Education and Training: Advanced degree
Salary: Median—$94,400 per year
Employment Outlook: Good
Definition and Nature of the Work
Podiatrists are medical practitioners who specialize in the treatment of sore, badly shaped, diseased, or injured feet and ankles. Podiatrists were formerly called chiropodists. They order X-rays and laboratory tests to diagnose patients' problems, which they treat by manipulation, massage, physical therapy, and surgery. Sometimes they provide patients with bandages, pads, braces, splints, or other supports. They may prescribe drugs, exercise, or special shoes. Because foot problems may be signs of general illnesses, such as diabetes or heart trouble, podiatrists may refer patients to physicians for treatment.
Some podiatrists specialize in foot surgery and orthopedics. They treat deformities of foot muscles, joints, or bones. Others specialize in podopediatrics, the care of children's feet, or podogeriatrics, the treatment of foot problems of the elderly.
Most podiatrists have private practices. Others work in hospitals, podiatric colleges, government agencies, or private clinics.
Education and Training Requirements
Admission to a school of podiatry requires at least three years of college, although most applicants have bachelor's degrees. The four-year programs lead to the degree of doctor of podiatric medicine (DPM). All states require that podiatrists be licensed. Requirements vary, but in all states podiatrists must graduate from accredited colleges of podiatry and pass state board examinations. A few states also require one-year residencies.
Getting the Job
Most podiatrists go into private practice—they either set up their own practices or buy established ones. Others start by working as assistants in the offices of established podiatrists. Still others take salaried positions until they have the money and experience to open their own practices. Professional associations and colleges of podiatry can provide information about getting started in this field.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Most podiatrists advance by expanding their practices; others may specialize. A small number of podiatrists move into teaching, research, or administrative positions in hospitals or colleges of podiatry.
Employment of podiatrists is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through 2014. A growing elderly population may require more treatment of foot problems, which should create openings for qualified podiatrists. Also, the popularity of fast-moving sports, such as jogging, tennis, and racquet-ball, may increase demand in the specialty of podiatric sports medicine. However, employment may be affected by insurers, who control payments for specialty health care.
Podiatrists generally set their own working conditions. Most work about forty hours per week, often including some evening and Saturday hours. Some podiatrists work part time.
Podiatrists need good vision and must work well with their hands. They should communicate well with all kinds of people and have good business sense.
Where to Go for More Information
American Association of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine
15850 Crabbs Branch Way, Ste. 320
Rockville, MD 20855
American Podiatric Medical Association
9312 Old Georgetown Rd.
Bethesda, MD 20814-1621
Earnings and Benefits
Earnings vary with experience, skill, and place of work. In 2004 the median earnings of podiatrists were $94,400 per year. Because most podiatrists are self-employed, they must provide their own health insurance and other benefits.