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What are TA, RA and GA? Types of funding in US Universities ?

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.

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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. Professors 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 Assistant Funding ? What do RA get in terms of funding ?

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!

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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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  1. Hi,
    I am studying on H4 visa. Can I get a TA position and ask for waiver in terms of tuition? I will ask the college not to pay me since I do not have H4 EAD, instead, waive off my tuition fee completely. Would that work?

  2. Hi,
    I am a PhD student in English discourse studies and applied linguistics in Algeria, I would like to apply for assistant research or fellowship on the same field of study.

  3. Hello,

    I am applying for Master’s course in Computer Science. I was checking TA-RA requirement on website and other department i.e college of liberal arts and science require TA who has undergraduate degree in computer science.

    Can I apply for outer discipline TA ?

    Waiting for your reply?

    • HI
      its really nice getting practical advises.
      Sir I am in USA with Immigrant visa(PR). I recently completed Master’s in Pharmacy (Clinical Research &Clinical Pharmacology with cGPA 8.62 out of 10 and I have 6 months industrial training in Clinical Research (CRO).now i want purse higher degree,can i get scholarship?is there any extra of getting funding as i have green card. i will treated as a international students or what? plz can you guide me.

  4. Hello Sir/Mam,
    I did my B.Tech & M.Tech in ECE from India and have 6 years of experience as Assistance Professor .Now i want to apply for job in US. Please tell me how can i get a job in teaching field. Help me out with the procedure.

    Thanking You

  5. Hi, I’m currently in my third year of Engineering in Electronics & Telecommunications. Which would be the best technical/non-technical field to do MS in USA. Can I switch to Computers for MS? Also for how many years can I work after doing MS to repay the loan? My plan is to stay for at least 5-10 years or maybe more in USA.

    • Surud,
      It depends on what you want to do in the long run. Someone like me should not be advising either technical or non-technical, you need to decide on where you see yourself in the next 10 years and then plan for the same. You will need to be clear on the goal and lottery situation in US after MS .

  6. Hey,
    I am Sam and I’ve applied to many universities for Fall 2016 intake.Currently Ive received admits to four universities including- UIC, SUNY buffalo, Colorado state and Texas Arlington. Im a little dissapointed that I havent received any financial aid/scholarship yet, even though I have a descent profile.
    Kindly guide me on how to convince the department and the university to consider me for an in-state tuition fee/ fee waiver.

    thanks for the help

    • Sam,
      You cannot really convince anyone from back home for such things, the whole idea is that they do not want to award you anything and keep it blocked, because there is no guarantee that a student will be there as one need to still get the Visa stamping done. All I can suggest is that, try to find scholarships, if any left in these schools and try to apply to them. Also, in-state is typically given if you get funding like TA, RA or GA. Getting these can be tricky…You can speak to seniors at these schools and get advice on the funding scenario after 1 semester or two semesters. Most of the big schools have options for TA, once you complete one semester…The whole idea is that if you do a particular course and get A grade in that, you can apply for TA for that course…thats when you can tell the professor that you can handle the TA position….it may sound like a lot of information, just trying to give you the reality picture….

  7. hello sir, Am swapna, I did my btech and Mtech in cse,and working as assistant professor since 10 years in a jnuth affliated college, will my teaching experience be counted to apply for PHD in US university,and please tell me what is the process for applying.

    • D. Swapna,
      It may help you for sure. You can articulate your passion for teaching and research over the years and strengthen your application for PhD. The process for PhD is pretty straight forward, you need to take standardized tests like GRE, TOEFL and then apply to schools as per their process. It varies by school, you need to check with particular university for this information.

  8. Dear sir,
    I’hv completed my undergraduate degree on Urban and Regional planning and now i am doing MSc on Disaster and Environmental Engineering.
    Would you please tell me, how can get RA in any university of USA?
    Thanks in advance.

  9. I’m a BE E&Tc student but wish to go for MS in CS because of change of interest from electronics to software. Currently I plan on taking a job at MNC for experience and due to financial issues. I cannot afford MS and will be dependent on funding and loan. Will change in stream affect the chances of obtaining funding at US universities?

  10. Dear Sir,
    I have an experience of 6 years as a project co-ordinator in a massive engineering firm which typically does business in energy sector. I have dream about pursuing mba in US basically for two reasons; better job and a career shift. I have seen many articles about MBA and everywhere it is clearly specified that MBA is not worth doing unless you do in ELITE schools and the tuition fees in such schools are a bomb which i really cannot afford. I do not have any savings either. I just wanted to know whether to go for mba in a mediocre school or pursue MS in Engineering Management.
    Please advise.


    • Dilip,
      In my view, doing MBA from a mediocre school is not the best idea…You should take your time and do it in a right school. You may do it at a later stage of your career as well, but having the MBA from elite school can give you the big break. Why dont you join an MNC and see, if there is an opportunity for you to move to US for work on L1 visa or H1B, that will help you save money and study MBA at later stage. Dont just compromise on your goals. If you cannot do it an elite school in US, you can pick a top school in India and do it there as well. Think about options.

  11. Is there any easy way, other than asking from the professor himself, to know about whether he has any research assistantship or not???

  12. 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

  13. 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??

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

  15. 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

  16. 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

  17. 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


    • 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,

  18. 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

  19. 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.

    • Nida,
      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).

    • 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!!!

  20. 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.

  21. 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..


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