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Career Guide: Podiatrist

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Employment

Podiatrists held about 12,000 jobs in 2006. About 24 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 primarily were unincorporated self-employed workers, although some also were incorporated wage and salary workers in offices of other health practitioners. Other podiatrists were employed by hospitals, long-term care facilities, the Federal Government, and municipal health departments.

Job Outlook

Employment is expected to increase about as fast as average because of increasing consumer demand for podiatric medicine services. Job prospects should be good.

Employment change. Employment of podiatrists is expected to increase 9 percent from 2006 to 2016, 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.

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 health care. Insurers will balance the cost of sending patients to podiatrists against the cost and availability of substitute practitioners, such as physicians and physical therapists.

Job prospects. 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 and replacement needs 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.

Earnings

Podiatrists enjoy very high earnings. Median annual earnings of salaried podiatrists were $108,220 in 2006. Additionally, a survey by Podiatry Management Magazine reported median net income of $114,000 in 2006. Podiatrists in partnerships tended to earn higher net incomes than those in solo practice. A salaried podiatrist typically receives heath insurance and retirement benefits from their employer, whereas self-employed chiropractors 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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