Advertiser disclosure

Everything You Need to Know About Graduate Assistantships

Graduate Assistantships are exciting opportunities to earn money in college while making connections and obtaining skills in your field. Students with Graduate Assistantships form close relationships with professors and meet other professionals in their line of study. You may even graduate as a published author in your field. 

Here is everything you need to know about Graduate Assistantships. We’ll start by comparing the different types of assistantships. Then we’ll go over all of their benefits and drawbacks. Finally, we’ll guide you in the right direction to get hired.

Related: How to find online jobs for college students

Types of graduate assistantships

Graduate Assistantships can take several different forms. Depending on your intended profession, some positions will be a better fit than others. Here, we’ll contrast the responsibilities and benefits of each position.

Teaching assistant

Teaching Assistants help professors with the day-to-day operation of an undergraduate course. This can include giving lectures, grading papers, or assisting with curriculum design. Some teaching assistants give lectures to supplement the main course lectures. This is especially common in language courses. Duties could also include holding office hours where students in a course can ask questions.

Teaching Assistantships are a great fit for students who are considering continuing in academia. Students who graduate with teaching experience under their belt will have a huge advantage in pursuing a teaching position. But teaching assistantships also have further-reaching applications. Teaching a course requires a diverse skill set, and students can apply their experience to a wide variety of professions.

If you are considering a Teaching Assistantship, it’s a good idea to look into the responsibilities of the specific position. If the position involves lecturing, you should ensure your public speaking skills are polished before you apply. But if you still have room to improve, don’t worry. The position is a great way to improve your public speaking abilities.

Related: Top scholarships for teachers

Research assistant

Research Assistants help professors with research projects they are undertaking. Professors have limited time to pursue their own research, which makes Research Assistants so crucial. As a Research Assistant, you won’t have any facetime with your professor’s students. You’ll only be in contact with your professor and anyone else he is working on the research with. The principal duties of a Research Assistant include combing and summarizing relevant articles and firsthand studies. They also may be tapped to help write the actual paper that the professor will publish.

Research Assistantships can be a huge asset on your resume after graduation. Research Assistants demonstrate exceptional writing, research, and collaboration skills. In collaborative studies, they also have the opportunity to network with people in their field. This can include other professors, researchers, publishers, and more.

Research Assistantships vary in their duties based on the field of study. Some students may be conducting primarily secondhand research, while others may be helping out with field studies or experimentation. It’s a good idea to get some perspective on the subject matter of a project before you sign on. You’ll want to make sure the topic is relevant to your interests.

Other assistantships

Some schools offer other Graduate Assistantships that serve a more general function. Other Graduate Assistants may help coordinate campus life or help with clerical work. These Assistantships vary more widely than Teaching and Research Assistantships. However, they often still help form close relationships with school officials. 

Students interested in logistical, planning, or office work may pursue other Graduate Assistantships. They can be a great opportunity to accrue work experience at a respected institution. Students who are interested in working for their college after graduation should definitely look into a Graduate Assistantship.

Benefits of graduate assistantships

Graduate Assistantships come with a host of benefits. They are a great opportunity to establish a close relationship with an established professor. This relationship can provide you with valuable career advice and connections to help you accomplish career goals. Speaking to a professor in your field can teach you about the career paths you’ll be able to choose between. You can ask your professor about the best way to achieve different career goals you are considering.

In many Graduate Assistantships, you’ll also have the opportunity to meet other professionals in the field. This includes other researchers, professors, and publishers. These opportunities can help you secure a job after graduation. Your professor or anyone you work closely with may be willing to reach out to contacts to help you find a job.

Graduate Assistantships will also deepen your understanding of your chosen field of study. No matter what type of assistantship you take, you’ll get paid to work in your field. Teaching Assistants will deepen their understanding by processing information and passing it on to new students. Research Assistants will gain specialized knowledge in a field of study and sharpen their research skills.

Finally, one of the most obvious benefits of a Graduate Assistantship is the pay! Graduate school accounts for 40% of all student loans every year, and students often graduate with substantial debt. Graduate Assistantships can help you pay for living costs or to chip away at your debt. It’s a great opportunity to get experience in your field of study while recouping some of your educational expenses.

Read more: How to complete the FAFSA for graduate school

Drawbacks of graduate assistantships

Although Graduate Assistantships are a great opportunity for many students, they are not always the right fit. Graduate Assistantships can vary widely based on the professor and school that offer them. Some schools pay extremely low wages for Graduate Assistantships. In these cases, a student could make more money by working another job while they take classes. 

If your school does not offer generous salaries of Graduate Assistantships, you’ll have to weigh the benefits. Is the relevant experience worth the reduced pay? If offered a Research Assistant position for a paper in your field, you may be willing to work for less compensation. But if you are having trouble paying for school, you may need to take an unrelated position instead.

Another potential drawback is the possibility of working for an unhelpful professor. If your professor is unavailable to their Graduate Assistants, you’ll lose one of the biggest benefits of the position. In addition to making it difficult to perform your duties, you won’t be able to consult your professor. This could render some of the networking benefits of the position ineffective. So before you decide to work for a professor, try speaking to some of their previous assistants. Try to find out if they are a helpful professor to work for.

Related: Top scholarships for graduate students

How to get hired

Now that you’ve heard all about Graduate Assistantships, you may be wondering how to pursue one yourself. The best way to start the process is to identify a professor you would like to work for. Whether it’s because of their helpful personality, their field of study, or both, you’ll want to find the right match. 

Once you’ve found someone you’d like to work for, try to build a relationship with them. If they hold office hours or appear at any public events, show up and strike up conversation. When the time comes to apply, make sure to tailor your resume to the position. Brush up on your interview skills, and prepare to discuss the subject matter that you’d be working with. And if it doesn’t work out with the first professor you apply to, don’t worry. You can ask around about positions with other professors. You can also maintain the relationship with your first choice professor in case they offer more positions in the future. Good luck in pursuing your Graduate Assistantship!

Learn more: Graduate school financial aid options