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. 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. In 2017, 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 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.
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
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.
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.