Podiatrists provide medical and surgical care for people with foot, ankle, and lower leg problems.
What they do
Podiatrists diagnose illnesses, treat injuries, and perform surgery involving the lower extremities. They typically do the following:
- Assess the condition of a patient’s feet, ankles, or lower legs by reviewing the patient’s medical history, listening to his or her concerns, and performing a physical examination
- Diagnose foot, ankle, and lower leg problems through physical exams, x rays, medical laboratory tests, and other methods
- Provide treatment for foot, ankle, and lower leg ailments, such as prescribing special shoe inserts (orthotics) to improve a patient’s mobility
- Perform foot and ankle surgeries, such as removing bone spurs, fracture repairs, and correcting other foot and ankle deformities
- Advise and instruct patients on foot and ankle care and on general wellness techniques
- Prescribe medications
- Coordinate patient care with other physicians
- Refer patients to other physicians or specialists if they detect larger health problems, such as diabetes or vascular disease
- Conduct research, read journals, and attend conferences to keep up with advances in podiatric medicine and surgery
Podiatrists treat a variety of foot and ankle ailments, including calluses, ingrown toenails, heel spurs, arthritis, congenital foot and ankle deformities, and arch problems. They also treat foot and leg problems associated with diabetes and other diseases. Some podiatrists spend most of their time performing surgery, such as foot and ankle reconstruction. Others may choose a specialty such as sports medicine, pediatrics, or diabetic foot care.
Podiatrists who own their practice may spend time on business-related activities, such as hiring employees and managing inventory.
Podiatrists’ offices are included in offices of other healthcare practitioners.
Some podiatrists work in group practices with other physicians or specialists. Podiatrists may work closely with physicians and surgeons, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, and medical assistants.
How to become a Podiatrist
Podiatrists must earn a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) degree and complete a 3-year residency program. Every state requires podiatrists to be licensed.
Podiatrists must have a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) degree from an accredited college of podiatric medicine. A DPM degree program takes 4 years to complete. In 2017, there were 9 colleges of podiatric medicine accredited by the Council on Podiatric Medical Education.
Admission to podiatric medicine programs requires at least 3 years of undergraduate education, including specific courses in laboratory sciences such as biology, chemistry, and physics, as well as general coursework in subjects such as English. In practice, nearly all prospective podiatrists earn a bachelor’s degree before attending a college of podiatric medicine. Admission to DPM programs requires taking the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).
Courses for a DPM degree are similar to those for other medical degrees. They include anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and pathology, among other subjects. During their last 2 years, podiatric medical students gain supervised experience by completing clinical rotations.
After earning a DPM, podiatrists must apply to and complete a 3-year podiatric medicine and surgery residency (PMSR) program. Residency programs take place in hospitals and provide both medical and surgical experience.
Podiatrists may complete additional training in specific fellowship areas, such as podiatric wound care or diabetic foot care, among others.
Podiatrists in every state must be licensed. Podiatrists must pay a fee and pass all parts of the American Podiatric Medical Licensing Exam (APMLE), offered by the National Board of Podiatric Medical Examiners. Some states also require podiatrists to take a state-specific exam.
Many podiatrists choose to become board certified. Certification generally requires a combination of work experience and passing an exam. Board certification is offered by the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery, the American Board of Podiatric Medicine, and the American Board of Multiple Specialties in Podiatry
The median annual wage for podiatrists was $126,240 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $54,150, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $208,000.
Employment of podiatrists is projected to show little or no change from 2019 to 2029.
Similar Job Titles
Doctor, Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM), Doctor Podiatric Medicine (DPM), Foot and Ankle Surgeon, Physician, Podiatric Physician, Podiatric Surgeon, Podiatrist, Practitioner
Health Specialties Teacher-Postsecondary, Nurse Midwife
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- American Board of Physician Specialties - The mission of the ABPS is to offer the highest standards in physician board certification that meets the healthcare needs of the public while benefiting physicians and helping them achieve success in the evolving medical environment.
- American Board of Podiatric Medicine - The goal of the ABPM is to protect the health and welfare of the public through an ongoing process of evaluation and certification of the competence of podiatrists in the specialty of Podiatric Orthopedics and Primary Podiatric Medicine.
- American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons - The ACFAS seeks to inspire excellence in foot and ankle care for every patient by every member and empower our members to be proven leaders and lifelong learners who positively impact the lives of their patients.
- American Podiatric Medical Association - The organization represents a vast majority of the estimated 18,000 podiatrists in the country. In addition to the national headquarters, APMA boasts 53 state component locations throughout the United States and its territories, as well as affiliated societies.
- The American Academy of Ambulatory Foot and Ankle Surgery - The AMIFAS educational mission is to advance the art and science of podiatric medicine by providing quality clinical learning experiences to members and non-members, and shall include a variety of instructional sessions aimed at significantly enhancing patient care, treatment protocols, and practice efficiency.
Magazines and Publications
Can you think of a body part that’s under more stress than your feet? Probably not— and that’s why podiatrists train specifically to care for patients with all types of foot problems. Podiatrists are doctors who focus exclusively on foot, ankle, and lower leg problems. They examine and diagnose conditions, perform surgery, prescribe medications, and order imaging tests. Some of the common conditions they treat include corns, calluses, ingrown nails, shortened tendons, bunions, and cysts. They may perform surgery to reconstruct the foot and ankle, or specialize in areas such as sports medicine or pediatrics. They also see many patients with foot problems caused by diabetes. Most podiatrists work in podiatrists’ offices. Some work in group practices with physicians or specialists, and others in hospitals and outpatient surgery centers. They may work irregular hours and be on call for urgent cases. Podiatrists must complete at least 3 years of undergraduate training in basic sciences, and most have a bachelor’s degree. Next, they must complete 4 years of podiatry school. They are then required to complete a 3-year residency program, and must be licensed. It is often said that you can tell a lot about someone’s health by simply looking at their feet. This goes to show just how important podiatrists are for keeping patients healthy, active, and upright.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org