As well as having an approved podiatry degree, you need a caring manner and good communication and practical skills to work as a podiatrist
Podiatrists provide preventative care, diagnosis and treatment of a range of problems affecting the feet, ankles and lower legs. This can include infections, defects and injuries, as well as foot and nail conditions related to other major health disorders such as diabetes.
You'll also give advice to patients on improving mobility, independence and their quality of life. You could be based in a hospital, GP surgery or within private practice and may work with a team of people including nurses, physiotherapists and doctors.
Podiatrists are also known as chiropodists and both are protected titles. If you want to practise under either title you need to complete an approved degree programme and register with the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC).
You will work with a variety of patients and may provide non-prescription medication for minor conditions. For more serious conditions, you may access and supply:
As a podiatrist, you'll need to:
If you work in private practice, you may earn considerably more. Income is affected by geographical location, type of podiatry practised, type of treatment and hours worked.
Income data from Health Careers. Figures are intended as a guide only.
Working hours in the NHS are typically 37.5 per week. If you're based in private practice you may work more flexibly and might have to do some evenings and weekends for the convenience of patients.
You can choose to combine freelance work with part-time NHS work. This may include working for an existing private podiatry clinic, working in a GP surgery, making home visits or doing locum work. Career breaks are possible.
To work as a podiatrist, you need to complete a podiatry degree that is approved by the HCPC.
Degree programmes last either three or four years and once you've successfully completed one, you can apply for registration with the HCPC. You will then be able to practice under the protected title of podiatrist.
There are currently 13 UK institutions offering approved degrees and details of these can be found at Schools of Podiatry. You will usually be required to have an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service check and occupational health clearance.
Podiatry is a popular second career for people of varying ages and relevant backgrounds include:
Even if you have previous experience or qualifications in these areas you'll still need to complete the full podiatry degree.
You will need to show:
An understanding of the role of a podiatrist, gained through observation or work shadowing, is usually required. Contact your local clinics or private practices to ask about opportunities.
You may also want to consider getting student membership with the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists. This will provide access to journals, papers and news articles as well as discounted entrance to the annual conference.
Experience of working in a health-related or caring role is also helpful as are roles that bring you into contact with people.
It is likely that you will gain your first position and initial experience in the NHS. Fluctuating financial constraints on the NHS may affect the opportunities that are available.
Outside of the NHS, expansion of the private sector means that you could work within:
With experience, you may decide to set up your own private practice but you should first look into the considerations of being self-employed. It's also possible to go into research or teaching where you could be employed by universities, hospitals and clinics.
Look for job vacancies at:
Specialist recruitment agencies may also list vacancies:
A requirement of registering with the HCPC is to carry out continuing professional development (CPD) over a two-year period.
You'll need to prove you have kept your skills and knowledge up to date and will have to accurately record any CPD activities that you carry out.
The main provider of CPD and education is the College of Podiatry, which is part of the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists. It runs study programmes and regional and national training events. You can also become a member of the Society, which allows you to network with other podiatrists and gain access to journals and articles.
Once qualified, you can specialise in certain areas or you can choose to take postgraduate qualifications. Courses are available in specialist subjects as such forensic podiatry, podiatric surgery, independent prescribing and clinical biomechanics. Search for postgraduate courses in podiatry.
Part-time courses in business skills may be helpful if you're considering self-employment. Topics include:
After gaining experience, you may decide to focus on high-risk patient management to work with people who have an underlying illness or condition that puts their lower limbs at risk of infection or disability. This may include working in rheumatology, dermatology or diabetes.
You could also choose to specialise in areas such as:
It's possible to pursue academic research in a university, hospital or specialist institution. A Masters or PhD qualification may be required for teaching in a university.
Another option with significant experience is to set up your own private practice. While this can be expensive in terms of equipment and insurance, it offers the prospect of flexible employment. You could look into opportunities to rent a room in a clinic or on a fee-share basis with other practitioners.
To support yourself fully, you may have two or more jobs at the same time, e.g. teaching, self-employment and work in the NHS.