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Operating Department Practitioner

The facts

Job description

You'll assist the surgery team in our state-of-the-art operating theatres in the UK or overseas.



Pay after training


Joining age

17.5 - 29

Similar civilian jobs

  • Operating department technician

Usual service

9 years


Citizen of the UK or the Republic of Ireland, or a Commonwealth citizen since birth

Open to

male or female

Qualifications you need

2 A-levels (at grade A-C) or SCEs with five passes of which three are Higher grade, or passes in four subjects at Higher grade. Four AS-levels may be accepted in lieu of two A-levels. Plus 3 GCSE/SCEs at Grade C/2 minimum or 3 SNEs at Grade 5, in English Language, Maths and a science subject. This role requires a Physics based science subject. Please check by reading this document (opens in a new window). Please note: the RAF does not accept A-levels in Critical Thinking or General Studies at any grade.

Qualifications you can gain

Diploma in Higher Education in operating department practice


Whether or not you were born in the United Kingdom, you should have resided there for the five years immediately preceding your application.

The job

As an Operating Department Practitioner, you’ll be part of the theatre team that provides quality care for patients in the operating theatres of Defence Secondary Care Agency hospital units in the UK and Cyprus.

Having been trained in all aspects of working in an operating theatre, you’ll prepare and maintain the theatre and its equipment, assist the surgical team during operations and provide support in the recovery room.

Professional qualifications

If you’re an experienced Operating Department Practitioner with the appropriate qualifications, you’ll start your professional work significantly higher in the RAF’s rank and pay structure.

I do this job

Operating Department Practitioner

Caroline Vernon
Operating Department Practitioner

‘I’ve done things with the RAF I’d never have dreamed of doing before.’

My role

‘Operating Department Practitioners train in all the different aspects of surgery so that we can assist in theatre. We’re responsible for all the instruments used during an operation, we work in the recovery room afterwards and we’re also part of the resuscitation team. I’ve done the plaster course for applying casts and I’m also down to do two keyhole surgery courses.’

My day

‘I’m based at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus, where my hours are seven in the morning till half past one, with on-call rotas, which is when you’re bleeped if there’s an emergency such as a traffic accident.

‘It’s a really good working atmosphere, and that makes all the difference. Any job can be hard work and stressful but we know when to be serious and when to have fun.’

My experiences

‘With a friend I’ve been able to travel to Jordan, Syria, Egypt and Israel and I’ve been on a Greek islands cruise. I did a tandem parachute jump and when the Hawk jets came out from the UK on detachment I put my name down and went up in one. I’ve even done two half-marathons since I’ve been in Cyprus.’

My life

‘It’s a good life in the RAF – it’s what you make it. A lot of people sit back and let life pass them by. But in the air force, you get such great opportunities – and if the opportunities are there, why not take them?’


Recruit training

Your career will start with a 10 week Basic Recruit Training Course (BRTC) at RAF Halton in Buckinghamshire. The course is designed to help you adjust to a military environment. As well as fitness and military training, you’ll also learn about the RAF lifestyle.

Specialist Training

If you are joining with a professional qualification recognised by the Health Professions Council you will, following completion of RTS, be posted into your first Unit.  

If you’re joining with appropriate A-levels/Highers or equivalent (see below), your specialist training will start with a two-year Diploma in Higher Education in Operating Department Practice at the Royal College of Defence Medicine at the Birmingham City University.

This will qualify you for membership of the Health Professions Council. At the end of the course, you’ll get your first assignment.

Ongoing development

As a military ODP, you will have extensive opportunities for further professional development throughout your career, including the opportunity after 3 years post qualification to apply for the Advanced Scrub Practitioner Course to allow you to become a surgical assistant and other postgraduate qualifications.

Your future

Career prospects

You will initially join the RAF for a period of nine years and graduate from your training course with the rank of Senior Aircraftman/woman Technician.

You will be eligible for promotion to Corporal after three years’ productive recommended service and to Sergeant after four years of recommended service in the rank of Corporal.

Further promotion to the rank of Flight Sergeant and beyond is by competitive selection.

Transferable skills

The qualifications you can earn are as valuable in the civilian world as they are in the RAF – This means if you decide to leave the RAF, you will be well placed to find a new job as an ODP.

Apply now

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0845 605 5555

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