Podiatry Training Programs and Requirements

A podiatrist provides medical care for feet and ankles, including the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of foot and ankle conditions. They may treat a range of problems, such as arthritis, deformities, bunions, arch problems and heel spurs. In addition to earning bachelor's degrees, podiatrists are required to attend 4-year, podiatry schools followed by residency programs.

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Training Requirements and Recommendations

Those interested in pursuing careers as podiatrists must first complete bachelor's degree programs. This is followed by application to an accredited college of podiatric medicine. Students may choose to further specialize and must be licensed in order to legally practice.

Formal Education

Most podiatrists begin their educations by earning bachelor's degrees. While many students choose to major in science-related fields, it is generally not required. Students who hold unrelated bachelor's degrees may be asked to complete certain science courses before applying to podiatry school. A Doctor of Podiatric Medicine degree must be earned in order to practice as a podiatrist.

Doctoral Programs

The Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) is a 4-year, specialized medical degree program. Although the first two years of study are similar to those of Medical Doctor (M.D.) degree programs, students in their third and fourth years take podiatry-specific courses, including lower-extremity biomechanics, lower-limb anatomy and podiatric trauma. Clinical rotations are also required in areas like radiology and podiatric surgery.

Job Experience

Podiatry students gain a great deal of experience while completing clinical rotations associated with the DPM degree program. Most candidates enter 2-4-year residency programs after earning their DPM degrees. This gives them the chance to gain hands-on, practical experience treating patients in a hospital setting, and some states require podiatrists to complete residency programs before granting licensure. Podiatrists may pursue more specialized areas of the field by completing additional residencies that last at least one year.

Licenses and Certifications

All podiatrists must be state licensed before they can legally practice. This involves holding a DPM degree from an accredited institution and passing an officially administered oral and written exam. Additional requirements may vary from state to state. A passing score on the National Board of Podiatric Medical Examiners (NBPME) exam may qualify podiatrists for licensing in some states. The NBPME exam consists of three sections that are generally taken in sequence.

Workshops and Seminars

Podiatry workshops are widely available and often address new technological advances. Sports medicine organizations and local universities may offer seminars on a variety subjects, including foot and ankle rehabilitation, neurological assessment in podiatry and radiology of the foot. Some workshops may address cost control techniques in podiatric care.

Additional Professional Development

Most states require podiatrists to complete a certain number of continuing education hours in order to maintain certification. Colleges of podiatric medicine may offer on-site or online courses on a variety of topics, including podopediatrics, functional orthopedics and dermatology. Podiatrists may also obtain specialty certifications that require advanced podiatry training, practical podiatry experience and additional competency testing.

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