Podiatrists

Career, Salary and Education Information

What They Do: Podiatrists provide medical and surgical care for people with foot, ankle, and lower leg problems.

Work Environment: Most podiatrists work in offices of podiatry, either on their own or with other podiatrists. Some work in group practices with other physicians or specialists. Others work in private and public hospitals, in outpatient care centers, or for the government.

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

Salary: The median annual wage for podiatrists is $129,550.

Job Outlook: Employment of podiatrists is projected to grow 6 percent over the next ten years, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Continued growth in the demand for medical and surgical care of the foot and ankle will stem from the aging population. Podiatrists will also be needed to treat patients with foot and ankle conditions caused by chronic conditions, such as diabetes and obesity.

Related Careers: Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of podiatrists with similar occupations.

What Podiatrists Do[About this section] [To Top]

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 of Podiatrists

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 for Podiatrists[About this section] [To Top]

Podiatrists hold about 10,500 jobs. The largest employers of podiatrists are as follows:

Offices of other health practitioners 63%
Offices of physicians 10%
Federal government, excluding postal service 9%
Self-employed workers 7%
Hospitals; state, local, and private 6%

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.

Podiatrist 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] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Podiatrists near you!

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

Find a Degree:


Education for Podiatrists

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. There are 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.

Podiatrist 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 for Podiatrists

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 for Podiatrists

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.

Podiatrist Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for podiatrists is $129,550. 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 $52,060, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $208,000.

The median annual wages for podiatrists in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Offices of physicians $151,580
Hospitals; state, local, and private $133,370
Federal government, excluding postal service $129,360
Offices of other health practitioners $125,730

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 for Podiatrists[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of podiatrists is projected to grow 6 percent over the next ten years, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

As the U.S. population ages, the number of people expected to have mobility and foot-related problems will rise, and podiatrists will be needed to treat these conditions. For example, older patients who remain active may incur injuries through exercise, and require foot and ankle care from podiatrists.

Growing rates of chronic conditions, such as diabetes and obesity, also may limit mobility of those with these conditions, and lead to problems such as foot ulcers and poor circulation in the feet and lower extremities. More podiatrists will be needed to provide care for these patients.

Job Prospects for Podiatrists

Job prospects for trained podiatrists should be good, given that there are a limited number of colleges of podiatry.

Employment projections data for Podiatrists, 2018-28
Occupational Title Employment, 2018 Projected Employment, 2028 Change, 2018-28
Percent Numeric
Podiatrists 10,500 11,200 6 600


*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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