What is a podiatrist?

Podiatrists diagnose and treat a wide range of mobility and medical conditions of the feet and lower limbs. They help to improve a person’s movement, independence, and quality of life.

To work in the NHS, podiatrists must be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

Starting your career as a podiatrist

Choosing subjects at school

To get on a course that could lead to a career as a podiatrist, useful subjects include:

  • Human Biology
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Maths
  • English
  • Care

Work placements and volunteering

You may find it helpful to get some experience of working in healthcare by doing a work placement. There may also be opportunities to volunteer. This could help you when applying to university, college, or a new job with NHSScotland.


Foundation Apprenticeships

A Foundation Apprenticeship could give you the skills, knowledge, and work experience you need to start your career journey as a podiatrist.

Find out more about the Foundation Apprenticeship in Social Services and Healthcare.

College and university

Most universities accept a wide range of qualifications, giving you the option of applying directly from school or going to college first.

If you choose to go to college, you could do an HND in Applied Biological Science or an HND in Applied Sport Science.

Widening access

Widening participation supports adult learners who want to go to university. If you’re an adult with few or no qualifications, you can get into higher education through the Scottish Wider Access Programme (SWAP). Many universities also provide access programmes to help you get the degree entry qualifications you need.

Podiatrist degree

Two universities in Scotland offer undergraduate programmes in Podiatry, approved by the HCPC:

  • Glasgow Caledonian University
  • Queen Margaret University

Pre-registration undergraduate programmes take 4 years full-time.

For more information on related further and higher education courses, search My World of Work.

Podiatrist role

As a podiatrist, you'll diagnose and treat a wide range of mobility and medical conditions that affect the foot health of people of all ages. These include:

  • arthritic conditions
  • skin conditions
  • diabetes
  • heart and blood disorders
  • disorders of the nervous system
  • sports injuries to the foot and lower limb

What you'll do

Some of the typical tasks of a podiatrist include:

  • providing advice on foot care
  • carrying out treatments for ingrown toenails or fungal nail infections
  • assessing the gait patterns of patients with biomechanical problems and sports injuries to the foot and lower limb
  • specialising in the treatment of ‘high risk’ patients within hospital departments, including vascular and rheumatology outpatient units and renal wards
  • providing insoles, padding, or supports to relieve foot arch or heel pain
  • caring for people with diabetes who may have circulation problems
  • carrying out minor foot surgery, including nail and minor soft tissue surgery
  • supervising students and healthcare support workers

Top skills

You’ll need these skills:

  • caring
  • teamwork
  • communication
  • problem-solving 
  • persuading and motivating people
  • observation 

Who you’ll work with

Podiatrists work independently or in multidisciplinary teams with other healthcare professionals, including:

  • physiotherapists
  • dietitians
  • orthotists
  • podiatric surgeons
  • doctors
  • nurses
  • healthcare support workers

Working environment

You could work in:

  • health centres
  • a person’s own home
  • nursing homes
  • hospitals

Useful information

To work as a podiatrist in NHSScotland, you’ll need to:

Did you know?

There are almost 13,000 registered podiatrists in the UK and over 700 working in the NHS in Scotland.

Learning and development

You'll have to keep your skills and knowledge up to date with Continuing Professional Development (CPD) during your career. The College of Podiatry provides courses, conferences, and seminars where you can exchange ideas and update your skills.

Career progression

With training and experience, you may choose to specialise in a particular area of practice such as:

  • sports injuries
  • critical care
  • care of the elderly
  • working with children
  • caring for cancer patients
  • podiatric surgery

You could also progress to advanced or consultant podiatrist roles. As head of a podiatry service, you would be responsible for managing a budget and a team.

There are also teaching and research opportunities.

Professional bodies

As an NHSScotland podiatrist, you must be registered with the HCPC.

Once you’ve qualified as a podiatrist, you can also join the Royal College of Podiatry.