Podiatrist

Pros


  • This is work that helps people with specific health problems that can be painful or embarrassing.
  • Many podiatrists are self-employed.
  • This is a good job for someone who likes to fix things, and has an interest in scientific studies.

Cons

  • You will be spending a lot of time examining and working with people’s feet. This must not be a problem for you.
  • Someone interested in this field needs to be good with their hands.
  • A podiatrist may have to work long hours and spend a lot of time walking, going from patient to patient.

Overview

A podiatrist is a doctor that focuses on the feet and lower legs. The foot is a complex part of the human body, one that is often overused. Each foot has twenty six bones that comprise one fourth of all bones in the body. Along with this there are muscles, nerves and ligaments that work together for the foot to operate and allow for balance and mobility. Therefore there are a lot of different issues that podiatrists deal with when caring for their patients.

Podiatrists diagnose problems that their patients have by examining their feet closely. They will often have x-rays performed as well as conduct laboratory tests. Some of the ailments podiatrists may see with their patients include calluses, ingrown toenails, heel spurs and arch problems on the bottom of the foot. Podiatrists will also treat injuries that occur in the ankle and foot as well as structural deformities. This may require surgical procedures that a podiatrist can perform on patients or other treatment methods such as prescription drugs and physical therapy. They will often provide preventive care by fitting patients with special corrective shoes known as orthotics.

A good number of podiatrists have their own practice where they work with an assistant or group of assistants to care for patients. Some of them will collaborate with other health professionals in a private clinic. Another group of podiatrists become specialized in a specific aspect of podiatric care, such as surgery or orthotics.

Education

Becoming a podiatrist takes as much time as becoming a regular doctor, with specialization in the feet and lower leg. Students usually attend an undergraduate institution for three to four years, which does not necessarily mean they get a bachelor’s degree. They must apply to a podiatry school and in order to do so they need to have above average grades and score well on the MCAT, the medical college admissions test. Once admitted to podiatry school, students spend four years studying in the classroom as well as applied settings. Once they have graduated they must do a residency for up to two years. Finally, podiatrists must become properly licensed in the state that they wish to practice in.

Job Prospects

Though podiatry is a small subset of the medical profession and there are only a miniscule amount of them practicing, there is a lot of demand for people in this career. There are not very many podiatry schools so there is a finite amount of new podiatrists every year. Plus, most people are living more active lifestyles and as such this means that people spend more time on their feet whether it is for work or for leisure, increasing the need for the skills of a podiatrist.

Advancement Opportunities

Advancement in this career path is dependent on whether or not one wants to work for themselves, as many podiatrists do. It can be quite profitable for podiatrists to run their own business, but they must be capable of hiring and managing people, marketing and accounting. Podiatrists who are not interested in this may specialize at a hospital or clinic, which will help them to further their careers.