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Home/ Careers/ Podiatric Medicine/ Podiatrist (Doctor of Podiatric Medicine)

Podiatrist (Doctor of Podiatric Medicine)

Overview

Podiatric medicine is a branch of the medical sciences devoted to the study of human movement, with the medical care of the foot and ankle as its primary focus. A doctor of podiatric medicine is to the foot what a dentist is to the mouth or an ophthalmologist to the eye - a specialist who has undergone lengthy, thorough study to become uniquely well-qualified to treat a specific part of the body.

A Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) specializes in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of foot disorders, diseases and injuries. A DPM makes independent judgments and performs or orders all necessary diagnostic tests. They perform surgery; administer medications, including DEA-restricted medications; and prescribe physical therapy regimens.

DPMs often detect serious health problems that may otherwise go unnoticed, because a number of diseases manifest first through symptoms of the lower extremities (i.e., diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, or kidney disease). Podiatric physicians are educated in state-of-the-art techniques involving surgery, orthopedics, dermatology, physical medicine and rehabilitation.

To learn more, watch a video profile about podiatrists (in the Health Science category).

Working Conditions

Podiatrists work in general or group practices and are free to develop a practice focus such as pediatrics, geriatrics, or sports medicine. In addition to private practice, they serve on the staffs of hospitals and long-term care facilities, on the faculties of schools of medicine and nursing, in the armed forces as commissioned officers, in the U.S. Public Health Service, and in municipal health departments. Possible career settings also include foot clinics associated with hospitals in major urban areas or small rural towns among others.

In general, the practice of podiatric medicine lends itself to flexible hours and is therefore comfortable for individuals who want time for family, friends and other involvements that characterize a balanced lifestyle. The work hours of a podiatric physician can vary from 30 to 60 hours a week. Podiatrists in private practice can set their own hours.

Academic Requirements

The degree of Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (D.P.M.) is awarded after four years of study at an accredited podiatric medical college. Although the colleges differ in size and location, the curriculum leading to the D.P.M. degree is similar at each institution. The first two years concentrate on classroom instruction and laboratory work in the basic medical sciences. The third and fourth years of study focus on the clinical sciences and patient care.

As is the case for all physicians, the coursework includes anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pharmacology, microbiology, pathology, immunology, etc. In addition, podiatric medical students learn the fundamentals of specialized medicine, including biomechanics, lower extremity anatomy, podiatric pathology, infectious diseases, orthopedics, and sports medicine courses.

Clinical exposures begin as early as the second year. Students of podiatric medicine gain practical experience by working in podiatric clinics in any of a variety of settings, including community clinics, hospitals, satellite clinics or professional office settings.

After completing four years of podiatric medical training, graduates select a Podiatric Medicine and Surgery Residency of 24 or 36 months in duration. In most states, podiatric physicians must complete a minimum of one year of postgraduate residency training in an approved healthcare institution; two years are required for board certification. A podiatric residency provides an interdisciplinary experience with rotations such as anesthesiology, internal medicine, infectious disease, surgery, orthopedics, pediatrics and ER. The 36-month residency includes extensive training in rear foot and ankle surgery.

The American Association of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine (AACPM) offers an online application service, known as CASPR, in which all entry-level residency programs are required to participate.  Also, if you're interested in connecting with other podiatric medical students, check out:

Preparation Timeline

Our timeline is a helpful guideline, as you prepare for entry to a school of podiatric medicine.

Freshman

  • Meet with a pre-health advisor to plan coursework and learn more about podiatric medicine. Review the AACPM College Information Book (CIB) online by adding www.AACPM.org/CollegeInformationBook to your favorites. The CIB includes information for all nine of the podiatric medical colleges, admissions criteria, minimum entrance requirements, and more. While most schools require a minimum of one year of biology, general (inorganic) chemistry, organic chemistry, physics and English, specific requirements vary from school to school.
  • Complete required coursework.
  • Think about which major and/or minors you may wish to pursue.
  • Develop good study skills by forming study groups or attending study-skills programs.
  • Maintain a competitive GPA.
  • Identify extracurricular activities you enjoy or provide you with an outlet to relieve stress. Make time to participate.
  • Apply to volunteer or work in a medical setting (i.e., clinic, ER, hospital) during breaks or summer months.
  •   Read articles, research and current interests to learn about Podiatric Medicine and Healthcare in America.
  • Talk to upper-class, pre-podiatry students.
  • Get to know a podiatric physician (DPM). Inquire about shadowing opportunities during breaks or summer months.
  • Investigate careers and pre-health enrichment programs by visiting websites like www.explorehealthcareers.org. Some students may be interested in programs like the Summer Medical and Dental Education program for college freshman and sophomores. Additional information can be found by visiting www.smdep.org

Sophomore

  • Meet with a pre-health advisor.
  • Complete required coursework to keep you on track.
  • Select major and minor courses of study. Work out any schedule conflicts with graduation requirements and application requirements. Plan for summer school attendance if necessary.
  • Maintain competitive GPA.
  • Continue shadowing a variety of DPMs.
  • Research podiatric medical school entrance requirements. Review the AACPM’s CIB, which includes descriptions of all of the podiatric medical colleges, admissions criteria, minimum entrance requirements, and more.
  • Look for and apply to participate in a research study which complements career objectives (with a faculty member or outside campus).
  • Learn more about Podiatric Medicine (i.e., shadowing, classmates, advisor, or college websites).
  • Join your school’s pre-podiatry society if one is available. Or, join your school’s pre-health society to learn more about careers in medicine.
  • Attend pre-health activities, service opportunities, or meetings.
  • Explore non-health related community service opportunities through your school or other not-for-profit agency. If possible, continue a few select activities throughout undergraduate career.
  • Look into paid or volunteer research opportunities during the summer month.
  • Begin MCAT preparation and determine a study schedule. Study groups often work well - inquire with the school’s pre-podiatry or pre-health clubs for others interested in studying material together.

Junior

  • Meet with a pre-health advisor to finalize pre-requisite course plan or other graduation requirements. 
  • Sign up for committee process (committee letter of recommendation) or letter of recommendation service with advisor, faculty or career services at your school.
  • Maintain competitive GPA.
  • Continue to work or volunteer in a medical setting. Obtain letters of recommendation to document the number of hours you have acquired. 
  • Continue shadowing a DPM on a regular basis. Ask for a letter of recommendation to be sent to the schools you have chosen to apply to in August.
  • Study and register for MCAT.
  • Take the MCAT.
  • Visit colleges of podiatric medicine to which you are interested applying. Attend Open Houses, or other on-campus events. Most colleges of podiatric medicine offer one-on-one admissions counseling to help answer questions you might have about applying.
  • Review AACPM’s College Information Book by visiting www.AACPM.org/CollegeInformationBook, which includes descriptions of all of the podiatric medical colleges, admissions criteria, minimum entrance requirements, and more.
  • Look for leadership opportunities on campus and off.
  • Discuss podiatric medical schools with others: advisors, parents, upper-class students, current podiatry students and DPMs.
  • Visit AACPM’s website at www.AACPM.org to learn about applying to the colleges of podiatric medicine; review FAQs and Tips for Applying.
  • Research schools and review each school’s required documents early in the spring semester.
  • Identify professors and/or advisors to write letters of recommendation (if no committee evaluation is available); ask politely for letters of recommendation well in advance of the deadlines. It is often helpful to provide those writing your recommendations with instructions for submitting letters. Remember to thank them for their time.
  • Make list of all podiatric medical schools to which you plan to apply. Remember to keep good records of communication with each school’s office of admission.
  • Schedule a volunteer or paid pre-podiatry activity for the summer.

Summer Before Your Senior Year

  • Apply – Applications open the first Wednesday in August each year to new applicants. Applications and instructions for applying can be found by visiting http://www.e-aacpmas.org/. Advisors can also obtain valuable applicant data by visiting the Advisor Portal located at www.e-aacpmas.org/advisor/.
  • Request official transcripts of ALL college work attempted.
  • Request letters of recommendation to be sent to the colleges you plan to apply to in August.
  • Take the MCAT if you have not done so already.
  • Prepare for school interviews in the fall.
  • Budget time and finances appropriately to attend interviews. Interviews are not an acceptable reason to miss lectures or labs. Plan accordingly.
  • Participate in a volunteer or paid research opportunity.

Senior

  • Take the MCAT if you have not done so already.
  • Meet with a pre-health advisor to review completed coursework and pre-requisites which are in-progress (IP) or planned (PL).
  • Attend interviews with schools.
  • Volunteer or work in a medical setting (i.e., clinic, ER, hospital).
  • Continue extracurricular activities and leadership roles on and off campus.
  • Accept an offer and notify other schools of your final decision in a timely manner.
  • Write thank-you notes to references and admission officers.
  • Thank your pre-med advisor for his or her assistance; apprise them of your final decision.
  • Apply for federal financial aid and scholarships for which you may be eligible.