Therapeutic radiographer

Therapeutic radiographers are involved at all stages of a person's cancer journey, planning and delivering radiotherapy treatments. They use high energy radiation to treat cancer and tumours. Accuracy is critical, as they make sure the diseased tissue is destroyed while minimising damage to the surrounding healthy tissue.

To work in the NHS, therapeutic radiographers 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 therapeutic radiographer, useful subjects include:

  • Human Biology
  • Physics
  • Maths
  • English

Doing a Foundation Apprenticeship in Social Services and Healthcare 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 undergraduate programmes in Therapeutic Radiography or Radiotherapy and Oncology, 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 a master’s in Therapeutic Radiography. A postgraduate pre-registration course usually takes 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 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.

What you’ll do

Tasks include:

  • working with oncologists and medical 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 legislation
  • adhering to health and safety legislation

Top skills

You’ll need these skills:

  • caring for people
  • working in a team
  • decision-making skills
  • critical thinking skills
  • planning and organising
  • working accurately

Who you’ll work with

Diagnostic radiographers usually work in a team with other healthcare professionals, including:

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

Working environment

You could work in:

  • hospital radiotherapy departments

Useful information

To work as a therapeutic 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 290 therapeutic radiographers working in the NHS in Scotland.

Learning and development

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 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 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 counselling therapies for cancer patients.