In a bid to address a national crisis in doctoral education, the American University's School of Communication has initiated an innovative accelerated PhD program that will give students an opportunity to earn their doctoral degrees in communication in as short a period as three years.

Typically, students with a master's degree in communication take anywhere between 4 and 6 years to complete a PhD, but  the new program operates on a 11-month learning and research structure, enabling students to move through the program more quickly.

Apart from formal coursework, the doctoral scholars will be engaged in interaction with research groups, one-on-one mentoring with faculty, dedicated time for dissertation research and defense, and student collaboration and peer support. They will receive full tuition remission and a stipend to be augmented by funded fellowship opportunities.

The inaugural class of the program is expected to have five students, each with a two-year master's degree in communication or a related field.

Contrary to the popular notion that PhD scholars are qualified to work in academia alone upon completion, these students will emerge as professionals with advanced qualifications to work in public policy, research, communication, marketing, and production positions at media, nonprofit, advocacy, government, and industry organizations.

The School of Communication has been working with its numerous partners (organizations such as Gannett/USA Today, the Freedom Forum/Newseum, the Center for Public Integrity, the National Academies, the Berkman Institute for Internet & Society, and others) on establishing paid professional fellowships, joint research projects, and other initiatives to further enhance students' opportunities for post-graduate employment.

Communication encompasses everything today-health care, politics and policy, education, business, you name it-nothing is untouched thanks to digital technologies, pointed out Kathryn Montgomery, director of the program. Graduates of our program will have the skills to harness the power of contemporary communication to address the most pressing problems facing our world.

Besides, they will, of course be qualified for tenure-track university faculty positions in communications-related fields.

The program has been structured in such a way that other universities may model PhD offerings on similar lines. Given that an estimated 2.5 million jobs in the United States between 2008 and 2018 will require a master's, doctoral, or advanced degree, accelerated options such as this may go a long way towards mitigating the challenge of finding a suitably qualified workforce.