New Year Resolution – Become a Podiatrist

In just under 7 hours time South Africa will welcome 2009. Will you make a resolution to become a podiatrist? Maybe one of your family or friends will?

Are you sitting with your ‘Matric’ results and not sure what to do next? South Africa has a serious shortage of podiatrists and as I wrote the other day even our new graduates are emigrating. There are fewer than 200 registered podiatrists for our population of about 48 million people.

However, with increasing access to health care and awareness of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, there is a growing demand for foot care, especially for children and people with foot problems associated with diabetes and arthritis. Nevertheless, many sectors of the South African population still don’t know what a podiatrist is or what we do. As our population changes more people will need foot care.

A podiatrist is really a ‘doctor of the feet’. We diagnose and treat foot disorders and abnormalities. This is done in many ways. Biomechanical examination involves assessing the whole lower limb and its function and then prescribing the appropriate treatment to maintain or restore normal mobility or function.

Many systemic diseases affect the feet and may even be diagnosed from foot symptoms. As a podiatrist you may need to refer your patient to a specialist for further management. A large part of podiatry treatment involves the skilled use of sharp instruments to treat corns or callus or possibly perform detailed corrective surgical procedures on toe nails.

Some of the conditions that Podiatrists treat are fungal infections of the feet and toenails; corns and calluses; ingrown toenails; foot ulcers in diabetes; causes of foot pain in arthritis. Most podiatrists incorporate orthotics and insoles into their treatment when necessary. 

The assessment and management of childrens’ foot problems forms an important part of a podiatrists work, whilst some podaitrists are skilled in the managemment of foot problems arising from sports. Nowadays, prevention of foot problems has become very important, so foot health education is also part of podiatry practice.

Although there is no official specialist register for podiatrists, many of us have developed ‘special interests’ in sports injuries, chronic disease, children or the elderly.

The day to day work of a podiatrist is interesting and varied. Giving relief from pain or diagnosing the cause of a foot problem is both challenging and stimulating. You do need to be able to work alone but also need to be a ‘people person’ to relate to the different patients you meet every day. Most podiatrists are in private practice, but we hope there will be an increasing deployment of podiatrists in the State Health services in future. For example Limpopo Province appointed their first graduate podiatrist.

To practice in South Africa you have to register with the Health Professions Council of South Africa.(HPCSA). This means that you become part of the Team of health care professionals providing care to South Africans and that you adhere to ethical standards.(By the way, it is illegal to practice as a podiatrist in South Africa if you are not registered with the HPCSA. So always check the credentials of a podiatrist).

To become a podiatrist in South Africa requires four years of full-time study at the University of Johannesburg. You will obtain a Bachelors degree and be able to go into practice immediately. Although bursaries are limited I believe this is changing as Provincial Health Departments begin to realise the value of foot care. Your entrance is dependent on your Admission Points Score (APS) or your M-score.

There are still vacancies for 2009 enrolment. So why not contact the University of Johannesburg – they reopen on 5th January 2009 – at 011 559 6167 or

However you welcome in the New Year, dancing  the night away, taking it easy at home with friends, walking on the beach on an exotic island or if you are unlucky, at work! Enjoy yourself and I wish you all good foot health and happiness in 2009.



Andrew has taught at the University as well as providing podiatry services in South Africa since 1977. Twice chair of the Podiatry Association of South Africa and a commentator on care of your feet on both radio and television he now works in private practice in Cape Town and Hout Bay.

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louise - January 6, 2010 Reply


    Andrew - February 7, 2010 Reply

    Hi Louise, my apologies for not replying sooner. Unfortunately the course is only available in JHB at UJ. It is something the SA Podiatry Association is working on, but it is a long process.
    It might be possible for you to study in JHB with a bursary, they are available. Or you could approach KZN Dept of Health and inestigate the possibility of their support and then, after completing your degree, you return to work for them.

Daphne - July 25, 2010 Reply

My daughter is intrested in podiatry..first i didnt no what podiatry was so i went on the internet..reading your artical has made me aware of what podiatrist do thank you..i have one podiatry for girls..she is in her 1st year Bsc biological sciences..loves biology,science and maths..and people..she tells me that she does not want end up in a lab with her Bsc and that is why she has been looking at other possible careers..regards Daphne

    Andrew - August 1, 2010 Reply

    Hello Daphne
    Please encourage your daughter! She is welcome to come to meet with me and see what podiatry is all about. Or if you are not in Johannesburg, let me advise you to see a local podiatrist in your area. Many women are podiatrists all over the world, the current President of the International Federation of Podology is a woman. There are opportunities, both in private practice and the Public Sector.
    Entry onto the programme at University of Johannesburg would I think be enhanced by having a first degree – possible exemptions – you must check with them.


beatrix - January 2, 2011 Reply

Hi I’m a somatologist and I have always been intrested in futhering my career in feet I have a pasion for treating peoples feet and make there problem better. I have been intrested in podiatry for a very long time and didn’t know where I could study until I got upon this web site is there any way to study part time??
My regards
Beatrix matthysen

    Andrew - January 4, 2011 Reply

    Hi Beatrix. There is no opportunity to study podiatry part-time in SA. The only way is the four- year degree at University of Johannesburg. However, why not contact them and see what they suggest? It may be that you could get some credits for your qualifications.



Daphne - January 12, 2011 Reply

Just want to let you know that due to your imput my daughter went on to talk and shadow the 4th year students last year and will be starting podiatry at the University of Johannesburg this year. We leave to take her up on Friday and she can’t wait to start. Thank you so much for all your valuable information.
regards Daphne

    Andrew - February 8, 2011 Reply

    Dear Daphne, great news. I hope your daughter will be successful in her studies. Remind her to ‘hang in there’ in that downtown part if Johannesburg, plus the Doornfontein Campus is abit of a concrete monster. If she gets fed up tell her to cantact me and if I can’t cheer her up there will be other podiatrists who can!!


    tshepo sithole - March 6, 2013 Reply

    it feels great to see people studying a second year podiatry student at uj

jay - May 4, 2011 Reply

hello to you i would like to study any courses part time or in cape town
please let me knowThanks jay

    Andrew - May 24, 2011 Reply

    Dear Jay
    Unfortunately both your options are not possible. for the time being, you can only study podiatry in Johannesburg at UJ. You could of course approach the Cape Provincial Administration & investigate the possibility of a bursary to study in Johannesburg. This is happening in Gauteng and the Department of Health does now have a career structure.

Franke - January 7, 2012 Reply

Dear Andrew,
Thank You so much for posting this blog, I am extreamly intrested in studing Chirpody/Podiatry, I am currently a Somatologist and have always had a fondness for feet!!! Can you please email me with anymore exta information of what this course entails, i.e. course fees, bursary oppertunaties, and what to expect from this field?
Yours Sincerely
Franke Whitehouse

    Andrew - April 2, 2012 Reply

    Hi Franke
    Why not go and visit a local podiatrist to really see what we do. Also get more infromation from UJ – Universityof Johannesburg on their website. You are very welcome to come and visit our practice just phone and make an appointment, saying you want to discuss podiatry as a career!!

Jade - February 6, 2012 Reply

Hi Andrew,
I am looking for a Podiatrist nearest to Knysna in the Cape, the only one i can find is Somerset West, would you know of someone closer … your help would be greatly appreciated.

    Andrew - April 2, 2012 Reply

    Try this is the SA Podiatry Association website and they will be able to help.

ray - May 23, 2012 Reply

Hey doc,this might sound superficial but money wise is podiatry a high earning career path to follow?

    Andrew - June 10, 2012 Reply

    Well Ray, it depends on your definition of ‘high-earning’. A high proportion of my earnings go towards paying my day to day running costs of the practice. However, being in the health sector isn’t just about money! Love and passion for what we do and some status helps!

wandile - July 23, 2012 Reply

so doc can you tell me what is the starter salary for the course

    Andrew - August 12, 2012 Reply

    Hi Wandile. Best plan is to get in touch with UJ and find out their fees – go to the website. There is no salary, because you register as a student at UJ. If you are near Johannesburg, why not pay me a visit or I can put you intouch with a podiatrist who you can talk to. Andrew

jason - October 2, 2012 Reply

Hi doc,I’m currently doing podiatry in the university of johannesburg and I’ve been struggling to get a bursary,I love the course and its so broad and interesting something I never imagined.many sectors refuse to give podiatry a bursary,where can I go and find one?
Thank u

    tshepo sithole - March 6, 2013 Reply

    my worry too jason

Kris - October 8, 2012 Reply


Could you please tell me more about podiatry in SA? For instance, could you please provide more information regarding your scope of practice? For instance, are you licensed to do surgeries (for instance tendon lengthening or ray amputation)? Do you regularly treat wounds of the feet and lower leg (diabetic wounds or venous leg ulcers)?

Also regarding the degree program – is this a 4 year degree immediately following secondary or high school? or is this a 4 year degree following 4 years of undergraduate school?

Thank you for your response.

Amanda - May 15, 2013 Reply

Hello Andrew

Thank God 4 ur article!I see a lotta ppl are showing interest…big ups
#Amanda pod student second year 🙂

peter hartnick - August 4, 2013 Reply

Hi Mr Andrew I am intrested to become a podiatris. I am from Cape Town. Sir are you the head of the department. I have work in the healthfield for a number of years. I have a passion to work with peoples feet. Where can I contact you.

T,MOTSIELOA - December 7, 2013 Reply



    Andrew - January 5, 2014 Reply

    hello again. Unfortunately distance learning isn’t possible. What you could do is approach someone to give you a bursary to study in Johannesburg. Andrew

T,MOTSIELOA - December 7, 2013 Reply


    Andrew - January 5, 2014 Reply

    hi there. contact the admissions office at University of Johannesburg, or better still go onto their website and follow the links to the podiatry degree under the Faculty of Health Sciences. regards Andrew

Canson - January 21, 2014 Reply

Hey there, i really want to be a podiatrist, i completed my matric 2012……i’m currently on a waiting list at UJ and it’s stressing me, Becoz uj is the only institution dat offers Podiatry…I need help finding sponsors and bursaries in this career field….PLEASE HELP (IN JOHANNESBURG)

Eleanor Scott - February 16, 2014 Reply

Please could you advise who my son could visit in Durban to find out more about Podiatry. Is the course still only available in Jhb? He completed Matric last year and is still very undecided on what to study.
Many thanks

    Andrew - June 2, 2014 Reply

    Many apologies for the delayed response. If it’s not too late find a podiatrist via Podiatry Association of South Africa website. Don’t just visit one, try a few. Andrew

Thato - May 15, 2014 Reply

Thanks for writing this article,it’s very informative. I’m from Limpopo province and I’m interested in studying Podiatry,hopefully as from next year(2015). The problem is that it seems like there are no bursaries for this degree. My question is, are there any sponsors that can help me financially to study for this degree?

Nadia Ali aboud - September 4, 2014 Reply

Hi dear sir
I am a general practitioner from Libya working in primary health care with ten year experience
With special interest in managing diabetic cases providing special care to diabetic foot ulcers and wound care, currently I am working on a research about the bacteriology of diabetic foot ulcers.
After these years I wish to up grade my skills by special study I am interested in podiatry however the study is not a post graduate degree but I am interested very much because and form my every day practice I know the benefits and the good out come, in addition no one in my country has this speciality, furthermore I want to make the first step in this speciality in my country.
Please I want to know more inFormation about enrolment and if theirs age limits I am 34years old. Thank you I am looking forward to her from you.
My great regards. Dr. Nadia aboud.

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