Podiatrists are physicians who specifically treat foot ailments. To be a successful podiatrist, you must have a strong scientific aptitude, a solid understanding of bone and muscle groups in the foot, and a friendly bedside manner with patients. In addition, podiatrists need to possess good manual dexterity because they are called upon to use their hands daily in treating foot ailments, and in some cases, to perform surgery. Since podiatry is a form of medicine, prospective podiatrists should be prepared to spend several years in medical school following their undergraduate degree. Then, an additional two to four years of residency experience will be required before podiatrists are able to treat patients independently.
Getting a Medical License and a Certification in Podiatry
If you want to be a podiatrist, you must be licensed. Every state and the District of Columbia require practicing podiatrists to be licensed. Each state also carries its own unique licensing requirements. However, with all states, you must graduate from an accredited college of podiatric medicine and pass a written and oral exam to obtain a license. Some states may provide an exception to this rule and allow applicants to substitute the examination of the National Board of Podiatric Medical Examiners (NBPME) for all or part of the written state examination. The NBPME is usually given in the second and fourth years of medical school. Finally, most states require a minimum of two years of postgraduate residency training in an approved healthcare institution. We highly recommend checking with the state board of examiners where you intend to practice before beginning the testing process.
In addition to state licensure, we also recommend seeking certification. There are several certification boards for podiatric specialties, which include orthopedics, primary medicine, and surgery. Podiatrists are eligible for certification following the completion of their residency. Three boards that offer certification in podiatry are the American Board of Podiatric Orthopedics and Primary Podiatric Medicine, the American Board of Podiatric Surgery, and the American Board of Multiple Specialties in Podiatry. In addition to the completion of a residency program in your chosen field or specialty, most certification organizations require the successful completion of a written examination and the submission of logs showing field experience.
Maintaining a Medical License and an Podiatry Certification
Once you have earned your license, you need to shift your focus to maintaining it. Similar to any medical field, podiatric practices are advancing at a rapid rate. Keeping your license valid is essential to practice legally, and also ensures patients that you are staying up to date in your field. While each state board is different, most require regular license renewals through the completion of Continuing Medical Education (CME). Make sure to check your state's licensing board to exactly how many hours of CME you need and what else you need to do to keep your license valid. For example, the state of Texas requires podiatrists to renew their licenses annually and complete 50 hours of CME every two years.
In addition to maintaining your license, it is also your responsibility to keep your certifications valid. Podiatrists certified with the ABPOPPM, ABMSP, or ABMS are required to regularly renew their certification and complete CME as well. The three organizations differ from one another, as do their certification renewal requirements, so check with your specific certification board regularly to determine what you need to keep your certification current.