Podiatry is a specialty branch of medicine that focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of the foot and ankle. Thus those pursuing an online PhD in podiatry, or more commonly Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) degree, will learn all about the lower extremities. While a DMP degree is commonly obtained by those who want to become a podiatric surgeon, those who want to be more involved in the medial research aspect of podiatry as well as those who want to become foot and ankle physical therapists can also benefit from an online PhD in podiatry as well.
An online PhD in podiatry can serve as a stepping stone for those who would like to one day teach or practice podiatry medicine. However, it can also serve as a foundation for those who want to be an athletic medicine physician, an ergonomic consultant, or even a chiropractor just to name a few other career options.
About Online PhD Programs in Podiatry
Due to the hands-on training requirement, none of the nine accredited podiatric medical schools in the U.S. offers a full DPM program online. However, some students may have access to an online course or two once enrolled in a traditional program. Although full online programs may not be offered, there are some podiatric medicine programs that incorporate mobile learning in the curriculum as much as possible. For example, students at Des Moines receive mobile computing devices so that they can have access to lectures and course materials online. That said, below is a sample of Des Moines University's curriculum, which is highly similar to the curriculum offered at the other eight U.S. podiatric medicine programs:
- Introduction to podiatric medicine. Like the name of the course suggests, students will be introduced the field of podiatric medicine, including its history and clinical features.
- Anatomy. In this course, students will learn some of the main fundamentals of podiatry: the human body. Students will build on their knowledge when they take a more specialized anatomy course late in their curriculum focusing on the lower extremity.
- Physical diagnosis . This course introduces students to the very basic elements of physical examinations of the lower extremities, including techniques for interviewing patients to obtain history information.
- Pharmacology. In this course, students learn the various classifications of prescription drugs.
- Neurology. This course introduces students to clinical neurology. It integrates anatomy, physiology, and physical diagnosis to identify common neurological disorders.
- Lower limb anatomy. Students in this course will concentrate exclusively on the foot, ankle, and lower extremity of the human body.
Similar to most medical and health programs, there is no dissertation that must be completed (unless you're doing a DPM/Ph.D. dual program in a different subject). However, starting Year Three, students must begin formal clinical rotations at a local hospital or foot and ankle clinic. During this time, students interact with other members of the healthcare community and start to learn how to interact and build relationships with real patients.
Value and Criticisms of a PhD in Podiatry
If you want to treat and diagnosis the lower extremity, whether it's because you want to get into biomechanics, sports medicine, or wound care then earning a DPM degree is the only way to do so. A DPM degree can help you expand your career options since opportunities exist in both surgical and clinical medicine. The programs allow you to specialize in your field early on, unlike traditional medical school, so you'll have a better idea if that's the route you want to take.
However, there are some drawbacks. For starters, online courses are limited which means that if you need a more flexible schedule, a PhD in podiatry might not be as conveniently obtainable for you. The journey to become a licensed podiatrist is also long — there are four years of studies with another two years of residency. You won't see rewards right away and must have patience. Also, if you decide midway through your program that you don't want to specialize in the foot and ankle, you can end up wasting a lot of time and money.
Application & Admission Requirements
The majority of students who earn acceptance into a DPM program have at least a bachelor's degree and at least a cumulative and science 2.7 GPA. In addition, students must make adequate scores on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)ÿand complete several semesters of the following undergraduate courses: biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, and English. Recommended classes include: biochemistry, genetics, comparative anatomy, mathematics, psychology, and medical terminology. Some programs also require applicants to specifically get letters of recommendation. Students typically also have to be legal U.S. resident and must pass a criminal background check.
Career Options & Job Market
Most who acquire a DPM degree aspire to be podiatry surgeons and physicians, two careers that are obtained after earning a DPM and then completing medical and surgical residency. According to the latest figures, there were 12,900 jobs in this field in 2010. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 20% job increase in podiatry medicine within the next decade. Although salary depends on various factors including place of employment and years of experience, the median pay in 2010 was $118,030 per year, the Bureau states.
Where to Find Information
- Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association The Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association is one of the oldest peer-reviewed journals in foot and ankle medicine. Each issue publishes the most recent research, case studies, clinical correspondences, and literature reviews in podiatry. Since it's imperative to know the latest practices and research in your field, getting a subscription can give you a bigger advantage.
- ePodiatry.com ePodiatry is a comprehensive resource for current or aspiring podiatrists. In addition to posting the latest news and research in foot healthcare, it also offers an array of education links to books, journals, and other articles that can help students succeed in their courses.
- The American Association of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine Application Service (AACPMAS) This service, provided by The American Association of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine, allows students to conveniently apply to all nine colleges of podiatric medicine at once. It can simplify the entire process once you collect all of the proper documents.
How to Get Funding
Those in need of financial assistance typically don't qualify for Federal Pell grants. However, private scholarships — general scholarships and those made specifically for podiatry students like the one offered by the American Association for Women Podiatrists — are available. Of course, loans are also another option. Below are the most common loans most podiatry students apply for.
- Federal Direct Stafford Loan. This low-interest, unsubsidized federal loan is one of the more popular loans to acquire since it's offered at a fixed interest rate. The maximum loan amount offered is $12,000 per academic year.
Federal Perkins Loan.
Fulltime students who meet specific criteria for financial assistance are eligible to receive the Federal Perkins loan. This low-interest loan is offered at a 5.0% fixed rate. The maximum loan amount offered is $3,500 per academic year.
- Campus-Based Aid. Additional loans and financial aid can be disbursed to you at the discretion of individual campus-based programs managed by the financial aid office.
- Check Pre-Requisites for Every School. Although most podiatry schools typically require the same prerequisites, they often vary slightly. So make sure to check prerequisites every year during your undergraduate studies so you can stay up to date and take the correct courses.
- Get Involved in the Healthcare Community Early. You may not be able to get hands-on experience with patients until you're officially enrolled in a podiatry program, but that doesn't mean you can't at the very least shadow a local podiatrist during your undergraduate career. Some podiatry schools require a letter of recommendation from a certified podiatrist to be accepted.
- Pay Attention to the Admission Process Timeline. Always make sure that you're keeping track of admission deadlines. You'll need to organize your schedule and find time to take your MCAT before applying to your podiatry school of choice.