- Podiatrists must be licensed, requiring 3 to 4 years of undergraduate
education, the completion of a 4-year podiatric college program, and passing
scores on national and State examinations.
- While the occupation is small, job opportunities should be good for
entry-level graduates of accredited podiatric medicine programs.
- Opportunities for newly trained podiatrists will be better in group
medical practices, clinics, and health networks than in traditional, solo
- Podiatrists enjoy very high earnings.
Americans spend a great deal of time on their feet. As the Nation becomes
more active across all age groups, the need for foot care will become
The human foot is a complex structure. It contains 26 bonesťplus
muscles, nerves, ligaments, and blood vesselsťand is designed for balance
and mobility. The 52 bones in the feet make up about one-fourth of all the bones
in the human body. Podiatrists, also known as doctors of podiatric medicine
(DPMs), diagnose and treat disorders, diseases, and injuries of the foot and
Podiatrists treat corns, calluses, ingrown toenails, bunions, heel spurs, and
arch problems; ankle and foot injuries, deformities, and infections; and foot
complaints associated with diabetes and other diseases. To treat these problems,
podiatrists prescribe drugs and Podiatry, set fractures, and perform surgery.
They also fit corrective shoe inserts called orthotics, design plaster casts and
strappings to correct deformities, and design custom-made shoes. Podiatrists may
use a force plate or scanner to help design the orthotics: patients walk across
a plate connected to a computer that "reads"ť their feet, picking up
pressure points and weight distribution. From the computer readout, podiatrists
order the correct design or recommend another kind of treatment.
To diagnose a foot problem, podiatrists also order x rays and laboratory
tests. The foot may be the first area to show signs of serious conditions such
as arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease. For example, patients with diabetes
are prone to foot ulcers and infections because of poor circulation. Podiatrists
consult with and refer patients to other health practitioners when they detect
symptoms of these disorders.
Most podiatrists have a solo practice, although more are forming group
practices with other podiatrists or health practitioners. Some specialize in
surgery, orthopedics, primary care, or public health. Besides these
board-certified specialties, podiatrists may practice other specialties, such as
radiology, geriatrics, or diabetic
Podiatrists who are in private practice are responsible for running a small
business. They may hire employees, order supplies, and keep records, among other
tasks. In addition, some educate the community on the benefits of foot care
through speaking engagements and advertising.
Work environment. Podiatrists usually work in small private
offices or clinics, sometimes supported by a small staff of assistants and other
administrative personnel. They also may spend time visiting patients in nursing
homes or performing surgery at hospitals or ambulatory surgical centers.
Podiatrists with private practices set their own hours but may work evenings and
weekends to accommodate their patients. Podiatrists usually treat fewer
emergencies than other doctors.