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Returning to learning

24 Jun 2020 1:00PM

A former secondary school teacher and a former offshore engineer have been sharing their experiences of changing careers.

Tim Buddle who is now 50 will soon qualify as a registered diagnostic radiographer from the University of Suffolk after deciding to pursue a new career in his 40’s.

Tim said “I become interested in radiography after my partner had a fall and used the service. I took her to a local minor injuries unit, where she was assessed, had an X-ray examination and was treated. It was the post imaging discussion with the nurse where I saw the images and became really interested and excited about a career I knew very little about, despite having had X-rays myself. At that point I had been a teacher for over 25 years and wanted a new challenge in my life and to do something for me. The University of Suffolk was an ideal fit- it did the course, diagnostic radiography, and was close to home which was really important as a mature student with a family. I attended an open day which was really upbeat and informative about the course, university and the future career path.”

A large percentage of the diagnostic radiography degree at the University of Suffolk is spent on placement. Tim spent his time at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, where he has now accepted a full-time radiographer role. He added “I secured a job at my placement hospital in January, so I knew five months before finishing the course where I was going to work, which is very helpful and incentivising. This degree course is excellent and as it is a profession with a huge shortfall in the workforce, so there are plenty of jobs.”

“I would advise mature students to make the leap of faith to Uni. It seems daunting at first, but with good planning and advice it is possible. A lot of people worry about loans for tuition fees but it’s not that bad and there is a new grant scheme giving you money towards living and studying costs.”

The government announced earlier this year a financial incentive for student nurses and allied health professionals, including diagnostic and therapeutic radiography students. Students will be able to receive a £5,000 annual maintenance grant, which will not have to be paid back.

Students who are 21 years old or over when they start their course are regarded as ‘mature students’. Mature students play a huge part in the UK's Higher Education Sector and at the University of Suffolk 60% of the total student population are mature.

Following the Coronavirus pandemic, it is expected many people will be considering their career prospects and pursing a new career or retraining to progress in their current workplace. Support is available for students retuning to learning for example Access to Higher Education courses and study support.

Fellow diagnostic radiography student, Brandon Carter was working in an offshore engineering role before University. He said “I worked as a pipefitter, the job was good but the future and stability of the career to me seemed bleak; oil and gas isn’t sustainable, the future of work isn’t guaranteed and construction yards were at the time and still are closing down. I guess in a way I started questioning what I really wanted from life and what my purpose was. I felt I wanted something more meaningful and challenging, in the end it just seemed to right to commit to a career enabling me to help others.”

“I originally wanted to study another health sciences degree, but I was open minded and spent time shadowing a variety of different healthcare professionals to fully understand what opportunities were available to me. When I discovered radiography I was impressed, it is such a broad profession and offers those that study it a varied and interesting work life. I remember seeing a shoulder X-ray and there was a piece of bone growing from the collar bone down, at that point I thought it was a painting or something, it turned out to be a complex bone tumour called an osteochondroma and I thought it was fascinating. Radiography has a lot of patient contact also, you meet some right characters!”

“I chose the University of Suffolk as it’s local and permitted me to continue with my life commitments. I was also attracted to the University as the degree programme itself is 60% at your placement hospital.  When I emailed staff and met the team at the open day I went to, I got positive, enthusiastic and supportive responses.”

Brandon completed an Access to Higher Education course at East Coast College first. He said “It was a fantastic process with unrivalled support every step of the way. It was honestly brilliant, I made friends for life! It prepared me for university level study in such a systematic well thought way; it compounded my confidence and fuelled my enthusiasm to learn. My advice for someone returning to learning is just do it, the process is so enjoyable, and it opens up so many more opportunities.”

Like Tim, Brandon also accepted a diagnostic radiography role at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital. He started in mid-April during the coronavirus pandemic and has this advice for anyone considering a career change “It’s simple- let the passion guide you. I believe if you want something enough in life, you'll make it happen. Put the work in and let the results speak for themselves. Focus, be organised, understand your assessments in detail, as this is what gives you your grade, and lastly, enjoy the process, relax and make the most of it.”

To find out more about studying Diagnostic Radiography click here, to find out more about the support and resources available as a mature student visit or register for the Virtual Open Event this Saturday by going to


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