Responding to the rapid development of the telecommunications industry, the George Washington University graduate school of public administration has become one of the first schools in the nation to add a telecommunications management major to the seven other areas of emphasis in its graduate program.

The curriculum has been in the development stage for the last two years, and the program will officially begin in the fall of 1983 with approximately 24 students, said professor Bill Adams.

The accent of the new degree is on government, with emphasis on the formulation of federal, state and local regulatory policies and how to utilize telecommunications within the large organizations of different levels of governments.

"One of the exciting prospects is that very few, if any, other schools have this capability," said professor Astrid E. Merget, chairman of the department of public administration.

The National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration does not keep a breakdown of all majors offered by its 221 member schools, but Executive Director Joseph M. Robertson said the telecommunications field "is one that is not highly utilized."

When the University of Oklahoma Bureau of Government Research conducted a survey of 338 people who hold master's degrees in public administration, the graduate program in public administration at George Washington ranked fifth in the country. American University was seventh in the March 1982 poll. Harvard, Syracuse, Southern California and California preceeded GW and Princeton ranked sixth.

The goal of the new program is to provide students with "an understanding of the capability of telecommunications and the way it can be utilized," Adams said. "Also, students will be able to understand the technology enough to communicate with the technicians and to understand the role of the government in the development of telecommunications."

Six telecommunications courses are required, totaling 18 of the 42 hours needed for a master's degree. The remaining eight, three-hour courses will teach the traditional skills of the MPA--public management, policy analysis, implementation and evaluation, public budgeting and research skills.

"Telecommunications encompasses an incredible array of issues," said Adams, "from the structure of the phone company to the regulations of television stations, to the car telephone, to two-way video systems, to electronic town hall formats, to systems of data manipulation and retrieval."

The wide area telecommunications now touches has caused a blurring of the once-segmented fields of communications and computer technology, said Christopher Sterling, director of the Center for Telecommunications at George Washington and former staff member at the Federal Communications Commission.

"Part of the problem is what we call computers and communications are overlapping," Sterling said. "Government started getting out of the way because the technology is moving so fast."

Sterling points to the AT&T divestiture of its local phone companies and the redefining of roles of traditional communications services such as phone service as "helping to define where the telecommunications field is going in the next five to 10 years."

Sterling believes telecommunications will eventually exceed the communications industry in revenue but not necessarily in employment because of the high degree of automation in telecommunications.

"Telecommunciations is not the reindustrialization of America," said Sterling. "If industrialization is the old America, then information is the new one and telecommunications is the cutting edge."

The primary purpose of the center, Sterling said, is to coordinate the other three telecommunications degree programs--engineering, business and government)--that were in existence prior to the new public administration program. To this end, it sponsors a series of telecommunications forums every second Thursday featuring speakers from government, industry and education.

The introduction of a wide array of telecommunications services into the workplace during the coming decade will require managers who understand the technology as well as government regulations, Adams said. This is the market the MPA with an emphasis in telecommunications will be trained to fill.

"The typical middle manager in a federal agency will need some telecommunications expertise," said Adams. "One talent particularly valuable in years to come will be the ability to understand what resources are available and the potential of utilizing telecommunications." program. To this end, it sponsors a series of telecommunications forums every second Thursday featuring speakers from government, industry and education.

The introduction of a wide array of telecommunications services into the workplace during the coming decade will require managers who understand the technology as well as government regulations, Adams said. This is the market the MPA with an emphasis in telecommunications will be trained to fill.

"The typical middle manager in a federal agency will need some telecommunications expertise," said Adams. "One talent particularly valuable in years to come will be the ability to understand what resources are available and the potential of utilizing telecommunications."