Careers in Operating Department Practice
An operating theatre


The role of an operating department practitioner (ODP) is diverse and includes a wide range of skills working with service care users before, during and after operations. To be become an ODP you will need to do either a two year diploma or three year BSc. (Hons) degree at a University.


What are the university entry requirements for an operating department practice degree?

To apply to universities for Operating Department Practice, you should have, or be working towards achieving a relevant Access to HE Diploma in Health Science. Or, alternatively, 3 A Levels with at least one in a science area (Human Biology, Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Psychology, Sociology, Geography or Maths). Universities can advise on their particular entry requirements and they also publish these on the UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) web site.

With the A Level route you may also be expected to have a minimum of 5 GCSEs. With the Access to HE Diploma route you are normally only required to have 2 GCSE English and Maths at grade C or above (or Grade 4 or above with the new grading system).  Access to HE Diplomas are normally aimed towards adults 18+ returning to education or wishing to change to a new career. There are no upper age limits. The Diploma qualification is viewed as being equivalent to 3 A Levels.  Access to HE can be studied from home via online learning or at a local college/academy. 

To gain the required level of practical skills and technical competence to become an ODP, your degree programme will give you experience in all areas of theatres through focused practice modules. Qualified mentors will supervise you throughout your course. The three main areas in ODP are: anaesthetics, surgery and Post-Anaesthetic Care Unit (PACU).

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What do Operating Department Practitioners do? 

A career as an operating department practitioner is exciting, challenging, rewarding and demanding with many opportunities to work in different parts of healthcare. ODPs work with surgeons, anaesthetists and nurses to make sure every operation is as safe and organised as possible. They are responsible for preparing equipment, drugs and sometimes the theatre environment itself to make sure operations follow health and safety requirements. ODPs ensure that surgical equipment is clean and accounted for. They also assist the service care user in elements of their post surgery recovery phase. Whilst they mainly work in theatre they can also be a vital link between theatre and other clinical areas.


What personal attributes are needed to become an ODP?

Planning and organising is key to this role. ODPs work with service care users before, during and after surgery so there are many strands to pull together to facilitate their smooth journey through the surgical process. Management and good communication skills are also essential for ODPs. They need to be naturally caring and compassionate and have the ability to work in a pressurised and changing environment.


What are the pay and working conditions like?

  • Starting salary is around £28,384 rising to £35,365 (Band 5) with experience
  • The most experienced ODPs or those that are trained as Nurses can earn £35,522 to £43,286 a year (Band 6) - this will vary for ODPs working outside of the NHS
  • The Government has recently announced an increase in salaries across health sector employees over the next 3 years
  • It is mostly a shift-based role usually working 37.5 hours per week

Overtime and on-call duty would form part of the role. You would work mainly in operating theatres and recovery rooms; these areas are clean and bright. ODPs wear surgical clothing and head coverings; these items are provided by the hospital.

Opportunities for career development

ODPs mainly work in hospitals but are also employed by the Armed Forces. With experience they can become senior ODPs or team leaders, responsible for managing operating theatre units. There are also opportunities in research, education and training. It may also be possible to work abroad. 

How is the Degree funded?

Studying to become an Operating Department Practitioner allows you to you to apply for the standard student support package in the form of a student loan. Scholarships, bursaries or grants may also be available for example, through the university or your place of work. NHS-funded places are available for eligible students on approved degree courses. Tuition fees are paid in full and students receive financial support in the form of a bursary to help towards living expenses. Check with individual institutions to see if courses attract NHS financial support.

If you would like to complete an Access to HE in Operating Department Practice with Academy Online Learning and obtain the level 3 Access Diploma in Health Science Professions for university entry, please complete the online enrolment form or contact us for more information by phone or email. Studying and achieving this qualification provides a flexible way of study as it is fully online and is recognised and accepted by UK universities.


Access to Operating Department Practice Course

Payment Options

The cost of the Access to Higher Education Diploma (Health Professions) is £1236, and can be paid in monthly instalments from £103 per month over 12 months with 0% interest. Or discounted price at £1186 (£50 saving) when paid in full upfront.

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