Therapeutic radiographers use radiation to treat diseases, especially cancer. They control complex equipment that delivers an accurate dose of radiation to the cancer/tumour. Therapeutic radiographers plan treatment and give patients care, support and information. They work with doctors, nurses, medical physicists and other members of the healthcare team.
Also known as
- Radiographer, Therapeutic
As a Therapeutic Radiographer, you will deliver doses of radiation, usually X-rays, to treat cancer and other diseases. You use complex equipment to control the radiation. Radiotherapy destroys the cancer cells in the treated area. It can shrink a tumour, allowing a Surgeon to remove it (although treatment can be in a different order, for example, surgery doesn't always follow radiotherapy).
Radiographers work closely with many other healthcare professionals, including specialist Doctors (Clinical Oncologists), Nurses, Medical Physicists and other members of the oncology team.
Therapeutic Radiographers can be involved at any stage of the patient's care and treatment. Working with the rest of the team, this usually begins with an assessment of the patient's illness and a decision on the most appropriate treatment.
You use technology such as X-rays and computed tomography to create images of the patient's tumour, helping them to understand its size and exact location.
You must also calculate the dose of radiation needed to treat the cancer, and minimise the dose received by healthy surrounding areas of the body.
Before treatment begins, you explain the process to the patient. This is the start of a close relationship with the patient, with the Therapeutic Radiographer giving support, information, explanation and reassurance over the course of the treatment.
You also meet with the patient's families or carers, explaining the process and again giving emotional support.
You produce a plan for the treatment, which usually takes place over a number of days or weeks, with days off to help normal cells recover.
Many patients have treatment every day during the week, with a rest at weekends. Others have different treatment plans, such as treatment twice a day.
During the treatment itself, you carefully position the patient under a large machine that produces the radiation (usually X-rays). You direct the machine to treat the area from several different angles. The treatment takes a few minutes and is painless.
Day-to-day, you keep careful track of the patient's progress, talking to them and dealing with their concerns.
You have to monitor for side-effects, which can happen when surrounding normal cells are affected by the treatment. Side-effects are usually temporary, with normal cells recovering during the rest periods.
You continue to monitor progress once treatment has finished, in the post-treatment review (follow-up) stages.
Radiographers can progress into management roles. You can also become Consultant Practitioners. This allows you to reach a high level of clinical practice and remain in direct work with patients. There are also opportunities in teaching and research.
Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.
Personal Qualities and Skills
To become a Therapeutic Radiographer, you'll need:
- to be able to relate to patients of all ages and backgrounds, and also their families and carers
- the ability to build a close, trusting relationship with the patient, giving them support, reassurance and explanations over the course of the treatment
- the desire to meet patients' emotional needs, as well as treating them
- an interest in science, especially anatomy, physiology and pathology
- to be confident and have the ability to work with complex technology
- organisational skills and the ability to plan treatments
- willingness to keep up to date with changes in technology, for example, by going on training courses and reading scientific journals
Success rates for treating certain types of cancer can be very high, and the atmosphere in radiotherapy departments is usually optimistic. However, you will also need the emotional strength to deal with distressing situations.
Pay and Opportunities
NHS employees are paid on a rising scale within defined pay bands, according to their skills and responsibilities. The pay rates given below are approximate.
- With experience - Band 5: £24,214 - £30,112
Hours of work
Radiographers usually work a 37-hour week, with some evening and weekend work.
Where could I work?
The NHS employs most Therapeutic Radiographers, while some work for private hospitals. There are opportunities for Therapeutic Radiographers to work in education, as university lecturers, and in industry, in training, sales or research.
Opportunities for Therapeutic Radiographers occur in towns and cities throughout the UK.
Where are vacancies advertised?
Vacancies are advertised in local/national newspapers, on the NHS Jobs website and on job boards.
Entry Routes and Training
Entry routes and training
To become a Therapeutic Radiographer, you usually need to do a degree in therapeutic radiography. This will enable you to apply for registration with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), an essential requirement for working as a Therapeutic Radiographer.
You would spend a significant part of the course in hospital radiotherapy departments, getting to work with patients and qualified Therapeutic Radiographers as quickly as possible.
You can find a list of course providers on the website of the Society of Radiographers and the HCPC.
The Welsh Government funds the education and training for a range of health professional education courses, (details of the specific courses can be found at: http://www.nwssp.wales.nhs.uk/undergraduate-education). To be eligible for a bursary you must commit to working in Wales following completion of your programme.
More information about the NHS Wales Bursary Scheme can be accessed on the Student awards Services website: http://www.nwssp.wales.nhs.uk/course-starts-on-or-after-1-september-20
A great way to get into this career is through an internship. Take a look at our information article '
After qualifying and gaining experience, you can specialise in areas like treatment planning, reviewing treatment and palliative care (of terminally ill patients).
Progression can also be into teaching, research, management or quality assurance roles. You could work more on treatment planning if you are interested in the mathematical side of the work.
It is also possible to become a Consultant Radiographer. Consultant Radiographers are expert practitioners, responsible for their own case loads. They are leaders in practice development, teaching and research.
Previous experience working in a caring environment such as a hospital or a care home would be really useful for this career.
Rehabilitation of Offenders Act
This career is an exception to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. This means that you must supply information to an employer about any spent or unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands or warnings, if they ask you to.
This is different from other careers, where you only have to reveal information on unspent convictions if you are asked to.
To enter a degree course in therapeutic radiography, the usual minimum requirement is:
- 2/3 A levels, including at least one science subject
- GCSEs at grades 9 - 4 (A*- C) in your A level subjects
- a further 2/3 GCSEs at grade C/4 and above, including English and maths
Equivalent qualifications, such as BTEC level 3 qualifications and the International Baccalaureate Diploma, might be acceptable for entry - please check prospectuses carefully.
Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A level
It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.
A part-time degree course in radiotherapy is available at Birmingham City University. You can find a list of course providers on the website of the Society of Radiographers and the Health and Care Professions Council.
If you don't have the qualifications that are usually needed to enter a degree in therapeutic radiography, you might be able to start one after completing a college or university Access course, such as Access to Science. You don't usually need any qualifications to start an Access course, but you should check individual course details.
To get financial support from the NHS, you need to meet certain criteria.
If you meet the criteria and are on an approved course (leading to registration with the Health and Care Professions Council), you'll get a grant of £1,000 for each year of the course. You can also apply for a means-tested bursary of up to £4,395 each year (or more in London). For more information, see the NHS Business Services Authority website.
- 16% of radiographers work part-time.
Professional institutions have the following roles:
- To support their members.
- To protect the public by keeping standards high in their professions.
The Society of Radiographers is the professional institution for radiography in the UK.
NHS Wales Careers
Publisher: National Leadership and Innovation Agency for Healthcare
Step into the NHS
Tel: 0345 6060655
Skills for Health
Skills for the health sector
Address: Goldsmiths House, Broad Plain, Bristol BS2 0JP
Tel: 0117 9221155
University of Ulster
Tel: 028 7012 3456
Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)
Address: Park House, 184 Kennington Park Road, London SE11 4BU
Tel: 0845 3006184
NHS Education for Scotland (NES)
Address: Westport 102, West Port, Edinburgh EH3 9DN
Tel: 0131 6563200
NHS Business Services Authority
Society of Radiographers
Address: 207 Providence Square, Mill Street, London SE1 2EW
Tel: 020 7740 7200
Irish Institute of Radiography and Radiation Therapy (IIRRT)
Address: 28 Millbrook Court, Kilmainham, Dublin 8
Tel: 0871 313795
People Exchange Cymru (PEC)
Public sector recruitment portal for Wales