The human foot, ankle, and leg have unique and complicated anatomies. The foot alone contains 26 bones, 33 joints, and hundreds of interconnected tendons, muscles, and ligaments. With so many complex mechanisms working in harmony, the human foot can be one of the most difficult body parts to treat. And although podiatrists aren’t the highest-paid doctors, the average podiatrist salary reflects the complex nature of podiatry.
If the intricate workings of the human foot, leg, and ankle intrigue you, podiatry might be the perfect medical specialty. Whether you’re a working podiatrist, or you’re considering the field, you’re likely interested to know the average podiatrist salary.
In this article, we’ll go over the average podiatrist salary, as well as where and how you can earn the most as a podiatrist in the United States.
Average Podiatrist Salary
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average podiatrist salary is $148,220.
For our research, we primarily relied on BLS data. Information from the Bureau is more inclusive and consistent.
Starting Podiatrist Salary
Just as with any other career, your starting salary as a podiatrist will be lower than what you’ll eventually earn. As you gain years of experience and more advanced knowledge, you’ll be able to command a higher wage.
The BLS shows the following salary range for podiatrists in the United States:
- 10th percentile: $50,930
- 25th percentile: $83,180
- 50th percentile: $127,740
- 75th percentile: $190,400
- 90th percentile: $208,000+
The lowest-paid 10% of podiatrists earn an average of $50,930 per year, while the highest-paid 10% earn more than $208,000.
The average starting podiatrist salary is likely to fall between the 10% and 25% mark. But as you gain experience as a skilled podiatrist, you’ll have opportunities to increase your salary.
Average Podiatrist Salary by Industry
One of the critical factors that impact your salary as a podiatrist is the industry in which you work. Podiatrists can work in a range of settings, from small private practices to large hospitals.
You could work in a research or teaching capacity, or you could work for yourself. When you decide what kind of industry you want to work in as a podiatrist, the average salary in that industry is an important consideration.
Top-Paying Industries for Podiatrists
Below are the top-paying industries and employers for podiatrists in the United States, reported by the BLS:
- Offices of Physicians – $192,070
- Outpatient Care Centers – $165,300
- Offices of Other Health Practitioners – $148,120
- General Medical and Surgical Hospitals – $135,280
- Federal Executive Branch – $110,660
Average Podiatrist Salary by State and City
Another thing to consider if you’re interested in the average podiatrist salary is location. Podiatrists earn different salaries depending on the state and city where they live and work.
Generally speaking, if you work in an area with a higher cost-of-living, you’ll earn a higher salary. Many people choose to commute so they can live in a lower-cost area and work in a higher-cost area.
Top-Paying States for Podiatrists
The states with the highest average podiatrist salary are:
- Hawaii: $280,880
- Nebraska: $220,210
- Wisconsin: $211,060
- Minnesota: $199,980
- Illinois: $192,180
Top-Paying Cities for Podiatrists
The cities with the highest average podiatrist salary are:
- Honolulu, HI: (unreported)
- Milwaukee, WI: $252,000
- Silver Spring, MD: $239,510
- Minneapolis, MN: $220,770
- Charlotte, NC: $220,560
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Average Podiatrist Salary vs. Other Medical Careers
Podiatry is at number-twelve on the list of the best-paid medical jobs, according to the most recent BLS data.
In the grand scheme of things, podiatrists earn less than many of their doctor counterparts. This may be due, in part, to the fact that they attend a different type of college program rather than medical school.
But the specialty of treating feet, ankles, and legs be rewarding, both intellectually and financially.
To understand the average podiatrist salary, it can be helpful to compare the figure ($148,220 per year) to some of the higher-paying medical specialties.
Below are the five highest-paying medical specialties for comparison:
- Anesthesiologist – $267,020
- Surgeon – $255,110
- OB/GYN – $238,320
- Orthodontist – $225,760
- Psychiatrist – $220,380
You can find the top 15 highest paying medical jobs here.
How to Earn More as a Podiatrist
If you want to earn a higher salary as a podiatrist, you can choose a career trajectory that allows you to do so.
Work in Private Practice
As noted above, the best-paid podiatrists work in private practices. That’s a good place to start if you want to be amongst the highest-paid podiatrists.
You may have to start your career working in a surgical hospital or a larger medical office. But if you want to earn a higher salary, you should keep your eye on the goal of working in private practice.
Work for Yourself
Like with most other medical specialties, you can choose to work for yourself or someone else if you specialize in podiatry.
The BLS data doesn’t distinguish between self-employed and employed podiatrists in private practice employment. But data from other reports and surveys show that independent doctors earn more.
Working for yourself means you can hire on other doctors to work under you, creating a business-centered model that brings in more patients. It also means you can set your own hours, allowing you to see more patients if you wish.
Get Certified in a Specialty (and a Subspecialty)
You can make yourself more valuable by gaining more niche knowledge about the lower extremities.
Podiatrists have the option to specialize in orthopedics, surgery, or public health. You can also earn practice a subspecialty such as pediatrics, radiology, geriatrics, sports medicine, or diabetic foot care.
Join a Professional Organization
The American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) supports and represents DPMs in the United States. Approximately 80% of podiatrists are members of the organization.
Becoming a part of an organization like the APMA shows patients that you’re a respected member of the community. It also gives you access to continuing education that will help you build your career and stay up-to-date.
How to Become a Podiatrist
A podiatrist is a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine, or DPM. As a podiatrist, you’ll have “DPM” after your name, rather than “MD” or “DO.” Podiatry can be compared to dentistry or optometry, in that a podiatrist is to the foot what a dentist is to the teeth, and an optometrist is the eyes.
You don’t attend generalized medical school, but instead, you complete a specialized DPM program.
Below are the steps you need to take to become a certified Doctor of Podiatric Medicine and earn a high average podiatrist salary.
Earn an undergraduate degree. Podiatric medical schools require you to complete a four-year undergraduate degree before admission. You can earn any degree, but most schools for podiatry require physics, biology, chemistry, and written and oral communication courses.
Take and pass the MCAT. Next, you have to show that you’re academically prepared for a DPM program by taking the MCAT. This is the same test that’s required to apply to traditional med school.
Apply and get into a College of Podiatric Medicine. During or after your junior year of undergraduate study, you should apply for admission to a College of Podiatric Medicine. The number of colleges that are accredited by the APMA is extremely limited, so admission is competitive.
Complete an accredited DPM degree. The program to earn a DPM degree is similar, in many ways, to traditional medical school. You’ll likely spend the first two years studying general medical courses, and the next two focusing on podiatric medicine.
Complete a residency. After you graduate from a DPM program, you’ll need to complete two to four years of residency. Residency provides more hands-on training, and it allows you to specialize in areas like orthopedics, wound care, and surgery.
Get licensed. To get licensed to practice podiatry in your state, you’ll have to pass a written and oral exam.
Gain certification. You don’t have to earn certification to begin practicing as a podiatrist. However, doing so will give you better chances of getting hired and earning a higher salary. You can gain certification through the American Board of Podiatric Medicine or the American Society of Podiatric Surgeons.
Podiatrist Medical School Debt
To finish a DPM program and begin your career as a podiatrist, you’ll attend about the same amount of school as you would in medical school. Therefore, the average podiatrist’s student debt is similar to the average medical school debt: around $200,000. That’s a scary figure, even if you’re passionate about podiatry.
However, the high average podiatrist salary makes it more reasonable to take on that amount of debt. As long as you’re prepared and have a plan for repayment, the high amount of student debt to become a podiatrist may be worth it.
Start Paying During Residency
One way you can minimize the debt you accrue during your podiatry program is to begin paying as soon as you start earning a salary. Most residents earn a yearly salary, which means you can start paying off your debt after eight years of school, rather than 10 or 12 years.
Your income as a resident will be lower than what you earn as a licensed podiatrist, however, so you’ll need to set up a payment plan that allows you to make smaller payments. If you have federal student loans, you can do that by enrolling in an income-driven repayment plan (IDR).
An IDR plan bases your monthly loan payment on how much you currently earn, so your amount due will grow with your career.
If you have private loans, you’ll have to speak with your lender or loan servicer to arrange a payment plan. Most private lenders have options for students who are still in college or residency but want to start paying off some of their debt.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness for Podiatrists
Many podiatrists work for the military or government and municipal agencies. If you work in public service as a podiatrist, you can have some of your loans forgiven through the federal government’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.
If you plan on applying for PSLF, make sure you enroll in an IDR plan as soon as possible. You have to be enrolled in one of the federal government’s repayment plans for your monthly payments to count towards PSLF.
Employers Offer Loan Forgiveness
Another opportunity that many medical professionals—including podiatrists—have is employer-sponsored loan forgiveness. Even if you plan to eventually open your own surgical practice, you might benefit from working for someone else for five to ten years, first. As a newly-certified podiatrist, you’ll probably end up doing so, anyway.
When you apply for work, look for employers who off student loan forgiveness or payment matching as a benefit. Many employers offer inciting incentives to highly-qualified medical specialists, with loan forgiveness up to $75,000 or more. Of course, you’ll have to agree to work with the employer for a number of years.
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Career Outlook for Podiatrists
The career outlook for podiatrists is positive. As a new podiatrist, you don’t have to worry about there being a lack of job openings in your field.
The BLS predicts an increase of 7% for all physician and surgeon careers between 2018 and 2028, which is much higher than the average for all jobs.
As the Baby Boomer population ages into their senior years, more specialized healthcare like podiatry is increasing in demand.
Average Podiatrist Salary Bottom Line
If you want to work with one of the body’s most essential and most complicated skeletal and muscular systems, you might be considering podiatry. Podiatrists aren’t the highest-paid medical specialists, but they still have high earning potential.
And while podiatrists may go into debt to specialize in the human foot, the average podiatrist salary is a light at the end of the tunnel.
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