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Guide to studying Therapeutic Radiography

Therapeutic radiographers treat people fighting cancer with precise, targeted doses of radiation. See what its like to study the area, and if the career is for you.

CONTENTS

  1. What's Therapeutic Radiography?

  2. Why study Therapeutic Radiography?

  3. What qualifications do you need to study Therapeutic Radiography? 

  4. What degrees can you study?

  5. How will you be assessed?

  6. What are the postgraduate opportunities?

  7. What jobs can you get with a degree in Therapeutic Radiography?
  8. What do graduates do and earn?

  9. How to become a Therapeutic Radiographer

What’s Therapeutic Radiography?

Whereas oncology is the treatment of cancer and medical care, Therapeutic Radiography is the use of radiography for cancer treatment. Study this subject area and you could play a crucial role in treating patients with cancer.

Radiation therapy, or radiotherapy, uses high levels of radiation to kill cancer cells and minimise tumours. Working alongside oncologists as part of an inspiring team, therapeutic radiographers have the knowledge and expertise to deliver the best treatment.

You’ll learn how to care for patients with cancer in a technical and personal way. You'll train using the latest equipment and develop skills in imaging and targeting human tumours. You will also develop relationships with patients and provide emotional support during their treatment.

Why study Therapeutic Radiography?

Study this subject area and you can learn how to make a positive difference in people's lives.

A Therapeutic Radiography course will give you the knowledge, skills and technical expertise needed to deliver treatment efficiently. You’ll learn through advanced technology and be taught by experts in the field. You’ll be able to use equipment safely and responsibly to target tumours accurately and deliver the right amount of dosage.

As well as technical expertise, you’ll develop skills such as:

  • Communication
  • Manual dexterity
  • Adaptability

Courses involve a mix of theoretical, practical and clinical learning. You’ll spend time in placements gaining experience with real patients. Most courses include a lot of placement time where you work as a student radiographer, often with an NHS trust.

Degrees are usually approved and accredited by bodies such as the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and the Society and College of Radiographers. This means you can register as a therapeutic radiographer after graduating. You’ll also have a qualification that’s recognised around Europe and beyond.

The NHS Learning Support Fund is currently offering £5,000 per year to support Therapeutic Radiography degree students in England and Wales. This is a grant, so you don’t have to pay it back.

What qualifications do you need to study Therapeutic Radiography? 

To study for an undergraduate degree in Therapeutic Radiography, you’ll usually need two or three A Levels. One of these should be in Physics, Biology or Chemistry. You’ll also need five GCSEs with grades C and above. These should include Science, Maths and English.

Other equivalent qualifications include relevant BTEC, HND, HNC, NVQ, Highers and Access courses.

Each university has specific entry requirements, so make sure to check with the institution and course you’re interested in.

Tips for applying

Universities often look beyond academic qualifications – they want students who have the potential to succeed at university and in a career. Try to show an interest in technology as well as the ability to show compassion for others.

Volunteering work can boost your application. If you can, try to spend some time in a radiography department.

Your course will likely include practical experience working with members of the public, so you may also need to complete a DBS disclosure check for criminal records.

What degrees can you study?

Courses typically last two to four years if studied full time. Common options include:

  • Therapeutic Radiography BSc
  • Therapeutic Radiography and Oncology BSc

You can expect a mix of both theoretical and practical work. Teaching is often through lectures, group work, collaborative projects, tutorials, simulation suites and student-led activities. Course content is informed from the latest research and best practices in the field.

Some degree apprenticeships are available in England and Wales, letting you to gain a qualification while working and earning.

During the coronavirus pandemic, courses have had to adapt to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. This just means the way they're delivered is slightly different. For instance, teaching groups may be smaller, and there may be more online learning.

How will you be assessed?

You’ll be assessed through a range of methods such as written and oral exams, coursework, case study projects, presentations, and practical and clinical assessments. You’ll be expected to communicate your views and evaluations using evidence and research.

What are the postgraduate opportunities?

Many graduates of Therapeutic Radiography continue their studies and become specialists in certain areas. Examples of postgraduate degrees include:

  • Radiotherapy and Oncology PgCert/PgDip/MSc
  • Advanced Clinical Practice in Radiotherapy and Oncology MSc

What jobs can you get with a degree in Therapeutic Radiography?

Because of the ageing population and improvements in cancer detection, there's a high demand for qualified professionals in cancer care. 

After qualifying, you can become an oncologist or therapeutic radiographer. With experience, you could advance in management or become a consultant. Many graduates go into research or teaching.

Specialist areas include:

  • Certain cancers, techniques or equipment
  • Sonography
  • Counselling
  • Palliative care
  • Children
  • Emerging technologies

What do graduates do and earn?

In the infographic below, the first table shows what graduates of Therapeutic Radiography have gone on to do in the months after their graduation.

The second table shows the average salaries of undergraduate Therapeutic Radiography students entering employment. The three skill levels – high, medium and low – reflect the UK's Standard Occupational Classification's major groups 1–3, 4–6 and 7–9 respectively.

Source: HESA Graduate Outcomes Survey 2017/18

How to become a therapeutic radiographer

You’ll usually need an undergraduate or master’s degree in Therapeutic Radiography. After graduating, you'll have to register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) to begin practising.

What it's like to work as a therapeutic radiographer

You could be working in a radiotherapy department at an NHS or private hospital, or at a hospice. You’ll work alongside a team that’s focused on helping cancer patients, including doctors, engineers, nurses, physicists and oncologists.

Daily tasks could include:

  • Planning and providing safe treatment using radioactive technology
  • Working with specialists to ensure the best treatment for tumours or defects
  • Assessing, monitoring and supporting patients during and after treatment
  • Making sure equipment and records are of a high standard
  • Making sure staff and patients are safe from harmful radiation
  • Giving health advice and promoting cancer awareness

After qualifying, you’ll have Continuing Professional Development (CPD) check-ins where you talk about your career and future goals. You can become a member of organisations like the Society of Radiography, where you can take courses, network and attend events.

A working week is typically 37.5 hours and you may have to work evenings and weekends. Salaries for therapeutic radiographers are on the Agenda for Change system (the NHS staff grading and pay scale), usually on band 5. As an NHS worker, you have access to generous pension schemes, holiday allowances and health service discounts.

Is a therapeutic radiographer role right for you?

It can be an emotionally and physically challenging role. You’ll have to move and lift patients as well as equipment. You’ll need to be emotionally resilient, as you could be supporting patients dealing with life-threatening illnesses.

But it can also be very rewarding, as your work will support people on the road to recovery and potentially help save many lives.

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