A podiatrist is a physician who specializes in feet, diagnosing and treating disorders and injuries of the foot, ankle, and lower leg.
While it might seem unlikely that the demand for foot specialists is enormous, qualified podiatrists are expected to have increasing job prospects in coming years.
It also might not seem to so ridiculous to have a doctor devoted solely to feet when you learn that, with 52 total, the bones in our feet make up almost one-fourth of all the bones in the body.
Job Description: A Day in the Life of a Podiatrist
Most podiatrists work in clinics, or group or private practices, seeing patients by appointment. Disorders that a podiatrist may diagnose and treat include corns, bunions, ingrown toenails, ankle and foot injuries, as well as infections or complaints associated with disease. To diagnose, podiatrists conduct basic physical exams, x-rays, and lab tests. Depending on the ailment, a podiatrist may prescribe a variety of treatments, including drugs or antibiotics, physical therapy, surgery, or the use of orthotics or custom-made shoes.
General Requirements and Training
To become a podiatrist, individuals must complete a three or four-year undergraduate degree, preferably in the sciences of a healthcare field, followed by a four-year podiatric college program. Admission to podiatric programs is competitive and most schools require applicants to have a strong undergraduate background with a science focus, and to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Podiatry programs include instruction in the basic sciences, such as anatomy and pharmacology, and then progress to hands-on training where students complete clinical rotations in hospitals, clinics, and podiatrist’s offices.
Upon successful completion of these programs, students receive a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) degree. Most graduate continue their education through a residency program, which offers more hands-on training and specialized experience. After completing the necessary educational requirements, individuals must pass national and state examinations to become licensed.
Salary, Benefits, and Opportunities for Advancement
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary of podiatrists is $113,560 as of May 2008. Salary.com reports the median-50% earnings range of podiatrists as $120,251 to $215,983 annually. According to Payscale.com, a podiatrist with one to four years of experience earns an average of $71,500 to $129,353, while one with twenty or more years of experience earns $76,000 to $176,431.