Getting some sort of funding or scholarship is the most desired thing for many of the international students. Various kinds of funding options exist in US schools, the most popular types of funding on campus are Teaching Assistantship (TA), Research Assistantship(RA) and Graduate Assistantship(GA). Depending on the research and enrolment in the University, these positions descriptions or duties vary. We will explain some fundamentals of these and cover other funding types as well.
What is Teaching Assistantship (TA) ? What are the tasks involved for TA ?
Teaching Assistants (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 during regular semesters like Fall and Spring.
How does Teaching Assistant (TA) Funding work ? What do they get ?
Teaching Assistants usually get at least in-state tuition ( Instate tuition Vs Out of state tuition ), which is reduced tuition like a resident in that state. If you are an international student, it will mean a lot for you as you will a lot of money on tuition fee. In some universities they get full tuition waiver, means no need to pay any tuition fee. Besides the tuition related benefits, TA also would get paid anywhere from $550 to $1200 per month depending on the University, state of the University and specifics tied to the school. 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 per week. Sometimes it will 0.25 FTE and it will be only 10 hrs per week. So, it all depends on the funding how it is described, when you get.
What is Research Assistantship (RA) ? What are types of tasks RA does ?
Research Assistantships(RA) are very common in research oriented Universities, especially that have PhD programs. The funds for RAs come from the research projects under a professor. Pofessors usually get grants to do research and they seeks students to help them with the research. If the University has PhD or more graduate (MS) programs, then you have high chances of having more RAs. Also, on the flip side, if you are an MS student, you may be out of luck sometimes as PhD students take some or most of the 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 ! I used be an RA and used to do research work all night in lab and take a nap in lab sometimes from 4 AM until 6 AM and then return home…so, can be very demanding at times.
Research Assistants’ funding is very similar to TA’s funding. RA would usually get at least in-state tuition and in general some of the popular universities give RAs full tuition waiver and also stipend. The stipend varies based on the grant anywhere between $500 to $1500 or more. Also, 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!
What is Graduate Assistantship (GA) ? What are the tasks for GA ?
Graduate Assistantship(GA) is considered similar to RA, but the duties would be a bit different. There is no hard fast rule, but GAs are expected to do some research and work on the graduate program offerings like labs, research work on the graduate program level. It always it depends on University and school, how the GA duties are defined. Graduate Assistants are typically involved with tasks like maintaining 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 universities, there is no difference between GA and RA.
What does Graduate Assistantship Funding include ? What do they get ?
The funding is exactly more or less like above for RA. You would get in-state tuition or sometimes full tuition waiver. Sometimes, GA have more funding than other positions. They get paid a little more depending on University and can vary from $500 to $1500. In general, there is more work involved for GA and it is critical work as it is on department level.
What are other types of Funding in Universities ? Scholarships, Fellowships, Tech Jobs ?
There are other types of funding like Scholarships, Fellowships and other Tech jobs that may 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. Read How to find Scholarships in US schools for MS or MBA
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.
Did you had any funding like TA, RA or GA ? Share your thoughts on funding options.
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