What are TA, RA and GA? What other main types of funding is available in Universities ?

by Kumar · 19 comments

Getting funding is the most desired thing for many of the students. Various kinds of funding options exist in US schools, the most popular types of funding on campus are TA, RA and GA. Depending on the research and enrollment in the University, these positions vary. This post will explain some fundamentals of these and cover other funding types as well.

Teaching Assistantship Graduate Assistantship  Research Assitantship Funding in USA Graduate Schools

Teaching Assistantship (TA) :

TAs usually help out the instructor for anything related to course anywhere from grading the home works to teaching a particular topic in class.  Depending on the professor and the level of course, TAs will have little to full work.  TA usually does the grading of homework, projects, and quizzes. Based on the school, TAs are available for Undergraduate level courses and Graduate level course. If you are Undergraduate TA, there can be quite a bit of work. TAs are supposed to help out the students in class for any questions regarding homework and other course related material.  The expectations from TA vary based on the professor. Typically, you can apply for TA for a position if you taken the class in previous semester Or if you have done similar higher level course.  It is up to the instructor to decide whom to pick. If you have taken a class and got an A in the class, then you have high chances.  You can talk to the instructor too that you applied and in fact, sometimes you have to get the signature of a Professor before you apply. . Students typically apply for TAs in the second semester as they would have done some classes. Students can also apply in first semester in some other departments to get funding. The applications are due at the end of semester or sometimes 10 days before classes start.  TAs usually work 20 hours a week.

TA Funding :

Teaching Assistants usually get at least in-state tuition ( Instate tuition Vs Out of state tuition ). In some universities they get full tuition waiver. They can get paid anywhere from $550  to $1200 depending on the University. Your pay and working hours depend on what you are offered. If it says 0.5 FTE( Full time employment) it means you work 20 hours. Sometimes it will 0.25 FTE and it will be only 10 hrs.

Research Assistantship (RA) :


Research Assistantships are very common in research oriented Universities. The funds for RAs come from the research projects under a professor. They professors usually get grants to do research and professor seeks students to help them with the research. If the University has PhD programs, then you have high chances of having more RAs. Also, the flipside is PhD students take some RA positions. The job typically consist of doing experiments, simulations, programming, writing research papers, setup labs, etc. Anything that is related to professor’s research is typically done by RAs. It is mostly awarded to students who take Thesis option in their Masters program.  Professors usually look for your skills and research experience when they offer you a position.  It can be very hectic job with long hours of sleepless nights too if your professor expects a lot from you. You should like the area of research, otherwise it could be a nightmare.  Be careful !

RA Funding:

Research Assistants funding is very similar to TA’s funding. RAs usually get at least in-state tuition. Ideally, most universities give RAs full tuition waiver and stipend. The stipend varies based on the grant anywhere between $500 to $1500.  The funding depends on 0.5 FTE or 0.25 FTE just like above and work hours vary from 20 to 10 hours. The reality is, RAs work more!

Graduate Assistantship (GA) :


GA is similar to RA, but the duties are a bit different. There is no hard fast rule, but GAs are expected to do some research and as always it depends on University.  Graduate Assistants are typically involved with marinating the Department Websites, Web Servers, UNIX and other Servers. They work with network setups, accounts creation, deletion, etc. The duties vary based on department. The GA is a departmental position and they are available in various departments. In some places there is no difference between GA and RA.

RA Funding:

The funding is exactly like above for RA. Sometimes, GA have more funding than other positions. They get paid a little more depending on University. There is more work involved though.

Other types of Funding :

There are other types of funding like Scholarships, Fellowships and other Tech jobs that give you full tuition waiver or at least in-state tuition waiver. It all varies on the University. The good place to go is to ask financial aid office and ask them what kind of position gets you what kind of funding. You can check the same at the Department offices too.  You may have to write good essay and show need for financial support to get funding for scholarships. In some cases, you will have to prove your technical ability to do some technical work to get funding. It depends.

Overall, the goal of a student is to get funding in any way possible. It could be hard in the first semester because you are trying to understand the system in University. But, in second semester you know where to go and when to apply. Also, you would have some classes taken and if you have good GPA you can get funding, provided you apply at the right time and the competition is not too bad.


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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Ig October 6, 2014 at 2:47 pm

Abuchi please brief me on how u registered for the G.R.A which u wrote.


Abuchi October 1, 2014 at 11:38 am

Hi, I just completed my B.Sc. degree in Biochemistry from a reputable University in Nigeria with a good grade. I took the graduate regiatration examination(G.R.e) and had a high score of 315. Could you advice me on the best University in the U.s to apply to for M.Sc. in Biotechnology where I would also be offered a G.A or T.A position ??. Thank you


Rohit Gupta July 22, 2014 at 6:09 am

Hi there,
I’m still confused as to whether should I go for MBA or MS.
Can you please brief me on MSIS.Is it a combination of Management and Technology?Does it have any weightage??


Michael May 23, 2014 at 7:50 am

i did my undergraduate studies in Mathematics, can i apply for TA / RA in aerospace? note, i would be undertaking my masters in aeraospace


Megha August 8, 2013 at 6:20 am

i thank u for the information.. it was vry useful for me.. i got to knw more abt MBA and MS.. i m in final year of engineering.. my branch is only concerned abt telecommunication.. and i m planning for MS in states or MBA in India.. cn u help me that hw i shud prepare for MS in states.. and i m intrested in Non Technical.. PL help me


kishan May 10, 2013 at 12:21 pm

Hello Sir/Mam

I have done MBA(finance) from IBS (Hyderabad, India) and have been working for 3 years in my family owned real estate business as a project manager. Now i am planning to do specialisation(MS / MBA) in International business mgmt in US/canada and after that want to work there for 3-5 years before starting my own import export business in india. Pls throw some light on following:

-> Is it fine to do specialisation after already holding an MBA degree?

-> Career prospects in International business mgmt?

-> I shall do MS or MBA?

Looking to hear from you soon.

Thank You


akshay May 29, 2012 at 2:38 am

Hi Kumar,

I’m planning to do MS in statistics and I have cleared 4 papers of acturial sciences from institute of acturies of india. Can i do part time job in acturial sciences in USA?
Kindly provide me information about part time jobs in acturial sciences and also the salary of acturies in US.
Thank you



Sundlass Consultants February 28, 2013 at 1:48 am

Dear Friend,

In United States, for first six months officially you cannot work, but 100% people do work au-authorized & earning some 2500-4000 US $’s per month.

After six months you are entitled to do on campus jobs for three hour per day, where in you can apply for SSN number.

Hope this information will help you,


Vinay May 17, 2012 at 3:34 am

Hi Saurabh,
I am looking forward for my MS in CS . I am clear about TA & RA but when and how should I apply for TA & RA for my fundings.
Waiting for ur reply
Thank You


Saurabh May 18, 2012 at 12:17 am

I don’t know about TA/RA.


nida May 1, 2012 at 12:24 pm

if my uncle wants to sponsor me for H1B visa and i m currently on F1 visa, what needs t be done to transfe my F1 to H1 , please note its been 4 monts so far i am on F1 visa since.


Saurabh May 2, 2012 at 12:02 pm

The employer needs to have a specialized position for which you qualify. They can then file the LCA followed by I-129 and select the option of change of status in that form. Once approved, your status will be H-1 (earliest start date being Oct 1).


Pravin Pagar December 25, 2011 at 1:29 pm

Now i am doing m. Pharma. (Quality Assurance) In India. Sir, I want to do job in usa. Is it possible? If not then what will i do to do job in usa?


Sundlass Consultants February 28, 2013 at 2:05 am

For you getting admitted in US is really not an easy job, best for you is to have a experience of 2-3 years & than apply for immigration in Canada, Australia, New Zealand.

Your profession is highly in demand every where,

Good Luck!!!


Saurabh Jain June 5, 2011 at 3:03 pm

Hi Kumar

Professionally I have got an experience of 7 Years and is currently working with one of the top 5 fortune companies as a Project Manager-IT Infrastructure. I have gone through formal project management program earning 40 PDUs and am also ITIL and NCFM Certified.
Academically though I have been an above average student but my Engineering Degree was not quite decent and I scored 56% in B.Tech Electrical from NIT, Kurukshetra but otherwise have been exceptionally bright being NTSE, AITSE Scholar and in HSC scored 83% and in SSC scored 67%.
I have been quite instrumental in extra-curricular activities and was the Chairman for ISTE (Indian Society for Technical Education) Students Chapter, Secretary – Photography Club, Convener – National Cultural & Technical Fest in NIT, Kurukshetra. I have also participated in various Technical Paper Presentations. I have been adjudged as one of the best speakers in National Level Debate Competition.
Despite being physically handicapped I have been socially active as a Volunteer with GreenPeace and NEEV and contribute towards society in whatever little way I can.
I was also selected for IIM Lucknow, Kozhikode, Indore and IMT Ghaziabad for the PGP program in 2008 but opted out due to personal financial reasons.
The reason for briefing about myself was to understand that what chances I do stand for getting the financial aids to fund my MS/MBA.
I am planning to write my GRE/GMAT exam this year.


ankit July 16, 2010 at 2:51 am

Hy kumar…I want to ask one thing.If a student doing Ms in CS..then can he or she apply for TA in other department as well if he has already done similar thing (related to that subject) in previous higher level education..


Kumar July 16, 2010 at 10:24 am

Yes, you can. In fact, most of the people do that.


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