Education and Training Requirements

High School

High school students should explore all science classes first—such as biology, zoology, and inorganic and organic chemistry—and take as much physics and math classes as possible to determine whether they have an interest in this field. Courses in English are also recommended. The profession requires a scientific aptitude, manual dexterity, a good business sense, and an ability to put patients at ease. You will need to excel academically starting in high school to become a podiatrist.

Postsecondary Training

A minimum of 90 semester hours of prepodiatry education is required for entrance into a college of podiatric medicine. This is typically accomplished by earning a bachelor's degree, preferably with an emphasis on general and organic chemistry, biochemistry, and biology.

There are nine accredited colleges offering the four-year course leading to a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (D.P.M.). All colleges of podiatric medicine require the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) as part of the application procedure.

The first two years in podiatry school are spent in classroom and laboratory work in anatomy, bacteriology, chemistry, pathology, physiology, pharmacology, and other basic sciences. In the final two years, students gain clinical experience in addition to their academic studies.

Most podiatrists will need to complete a residency program lasting from one to four years. Residencies for podiatrists are usually carried out in teaching hospitals, and include training and experience in such fields as emergency services, anesthesiology, radiology, general medicine, pathology, general surgery, and podiatric surgery, as well as dermatology, neurology, orthopedics, physical medicine, and rehabilitation.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

There are three subspecialties of podiatric medicine recognized by the American Association of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine: surgery, orthopedics, and primary care. Although any licensed podiatrist is considered qualified to address all areas of podiatric medicine, certification as a specialist in one of these three areas requires completion of specialized training. Contact national podiatric specialty boards, such as the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery or the American Board of Podiatric Medicine, for more information on specialty board certifications.

Podiatrists must be licensed in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. A state board examination must be passed to qualify for licensing. Some states allow the exams to be taken during medical podiatric college, from the National Board of Podiatric Examiners, as a substitute for the state boards. Most states require applicants to serve an additional residency of at least two years.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Podiatrists gain experience through residency training, which provides a combination of medical and surgical experiences.

The podiatrist must have a capacity to understand and apply scientific findings, the skill to manipulate delicate instruments, and, for those with their own practices, good business skills. Most importantly, they should like all kinds of people and have a sincere desire to help those needing care and attention.