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Podiatrists - What They Do

How to Advance (Advancement)
There are a number of certifying boards for the podiatric specialties of orthopedics, primary medicine, and surgery. Certification has requirements beyond licensure. Each board requires advanced training, the completion of written and oral examinations, and experience as a practicing podiatrist. Most managed-care organizations prefer board-certified podiatrists.

Podiatrists may advance to become professors at colleges of podiatric medicine, department chiefs in hospitals, or general health administrators.

Podiatrists held about 12,200 jobs in 2008. About 19 percent of podiatrists were self-employed. Most podiatrists were solo practitioners, although more are entering group practices with other podiatrists or other health practitioners. Solo practitioners were either unincorporated self-employed workers or incorporated wage and salary workers in offices of other health practitioners. Other podiatrists were employed by hospitals and the Federal Government.

Job Outlook
Employment is expected to increase about as fast as average. Job prospects should be good.

Job Growth
Employment of podiatrists is expected to increase by 9 percent from 2008 to 2018, about as fast as the average for all occupations. More people will turn to podiatrists for foot care because of the rising number of injuries sustained by a more active and increasingly older population. Also, demand for podiatrists will increase because of the rising number of Americans who are diagnosed with diabetes and who are severely overweight. People with diabetes have circulatory problems that create the need for them to seek the aid of podiatrists; persons who experience rapid weight gain may have intense pressure on the foot and ankle, and therefore need the services of podiatrists.

Medicare and most private health insurance programs cover acute medical and surgical foot services, as well as diagnostic X rays and leg braces. Details of such coverage vary among plans. However, routine foot care, including the removal of corns and calluses, is not usually covered unless the patient has a systemic condition that has resulted in severe circulatory problems or areas of desensitization in the legs or feet. Like dental services, podiatric care is often discretionary and, therefore, more dependent on disposable income than some other medical services.

Employment of podiatrists would grow even faster were it not for continued emphasis on controlling the costs of specialty healthcare. Insurers will balance the cost of sending patients to podiatrists against the cost and availability of substitute practitioners, such as physicians, chiropractors, and physical therapists.

Although the occupation is small and most podiatrists continue to practice until retirement, job opportunities should be good for entry-level graduates of accredited podiatric medicine programs. Job growth, coupled with the need to replace podiatrists who stop practicing, should create enough job openings for the supply of new podiatric medicine graduates. Opportunities will be better for board-certified podiatrists because many managed-care organizations require board certification. Newly trained podiatrists will find more opportunities in group medical practices, clinics, and health networks than in traditional solo practices. Establishing a practice will be most difficult in the areas surrounding colleges of podiatric medicine, where podiatrists concentrate.

Podiatrists enjoy very high earnings. Median annual wages of salaried podiatrists were $113,560 in May 2008. Additionally, a survey by Podiatry Management Magazine reported median net income of $114,768 in 2008. Podiatrists in partnerships tended to earn higher net incomes than those in solo practice. Salaried podiatrists typically receive heath insurance and retirement benefits from their employer, whereas self-employed podiatrists must provide for their own health insurance and retirement. Also, solo practitioners must absorb the costs of running their own offices.

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