Med-tech near top of the heap


According to the experts, Kirby Montgomery is sitting pretty.

He's 31 years old, has a degree in biology from New York State University in Albany, two years of graduate-level courses in biomedical sciences and several years of experience in medical technology.

As such, say local career counselors, he and others working in health-related services, from occupational therapists to medical technologists, are in high demand on the job market today, with or without a recession.

For example, medical assistants, home health aides, radiological technologists and technicians are listed by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as the second, third and fourth fastest growing fields in the nation through the year 2000.

Indeed, as Mr. Montgomery, who recently began a new job as medical technologist in the micro-immunology section at Johns Hopkins Hospital, puts it: Recession or no, "People are still getting sick."

But marketability wasn't necessarily on Mr. Montgomery's mind when he chose this field: "I just always knew I wanted to work in a lab," he says. Before working at Johns Hopkins, Mr. Montgomery worked for a large pharmaceutical company.

Nonetheless, personally and professionally it has turned out to be a wise choice. "You get to use your knowledge," he says. Although he never sees patients, they are quite real to him: "You sit in your lab and say, 'I saw such and such in this test. Oh, I bet that patient has this disease or that.' Or, you think 'Oh, yeah, they're improving.' "

And if a life of test tubes isn't for you, he says, that's OK because the medical technology field doesn't necessarily end in the lab. "There's teaching, administration, people getting MBAs and working in industry. Even sales.

Salaries run the gamut and depend upon years of experience, education and whether you stick with hospitals or enter the world of industry, he says.

But perhaps the best part of his job is the constant change in medical technology. "It's touching other fields. Microbiology is becoming closer to molecular biology and immunology. We're using tests that cross over." And, he says, "In an institution like Hopkins, not only are you aware of breakthroughs in technology, but you see the people who wrote the chapter in your textbook. You run into them in the halls!"

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