As a radiography assistant, or imaging support worker, you would help qualified radiographers with their day-to-day duties.
Your work would often include:
Your duties could also involve processing film images (to help diagnose ill or injured patients) and maintaining hygiene within the department.
You would usually work around 37.5 hours a week as a full-time assistant. Part-time hours and job sharing opportunities are also often available.
This work can be physically and emotionally demanding as you would be working with patients with a range of health conditions. You would wear protective clothing, such as an x-ray apron, when working with these machines.
You will be based within a hospital radiography department or outpatient clinic.
Radiography assistants can earn between £13,600 and £18,500 a year. Assistant practitioners can earn up to around £21,800.
You will find most jobs in the NHS. You could also work in private hospitals or clinics.
You may not need any specific qualifications to become a radiography assistant. However, you will usually need a good general standard of education and some employers may prefer you to have four or more GCSE's (A-C) including maths, English and a science subject. Check with your local NHS Trust for specific advice.
It could be an advantage to have some relevant paid or voluntary experience. For more advice about this, contact the voluntary services coordinator or manager at your local NHS Trust.
Another way to get experience of this work is through an Apprenticeship. Schemes vary between NHS Trusts, and in a few places they may still be referred to as Cadet Schemes. They usually include clinical placements and study towards a qualification, such as the new Level 3 Diploma in Clinical Healthcare Support (title subject to change).
Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.
Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.
There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
You could also contact your local NHS Trust for details of schemes in your area.
Once you are working as a radiography assistant, you will usually receive on-the-job training from your employer. You may also be encouraged to work towards a NVQ levels 2 or 3 in Health, including units specific to radiography support work.
A new Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) is being introduced and by 2011 at the latest, it's expected that all new learners will be registered for qualifications on the new framework. For this area, NVQs will be replaced with new vocational qualifications, which are expected to include a level 2 and 3 Diploma in Clinical Healthcare Support, and a Level 3 Diploma in Allied Health Profession Support (subject titles are to be confirmed; course providers and employers can give further advice).
With experience, you may be able to apply for an assistant practitioner post and study for a foundation degree in a subject such as radiography and oncology practice. This could give you access to year two of a degree leading to registration as a radiographer (this may be done as part of a secondment, with financial support from your employer).
As an assistant (or assistant practitioner) you could join the Society and College of Radiographers, which would give you access to networking opportunities and professional development activities.
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A radiography assistant needs:
With experience (as a radiography assistant or assistant practitioner) and with support from your employer, you could go on to study part-time to become a qualified radiographer. Check with the Society and College of Radiographers for further advice, and the Health Professions Council website for a list of approved full- and part-time courses.
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.