Guide to studying Podiatry
Podiatrists provide treatment and care for people suffering from problems with their feet and legs. See what it’s like to study the area, and if the career is for you.
- What jobs can you get with a degree in Podiatry?
The study of Podiatry looks at injury and illness of feet and legs. Most students who study Podiatry become podiatrists. Podiatrists diagnose, treat and care for people, helping them to have better mobility and quality of life.
Also known as chiropodists, podiatrists are specialists in helping patients maintain health and wellbeing through treatment, surgery, orthotics, education and exercise.
Podiatrists deal with a variety of issues, for example:
- Children with problems walking
- Diabetes patients with circulation problems
- Sportspeople and dancers who put too much pressure on their feet
Study Podiatry and you’ll learn how to make a positive difference to peoples’ health and wellbeing. There’s a growing need for podiatrists because of the improved care now available. It’s also very important for the care of those with chronic diseases like diabetes.
Along with specialist knowledge and abilities, general skills you’ll develop include:
- Critical thinking
- Attention to detail
Podiatry courses mix together theoretical learning, practical teaching and placement opportunities. Most students complete 1,000 hours of clinical practice, preparing for graduate roles.
Courses are usually to the standard of the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), so you can register as a podiatrist after you graduate. Qualifications are widely recognised in Europe and across the world, meaning there are opportunities for working overseas.
The NHS Learning Support Fund is currently offering £5,000 per year to support undergraduate Podiatry degree students in England and Wales. This is a grant, so you don’t have to pay it back.
For an undergraduate degree in Podiatry, you’ll usually need three A Levels. An A Level in Biology is usually a must.
You’ll be eligible with equivalent qualifications such as a BTEC, HND, HNC, NVQ, Highers or Access courses in relevant science-based areas.
You’ll also need five GCSEs with grades C and above, or equivalent. These should include Science, Maths and English.
Tips for applying
Academic qualifications don’t tell the full story. As a podiatrist, you’ll need to be able to communicate well and help your patients feel relaxed. Try to demonstrate this and other relevant skills when applying to your degree course.
It’s good to have an understanding of what podiatrists do. Work experience is very useful for your application. If possible, find volunteering or paid work in a healthcare environment. The College of Podiatry has information and contact details of your nearest podiatrist.
Podiatry courses usually include practical experience working with members of the public, so you may need to complete a DBS disclosure check for criminal records.
Courses typically last two to four years if studied full-time. Common options include:
- Podiatry BSc
- Podiatric Medicine BSc
- Podiatry MPod
- Osteopathic Medicine MOSt
You can expect a mix of both theoretical and practical work, where course content is informed from the latest research in the field. Teaching is often through lectures, seminars, group projects and individual learning. You’ll usually complete 1,000 hours of clinical hours in placements throughout the course.
During the coronavirus pandemic, courses have had to adapt to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. This just means the way they're delivered is slightly different. For instance, teaching groups may be smaller and there may be more remote learning.
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- Podiatry course chooser
Assessments are varied and can be through written and practical exams, essays, reports, projects, presentations or other methods.
You can further your studies and specialise in a particular area, enter into research or pursue teaching. Postgraduate degree courses include:
- Podiatry MSc
- Advanced Podiatry MSc
- Theory of Podiatric Surgery MSc
After qualifying, you could work as an NHS or private podiatrist. Areas of specialisation include diabetes, sports injury and children.
Or you could further your training and become a podiatrist surgeon, or move into teaching or management. You may choose to set up your own practice.
In the infographic below, the first table shows what graduates of Podiatry have gone on to do in the months after their graduation.
The second table shows the average salaries of undergraduate Podiatry students entering employment. The three skill levels – high, medium and low – reflect the UK's Standard Occupational Classification's major groups 1–3, 4–6 and 7–9 respectively.
Source: HESA Graduate Outcomes Survey 2017/18
The common way to become a podiatrist is after getting a qualification in Podiatry, either at degree level or through a degree apprenticeship.
You’ll need to register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) before practising professionally.
What it's like to work as a podiatrist
Podiatry is a varied profession. Your day could involve:
- Diagnosing and treating injuries of the lower limbs
- Talking to and advising patients and groups
- Carrying out minor surgeries using tools, medicines and anaesthetics
You could be based in a GP practice, visit clients at home, or work at a health centre or hospital. Generally, you’ll work alongside other professionals in healthcare, such as GPs, nurses, physiotherapists and dieticians.
After qualifying you’ll have Continuing Professional Development (CPD) check-ins, where you talk about your career and future goals. You can become a member of organisations such as the College of Podiatry, where you can take courses, network and attend events.
A working week is typically 37.5 hours and you may have to work evenings and weekends. Salaries for podiatrists are on the Agenda for Change system (the NHS staff grading and pay scale), usually on band 5. With the NHS, you’ll have access to generous pension schemes, holiday allowances and health service discounts.
Most podiatrists have a good work-life balance. Unlike many other healthcare roles, you’ll be able to work flexible hours and, after building up your experience, choose to be self-employed. You could also rent treatment rooms in environments such as sports injuries centres, retail outlets or beauty salons.
Is a podiatrist role right for you?
Podiatrists often have to work with people in discomfort and need to be comfortable with exposure to bodily fluids such as blood and pus. You’ll have to feel comfortable in these situations and be able to make sure your patients feel relaxed around you.
You may spend a lot of time working independently. A lot of travelling may also be involved if you visit patients in their homes. But it can be a very rewarding role, as you’ll be working to improve people's health and wellbeing and make them more comfortable.