The Scoop on Podiatrists

Podiatrists deal with something most everybody uses everyday...our feet.

We joke about wearing bad shoes and then having to pay for it with a trip to the podiatrist, but Podiatry is no joke. Dealing with your feet is a delicate balance of science and art as a Podiatrist work to help you walk better and feel better (what with the 26 bones in each foot and all that.) About 12,000 people were working as podiatrists in 2006 and though job growth doesn't look to explode, the field will have many entry-level positions for recent graduates.

What in the World Does a Podiatrist Do Anyways?

Technically, a Podiatrist diagnoses and treat disorders and conditions that relate to your feet. This can range anywhere from corns, calluses, and bunions all the way to fallen arches, plantar fasciitis, and heel spurs. If you were working as a Podiatrist you would also deal with patient's heel and ankle injuries, deformities and infections. You would need x-rays, a force plate scanner (that helps measure the foot and how someone walks) and other imaging technology to diagnose foot and lower leg problems.

Besides the examination of the foot, as a Podiatrist you may also catch the first signs of arthritis, diabetes and heart disease (which tend to appear in the foot.) You would also be charged with prescribing orthotics to your patients. An orthotic is a shoe insert the positions the foot in a way that is not painful and beneficial to the health of your feet. When you notice other health problems showing in your patients you would also need to refer your patients to a Doctor who can treat these "non-feet" problems.

What Kind of Training do I need (A.K.A. - Will I have to go to School?)

Podiatrists train for their profession in much the same way any other Doctor would. A college of Podiatric Medicine (there were 7 Colleges of Podiatric Medicine in 2007) has a very competitive admission process. You must have completed a Bachelor's Degree (with a good combination of science and English courses) before you can be admitted. Most Colleges also require that you pass the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) but occasionally a College of Podiatric Medicine will allow the GRE.

The 4 year program at a College of Podiatric Medicine consists of 2 years of classroom instruction in sciences and pathology and the 3rd and 4th year you are put into rotations at health clinics and hospitals (almost like and internship) before you graduate. When you graduate the college awards you the "Doctor of Podiatric Medicine" Degree. After you graduate you will usually spend 1-2 years in a hospital residency program where you can specialize in a particular form of Podiatric Medicine. You will also have to get a license from the State Board to practice medicine. This usually requires a written exam and some kind of "skills" exam. Remember, just like any other medical profession you have to have continuing education to renew your license.

How Do I get One of These Jobs Anyways?

Podiatrists tend to work in private practice where they must keep a large client base so they can stay in business. Owning your own business also means you will need to hire a clerical staff and possibly a nurse to work alongside you so that you are not doing everything on your own. If you are not a social type you may want to consider getting out more because most Podiatrists get patients through referrals. You have to make nice with the Doctors in your area so that everyone will refer their patients with foot problems to you so you can keep your practice strong.

Sometimes you may not be able to open your own practice and you may want to go to work as a salaried Doctor at a larger Podiatric practice or as a part of a "whole health" practice where many specialists all work together. Many times you may be able to work at a hospital or health clinic as "The Podiatrist".

Advancement in the profession usually includes doing research in Podiatric medicine or teaching Podiatry at a Medical college. You could go one step further and consult a shoemaker or work with athletes to help them with injuries and other foot problems. This may even involve working for a college or pro sports team. You see, you won't have to spend your whole career treating Mrs. Wilson's bunions if you don't want to.

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Podiatrists Overview

Podiatrist Salary:$113,560
Job Prospects:B
Education after high school:9 years
# Employed in US:9,670
% Who work Part Time:8%
Physical Difficulty:+ + +
Intellectual Difficulty:+ + +
Emotional Difficulty:+ +

The Pros of being a Podiatrist

  • The profession has a good niche and pays well
  • You can work in many different places like hospitals, health clinics and private practices
  • There is not a long internship as there is with other medical fields.

The Cons of being a Podiatrist

  • Acceptance to a College of Podiatric Medicine is competitive and there are only 7 of them in the U.S.
  • The profession is not expected to grow and many positions in practices are entry level
  • Smelly feet