Podiatrists diagnose illnesses, treat injuries, and perform surgery for people with foot, ankle, and lower leg problems.


Podiatrists typically do the following:

  • Diagnose and assess patients’ conditions by reviewing medical histories, performing physical exams, and reviewing x rays and medical laboratory tests.
  • Provide nonsurgical treatment for foot, ankle, and lower leg ailments, such as prescribing special shoe inserts (orthotics) to improve a patient’s mobility
  • Perform foot and ankle surgeries, such as removing bone spurs, repairing fractures, and correcting other foot and ankle problems
  • Advise and instruct patients about foot and ankle care and wellness
  • Prescribe medications
  • Refer patients to other physicians or specialists if they detect other health problems, such as diabetes or vascular disease
  • Conduct research, read journals, and attend conferences to keep up with advances in podiatric medicine and surgery

Podiatrists treat a variety of foot and ankle ailments, including calluses, ingrown toenails, heel spurs, arthritis, and arch problems. They also treat foot and leg problems associated with diabetes, obesity, and other health conditions. Some podiatrists spend most of their time performing surgery, such as foot and ankle reconstruction. Others may choose a specialty such as sports medicine, pediatrics, or diabetic foot care.

Podiatrists who own their practice may spend time on business-related activities, such as hiring employees and managing inventory.

Work Environment

Podiatrists held about 11,000 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of podiatrists were as follows:

Offices of other health practitioners 51%
Self-employed workers 16
Offices of physicians 15
Federal government, excluding postal service           8
Hospitals; state, local, and private 7

Offices of podiatry are counted among offices of other healthcare practitioners.

Some podiatrists work in group practices with other physicians or specialists. Podiatrists may work closely with physicians and surgeons, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, medical assistants, and dietitians and nutritionists.

Work Schedules

Most podiatrists work full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week. Work schedules may vary and include evenings or weekends to accommodate patients. Some podiatrists, such as those who work in urgent-care facilities, may need to be on call for emergencies. Self-employed podiatrists or those who own their practice may have flexibility in setting their own hours.

Education and Training

Podiatrists must earn a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) degree and complete a 3-year residency program. Every state requires podiatrists to be licensed.


Podiatrists must have a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) degree from an accredited college of podiatric medicine. A DPM degree program takes 4 years to complete. Colleges of podiatric medicine are accredited by the Council on Podiatric Medical Education, which provides a list online of accredited programs.

Admission to podiatric medicine programs requires at least 3 years of undergraduate education, but nearly all prospective students have a bachelor’s degree in healthcare, biology, or physical science. Although programs might not specify the undergraduate degree required for admission, applicants must have completed courses in laboratory sciences such as biology, chemistry, and physics, as well as general coursework in subjects such as English. Applicants to DPM schools usually submit scores from the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and letters of recommendation. They also may indicate that they shadowed a podiatrist.

Courses for a DPM degree are similar to those for other medical degrees. They include anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and pathology. Podiatric medical students gain supervised experience by completing clinical rotations while in school.


After earning a DPM, podiatrists must apply to and complete a podiatric medicine and surgery residency (PMSR) program. Residency programs, which last several years, take place in hospitals and allow podiatrists to gain experience providing medical and surgical care to patients.

Podiatrists may complete additional training in specific fellowship areas, such as podiatric wound care, diabetic foot care, or limb preservation.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Podiatrists in every state must be licensed. Podiatrists must pay a fee and pass all parts of the American Podiatric Medical Licensing Exam (APMLE), offered by the National Board of Podiatric Medical Examiners. Some states have additional requirements. A full list of requirements for each state is available from the Federation of Podiatric Medical Boards.

Many podiatrists choose to become board certified. Certification generally requires a combination of work experience and passing an exam. Board certification is offered by the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery, the American Board of Lower Extremity Surgery, the American Board of Podiatric Medicine, and the American Board of Multiple Specialties in Podiatry.

Personality and Interests

Podiatrists typically have an interest in the Building, Thinking and Helping interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Thinking interest area indicates a focus on researching, investigating, and increasing the understanding of natural laws. The Helping interest area indicates a focus on assisting, serving, counseling, or teaching other people.

If you are not sure whether you have a Building or Thinking or Helping interest which might fit with a career as a podiatrist, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Podiatrists should also possess the following specific qualities:

Compassion. Podiatrists treat patients who may be in pain. They must be empathetic toward the people they serve.

Critical-thinking skills. Podiatrists must have a sharp, analytical mind to correctly diagnose a patient and determine the best course of treatment.

Detail oriented. To provide safe, effective healthcare, a podiatrist should be detail oriented. For example, a podiatrist must pay attention to a patient’s medical history as well as current conditions when diagnosing a problem and deciding on a treatment.

Interpersonal skills. Because podiatrists spend much of their time interacting with patients, they should be able to listen well and communicate effectively. For example, they should be able to tell a patient who is slated to undergo surgery what to expect and calm his or her fears.


The median annual wage for podiatrists was $145,840 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $61,350, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $208,000.

In May 2021, the median annual wages for podiatrists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Offices of physicians $208,000 or more
Federal government, excluding postal service         173,180
Offices of other health practitioners 127,690
Hospitals; state, local, and private 96,700

Most podiatrists work full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week. Work schedules may vary and include evenings or weekends to accommodate patients. Some podiatrists, such as those who work in urgent-care facilities, may need to be on call for emergencies. Self-employed podiatrists or those who own their practice may have flexibility in setting their own hours.

Job Outlook

Employment of podiatrists is projected to grow 2 percent from 2021 to 2031, slower than the average for all occupations.

Despite limited employment growth, about 300 openings for podiatrists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Most of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire. 


The U.S. population continues to age and to see an associated increase in its rates of chronic diseases, such as diabetes and obesity. As a result, people will continue to have mobility and foot-related problems, and podiatrists will be needed to treat many of these conditions. However, demand for podiatrists is expected to be limited because many patients may acquire services from a non-podiatrist physician or other appropriate caregiver.

For More Information

For more information about podiatrists, visit

American Podiatric Medical Association

For information on colleges of podiatric medicine and their entrance requirements, curricula, and student financial aid, visit

American Association of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine

For a list of accredited podiatric programs and residency programs, visit

Council on Podiatric Medical Education

For more information about the podiatric licensing exam, visit

National Board of Podiatric Medical Examiners

For more information about board certification, visit

American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery

American Board of Lower Extremity Surgery

American Board of Podiatric Medicine

American Board of Multiple Specialties in Podiatry




Where does this information come from?

The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

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