What is a podiatrist?
This is a medical professional who diagnoses and treats medical matters relating to the parts of the leg below the knee, the ankle, and the foot. They not only treat injuries and illnesses but can perform surgery if necessary. A podiatrist may treat injuries that are sports-related, and problems with the feet that diabetes has caused. They treat anyone from children to the geriatric population. As early as 2400 B.C. there have been documented cases of foot care but until the early 1900’s the specialty of podiatry was not officially recognized. It became an official field of medicine during this time because this is when the first college of podiatry was established. A podiatrist has the title of Doctor of Podiatry Medicine (DPM). One of the most notable podiatrists was Lewis Durlacher who treated Queen Victoria.
Job description of a podiatrist
A podiatrist’s concern is any type of abnormality, which includes injuries and illnesses, of the lower extremities that would keep a person from having full mobility. If a patient has an abnormal bone structure a podiatrist may perform a surgical procedure to correct this problem. Some of the minor surgical procedures that a podiatrist might perform in the office would be to remove the toe nail, taking off bunions, reconstruct hammer toes, and to remove an ingrown toenail. A podiatrist will also use diagnostic equipment like using x-rays, ultrasound, and MRI’s to help diagnose a patient’s problem and make and fit patients with prosthetic devices.
In addition to having the knowledge to diagnosis and treat problems that occur below the knee the podiatrist must also have experience in geriatrics, orthopedics, sports medicine, surgery, diabetes, and vascular disease. Many times they are the first physician to notice the signs of vascular disease and diabetes in a patient. The reason is that chronic illnesses will usually affect the feet first. If a podiatrist sees symptoms that could indicate a severe illness like kidney or heart disease, or diabetes they will refer them to other medical specialists in these diseases. Doing exams or surgeries a podiatrist may stand up to do them or sit down. They also have to do paperwork, and report what the patient’s problem is and the treatment. Most of their work will be done in well-lit, clean, comfortable rooms. If the podiatrist has their own practice they will also be responsible for making sure that their employees are paid, have health insurance, life insurance, etc,
How to become a podiatrist?
To become a podiatrist you would have to complete at least 11 years including college, medical college, and residency. As with most jobs in the medical field you should start in high school taking science classes like chemistry and biology along with math classes like geometry and trigonometry. After high school you need to go to college to get a bachelor’s degree. Although it can be in any major it is advisable that it be science related like biology, public health, or pre-med. Once you have your bachelor’s degree you will have to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). This is a computer-based exam that is compulsory for admission to medical school. This exam will test a student’s problem solving, writing, and scientific concept ability. After completing medical school you will need to complete a 4 year training program from a college of podiatry, of which there are 8 colleges that offer accredited Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DMP) program.
During this program the student will be trained on basic science course work. They will also study advance biology and anatomy. The first 2 years will be classroom training and are similar to the pre-medical program. They will be taught details of physics, pathology, and chemistry. They will also have knowledge in the fields of biomechanics and pharmacology. The students will also be introduced to anesthesiology, surgery, and advanced emergency medicine. The last 2 years will provide medical experience through clinical rotations, including a surgical residency.
Once they have finished these 4 years they will be required to complete a residency that will take 2 – 3 years. Once this is completed they can apply for their Doctor of Podiatric Medicine license. To get their license they must take a written exam. There are some states that will allow students to substitute part or their state’s entire exam for the one that is given by the National Board of Podiatric Medical Examiners (NBPBE).
If you have chosen a subspecialty like surgery, orthopedics, treatment for problems with feet caused by diabetes, sports medicine, geriatrics, primary care, or pediatrics, make sure that the podiatry college you have chosen has a strong program in the subspecialty you have chosen. The 8 podiatry colleges that are accredited by the Council on Podiatric Medical Education are:
- Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Midwestern University in Glendale, Arizona
- Barry University in Miami, Florida
- Des Moines University-Osteopathic Medical Center in Des Moines, Iowa
- Ohio College of Podiatric Medicine in Independence, Ohio
- New York College of Podiatric Medicine in New York, New York
- Samuel Merritt University in Oakland, California
- Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in Chicago, Illinois
Work environment and schedule
Most podiatrists work in a group practice with other podiatrists or other specialists or have their own practice. They may also work in outpatient care centers, clinics, or in public or private hospitals. They may also be employed by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, work as hospital department chiefs, university professors, or health administrators. Many times their patients are referred by their primary care physician and some are walk-ins. Most podiatrists will work regular office hours but it depends on where they are working. In a group practice, clinic, hospital, or outpatient care centers they will work whatever hours is agreed upon by the employer. Although a podiatrist has fewer emergency situations that other medical professionals they must be willing to work on an on-call basis occasionally, especially if they are working in a hospital. If you want to set your own hours it is best that you have a private practice. Working in your own private practice you can offer extended hours 1 or 2 nights a week for people who work during the day or maybe be open a half day on Saturday.
What a podiatrist does during their day when they see referrals or patient’s that have called their office for an appointment can include:
- Seeing patients for disorders of the feet or ankles like calluses, corns, bunions, gait abnormalities, arch deformities, heel spurs, ingrown toenails, and fungal infections of the toe nails or skin.
- Seeing diabetics for foot care like callus removal, skin ulcer treatment, peripheral neuropathy testing, and having their toe nails cut. It is very important that a diabetic see a podiatrist for any foot care because if they try to take care of foot problems on their own it could cause an infection that could result in amputation. They should see their podiatrist at least every 3 months. When seeing a podiatrist for a checkup or follow up visit the podiatrist will check their feet to make sure that they have no sores or cuts that could result into a serious injury.
- If a patient has problems with balance and gait they can prescribe corrective shoes to correct these problems.
- They can also make corrective shoe inserts.
- They will also write on the patients charts what they were seen for, the diagnosis, and the treatment plan.
- They may also use a force plate which is when a patient walks across a plate that is connected to the podiatrist’s computer. This diagnostic test measures weight distribution and pressure points of the patient which the podiatrist would use to recommend therapy or treatment for their problem. They can also use these measurements to design the orthotic devices that the patient needs.
- If they treat children or babies with feet problems they may correct the problem by using plaster casts and strapping
- They may also go to health fairs or give lectures on how to care for a person’s feet.
To help treat any of these problems the podiatrist can prescribe medications, surgery, and/or physical therapy.
Pros and cons of being a Podiatrist
The image of someone working in the Podiatry Department is very good, the job demanding are various, and their number have been constantly growing. The pros that come with this job fulfill all your requirements, especially if you like to work with people. You will often assist people who confront with embarrassing or painful health problems related to their feet or injuries in the ankle regions, or just treating deformities that are structural.
Another good news is that you can earn a good living by being self-employed and even having assistants, or being in collaboration with other health care professionals in a clinic based on the private system. Since many of the Podiatrists tend to adopt this business role of becoming self-employed and having their own practices, the number of demanding rises constantly.
If you are engaged in this field, having your focus centered on scientific studies and being able to fix things gives you the best career choice that you could ever make.
The con, which might appear unless you don’t see it as one is the fact that you’ll be spending much time looking at people’s feet. This is required for figuring out what is wrong and then helping them to get better. So this could sometimes make you feel that you are stuck in something. However, if you love your job then this is a very good opportunity to become the best and to be known among many patients and other podiatrists. You can become well-known, even other medical staff or healthcare centers might recommend you.
If your dream is to become a podiatrist, then you certainly need to improve your hand and your communicational skills. Working with people is not always easy so you surely need to show your professionalism even in the awkward situations or in those possible conflicts that might arise.
A podiatrist job often assumes spending many hours on your feet, having to walk from patient to patient doing regular visits, or just working long hours. The good news is that you can pursue a specialization that will allow you to perform surgery, or you could be specialized in orthotics.
The educational requirements though seem to be as high as for one wanting to become a regular doctor. In order to become a podiatrist you’ll need to follow an undergraduate institution that will last up to three or even four years. The length depends on the facility and the enrollment program, and then you are eligible to follow the courses of a podiatry school. Your enrollment will be made upon the average grades and how well you scored on the medical college acceptance test also known as MCAT.
Being in a podiatry school you’ll have to complete a four years program followed by a two-year residency and after completion, you’ll be eligible to take your license of practice. So the costs for these educational paths can become very costly.
Podiatrist job growth
The employment growth for podiatrists for the next ten years is projected at 14%-15% or even higher, this leading to a faster than the average growth for all occupations. The rate of increase is due mainly to the nature of the job itself and the number of demanding that is continuously growing with the aging population that is needed for specialists in foot and ankle conditions. These medical care services are also applied to various types of patients that are confronting especially with diabetes and obesity chronic conditions.
Great job opportunities are provided for the newly trained podiatrists in medical facilities such as clinics, health networks than in the solo practices. The job opportunities -even though the occupation is small and many will practice until retirement- are great for the entry level graduates that have finished within an accredited podiatric medicine program.
Still there will be plenty of new job opportunities since the majority of Americans have an active lifestyle spending more hours per day on their feet, this resulting in a huge need for these specialists that can improve the quality of walking and in the end, the quality of life as well.
On average the yearly podiatrist salary is more than $100.000 with the highest average yearly salary at $166,400 and the lowest average yearly salary at $48,770. A podiatrist’s average yearly salary is higher than some of the other medical jobs and the reason is that there is a big demand for podiatrists in most of the United States. There are many different factors that can figure into a podiatrist’s salary. One thing that can mean a higher salary is specialization. Experience is also another factor with the lowest paid average yearly salary being for those that are just getting into the field or working in federal government facilities. Within 5 years they can see their average yearly salary over $100,000.
The industry, or where they work, also figures into the salary. If they have their own private practice their average yearly salary could be as much as $157,590 and working in outpatient care centers the average yearly salary could be as much as $142,620. If the podiatrist decides to work in a group practice they could earn an average yearly salary of $131,980.
The average yearly podiatry salary of the top 5 metropolitan areas includes:
- $210,490 in Cape Coral, Florida
- $201,830 in Virginia Beach, Virginia
- $197,500 in West Palm Beach, Florida
- $184,610 in Bethesda, Maryland
- $180,360 in Indianapolis, Indiana
The average yearly salary of the top 5 states includes:
- $186,940 in New Hampshire
- $182,140 in Colorado
- $167,070 in Maine
- $166,500 in Indiana
- $163,880 in Minnesota
In addition you also have to take into consideration the benefit package that their place of employment offers. What is included depends on where they are employed. Some of the general benefits that can be included in the benefit package can include paid vacation days, sick days, social security, pensions, 401K, health insurance that could also include their family, life insurance, malpractice insurance, and profit sharing.
Salary of a Podiatrist in 2015
The demand of people for this career is very high, and you can fulfill your dream if you choose this career as a future path to follow. The need for these professionals is very high since many people have a very active lifestyle, this assuming they’ve spent much time on their feet.
Working as a Podiatrist in US will get to an earning that reaches about $131,732 per year. The salary for one of these skilled professionals depends among other factors upon the lowest and the highest points. For instance, the lowest income, that a Podiatrist can gain, is estimated at about $48,772 per year while the highest salaries can reach $166,430 per year. Highest wages can be even higher depending on the setting in which one is working. The prospect for 2015, when it comes to a Podiatrist salary, is very good.
Podiatrist Salary in 2016
The primary factors that affect this field for the year 2016, in the United States are the geographical location and the years of experience that are gathered at the working site also the specialization. The incomes of these professionals have a base of six figures in the earnings, this leading to a generous payment.
According to some surveys, the median income for podiatrist is estimated at around $122,610 per year in 2016. The average income will have a starting point of $74,969 per year more or less going up to $212,055 per year.
The listed income is mainly influenced and also based on the granted bonus that can get as high as $49,691 per year and the profit sharing that is estimated to reach around $17,560 per year. You can also add the commission that can reach up to 4,230 per year this leading in the end to higher earnings that start from $77,656 per year and climb to $223,870 per year.
In the benefits package that one podiatrist gets you can find depending on the site where you are employed life insurance, malpractice insurance, paid vacation days, pension and many other. Since a podiatrist salary is influenced by the demographic factor that is the location, everything will be measured based on the living costs and the living expenses from that region or area.
For instance, a podiatrist income will vary from state to state, region to region and city to city. The main factors are the area in which one is working and the working site. For instance, there will be a clear difference in salaries of those working in big cities and those working in rural areas that many times will earn less, due to the number of cases and the estimated population of that region. There are also states that will pay higher earnings while other will pay less.
Podiatrist salary in Canada, Australia and UK
In the UK a podiatrist is sometimes referred to as chiropodists. When working as a podiatrist in the UK their average yearly salary is between 21,000 and 28,000 for one just starting out but as they gain more experience they can have an average yearly salary of 40,000. If you work as a consultant podiatrist you could earn up to 90,000. Many times in the UK they base the average yearly podiatrist salary on their age. If they are in their 20’s the average yearly salary would be 16,526, in their 30’s it would be $21,594, and in their 40’s and 50’s it would be 25,560.
In Canada the average yearly podiatrist salary would range from C$35,473 – C$90,431. In Australia the average yearly podiatrist salary would range from AU$48,219 – AU$93,818
Conclusion on podiatrist salary
Although the starting salary for one who is just getting into the field or works for the federal government is under $50,000 when you specialize and/or gain more experience it can be over $100,000. The salary is not as high as a neurosurgeon but with the need for podiatrists they can earn a fairly high salary. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics between 2012 – 2022 there is expected to be an increase of 23% in podiatrist jobs. In addition to the salary there is also the benefit package to look at. It is important that there is a good retirement plan so when they retire they have a retirement to live on. Seeing that the largest salary is paid to those who work in a top notch hospital or have their own practice it would be advisable to choose one of these when you graduate and get your license. You should also look for work in a large major city such as Indianapolis, Indiana, Virginia Beach, Florida, or states like Colorado, or Minnesota. With there being more elderly people needing podiatry services and more people with diabetes, there will always be a need for a podiatrist.
- First Published Date: 4 July, 2014
- Last Updated Date: 20 August, 2016