The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Interested in a Podiatry Career? A Good Podiatrist Will Soon Be Hard to Find

Posted by on Friday, April 22nd, 2016

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No one knows feet like a podiatrist. While many people still see their general practitioners about chronic foot pain and visit emergency rooms for acute trauma, podiatrists fill an important niche for patients seeking personalized care from a dedicated specialist – and podiatrists are increasingly in demand. A new report by the American Staffing Association put podiatrists at the top of their skills gap index as the “hardest-to-fill position” for the fourth quarter of 2015. If you’re interested in a healthcare career, podiatry is an increasingly attractive option.

podiatry career
Podiatry represents a changing industry, says a new report, which predicts a shortfall in specialists by 2020. (Image Source: Flickr CC user University of Salford Press Office)

Which Jobs Are Hardest to Fill in America?

Podiatrists landed at the very top of the American Staffing Association’s list, followed by these professions:

  • Tractor-trailer truck drivers
  • Processing machine operators
  • Psychiatrists
  • Oral and maxillofacial surgeons
  • Forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists
  • Merchandise displayers and window trimmers
  • Occupational therapists
  • General internists
  • Physical therapists

“Demand for qualified workers continues to grow as the pool of talent shrinks,” said ASA President and CEO Richard Wahlquist. The ASA hopes that publishing these lists will aid in recruitment strategies and drive growth in needed industries before serious shortages occur.

Where Have All the Podiatrists Gone?

Six years ago, there were 10,700 podiatrists working in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They predicted this number would increase 23% by 2022. Instead, the Conference Board warns that podiatry faces the steepest labor shortage in today’s healthcare field.

The shortfall began in the mid-nineties, the study found, and continues today, despite attractive working conditions. From 2000 to 2010, there were 6,000 job openings, with 3,000 slots available due to increased demand for podiatric services and the other 3,000 due to retirements. In the past, podiatry has been a tough sell because podiatrists earned less than some of their counterparts. However, the American Podiatric Medical Association says that new DPM (doctor of podiatric medicine) salaries are more competitive.

A study commissioned by the American Podiatric Medical Association found that the pool of new podiatrists needed to triple by 2014 to meet the needs of an increasingly aging population – which did not happen. “The sheer number of podiatrists that will be required to keep pace with an aging population and the epidemic in diabetic foot disease is a dilemma for our society,” says report reviewer Paul Kesselman, DPM. “While good for young podiatrists, the costs to society will be daunting.”

Some podiatrists suggest current practitioners should be more active in promoting podiatry careers while others argue that there is no real crisis at hand. Lowell Scott Weil Sr., DPM of Illinois says most podiatrists he knows can offer patients an appointment within three days and that a smaller doctor supply could drive up salaries, making the profession more attractive to students.

The Changing Face of Podiatry

Each year, about 500 to 700 students apply to podiatric medical schools in the US, with a high acceptance rate. The 14% attrition rate indicates the need for greater selectivity, the report suggests.

Currently, only 6.5% of podiatric physicians are under 30 years old. As more and more experienced podiatrists retire or abandon the profession to pursue other interests, they leave a void behind.

Women, minorities, and career-changers now make up a larger percentage of the applicant pool. Women account for half of new podiatry students and nearly one-quarter of existing podiatrists, for instance. Fifteen percent of the nation’s podiatrists are non-white minorities – a small percentage, but one that is growing to reflect greater diversity in the profession.

The Growth of an Industry

Podiatrists consulted in the report agree that the rigor and scope of training must increase to sustain the future of the profession. Every student should be subjected to the challenges of a three-year residency program that covers all aspects of podiatry, including surgery. More emphasis should be placed on effective treatment and management of diabetic foot disease, with additional specializations possible in commercial product sectors and academic research.

Interested in Becoming a Podiatrist?

We’re always interested to hear from people in the NYC area who are interested in entering our field. We are happy to answer any questions you may have about the profession or to help you pursue your career aspirations in other ways. Contact us to discuss current opportunities.

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.