Studying operating department practice
This page provides an overview of the things to consider if you are considering a career as an operating department practitioner, what you can expect during training and your next steps after qualifying.
Operating department practitioners (ODPs) have an important role in the anaesthetic, surgical and recovery phases of surgical procedures. They work with the rest of the operating department team to ensure that operations are as safe and as effective as possible.
Applying to become an ODP
The first step to becoming an ODP is to take a Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE) or degree course approved by the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC). You can search for HCPC-approved courses using our course finder.
Applications for full-time courses are made through UCAS.
Entry requirements for approved operating department practice courses vary because each university sets its own entry criteria, but you are likely to need at least two A-levels or equivalent qualifications at level 3, plus supporting GCSEs. Contact universities directly to find out which qualifications equivalent to A-levels or GCSEs are acceptable.
- Your application Expand / Collapse
Universities will normally expect you to attend an interview. In your application, you’ll need to demonstrate that you have found out about the role of an ODP and understand what the work involves. Because of the nature of the work, placements and work shadowing opportunities in this area may be difficult to organise, so try talking to an ODP about their role. Experience in a healthcare setting would also be very useful and may be necessary for some courses. Find out exactly what is required for your chosen courses and get organised as soon as possible.
The UCAS website allows you to search for courses and view entry requirements. More detailed information about specific courses – full and part-time - can be found in university prospectuses and on their websites. It’s possible to take an HCPC-approved operating department practice course on a part-time basis while you’re working in a related role.
- Recruiting for values Expand / Collapse
If you’re applying for a university programme leading to a role providing NHS healthcare, you’ll be asked to show how you think the NHS values would apply in your everyday work.
- Your training as an ODP Expand / Collapse
Approved DipHE courses in operating department practice last for two years and degree courses for three. Part-time courses take up to seven years. Programmes combine university study with practical experience.
Approved courses must meet the HCPC’s standards of education and training but programmes vary in their content, the way they are structured, and how they are taught and assessed. The facilities available and amount of support and supervision may also differ from course to course. Find out more by looking at university websites and prospectuses, attending university open days and contacting admissions staff.
Support at university
See our information about the support available while on your course.
- What happens after your training? Expand / Collapse
After you have passed an HCPC-approved course, in order to practise (and call yourself an ODP) you must register with the HCPC. If you have a DipHE, you may be able to continue your studies to achieve an approved honours degree.
Apart from operating theatres, there may be opportunities to work in other settings, such as in accident and emergency departments, with transplant teams or in the Armed Forces. You can progress from one grade or band to another. You’ll need some experience in a more generalist role, but you can specialise in an area that interests you or undertake further study and training to become a physician's assistant (anaesthesia) or surgical care practitioner.