From radiographer to radiologist

Radiographers and radiologists work together to utilise a range of medical instruments – both non-invasive and interventional – to diagnose, treat, and manage a range of health conditions. To the general public, the two professions are synonymous, but the difference is considerable: years and years of training.

A radiographer is trained in the use of CT, MRI, breast imaging, X-ray, and almost every other screening process that regularly takes place in hospitals. They are the ones that brief patients on the procedure, ensure the equipment is working correctly, and take the correct set of images. Radiographers can also decide which procedures are most clinically relevant in certain situations. Typically, a radiographer needs grade C or above A-levels for entry onto a three-year university BSc course. After several years, a senior radiographer will be referred to as a ‘consultant radiographer’.

Radiologists can carry out all the tasks a radiographer can, but they are also doctors. A radiologist may not be involved in common non-invasive procedures, such as MRI scans, but they are the experts that will interpret the images and write a report for the patient’s consultant or GP. To be a radiologist, a person must attend five years of medical school, two years of training as a junior doctor, finally followed by five additional years of speciality training overseen by The Royal College of Radiologists.

Becoming a radiologist if you are already a radiographer isn’t any quicker than it would be for anyone else with a degree. The first step is to become a medical doctor. This can be achieved by attending four years on a competitive graduate course (assuming you achieved at least a 2:1 in your first degree), or five years on a non-graduate course. Once you’ve become a doctor, you will need to work as a junior doctor for two years in a clinical setting, before finally undertaking five years of competency-based radiology training.

The reason there’s no quick way to become a radiologist – even if you’re already a radiographer – is that they possess totally unique skills. Radiologists are the ones that GPs and consultants ask for help when they are unsure of the best diagnosis or treatment plan. They can interpret complex images, but also treat a patient having a heart attack in a CT machine. If you manage to undertake all of the training, and successfully become a radiologist, you’ll be rewarded with an average salary of £98,500.

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