How to Become a Podiatrist
Applicants to podiatry programs must have completed coursework in sciences and other subjects.
Podiatrists must earn a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) degree and complete a 3-year residency program. Every state requires podiatrists to be licensed.
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. Colleges of podiatric medicine are accredited by the Council on Podiatric Medical Education, which provides a list online of accredited programs.
Admission to podiatric medicine programs requires at least 3 years of undergraduate education, but nearly all prospective students have a bachelor’s degree in healthcare, biology, or physical science. Although programs might not specify the undergraduate degree required for admission, applicants must have completed courses in laboratory sciences such as biology, chemistry, and physics, as well as general coursework in subjects such as English. Applicants to DPM schools usually submit scores from the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and letters of recommendation. They also may indicate that they shadowed a podiatrist.
Courses for a DPM degree are similar to those for other medical degrees. They include anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and pathology. Podiatric medical students gain supervised experience by completing clinical rotations while in school.
After earning a DPM, podiatrists must apply to and complete a podiatric medicine and surgery residency (PMSR) program. Residency programs, which last several years, take place in hospitals and allow podiatrists to gain experience providing medical and surgical care to patients.
Podiatrists may complete additional training in specific fellowship areas, such as podiatric wound care, diabetic foot care, or limb preservation.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
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 have additional requirements. A full list of requirements for each state is available from the Federation of Podiatric Medical Boards.
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 Lower Extremity Surgery, the American Board of Podiatric Medicine, and the American Board of Multiple Specialties in Podiatry.
Communication skills. Podiatrists must be able to listen and convey information to patients, such as about the diagnosis and ways to improve their condition.
Compassion. Because podiatrists provide care for patients who may be in pain, they must treat patients with understanding.
Critical-thinking skills. Podiatrists must be analytical to correctly diagnose a patient and determine the best course of treatment.
Detail oriented. When diagnosing a problem, podiatrists must pay attention to details, such as those about the patient’s medical history and current conditions.
Interpersonal skills. Podiatrists spend much of their time interacting with patients and also must work well as part of a medical team coordinating patient care.