Podiatrist

Podiatry is a unique field of medicine that exclusively deals with the lower extremities, meaning the lower leg, ankle, and foot. Doctors of podiatric medicine (DPM) have completed four years of podiatric school and a three-year residency to ensure they have the training and education to practice in this specialized field.

Podiatrists can diagnose and treat infections, injuries, deformities, and disorders. They practice as either physicians or surgeons in a number of specialties, including orthopedics, sports medicine, wound care, and pediatrics. Because many chronic health diseases present first in the lower leg, podiatrists can be instrumental in catching circulatory disorders, heart disease, and diabetes. 

As the population of the US ages, there is an increase in incidents of diabetes, chronic disease, and mobility issues. Because all of these can lead to ankle, lower leg, and foot issues, there is an increase in demand for podiatrists. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2020) estimates a 10 percent increase in jobs in this field between 2019 and 2019. The average wage for podiatrists is $142,680 per year. 

Entering this career takes dedication and years of schooling. Continue reading to learn about top programs, what type of degree is required, and how to get certified and licensed. 

Podiatrist Specializations & Degree Types

Podiatrists are required to earn a doctor of podiatric medicine (DPM) degree. This four-year medical degree is offered at one of nine accredited colleges of podiatric medicine across the US. Upon completing their degree, DPMs must complete a three-year residency to complete their training and education. 

In addition to general podiatry, DPMs can specialize in a number of specialties. All students receive some general training during DPM school, but the specialization is completed through residency. Specializations include surgery, pediatrics, wound care and management, sports medicine, and orthopedics. 

Admissions Requirements for Podiatrist Programs

All podiatrists must attend a college of podiatric medicine. Admission requirements for the nine podiatric colleges in the US vary but can include:

  • Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) or the Dental Admission Test (DAT) 
  • Prerequisite coursework in biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, and English
  • Complete a DPM shadowing experience
  • Pass a background check
  • Proof of English proficiency for international students
  • An in-person interview

Podiatrist Program Accreditation

Podiatrists must attend one of nine accredited colleges of podiatry in the US. These programs are accredited by the Council on Podiatric Medical Education (CPME). Students should ensure their school is accredited as this is required to apply for a residency and subsequently attain board certification as a podiatrist. 

On-Campus Podiatrist Residency Programs

Kent State University – College of Podiatric Medicine

Over 6,000 podiatrists have graduated from Kent State University’s College of Podiatric Medicine. This program boasts affiliation with over 50 hospitals and 300 clinics across the country to provide its students with one of a kind externships. Students will also get to spend considerable time treating patients at Kent State’s own Cleveland Foot and Ankle Clinic. Each year they graduate between 80 to 100 podiatrists. 

Aspiring podiatrists considering Kent State can participate in their Step Into Podiatry program where they are paired with a podiatric physician near them who can chat about the profession and why they chose podiatry. This unique shadowing experience allows candidates to decide if podiatry is for them.  

  • Location: Kent, OH
  • Duration: Four years
  • Accreditation: Council on Podiatric Medical Education (CPME)
  • Tuition: $42,889 per year

Des Moines University – College of Podiatric Medicine and Surgery

Not only can students complete their DPM at Des Moines University College of Podiatric Medicine and Surgery, but they can also pursue one of four dual-degree options. These include master’s of public health, master’s of health care administration, master’s of science in anatomy, or master’s of science in biomedical sciences. This allows students to complete additional studies that will help them stand out in the field of podiatry. 

The key highlights of the Des Moines University DPM program include extensive use of technology, a state of the art gross anatomy lab, an in house residency for students who qualify, evidence-based practices in clinical care, and faculty with an open door policy.

  • Location: Des Moines, IA
  • Duration: Four years
  • Accreditation: Council on Podiatric Medical Education (CPME)
  • Tuition: $38,190 per year

Samuel Merritt University – California School of Podiatric Medicine

In 2020, 100 percent of the Samuel Merritt University California School of Podiatric Medicine graduates passed their APMLE licensing exam. This program has students participating in clinical rotations during their first year of medical school, giving them early hands-on applications for what they are learning in their lectures. The mission of this program is to produce compassionate and highly skilled doctors. 

Students will develop strong observation, communication, and patient care skills during their four years of podiatry training. Courses students will take include general podiatry, surgical podiatry, wound care, radiology, and sports medicine. This allows students to experience a broad range of specializations, preparing them to choose their focus for residency.  

  • Location: Oakland, CA
  • Duration: Four years
  • Accreditation: Council on Podiatric Medical Education (CPME)
  • Tuition: $44,856 per year

Barry University – School of Podiatric Medicine

Located in sunny southern Florida, the Barry University School of Podiatric Medicine boasts internationally renowned faculty and excellent clinical rotations to prepare students for a career as podiatrists. They even offer students the opportunity to complete an MBA in addition to the DPM with a dual degree option through their Andreas School of Business. 

In addition to clinical rotations, students are encouraged to give back by volunteering in their community or participating in school-sponsored trips to serve disadvantaged populations abroad. Graduates of this program are well prepared, and in the past two years, they have placed 99 percent of their students into a residency. 

  • Location: Miami Shores, FL 
  • Duration: Four years
  • Accreditation: Council on Podiatric Medical Education (CPME)
  • Tuition: $38,960 per year

Online or Hybrid Podiatrist Degree Programs

There are no hybrid or online programs available due to the hands-on nature of obtaining a medical degree and completing a required podiatric residency. 

How Long Does it Take to Become a Podiatrist?

Since podiatrists must complete an undergraduate degree, medical school, and residency, it takes at least 12 years of education post-high school to enter this career.  

How To Become a Podiatrist – Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Graduate from High School or Obtain a GED (Four Years)

The long education journey of a podiatrist starts with completing high school or obtaining a GED. Students who wish to pursue a podiatry career should focus on classes such as math, biology, physics, and anatomy. Advanced placement classes can help prepare students for the rigors of college classes as well as provide college credit while still in high school.  

Step 2: Complete a Bachelor’s Degree Program (Four Years)

Podiatrist college admission requirements include completing a bachelor’s degree. Students typically complete their degree in science-related fields such as biology, pre-med, physical sciences, or even exercise science. 

However, students can complete any major as long as prerequisite coursework has been completed. Prerequisite classes include biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, and English. Students should explore podiatrist shadowing opportunities, as this may be required for admission to a podiatry college.   

Step 3: Take the MCAT or DAT Exam (Timeline Varies)

While the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is the most commonly accepted exam for admission to a college of podiatry, some schools will also accept the Dental Admission Test (DAT). Students will take this exam during the spring of their junior year of 

Step 4: Apply for Podiatric School (Timeline Varies)

Students apply for podiatric school through the American Association of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine Application Service (AACPMAS). They can apply for more than one program through this service while only having to submit their documentation once. Applications are submitted during the fall of a student’s senior year of their bachelor’s degree. 

Step 5: Attend Podiatric School (Four Years)

Podiatric school is a four-year medical school on just the lower leg, ankle, and foot. During podiatric school, students will attend lectures, participate in labs, and complete clinical rotations. 

Step 6: Apply for a Podiatric Residency (During Podiatric School)

All podiatric residencies are accredited by the CPME. Students will apply for their residency through the Central Application Service for Podiatric Residencies (CASPR). This matching service uses a sophisticated algorithm to match students’ interests and skills to available residencies across the country.

Step 7: Fulfill Residency Requirements (Three Years)

Podiatric residency is three years long. During residency, students will learn the hands-on skills they will need to be successful podiatrists. It is during residency that podiatrists also can work towards a specialization in orthopedics, surgery, sports, wound care, or pediatrics. 

Step 8: Sit for the National Licensing Exams (Timelines Vary)

Podiatrists must sit for the American Podiatric Medical Licensing Exam (APMLE). This exam has four parts, three of which are completed during medical school and one of which is completed at the start of residency.  

Step 9: Obtain State Licensure (Timelines Vary)

In order to practice medicine, podiatrists must be licensed. Licensing is done on a state by state basis, so aspiring DPMs should contact their local board to ensure they meet all the requirements.  

Step 10: Take the Exam to Become Board Certified (Timelines Vary)

Board certification is required to practice as a podiatrist. There are three certification boards for podiatrists. They are:

  • American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery (ABFAS)
  • American Board of Podiatric Medicine (ABPM) 
  • American Board of Multiple Specialties in Podiatry (ABMSP)

What Do Podiatrists Do? 

Podiatrists have earned a doctor of podiatric medicine (DPM) degree and work primarily in private clinics, although some work in hospitals or for government agencies. Day-to-day responsibilities of podiatrists include:

  • Meeting with patients to discuss issues they may be having with their feet and legs
  • Reviewing patients medical histories and performing physical examinations
  • Ordering diagnostic labs or x-rays 
  • Diagnosing lower leg, ankle, and foot problems
  • Writing treatment plans based on the diagnosis made
  • Performing surgeries (DPMs who have completed a surgical residency)
  • Prescribing medications
  • Collaborating with or referring to other physicians for comprehensive patient care
  • Maintaining patient records

Podiatrist Certifications & Licensure

Podiatrists must be both board-certified and state-licensed in order to practice. Board certification can be obtained from either the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery (ABFAS), the American Board of Podiatric Medicine (ABPM), and the American Board of Multiple Specialties in Podiatry (ABMSP). 

Candidates become eligible for board certification upon completion of a three-year Council on Podiatric Medical Education (CPME) podiatric residency. Attaining certification is done through testing and work experience. Depending on the certification obtained, there may be multiple exams. 

Licensing for podiatrists is done on a state by state basis. Candidates should check with their local boards to ensure they have the necessary qualifications. Requirements typically include completing medical school and residency, passing the  American Podiatric Medical Licensing Exam (APMLE), submitting a completed application, and paying a licensing fee. 

How Much Do Podiatrists Make? 

On average, podiatrists earn $142,680 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2019). Currently, there are approximately 9,770 podiatrists in the US. The percentiles for wages are:

  • 10th percentile: $54,150
  • 25th percentile: $85,090
  • 50th percentile (median): $126,240
  • 75th percentile: $178,960
  • 90th percentile: >$208,000 per year
Kimmy Gustafson

Kimmy Gustafson

Writer

Kimmy is a freelance writer with extensive experience writing about healthcare careers and education. She has worked in public health, at health-focused nonprofits, and as a Spanish interpreter for doctor’s offices and hospitals. She has a passion for learning and that drives her to stay up to date on the latest trends in healthcare. When not writing or researching, she can be found pursuing her passions of nutrition and an active outdoors lifestyle.

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