As an international student studying in the US, getting some sort of funding or scholarship is the most desired thing for many. There are various kinds of funding options that 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 position descriptions or duties vary. We will explain some fundamentals of these and cover how much they pay, how they support tuition fees, and other common FAQs.
What is Teaching Assistantship (TA)? Tasks involved for TA?
Teaching Assistants (TAs) usually help out the instructor/professor with anything related to the course anywhere from grading the home works to teaching a particular topic in a class. Depending on the professor and the level, of course, TAs can have little to full work. The funding that someone gets after becoming a Teaching Assistant is called Teaching Assistantship or shortly TA.
TAs usually does tasks like grading homework, projects, and quizzes. Based on the school, TAs are available for Undergraduate level courses and graduate level courses. If you are an undergraduate TA, there can be quite a bit of work. TAs are supposed to help out the students in the 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 took the class in the previous semester Or if you have done a 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’ grade in the class, then you have high chance. 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 for TA in the first semester in some other departments to get funding. The applications are due at the end of the semester or sometimes 10 days before classes start. TAs usually work 20 hours a week during regular semesters like Fall and Spring.
Teaching Assistant (TA) Funding: How does it work? How much money do TAs make?
Most of the 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 fees. In some universities TAs get full tuition waiver, which means no need to pay any tuition fee.
Besides the tuition-related benefits, TA also cann get paid anywhere from $550 to $1200 per month depending on the University, the state in which the university is located, and other specifics tied to the school. TA’s pay and working hours depend on what TA is offered in the TA contract.
If the Teaching Assistantship says 0.5 FTE(Full-time employment), it means you need to work 20 hours per week. Sometimes it will be 0.25 FTE, which means it will be only be 10 hrs per week. So, it all depends on the funding and how it is described, and when you get it. If you are offered 0.25 FTE you may or may not get full tuition waiver too.
What is Research Assistantship (RA)? What tasks does RA perform?
A research assistant(RA) is someone who helps the professor with the research of a topic. Research Assistants are very common in research-oriented Universities, especially that have Ph.D. programs. If you get funding to work as an RA, then you are said to have Research Assistantship or RA.
The funds for RA positions come from the research projects under a professor. Professors usually get grants to do research and they seek students to help them with the research. If the University has Ph.D. or more graduate (MS) programs, then you have high chance of having more RAs. Also, on the flip side, if you are an MS student, you may be out of luck sometimes as Ph.D. students take some or most of the RA positions.
The Research Assistant job typically consist of doing experiments, simulations, programming, writing research papers, setup or management of labs, etc. Anything that is related to the professor’s research is typically done by RAs. It is mostly awarded to students who take the Thesis option in their Master’s program. Read What is Thesis vs. Non-Thesis option in MS/ MBA
Professors usually look for your research experience and academic background, when they offer you an RA position. It can be a 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 to be an RA and used to do research work all night in a lab and take a nap in the lab sometimes from 4 AM until 6 AM and then return home…so, can be very demanding at times.
Research Assistant Funding: What is it? How much money does RA get?
Research Assistants’ funding is very similar to TA’s funding. RA would usually get at least in-state tuition in most of the schools. In some popular universities with lot of research funding, RAs can get a full tuition waiver and also a stipend.
A Research Assistant stipend varies based on the grant. The money they make can be 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, that RAs work load is lot more!
What is Graduate Assistantship (GA)? Tasks for a Graduate Assistant?
Graduate Assistantship(GA) is considered similar to RA, but the duties would be a bit different. Usually, Graduate Assitant roles exist in schools that offer Graduate programs like MS, and MBA. If someone gets funding by getting a Graduate Assistant role, then they are said to have got Graduate Assistantship or GA.
Graduate Assistants may or may not have clearly defined tasks and they are usually a combination of tasks of TA and RA. GAs are expected to do some research and work on the graduate program offerings like labs, and research work on the graduate program level. It always depends on University and school on how the GA duties are defined.
For example, if you are a GA in a school of computer sciences, then you are typically involved with tasks like maintaining the Department’s Websites, Web Servers, UNIX, other Servers, etc. They work with network setups, accounts creation, deletion, etc. The duties vary based on the 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? How much money do they get?
The funding for a graduate assistant or GA is more or less like the above for an RA position. As a graduate assistant you would get in-state tuition or sometimes a full tuition waiver. Sometimes, GA can have more funding than other positions.
Graduate Assistants can be paid similar to TA or RA and sometimes a little more than TA or RA. This totally depends on the University and can vary from $500 to $1500. In general, there is more work involved for GA than a Teaching Assistant. GAs usually do more critical work as it is on the department level.
How to get a TA, RA or GA? Tips ?
It can be very competitive to get a Teaching Assistantship(TA), Research Assistantship(RA) or a Graduate Assistantship(GA) in US schools. The simple reason is there are many students looking for funding and there can be far fewer positions matching them.
Some key things that can help you get an RA, TA, or GA are below
- Having good grades in your courses
- Ability to communicate well with students, professors
- Your previous work experience
- The coursework that you have done in Bachelors in your masters
- Your passion for research or teaching
- Your ability to solve problems related to the professor’s area of interest
You need to really plan ahead of time and reach out to professors individually outlining your interests and ask for funding. It is important to highlight your skills, experience and passion during your meetings to make an impression. Very few students get funding before going to the US, most of them speak to professors and get funding after landing in the US. Below are articles that can outline more details
- How to get a Teaching Assistantship (TA) in US Schools ?
- How to get Graduate Assistantship(GA) in the US?
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 an in-state tuition waiver. It all varies on the University. A good place to go is to ask the 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 a good essay and show the 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.
It is important to use the right subject line when you email professors, read the best email subject line to send to professors or admissions in USA
Did you had any funding like TA, RA or GA ? Share your thoughts on funding options.
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