James Batty, radiographer

Find out about James’s transition from the publishing industry to a healthcare career

This interview was conducted in 2012. In the autumn of 2017, we checked to make sure its careers advice was still accurate and updated the essential subjects and salary guide sections. 

What do you do?

I take pictures of the insides of people with very large, very high-tech machines.

What did you study at school and university?

I did A levels in English literature, chemistry and biology. I did my first degree in English literature and drama at Middlesex University, then I worked in publishing and in the music industry. When I was 28, I decided to return to science. I’d never really pictured myself working in an office – I wanted a job dealing with people and I wanted to work for a non-profit organisation.

How did you become a radiographer?

I had several X-rays when I was a kid, so I knew that these people sat in dark rooms and took pictures of broken bones. I did a degree in radiography at Southbank University, then I did an internship here at University College Hospital, London. I looked at that as being a week-long job interview, so when I interviewed for the job I’d already proven myself.

What does a typical day entail?

There’s no such thing. I could be working on a CT (computed tomography) scanner or with plain film X-rays. I could be dealing with patients from the ward or people coming into A&E with injuries, or I could be in theatre, scanning people’s bones so the surgeons know they’re putting plates or pins in the right place.

What are the most challenging and satisfying things about your job?

I don’t think I’ll ever stop feeling upset when I meet a patient in their early teens who has an incurable disease. And it’s frontline healthcare, so you deal with some people who can be difficult or aggressive. This isn’t a cosy office job – you’re in the thick of it. That’s also something I love about it. And I love the unpredictability – you never know what your day’s going to be like, or who you’ll meet. It’s never boring.

What prospects for progression are there?

You can specialise in MRI [magnetic resonance imaging] or ultrasound, research or management. I’m specialising in reporting, which means examining X-rays for signs of disease or trauma, and then writing reports about what I see for clinicians of other specialties to use when they plan treatment for a patient.

This is a brilliant job if you’re a people person. Radiography isn’t too difficult a course to do, the pay is good, and you can go all over the world with it. It will take me a year and a half studying part-time to learn how to report on chest and abdomen X-rays, and then I’ll do another two years part-time to learn to how to report on other areas of the body (the axial and appendicular skeleton).


A levels: English literature, biology and chemistry (1993).

BA, English literature and drama (1993–96).

BSc, radiography (2004–07).

Member of the Health Professions Council. Member of the Society of Radiographers.

Career history

Office admin and personal assistant, publishing industry (1996–98).

Distribution coordinator, Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG Records) (1998–2000).

Public relations at record labels and PR companies (2000–04).

Junior radiographer, University College Hospital (2007–09).

Senior radiographer, University College Hospital (2009–).

Salary guide (2017)

Radiographers – NHS pay band 5: £22,128–£28,746 (NHS Careers).

Essential subjects (2017)

To enter a degree in diagnostic radiography, you’ll need two or three A levels, including biology, chemistry or physics, or a science-based BTEC or NVQ. More information can be found on the NHS Careers website.

Further reading

About this resource

This resource was first published in ‘Careers From Biology’ in June 2012 and reviewed and updated in November 2017.

Careers, Medicine
Careers From Biology
Education levels:
16–19, Undergraduate, Continuing professional development