How to Become a Podiatrist
Podiatrists listen to patients’ concerns about their feet, ankles, or lower legs.
Podiatrists must earn a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) degree and complete a 3-year residency program. Podiatrists must be licensed.
Education and Training
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. In 2012, there were 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 usually requires taking the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).
Courses for a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine 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.
After earning a DPM, podiatrists must apply to and complete a podiatric medical and surgical residency (PMSR) program, which lasts 3 years. Residency programs take place in hospitals and provide both medical and surgical experience. They may do additional training in specific fellowship areas.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Podiatrists in every state must be licensed. Usually, Podiatrists must pay a fee and pass the American Podiatric Medical Licensing Exam (APMLE). Some states also require podiatrists to take a state-specific exam. Licenses must typically be renewed periodically, and podiatrists must take continuing medical education.
Many podiatrists choose to become board certified. The American Board of Podiatric Surgery is the certifying agency in podiatric surgery, and the American Board of Podiatric Medicine is the certifying agency in orthopedics and primary care podiatry. Certification requires a combination of work experience and passing scores on exams.
Compassion. Podiatrists treat patients who may be in pain. They must be empathetic toward the people they serve.
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 and deciding on a treatment.
Interpersonal skills. Because podiatrists spend much of their time interacting with patients, they should be able to 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.