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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 prevention, diagnosis and treatment of foot disorders resulting from injury or disease. 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 qualified to treat a specific part of the body.

A Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (D.P.M.) makes independent judgments and performs or orders all necessary diagnostic tests. They perform surgery, administer medications and prescribe physical therapy regimens. Podiatric physicians are educated in state-of-the-art techniques involving surgery, orthopedics, dermatology, physical medicine and rehabilitation.

The human foot has a complex interrelation with the rest of the body, which means that it may be the first area to show signs of serious conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Podiatrists 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).

Working Conditions

Podiatrists work in private or group practices. They may focus on a specialty such as pediatrics, geriatrics or sports medicine, for example. In addition to private practice, podiatrists may:

  • Work in hospitals (including in foot clinics associated with a hospital) and long-term care facilities
  • Teach in schools of medicine and nursing
  • Serve in the armed forces as commissioned officers
  • Serve in the U.S. Public Health Service
  • Work in municipal health departments

Because podiatrists in private practice set their own hours, it is a flexible career, making it a good fit for people who want or need a balanced lifestyle. Generally, podiatrists work between 30 and 60 hours a week.

Learn More

About a Career as a Podiatrist

About Health Care Careers

Note: The American Association of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine reviewed this profile.

Academic Requirements

If you wish to become a podiatrist, you must first get a bachelor’s degree and then apply to an accredited podiatric medical college. Your graduate school course of study will take four years, after which you will receive a degree of Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (D.P.M.).

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 and other courses related to medicine.

In addition, podiatric medical students learn the fundamentals of specialized medicine, including biomechanics, lower extremity anatomy, podiatric pathology, infectious diseases, orthopedics and sports medicine.

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 podiatric medical school, you move on to residency training. A residency provides podiatrists with the chance to get specialized training through rotations such as anesthesiology, internal medicine, infectious disease, surgery, ER and pediatrics.

Podiatric medical graduates select a 36-month podiatric medicine and surgery residency that includes training in rear foot and ankle surgery.

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 information about podiatric medical colleges, including admissions criteria and minimum entrance requirements. 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 that provide you with an outlet to relieve stress. Make time to participate.
  • Apply to volunteer or work in a medical setting during breaks or summer months. Read these guidelines for making your volunteer experience valuable.
  • Read articles and research about podiatric medicine.
  • Talk to pre-podiatry students.
  • Get to know a podiatric physician. Inquire about shadowing opportunities during breaks or summer months.
  • Investigate pre-health enrichment programs.

Sophomore

  • Meet with a pre-health advisor to make sure you are on track.
  • Complete required coursework.
  • 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 podiatric physicians.
  • Research podiatric medical school entrance requirements.
  • Look for and apply to participate in a research study which complements career objectives (with a faculty member or outside campus).
  • Join your school’s pre-podiatry society if one is available. If not, 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 your undergraduate career.
  • Look into paid or volunteer research opportunities during the summer months. Read these guidelines for making your volunteer experience valuable.
  • 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 a prerequisite 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 a 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 podiatric physician 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 the 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.
  • Look for leadership opportunities on campus and off.
  • Discuss podiatric medical schools with others: advisors, parents, upper-class students, current podiatry students and podiatric physicians.
  • Learn about the application process.
  • 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 a 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. Read these guidelines for making your volunteer experience valuable.

Summer Before Your Senior Year

  • Apply. Applications open the first Wednesday in August each year to new applicants.
  • 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. Read these guidelines for making your volunteer experience valuable.

SENIOR

  • Take the MCAT, if you have not done so already.
  • Meet with a pre-health advisor to review completed coursework and prerequisites.

  • Attend interviews with schools.

  • Volunteer or work in a medical setting (i.e., clinic, ER, hospital). Read these guidelines for making your volunteer experience valuable.

  • 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 him or her of your final decision.
  • Apply for federal financial aid and scholarships for which you may be eligible.