How to Become a Podiatrist

Training and Education Jobs and Salaries

Podiatrists must be licensed, requiring three to four years of undergraduate education, the completion of a four year podiatric college program, and passing scores on national and State examinations. Prerequisites for admission to a college of podiatric medicine include the completion of at least 90 semester hours of undergraduate study, an acceptable grade point average, and suitable scores on the Medical College Admission Test but some colleges may also accept the Dental Admission Test or the Graduate Record Exam.

Admission to podiatric colleges usually requires at least eight semester hours each of biology, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics and at least six hours of English. The science courses should be those designed for premedical students. Extracurricular and community activities, personal interviews, and letters of recommendation are also important. About 95 percent of podiatric students have at least a bachelor degree.

There are seven colleges of podiatric medicine fully accredited by the Council on Podiatric Medical Education. Colleges of podiatric medicine offer a four year program whose core curriculum is similar to that in other schools of medicine. During the first two years, students receive classroom instruction in basic sciences, including anatomy, chemistry, pathology, and pharmacology.

Third-year and fourth-year students have clinical rotations in private practices, hospitals, and clinics. During these rotations, they learn how to take general and podiatric histories, perform routine physical examinations, interpret tests and findings, make diagnoses, and perform therapeutic procedures.

Graduates receive the degree of Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM). Most graduates complete a hospital-based residency program after receiving a DPM. Residency programs last from two to four years. Residents receive advanced training in podiatric medicine and surgery and serve clinical rotations in anesthesiology, internal medicine, pathology, radiology, emergency medicine, and orthopedic and general surgery. Residencies lasting more than one year provide more extensive training in specialty areas.

All States and the District of Columbia require a license for the practice of podiatric medicine. Each State defines its own licensing requirements, although many States grant reciprocity to podiatrists who are licensed in another State. Applicants for licensure must be graduates of an accredited college of podiatric medicine and must pass written and oral examinations.

Some States permit applicants to substitute the examination of the National Board of Podiatric Medical Examiners, given in the second and fourth years of podiatric medical college, for part or all of the written State examination. In general, States require a minimum of two years of postgraduate residency training in an approved health care institution. For licensure renewal, most States require continuing education.

People planning a career in podiatry should have scientific aptitude, manual dexterity, interpersonal skills, and a friendly bedside manner. In private practice, podiatrists also should have good business sense. There are a number of certifying boards for the podiatric specialties of orthopedics, primary medicine, and surgery. Certification has requirements beyond licensure. Each board requires advanced training, the completion of written and oral examinations, and experience as a practicing podiatrist. Most managed-care organizations prefer board-certified podiatrists. Podiatrists may advance to become professors at colleges of podiatric medicine, department chiefs in hospitals, or general health administrators.