What does a radiographer do?

A radiographer is responsible for operating X-ray equipment to produce high-quality diagnostic images that aid in the diagnosis of various patient conditions. If you choose to work for the NHS, as almost all radiographers do, you will work in the radiology department of a hospital where your role will be to capture and interpret images before reporting your findings. 

The imaging technology and techniques you use will include:

  • X-ray to examine bones, cavities and foreign objects
  • Fluoroscopy to give a real-time image of the digestive system
  • Computed tomography (CT) offering cross-section views
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) building a 2D or 3D map of tissue types
  • Ultrasound to check circulation, examine the heart and in antenatal work
  • Angiography to inspect blood vessels.

A radiographer will also work in radiology theatres where they are an essential part of the team. They are responsible for operating a large X-ray camera (known as a C-arm) during procedures which allows the radiologist to see the area of the body they are diagnosing in real time. The radiographer is also accountable for navigating the equipment while the radiologist is scrubbed in sterile gloves and gown and for ensuring the radiation used is safely monitored to protect patients.

Skills needed to become a radiographer

Radiographers require a wide range of skills to enable them to carry out their role successfully. The role of a radiographer can be highly demanding, from the inevitable stress associated with patient care, to technological challenges that arise in practice, they have their work cut out for them. Successful radiographers need to have a diverse range of medical and technical skills, such as the ability to manipulate various techniques to suit the specific needs of a patient. They also need to have other skills and qualities to succeed in the role, including:

  • Communication: They need to communicate information effectively to their patients, such as explaining procedures or answering their questions. This helps build trust between the patient and the radiographer.
  • Ability to remain calm under pressure: Radiographers are responsible for assisting a doctor in identifying patient problems and planning treatments. Where a patient’s health is at stake, it can become stressful for the radiographer, so the ability to remain calm and perform to your best ability is paramount.
  • Stamina: Radiographers spend most of their working day on their feet, so the ability to remain focused for a prolonged period of time is important to carry out the role effectively.
  • Compassion: The role of a radiographer is to help patients through some of the most difficult times in their lives. A radiographer needs compassion to support their patients when they have been diagnosed with an illness or injury. Radiographers with compassion for their patients go the extra mile to ensure that they are comfortable and happy with the care they are receiving.

Qualifications required to become a radiographer

To become a radiographer, you will need to attain an educational background in a health or science subject and successfully complete an approved degree or masters in diagnostic radiology. Degree courses take three to four years full time, or up to six years part time. There are also postgraduate courses that have a two year duration. Once you have completed a radiology training programme approved by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), you need to register with the HCPC before you can start practising.

“It is at the heart of modern medicine and is ever-changing and rapidly developing. Radiographers now are more skilled than ever before and are able to take on an increasing number of duties that were previously only carried out by radiologists. It’s a really exciting time to be a radiographer.” – Jodie Say (2)

Steps to become a radiographer

Decide what type of radiography you want to specialise in

Before enrolling in an undergraduate degree, it is important to have an idea of what type of radiology you would like to specialise in, such as medical, diagnostic or therapeutic. Courses will be different depending on the radiology specialism you choose. For example, a diagnostic radiography course will teach you about X-rays, CT scans and MRI scans while a therapeutic radiography course will require you to learn about how to use radiation therapy to treat cancer.

Complete an undergraduate degree

To become a radiographer, you need a university degree in radiology or in a related field. Universities all over the UK offer courses in this field, so it is important to do your research to find the right university for you. Radiography is a highly competitive course with limited availability, so it is important to attain strong grades in relevant A-level subjects such as biology, chemistry or physics and strong references to be accepted onto the course.

Prospective students need to attain 5 GCSEs, including English, maths and science. It is recommended that prospective radiographers study a degree that has been approved by the HCPC because this enables graduating students to attain one of their necessary registrations before they can start work.

Consider a postgraduate level degree

Although it is not required to complete a postgraduate degree in radiography, it is highly recommended to further your skills and knowledge in your specialism. It will also give you an advantage over other applicants when it comes to applying for job roles. To study a postgraduate degree in radiography, prospective students must have an undergraduate degree in appropriate courses such as biology, health science or radiography.

Register with the HCPC

Once you have completed your study and are ready for the working world, you must register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). This council keeps a register of health and care professionals who have met their standard for training, professional skills, behaviour and health. 

Get experience

Once you have completed the relevant training, it is time to get experience. Online job listings and healthcare provider websites are best for finding open positions in your area. The NHS also offers accredited placement programmes which provide structured training to allow you to develop your skills in a clinical setting. 

Complete the Continued Professional Development (CPD) course

The Continued Professional Development course is designed to ensure radiography professionals are always up to date with the latest advances in their field. The CPD offers regular professional development activities, such as training courses and seminars.

Salary of a radiographer

The average entry level radiographer salary in the UK(2) is £24,604. While the average salary of an experienced radiographer(3) is £38,333.

Other FAQs

What are the working hours of a radiographer?

As a radiographer, you will typically work a standard 37.5 hour week, which will include shift work, weekends, nights and bank holidays, as well as on-call work. There is an opportunity to work part time and job share, depending on departmental needs.


1. https://www.nmsupport.org.au/news/what-is-it-like-being-a-midwife

2. https://www.rcm.org.uk/learning-and-career/becoming-a-midwife