How To Become a Radiographer

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 26 June 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Medical imaging allows doctors and healthcare professionals to deliver more accurate care and diagnoses for patients. Radiographers are the experts in medical imaging equipment used to perform patient scans and assist doctors in understanding patient health problems. Learning about the steps you can take to become a radiographer can help you plan your career. In this article, we explore how to become a radiographer, what they do and the relevant skills they need to succeed.

How to become a radiographer

The complexities of human biology and medicine mean that radiographers need advanced tertiary education and clinical experience before they can work in the field. Below we provide a step-by-step guide to follow to become a radiographer:

1. Complete a bachelor's degree

The first step towards your radiography career is to complete a bachelor degree. You have a couple of options for which course you choose, though you may not have all of the options local to you. A Bachelor in Medical Imaging is an example of a degree that a budding radiographer can complete.

These courses can help you develop the skills you can use as a registered radiographer. They will have links between the classroom and the clinical workplace to implement your knowledge. Student placements at various clinical institutions around the country can reinforce the practical skills you develop. Placements usually start from the first year and continue until the course is complete.

2. Gain one year of clinical experience

Radiography is both a highly technical and specialised field of work. After completing your studies, you may need to undertake a year of work within an accredited clinical radiology department. Graduates can partake in real-world experience to enhance their capabilities before they can become fully qualified radiographers.

You can have the chance to learn from senior professionals, gain experience and build a network while you're still new to the field. Your year of clinical experience can help you decide if you would like to specialise in a type of imaging equipment. You can take the appropriate steps to seek out specific work experience in that area to pursue your speciality.

3. Register with the Medical Radiation Practice Board of Australia

To practise as a qualified radiographer, you can register with the Medical Radiation Practise Board of Australia (MRPBA). You can prove that you meet the board's standards to be eligible for registration. These standards aim to confirm that you've completed your qualifications and meet national standards, among other requirements.

4. Obtain a Radiation Use Licence

Radiographers can earn a licence to use medical imaging equipment because of the equipment's complexities and intricacies. Use Licences are specific to the state or territory they're issued in, so ensure you apply for the one relevant to you.

Use Licences aim to ensure that those who use radiation equipment meet the particular minimum standard of competency. Only individuals can earn a Use Licence, not clinics or organisations. You can obtain a Use Licence once you meet your state's requirements by filling out a form online.

What does a radiographer do?

Radiographers are healthcare professionals highly specialised in medical imaging. Radiographers are the people that perform X-rays, CT scans, MRI's or another kind of imaging test. They're also known as medical imaging technologists or X-ray technicians. Through this equipment, they develop images that map out a patient's body so that doctors can identify health concerns.

They work closely with doctors, called radiologists, who need images to diagnose a patient and develop a treatment plan correctly. Radiographers usually work by appointment, where patients arrive at their office to have their scans taken. They can specialise in a specific type of medical imaging, like X-rays, bone densitometry or MRI's.

Responsibilities of a radiographer

A practising radiographer is typically responsible for the following tasks:

  • Responding to requests from doctors and identifying which method of radiography is suitable

  • Explaining the procedures to patients and answering their questions

  • Placing patients in the correct position for the tests to take the optimal image

  • Ensuring that radiation levels are safe

  • Operating the testing equipment under their Use Licence

  • Recording the results of the tests

  • Developing the film, processing the digital images and storing them correctly

  • Collaborating with radiologists who interpret the test results so that they can diagnose the patient's medical condition correctly.

Relevant skills for a radiographer

Radiographers need a specific set of relevant hard and soft skills to work with patients and doctors. You can develop technical hard skills through your studies and work experience. Soft skills help you manage the workload, work with people, and succeed in the field. Below we outline some of the most relevant skills for a radiographer:

Interpersonal skills

Interpersonal skills describe your ability to communicate and build relationships with others. Radiographers work with other health professionals and patients. They can convey their images and findings to doctors who establish a diagnosis. Radiographers need to communicate with patients to help them understand the procedure and position themselves correctly. As you can see, their interpersonal skills can be robust and flexible to work with a broad range of people.

You can improve your interpersonal skills by taking time to review the interactions you have with others. Try to identify the ways you could have interacted more effectively. Also, consider the words you use and your body language, and aim for an approachable stance. You can also ask friends and colleagues for constructive feedback on ways to improve your interpersonal skills, as they will have first-hand experience talking with you.

Self-motivation and independence

While radiographers work with patients and doctors, they spend a large amount of their time working alone. They're responsible for the entire image taking and developing process. The response time for these images can be short, so radiographers can be self-motivated to deliver their work independently.

You can improve your self-motivation skills by paying attention to how you work when you're alone. Identify what is and isn't working for you and try to make changes that improve your productivity. For example, if you discover you often procrastinate, implementing structure into your day can enhance your motivation.

Attention to detail

Radiographers create images that outline the intricacies of the human body. Medical image processes can be a delicate and expensive procedure. Attention to detail is vital for radiographers to produce quality results efficiently.

You can improve your attention to detail skills by dedicating time to looking for errors in your work. During your studies, try to delegate an extra 15 minutes at regular intervals during your assignments to ensure accurate and correct details. If you develop this into a habit, you can quickly enhance your attention to detail skills.

Understanding

Patients that come to a radiographer for a scan are often in an uncertain and concerning situation. They may have just consulted a doctor and left without a formal diagnosis. On top of this, patients may be new to the procedure and need guidance to position themselves and wait for results. Radiographers that deal with this demographic can be supportive and understanding of their situation.

You can develop your support and understanding skills by considering the perspective of others. Try to imagine how it might feel for patients worrying about their potential health problem and what extra guidance they might need.

What's the difference between a radiographer and a radiologist?

The main difference between a radiographer and a radiologist is that radiologists are medical doctors. They both work closely in imaging and interpreting the image, though.

Generally, radiographers deal with everything involved to take, process and finalise accurate medical images. This consists of using the machinery, positioning the client, processing the image and ensuring its quality. The radiologist is highly specialised in analysing these images and interpreting what they find. They use the images that radiographers produce to identify health concerns and diagnose patients. Radiologists then develop treatment plans for the respective health problem.

How much do radiographers earn?

The national average salary for a radiographer is $103,787 per year. As with most medical positions, your salary can depend on your education, level of experience, skill set and the area you work. On-call allowances and overtime payments can also impact the salary of a radiographer.

Most radiographers work in the imaging department of hospitals. They can also work in the emergency department, intensive care and operating theatres performing mobile imaging. They occasionally work in GP surgeries and clinics.

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