Students considering a health care career might want to explore the field of medical technology, where the number of job openings far exceeds the number of graduates, a Utah State University official says.

The shortage of trained graduates "is as serious as the nursing crisis," D. Andy Anderson, who directs the USU medical technology training program, said Wednesday.Recent figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics project a 24 percent increase in available positions for health laboratory workers by the end of the century, Anderson said.

"We now have a shortage of students entering medical technology," he said. "It's a national problem, as well as a local one, and it's going to get worse. The shortage will mean poor laboratory service. It may mean more problems with testing as we have less qualified people working in laboratories."

Due to the economic conditions, Anderson said, qualified medical technologists "can get jobs anywhere."

The four-year program at USU involves three years of on-campus study and a forth year of internship at McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden.

While nurses are visible and people know what they do and how valuable their services are, Anderson said, "medical technologists work in laboratories, away from patients."

But he said they provide "essential diagnostic information about a patient's health or disease. The laboratories don't work by themselves. They need trained professionals to make them work."