How to Become a Podiatrist

Updated on January 15, 2024


Have you ever wondered what it takes to become a podiatrist? A podiatrist, also known as a podiatric physician or doctor of podiatric medicine (DPM), is a medical specialist who focuses on diagnosing and treating conditions related to the feet, ankles, and lower legs. If you want a career helping people walk properly and alleviate foot pain, becoming a podiatrist may be a great path for you.

First and foremost, you must complete a bachelor’s degree, typically in a science-related field such as biology or chemistry, to qualify for podiatry school. After obtaining your bachelor’s, you will need to apply to a podiatry degree program, which is a four-year postgraduate program resulting in a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) degree. After you graduate, you must also complete a 3-year residency program before qualifying for board certification. There are a few key steps to pursue if you are interested in this rewarding career helping people put their best foot forward.

What is a Podiatrist?

A podiatrist is a doctor who specializes in treating conditions related to the feet, ankles, and lower legs. Podiatrists are experts on the biomechanics of walking and running, how these motions impact the feet, and the relationship between foot health and overall wellness.

Podiatrists diagnose and treat a wide range of conditions, including bunions, ingrown toenails, sprains and fractures, warts, corns and calluses, diabetic foot problems, plantar fasciitis, arthritis, sports injuries, and issues related to skin and nails on the lower extremities. They prescribe medications, orthotics, braces, and custom shoes and design rehabilitative programs. Surgery may also be recommended and performed to correct some conditions if necessary.

Podiatrists are medical specialists focused on keeping patients’ feet healthy and free from pain so they can remain active. Their education covers everything from general medicine to the intricate anatomy and biomechanics unique to the foot and ankle.

What do Podiatrists do?

Podiatrists, also known as doctors of podiatric medicine (DPMs), diagnose and treat conditions affecting the feet, ankles, and lower legs. Their day-to-day duties typically include:

In addition to examining and treating foot conditions in their clinics, podiatrists may perform surgery in hospitals or same-day surgery centers. They may also visit patients in nursing homes or care for members of sports teams. Their role focuses on keeping feet healthy so people can remain active.

Educational Requirements for Becoming a

To become a podiatrist takes extensive education and training. Here are the key educational steps aspiring podiatrists need to take:

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

The first educational requirement is earning a bachelor’s degree from an accredited 4-year college or university. Common majors for aspiring podiatrists include biology, chemistry, physics, anatomy, and health sciences. However, any major is typically acceptable as long as prerequisite courses are completed. Prerequisites often include classes in biology, physics, inorganic and organic chemistry.

Some podiatry programs do offer 3+4 programs where exceptional high school students can enter a combined bachelor’s/DPM program and shave off a year. Learn more about podiatry fast-track programs here.

Attend Podiatry School

After completing an undergraduate program, the next step is to earn a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) degree. This involves four additional years of specialized study at an accredited podiatric medical school.

The American Association of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine has a searchable directory of the 9 institutions that have received accreditation in podiatric medicine. Coursework covers topics like anatomy, pharmacology, orthopedics, dermatology, neurology, and surgery.

Residency Training

Before obtaining a license, new podiatrists must complete a 3-year residency program in podiatric medicine and surgery. Residencies provide supervised clinical experiences and specialized training under the guidance of experienced podiatrists.

Postgraduate Training for Podiatrists

After completing an undergraduate degree, the next step to becoming a podiatrist is obtaining postgraduate training. There are a few options for gaining the knowledge and clinical experience needed to practice podiatric medicine:

In summary, postgraduate training for podiatrists centers on earning an advanced DPM degree, completing residency training, and obtaining state licenses to be able to provide specialized foot care services to patients legally. These steps build the clinical knowledge and real-world experience needed to succeed as a practicing podiatrist.

Skills and Qualities of a Successful Podiatrist

Becoming a successful podiatrist requires developing certain key skills and personal qualities. Excellent diagnostic skills are essential, as podiatrists need to be able to accurately assess a patient’s condition by evaluating their medical history, symptoms, medical tests, and conducting a thorough physical examination of the feet and ankles. Podiatrists also require strong analytical abilities to determine the appropriate treatment plans for their patients based on assessment findings.

Additionally, successful podiatrists have compassion and empathy when interacting with patients to make them feel comfortable and cared for. They are good communicators who can clearly explain diagnoses, proposed treatments, and recovery details and answer any questions in terms patients can easily understand.

Manual dexterity and precision are also vital. Podiatrists rely on delicate and controlled movements of their hands when performing procedures like surgery, wound care, injections, and fitting patients with orthotics or other assistive devices. Having a steady hand helps ensure safety and effectiveness.

Furthermore, attention to detail is a hallmark of exceptional podiatrists. They must meticulously document patient histories, note subtle issues, accurately read X-rays and test results, and more. Thoroughness and care are essential throughout diagnosis, development of treatment plans, and follow-up.

Ongoing learning is also key. The best podiatrists stay current on the latest advancements in podiatric medicine by regularly reading academic journals like the Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association and attending conferences. This ensures they can provide their patients with the most current and effective treatment options.

Podiatrist Salary

Experience Level Average Salary
0-5 years $100,000 to $120,000
5-10 years $120,000 to $160,000
10-20 years $160,000 to $200,000
20+ years $180,000 to $250,000

Career Opportunities and Advancement

Becoming a podiatrist opens up various career opportunities and room for advancement. After completing podiatry school and residency training, many podiatrists choose to enter private practice. This allows them the freedom and flexibility to operate their clinic. Podiatrists in private practice have the potential to build a successful business and make a comfortable income. For example, according to the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA), podiatrists earn an average salary of over $148,000 per year.

In addition to private practice, podiatrists can pursue careers in hospital settings, academic medicine, research, and public health organizations. Those interested in academics can teach at podiatry schools while also conducting research in foot and ankle health. Podiatrists may also use their expertise to take on hospital leadership roles by serving as department heads or directors of podiatric medicine programs.

As podiatrists gain more experience, they may have opportunities to advance into administrative positions overseeing podiatry staff and managing clinic operations. Some even open multiple clinic locations once their practice becomes more successful. Experienced podiatrists may also advance their careers by receiving certifications in specialized areas like sports medicine, surgery, wound care, and pediatrics. Gaining these certifications allows them to treat more complex cases and often increases their pay.

Overall, there is significant potential for career growth as a podiatrist. Those with strong business acumen and entrepreneurial spirits can build and expand private practices. While others who enjoy teaching and research can pursue academic leadership positions. Regardless of career path, podiatrists are important in keeping people mobile and free of foot pain.


In summary, becoming a podiatrist requires significant education and training, but it can be a rewarding career helping people improve their mobility and manage foot, ankle, and lower leg issues. The first step is obtaining a bachelor’s degree, preferably with coursework in biology and chemistry. You must then complete a 4-year podiatric medical school program and residency. After that, you’ll need to get licensed in the state(s) you want to practice in. Throughout your career, you’ll need to stay current on the latest advancements through continuing education. If you’re willing to commit to many years of study, podiatry offers an opportunity to make a difference while earning a good living. Learn more about the field at the American Podiatric Medical Association.

Additional Resources

Resource Link Description
American Podiatric Medical Association
  • Professional association providing education, advocacy, and resources for podiatrists.
  • Details on podiatric medicine careers, residencies, fellowships, licensing and more
Association of Schools and Colleges of Podiatric Medicine
  • Oversees accreditation for podiatry degree programs
  • School directory to find accredited podiatry programs in the US
American Association of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine
  • Provides admissions services for podiatry colleges
  • Resources on the podiatric medical school application process
Federation of Podiatric Medical Boards
  • Administers licensing exams for podiatrists
  • Registration info for the American Podiatric Medical Licensing Exams


How much does a podiatrist make?
The average annual salary for podiatrists in the United States is around $148,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, salaries can vary greatly based on factors like years of experience, specialization, and geographic location. New podiatrists just entering the field often start with salaries ranging from $70,000 to $90,000. Very experienced podiatrists can make over $200,000 per year.

What degree do you need to become a podiatrist?
You will need a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) degree to practice as a licensed podiatrist. This involves four years of podiatric medical school after completing a bachelor’s degree. All U.S. podiatric medical schools are accredited by the Council on Podiatric Medical Education (CPME). After podiatry school, three years of residency training are typically required as well. Learn more about podiatry education requirements from the American Association of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine (AACPM).

How much experience is required?
In most states, you need a DPM degree from an accredited podiatric medical school, completion of a 3-year residency program, and passing scores on licensing exams (such as those administered by the National Board of Podiatric Medical Examiners) before you can become a fully licensed, practicing podiatrist. So, four years of podiatry school and three years of residency require at least seven years of specialized medical training.

What does the day-to-day work of a podiatrist involve?
Podiatrists diagnose and treat foot, ankle, and lower leg issues. A typical day may involve examining patients, ordering tests, reviewing x-rays, administering injections, recommending orthotics/inserts, performing surgery for issues like bunions or hammertoes, or providing general foot care services. Podiatrists often have a clinic setting where they see patients but may also perform procedures in a hospital or surgery center environment.