“I would love to teach this kind of stuff,” said Izaak Chavez, a graduate student in Communication and graduate assistant to the department for all professors who require assistance in teaching the class or grading papers.
To be a graduate assistant, one must be accepted into graduate school and the position must tie into the area of study. The number of positions available in each department is based on whether that department has the funding to hire a GA.
Some grad students can be Graduate Research Assistants; these students would be hired by the professor based on funding from their research grants. However, not all departments have the funding to hire those in their graduate program as graduate or teaching assistants. This does have an impact on students.
“Instead of working in the professional field, I just take whatever job I can to pay the rent, and none of them look impressive on a resume,” Brett Strobel, a graduate student in the English department, said. “The reason I am not a TA is because the English department has not gotten funding for new TA’s since before last semester.”
Graduate and teaching assistants receive compensation for their work in different ways. Some are paid bi-weekly while others are compensated in the form of a scholarship so that they do not have to pay for graduate school out of pocket. Some, as mentioned above, help with multiple classes for multiple professors while others help only one specific professor.
“It is fun for sure,” Chavez said. “If you know that you want to teach, it is a great way to get ahead of everyone else.”
Working as a graduate or teaching assistant may be a great way to get ahead in the teaching field, but it is hard work. Chavez said his GA job takes up as much time as his class work and that he is on the clock all the time.
“They should still try for it, but they should make sure to have a backup plan for a job if they do not get the position, because they cannot know for sure if they will get it until the budget is confirmed,” Strobel said, when asked what advice he would give to those undergraduate students who hoped to be teaching assistants while in graduate school.
The job description for graduate and teaching assistants differs based upon the department that they are offered through. Normally, open positions for graduate and teaching assistant positions are not posted anywhere and students must express interest to their professors. Graduate students can also be GA’s for other places on campus and not just through their school. One grad student works in the Student Success Center.
“Be diligent and do not be afraid to ask,” Rafeea Almas, who is working on her MBA, said. “Be familiar with your field.”