Podiatrists are medical specialists who diagnose and treat conditions and illnesses of the feet, ankles, and lower extremities. Common podiatric issues include bone spurs, fractures, deformities, bunions, ingrown toenails, arthritis, arch pain, and immobility. To address these issues, they can prescribe medications, suggest the use of sole inserts, and perform surgeries. Many people with diabetes may have issues with their feet, at which point, a podiatrist would coordinate care with other medical professionals.
Why Become A Podiatrist
To be effective medical specialists, it is important for podiatrists to demonstrate a number of skills and personal qualities:
Good bedside manner
Analytical and reasoning skills
Dedication to problem solving
Podiatrist Work Environment
Podiatrist work indoors, in medical settings. Their work can occur in private or public practices, working in hospitals, outpatient care centers, or independent offices. They may be self-employed or work in a group practice with other doctors. They work closely with surgeons, medical assistants, and nurses. Some may choose a career path in research or education, at which they would work for colleges or universities.
Most podiatrists are full-time employees, working during normal business hours. It is possible that podiatrists work evenings, weekends, or holidays, especially if they work in a hospital setting. Some may also be on call during much of their career.
In 2015, the median annual salary for podiatrists was $136,180. Salaries for this profession range from $48,920 to $171,7400, which mostly depends upon private- versus public-sector work, experience, geographic location, and clientele.
Current healthcare trends—an aging population, diabetes, and obesity—demand podiatric medical care. For these reasons, this occupation is expected to grow 14 percent between 2014 and 2024. Although there will be an increased need for podiatrists, this is a small field of specialists, so not many positions will be added to the current number of doctors.
Podiatrists must have a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) degree to practice. In addition to earning this degree, they must complete a residency program and obtain state-specific licensure.
Step 1: Obtain a bachelor’s degree. There is no one degree program required to become a podiatrist, although it is necessary to have a bachelor’s degree before being admitted into a doctoral program. Science-related courses and degree programs are recommended, especially those that cover anatomy, laboratory science, and biology. It is also essential that podiatrists have strong communication skills, so coursework in English are highly recommended.
Step 2: Obtain a DPM degree. It is important that students check with specific program requirements before applying for admittance. Although a bachelor’s degree is a prerequisite, some doctoral programs may require students to complete specific courses before admission. Students must pass the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) to be considered for any medical doctoral program.
A DPM degree typically takes students four years to complete. The first two years of coursework are general and relevant to a typical medical degree. The last two years of study includes specialized coursework in podiatric medicine, in which students will learn about podiatric anatomy, lower-extremity biomechanics, and podiatric conditions and trauma. Students should expect to take courses in pharmacology, biomechanics, pathology, anatomy, and neuroscience. Clinical rotations in surgery and radiation will also be required of students.
Step 3: Complete a residency program. Residency programs help graduated students receive relevant clinical experience. Some podiatrists may choose to complete a program in sports or pediatric medicine, while others will go on to complete a podiatric medical and surgical residency (PMSR). A PMSR typically occurs in a hospital setting and will take an individual about three years to complete.
Step 4: Obtain state-required licensure. Every state requires podiatrists to be licensed prior to practicing. To obtain this license, individuals must pass the American Podiatric Medical Licensing Exam (APMLE). Many states also require individuals to pass state-specific examinations.
Note: Board certification is an excellent way to specialize, which increases opportunities and improves credentials. Many institutions offer board certification, such as the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery, the American Board of Podiatric Medicine, and the American Board of Multiple Specialties in Podiatry.