What Is a Foot Doctor?

Foot doctors, or podiatrists, treat a variety of ailments caused by standing, walking, running, and the constant pressure from our bodies. Keep reading to find out more about what these doctors do. Schools offering Allied Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Podiatrist Job Description

Podiatrists diagnose and treat different foot ailments, such as fallen arches, corns, calluses, bunions and heel spurs. They treat these maladies with medication, therapy or surgery. Many patients with diabetes see a podiatrist for help with wound care and other issues. Also, the American Diabetes Association recommends that patients get a complete foot examination once a year (www.diabetes.org). In order to diagnose and treat issues such as broken bones, podiatrists need to be proficient in administering and interpreting x-rays, prescribing pain medication, setting casts and performing surgeries. They may also help patients find corrective footwear, or orthotics.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Prerequisites Minimum 3 years' undergraduate study, pass Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), complete Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) degree program
Key Skills Critical-thinking and interpersonal skills; attention to detail; empathy
Similar Occupations Chiropractor, optometrist, physical therapist
Work Environment Offices, group practices, hospitals, and outpatient centers

Education Information

Unlike many medical specialties, which require you to first earn a medical degree before studying your specialty, as a potential podiatrist, after your undergraduate studies, you'll attend a school of podiatric medicine. Many of the prerequisite courses are similar, with studies in anatomy, neuroscience, biochemistry, immunology and pathology. But advanced courses differ, with courses in foot and ankle treatment and surgery, anesthesiology and emergency and traumatology. The final year of schooling is usually reserved for rotations in hospitals, where you'll intern in different areas and learn about sports injuries, surgical procedures, dermatology and radiology. Externship opportunities will allow you to work at a clinic or private practice.

You'll take the National Board of Podiatric Medical Examiners (NBPME)'s examinations after completing different stages of your education. The 3-part exam focuses on basic podiatric practice and the clinical skills required to diagnose and treat patients (www.apmle.com). After passing the exams and completing the podiatric program, you'll be designated as a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM).

Residency Program

Many hospitals and clinics offer paid residency programs for new DPMs, which typically last 2-4 years. Your choice of residency program can be dictated by what you want to study. One program might focus on reconstructive surgery or diabetic foot care, while another could help you learn more about foot surgery techniques and wound care.

State Licensure

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), all 50 states demand podiatrists to be licensed. The requirements may vary from state to state, but most of them require graduation from an accredited podiatrist program and two years of postgraduate residency training. Many states accept the licensure granted from other states. States generally administer their own written and oral examinations, although some do accept a passing grade from the NBPME for licensure. Podiatrists, like most doctors, must complete a certain number of continuing education units periodically (www.bls.gov).

Career Outlook

The BLS reports that employment of podiatrists is expected to increase 14% from 2014 to 2024, which is faster than average. The aging U.S. population is likely to experience foot problems, contributing to demand. In addition, podiatrists increasingly work alongside other healthcare professionals to treat foot problems. Because there are few podiatry schools, job prospects are expected to be good. BLS statistics show that podiatrists earned an average of $137,480 in 2014.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
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Popular Schools

  • Grand Canyon University

    Grand Canyon University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Grand Canyon University:

    • Doctoral

    Online Programs Available

  • Colorado Technical University

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  • Capella University

    Capella University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Capella University:

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  • Samuel Merritt University

    Campus Locations:

    • California: Oakland
  • Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science

    Campus Locations:

    • Illinois: North Chicago
  • New York College of Podiatric Medicine

    Campus Locations:

    • New York: New York
  • Kent State University at Kent

    Campus Locations:

    • Ohio: Kent
  • Des Moines University-Osteopathic Medical Center

    Campus Locations:

    • Iowa: Des Moines
  • Western University of Health Sciences

    Campus Locations:

    • California: Pomona
  • Barry University

    Campus Locations:

    • Florida: Miami