCPC website for a full list of approved educational institutions and therapeutic radiography programmes across the UK.

Scottish Wider Access Programme (SWAP) – Access to Health & Life Sciences (SCQF Level 6) or Access to Allied Health: Specialised Programmes (SCQF Level 6)

These programmes are for adults returning to education, perhaps changing career or seeking to gain the equivalent university entry qualifications needed for a therapeutic radiography undergraduate programme. There are no formal entry qualifications, but applicants should have a good standard of general education and have been away from formal education for a minimum of 2 – 3 years.

Successful completion of the course could lead to:

  • A degree in therapeutic radiography by applying to universities that participate in the SWAP partnership programme
  • HNC Applied Sciences

Please visit the Scottish Wider Access Programme (SWAP) website for more information.

Postgraduate study

If you already have a relevant degree and healthcare experience, you can take a postgraduate diploma or masters in therapeutic radiography. These courses usually take two years. The HCPC website provides details of approved postgraduate programmes in the UK. Queen Margaret University in Scotland offers a post-graduate pre-registration 2 year course.

Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme

You will require a satisfactory (PVG) check to show that you are suitable to work as a therapeutic radiographer. This scheme is managed by Disclosure Scotland.

You can join the Society and College of Radiographers (SCoR) from your first day of being a student. There is a dedicated part of the website just for student radiographers. SCoR also offers free membership for your first year.

Once qualified, you register with the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC).

Continuing professional development (CPD)

During your career, you'll have to keep your skills and knowledge up to date with CPD. The SCoR provides courses, conferences and seminars where you can exchange ideas and update skills.

Career progression

In NHSScotland, therapeutic radiographers start on band 5 of the NHS Agenda for Change (AfC) pay system. With experience, radiographers can progress to band 6 and upwards.

You may choose to specialise in a particular type of treatment, such as leading a breast treatment service as a consultant radiographer with independent prescribing rights.

Some therapeutic radiographers work with specific patient groups or specialise in treating patients of all ages with particular types of cancer. You could also move into management, either within radiography services or general management.

As head of a radiography service, you would be responsible both for a team of staff and for managing a budget. There is also the option to consider a career in research, teaching or indeed counseling therapies for cancer patients.

Find out more information from these professional bodies.

Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC)

The HCPC is an independent, UK-wide regulatory body responsible for setting and maintaining standards for health, psychological, and in England; social work professionals. It maintains a public register of qualified professionals and works to improve industry standards and education. Visit the HCPC website to find out more.

Society and College of Radiographers (SCoR)

The Society and College of Radiographers (SCoR) is the only body in the UK representing the whole of the radiographic workforce. They are a trade union and professional body representing the professional, educational, public and workplace interests of our members. Founded in 1920, they are one of the oldest and most experienced radiography organisations in the world.Find out more on the SCoR website.