What is a Podiatric Medicine Degree?

Podiatric medicine, also known as podiatry, is a field of medicine devoted to preventing, diagnosing, and treating conditions associated with the foot, ankle, and lower leg.

Podiatrists receive specialized training from an accredited college of podiatric medicine rather than attending traditional medical school. They are licensed to treat only the lower extremities and cannot enter a residency program in any other medical field.

Programs in podiatric medicine focus on the conditions which podiatrists treat, the diagnostic tools used in the field, and the subspecialties podiatrists can choose to pursue.

Program Options

Bachelor’s Degree in Any Discipline – Four Year Duration
Three years or 90 semester hours of college credit is generally sufficient to enter a podiatric medicine program, but many aspiring podiatrists complete a four-year bachelor’s degree. While they do not have to earn their degree in a specific discipline, according to the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) they are most likely to earn a bachelor’s in a major from these areas:

  • Biological Sciences
  • Social Sciences
  • Physical Sciences
  • Humanities
  • Mathematics / Statistics

Regardless of their chosen undergrad major, students planning to attend a college of podiatric medicine must meet admission requirements, which typically include:

  • Biology with lab
  • General Chemistry with lab
  • Organic Chemistry with lab
  • Physics with lab
  • Biochemistry
  • Mathematics and/or Statistics
  • English

Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC)

It is common for undergraduates to write the MCAT and begin applying to podiatric medical schools in their junior year. Through a set of multiple-choice questions, the MCAT allows medical schools to evaluate a candidate’s training and skill set. Many schools share their incoming student MCAT score average on their website to inform undergraduates of how well they need to score to compete with other applicants.

To achieve their highest possible MCAT score, students are encouraged to take advantage of assistance available to them. This includes study materials, pre-tests, practice tests, and online and in-person tutoring. These resources are designed to ensure that students attain the best possible score, which will open doors to medical schools.

Accredited College of Podiatric Medicine –Four Year Duration
Podiatric medical school is comprised of four years of study that is divided into two parts. The first part, the first two years of the schooling, is focused on course and lab work that prepares students intellectually for patient interaction. This training is in anatomy, physiology, chemistry, pharmacology, and the art and practice of medicine.

The second part of podiatric medical school, the second two years, is called Rotations. During this time, under the supervision of experienced physicians, students have the opportunity to experience a variety of medical specialties such as anesthesiology, internal medicine, infectious disease, surgery, emergency medicine, and pediatrics. Clinical rotations further students’ understanding of patient care, situations, scenarios, and the teams that come together to help those that need medical treatment.

Podiatric Medicine and Surgery Residency (PMSR) – Three Year Duration
During this period, residents rotate through core areas of podiatric medicine and surgery, conducting procedures under the supervision of a licensed and certified podiatrist.

Here are some of the conditions they learn to treat:

  • Arthritis
  • Bone fractures
  • Diabetic foot disorders
  • Foot deformities
  • Foot and ankle injuries
  • Heel and arch pain
  • Morton’s neuroma – a benign growth of nerve tissue that causes foot pain
  • Skin and nail conditions
  • Sports injuries

These are the diagnostic tools they learn to understand and rely upon:

  • Arthrography – an imaging technique to pinpoint the cause of ligament, cartilage, or tendon pain
  • Blood tests
  • Bone scans
  • Computed tomography (CT)
  • Doppler ultrasound
  • Electromyography (EMG) – records and analyzes the electrical activity in muscles to identify a muscle or nerve disorder
  • Flexibility and reflex tests
  • Joint aspiration – collecting fluid from the joint space to diagnose infections or inflammations
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

These are subspecialties of podiatric medicine:

  • Dermatological podiatry (skin disorders)
  • Diagnostic podoradiology – foot and ankle radiology)
  • Forensic podiatry – the study of footprints and shoe prints for crime scene investigations
  • Gerontological podiatry – geriatric foot conditions
  • Podopediatrics – pediatric podiatry
  • Podiatric diabetology – diabetes foot care
  • Podiatric oncology – skin cancers
  • Podiatric orthopedics – the treatment of foot abnormalities with orthotics, prosthetics, and footwear
  • Podiatric rheumatology – involves rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases
  • Podiatric sports medicine
  • Neuropodiatry – circulation disorders
  • Reconstructive foot and ankle surgery – also referred to as consultant podiatric surgery

Podiatrists must be licensed in the state where they wish to practise. To become licensed as a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM)they must pass the American Podiatric Medical Licensing Exam (APMLE). In addition, some states administer a state-specific board exam.

Degrees Similar to Podiatric Medicine

A general biology degree program may include subjects like animal biology, invertebrate biology, vertebrate biology, cellular and molecular biology, evolution, microbiology, and ecology.

Chiropractic, categorized as alternative or complementary medicine, focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of neuromuscular disorders. Chiropractors seek to reduce pain and functionality primarily through manual adjustment and/or manipulation of the spine.

A kinesiology major studies the mechanics of body movements. A degree in the field can prepare students for a wide spectrum of careers in health, wellness, fitness, and education. It provides solid footing for prospective personal trainers, athletic therapists, and exercise scientists. It also lays the foundation for advanced study in kinesiology and in the complementary fields of medicine, physiotherapy, and chiropractics.

Massage Therapy
Massage therapy students study the art and science of human touch. They learn how massage and muscle stimulation can relieve physical pain and mental stress and help the body relax, regain mobility, and detoxify. The typical massage therapy curriculum includes courses in anatomy and physiology, kinesiology (the science of body movement), and pathology (the science of the causes and effects of diseases).

Occupational Therapy
Degree programs in occupational therapy focus on helping patients adapt to loss of function by improving their fine motor and cognitive skills.

Orthotics and Prosthetics
Orthotic devices or orthoses are supportive braces and inserts. Prosthetic devices or prostheses are artificial limbs or other body parts. Degree programs in orthotics and prosthetics (O & P) prepare students to work as orthotists and prosthetists – the healthcare professionals who design, create, fit, and repair these devices which support weakened body parts, correct body defects, or replace amputated limbs.

Physical Therapy
Physical therapy majors learn how to treat patients for whom movement has become strained or limited due to injury, illness, or aging.

Degree programs in this field are concerned with how the parts of the body work to keep it alive. Physiology, a subsection of biology, covers a variety of interconnected topics including, organs, anatomy, cells, and biological compounds.

There is no distinct pre-medicine degree. ‘Pre-medicine’ or ‘pre-med’ is merely a term that students planning to go to medical school use to describe their undergraduate studies. In fact, aspiring doctors enter med school having earned many different bachelor’s degrees. A science program such as biology or chemistry is certainly a common choice, but it is not mandatory.

In other words, a pre-med student can be a psychology major, a statistics major, or a Spanish major. The key for students is to incorporate into their studies the classes needed to apply to medical school.

Public Health
Students who enter degree programs in public health look at how access and lack of access to healthcare, health education, and funding affect the spread, treatment, and prevention of disease. Epidemiology – the science concerned with the spread and control of diseases and viruses – is the science at the heart of public health.

Skills You’ll Learn

  • Ability to combine science and fact with intuition
  • Compassion
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Extreme attention to detail
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Investigation and interpretation / analysis
  • Observation
  • Reasoning and problem solving
  • Synthesizing and communicating information
  • Thoroughness

What Can You Do with a Podiatric Medicine Degree?

Because of the very specific nature of the podiatric medicine program, the vast majority of its graduates pursue careers directly in the field. They typically:

  • Work in hospitals, hospital foot clinics, the offices of other health practitioners and physicians, long-term care facilities, and private practice
  • Teach in schools of medicine or nursing
  • Serve in the armed forces as commissioned officers
  • Serve in the US Public Health Service / Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Work in municipal health departments
  • Work for health maintenance organizations (HMOs) and preferred provider organizations (PPOs)


Find out what graduates typically earn.

Read about Salary