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How to become a therapeutic radiographer

You must complete a pre-registration degree programme to become a therapeutic radiographer in the NHS.

What is a therapeutic radiographer?

Therapeutic radiographers are highly qualified, highly specialised professionals. They are the only profession in the UK that can legally deliver radiotherapy treatment. 

Radiotherapy treatment uses high-energy radiation in a variety of ways to treat cancer and tumours while minimising damage to the surrounding healthy tissue. Accuracy is vital, and a variety of imaging techniques are used to verify positioning. 

Therapeutic radiographers meet patients at a difficult and vulnerable time in their lives. Proving care, compassion, and support is essential to the role.

Starting your career as a therapeutic radiographer

Choosing subjects at school

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

  • Human biology
  • Physics
  • English
  • Maths 

Speak to your guidance teacher about subjects offered at your school.

Work placements and volunteering

You may find it helpful to get some healthcare experience by doing a work placement or volunteering. You’ll get training, increase your knowledge, and learn new skills. This could help you when applying to university, college or a new job with NHSScotland. 

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 access

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

Pre-registration undergraduate degree programme

Two universities in Scotland offer undergraduate programmes in Therapeutic Radiography or Radiotherapy and Oncology approved by the HCPC: 

  • Glasgow Caledonian University
  • Queen Margaret University 

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

You should contact individual universities to find out about specific entry requirements.

After graduation, you must register with the HCPC. You can then apply as a newly qualified therapeutic radiographer for vacancies in the NHS.

Course search

Search for college or university programmes on My World of Work.

Get to know the role

As a therapeutic radiographer, you would be essential to the planning and delivery of a course of radiation treatment. This includes high-energy radiation, accurate radiation dose calculation, and the use of dedicated equipment. 

During a patient's course of treatment, you'll build a relationship with them. You would also explain the process to them, including possible side effects, and answer any questions they have. During treatment, you would assess patients daily, monitor side effects, and provide support. 

Tasks include: 

  • work with oncologists and medical physicists to produce patient treatment plans 
  • deliver radiation treatment safely and accurately 
  • calculate radiation dosage to maximise impact on malignant tumours or tissue defects while minimising damage to healthy tissue 
  • use highly technical equipment confidently, safely, and responsibly 
  • patient reviews and follow-up consultations 
  • supervise radiography assistants and student radiographers, and provide education and training 
  • adhere to UK radiation legislation and health and safety legislation 

You'll need these skills:

  • caring
  • collaborating
  • decision-making
  • critical thinking
  • leadership
  • planning and organising 
  • working accurately 

Therapeutic radiographers work with other healthcare professionals, including: 

  • doctors 
  • medical physicists 
  • medical physics clinical technologists 
  • nurses 
  • healthcare support workers 
  • porters  

You'd work in hospital radiotherapy departments. 

Learning and development

During your career, you’ll be expected to keep your skills and knowledge up to date through Continuing Professional Development. The Society of Radiographers (SoR) provides: 

  • training courses 
  • conferences 
  • seminars  

Visit the SoR website for more about training and CPD courses.

Career progression 

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 could be responsible both for a team of staff and for managing a budget. 

You could also consider a career in research, teaching, or counselling therapies for cancer patients. 

Professional bodies

When you become a qualified therapeutic radiographer, you must register with the HCPC to work in the NHS. You can also join the Society of Radiographers.

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