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What Podiatrists Do About this section

Podiatrists
Podiatrists treat injuries involving the lower extremities.

Podiatrists provide medical and surgical care for people with foot, ankle, and lower leg problems. They diagnose illnesses, treat injuries, and perform surgery involving the lower extremities.

Duties

Podiatrists 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.

Work Environment About this section

Podiatrists
Patients with diabetes may develop foot problems that require the care of a podiatrist.

Podiatrists held about 10,500 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of podiatrists were as follows:

Offices of other health practitioners 62%
Offices of physicians 14
Federal government, excluding postal service 9
Hospitals; state, local, and private 7
Self-employed workers 5

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.

Work Schedules

Most podiatrists work full time. Podiatrists’ offices may be open in the evenings or on weekends to accommodate patients. Self-employed podiatrists or those who own their practice may set their own hours. In hospitals, podiatrists may have to work occasional nights or weekends, or may be on call.

How to Become a Podiatrist About this section

Podiatrists
Podiatrists listen to patients’ concerns about their feet, ankles, or lower legs.

Podiatrists must earn a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) degree and complete a 3-year residency program. Every state requires podiatrists to be licensed.

Education

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.

Training

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.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

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.

Important Qualities

Compassion. Since podiatrists provide care for patients who may be in pain, they must treat patients with compassion and understanding.

Critical-thinking skills. Podiatrists must have a sharp, analytical mind to correctly diagnose a patient and determine the best course of treatment.

Detail oriented. To provide safe, effective healthcare, a podiatrist should be detail oriented. For example, a podiatrist must pay attention to a patient’s medical history as well as current conditions when diagnosing a problem.

Interpersonal skills. Because podiatrists spend much of their time interacting with patients, they should listen well and communicate effectively. For example, they should be able to tell a patient who is slated to undergo surgery what to expect and calm his or her fears.

Pay About this section

Podiatrists

Median annual wages, May 2019

Podiatrists

$126,240

Healthcare diagnosing or treating practitioners

$82,380

Total, all occupations

$39,810

 

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.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for podiatrists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Offices of physicians $141,920
Offices of other health practitioners 125,330
Hospitals; state, local, and private 124,200
Federal government, excluding postal service 116,900

Most podiatrists work full time. Podiatrists’ offices may be open in the evenings or on weekends to accommodate patients. Self-employed podiatrists or those who own their practice may set their own hours. In hospitals, podiatrists may have to work occasional nights or weekends, or may be on call.

Job Outlook About this section

Podiatrists

Percent change in employment, projected 2019-29

Healthcare diagnosing or treating practitioners

10%

Total, all occupations

4%

Podiatrists

0%

 

Employment of podiatrists is projected to show little or no change from 2019 to 2029.

The U.S. population continues to age and to see an associated increase in its rates of chronic diseases, such as diabetes and obesity. As a result, people will continue to have mobility and foot-related problems, and podiatrists will be needed to treat many of these conditions. However, demand for podiatrists is expected to be limited because many patients may acquire services from a non-podiatrist physician or other appropriate caregiver.

Job Prospects

Despite limited employment growth, about 500 openings for podiatrists are projected each year, on average, over the decade.

Nearly all of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment projections data for podiatrists, 2019-29
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2019 Projected Employment, 2029 Change, 2019-29 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Podiatrists

29-1081 10,500 10,600 0 0 Get data

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about podiatrists, visit

American Podiatric Medical Association

For information on colleges of podiatric medicine and their entrance requirements, curricula, and student financial aid, visit

American Association of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine

For a list of accredited podiatric programs and residency programs, visit

Council on Podiatric Medical Education

For more information about the podiatric licensing exam, visit

National Board of Podiatric Medical Examiners

For more information about board certification, visit

American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery

American Board of Podiatric Medicine

American Board of Multiple Specialties in Podiatry

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Podiatrists

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