Assistantships - Teaching Assistantships (TA), Research Assistantships (RA), and Graduate Assistantships

    Updated on: 11 Sep 2023


    The cost of abroad education has always touched the sky. Education loans are a good source of help to cover the cost but ultimately add to your financial burden. One of the ways to fund your expenses and reduce your tuition fee to an extent is to get a position as an assistant. The majority of the universities offer various assistantships to students, a form of employment by the university. 

    Let’s find out more about them -  

    What are Assistantships? 

    An average graduate degree in the US costs about $25,000 to $45,000 a year. And this is just the cost of tuition. After adding living and various other expenses, you can expect to spend around $60,000 a year on your US education. This is where assistantships come to rescue you from the pit of debt. Graduate assistantships are defined as academic employment in which students get tuition reimbursement for the work they do for the faculty members, department, and college. You can expect to work almost 20 hours a week in exchange for a small remuneration and tuition waiver. The tuition waiver can be 50% or full, depending on the institute. Assistantships not only provide a stable source of income, but they are also a good addition to your resume and work experience.

    To know more about Strategies to Lower Your Cost of Studying Abroad, click here.

    How many types of assistantships are there?

    There are basically three types of assistantships. They are as follows - 

    1. Teaching Assistantship (TA)
    2. Research Assistantship (RA)
    3. Graduate Assistantship (GA)/Graduate Research Assistantship (GRA)
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    What is Teaching Assistantship (TA)?

    In the simplest of terms, a TA is a teaching assistant to a professor. The job entails assisting students, grading papers and assignments, teaching undergraduate classes, preparing classes/lectures for undergraduate students, administering exams, and helping the professor in day-to-day activities and related work. A professor does various other research activities apart from teaching classes. When occupied elsewhere, these professors choose eager and capable students to lessen the workload. 

    You can apply for the post of TA with your college application. However, you will be able to hold the post only after your first semester. Professors look for dedicated and eager students who wish to work long hours to give the desired result to the professor. After your first semester, go through the profiles and the work of professors from your course to find a compatible match. 

    Students often get a 50% or full tuition fee waiver. Apart from the tuition fee waiver, students earn an hourly stipend. The rate for the same is anywhere between $10/hour to $35/hour, depending on the department funding. You can expect to earn roughly $6000-$20,000 annually. 

    What is Research Assistantship (RA)?

    Most professors are working on a research project for which they need assistance from eager students. Being a Research Assistant to a professor generally means setting up a lab, setting up experiments, writing research papers, performing experiments, and presenting their findings, conclusions, and recommendations. In short, you will be involved in a particular faculty research project, which will also serve your research topic.

    Some universities do not have an application process for the position of Research Assistant. Students, in this case, are selected by the teacher. For the rest, you can apply for the position along with your college application and can hold the position only after your first semester. Similar to a Teaching Assistant, you can expect a partial or full tuition fee waiver. Apart from the waiver, students earn a generous stipend as well. You can expect to earn anywhere from $500 to $1500 monthly working for 15 to 20 hours. The pay also depends on the number of hours you work and the kind of work allocated to you. 

    What is a Graduate Assistantship (GA)?

    Graduate Assistantship is more or less similar to Research Assistantship. The work of a GA will typically include doing research and doing other departmental upkeep. There is no hard and fast rule about the work offered to a GA and depends on the department and the faculty. The work of a GA is important at the departmental level. In some universities, there is no difference between a GA and an RA. 

    The remuneration of a GA tends to be similar to an RA. You would get an in-state tuition fee, full or partial tuition fee waiver. Some well-funded departments do offer more stipends than RA. 

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    How to get an assistantship?

    Depending on the university, department funding, and positions available, the process to get an assistantship may include an application, face-to-face interview, or submit an essay. You can also contact the department and the faculty for any openings. 

    To ensure that you get an assistantship, you will need to maintain a certain GPA, be enthusiastic and eager about your field and research, showcase your organizational skills, and be able to complete their work on top of the already busy study schedule. 

    Some guidance to help you get an assistantship - 

    • Do your research about the professor, faculty, their area of research, and their current research projects. 
    • Get in touch with your professor to discuss any possible work opening. Explain in detail your research experience or teaching experience. 
    • Some universities also have an application process with strict deadlines. In such cases, it is best to submit your application before the deadline. Be as accurate as possible and expand on your interest, research area, and experience, if any. 
    • International students, who are not native English speakers, also need to make sure that they have a score of 26 or higher in the Speaking section of their TOEFL iBT. It is to ensure the student has good oral skills and can teach/assist students efficiently.  
    • Networking is important to land an assistant position. Keep your ear to the ground, be eager to step out of your comfort zone, and get your name out there. 
    • There might be a chance that your department doesn’t have current openings or positions. Don’t get discouraged. You can always apply as a GA with a focus on administrative work in a different department. 

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    What is the difference between assistantships, scholarships, and financial aid?

    Students often get confused between assistantship, scholarship, and financial aid. To put it simply - 

    • Assistantships are a form of employment offered by the department and the university. Students get a stipend for the work they do. The pay also depends on the number of hours worked, whether it is full-time employment (2o hours a week) or quarter-time (10 hours a week). 
    • Scholarships are a form of financial aid given to meritorious students. The main basis of scholarships is merit. The source of funds for a scholarship can be a university, profit or non-profit organization, community organizations, etc. 
    • Financial aid covers any financial assistance offered to the student in the form of scholarships and grants. They are awarded either based on merit or need of the student. 


    With this blog, we hope you have an understanding of an essential source of income during your abroad studies. GyanDhan strives to provide useful and credible information to students to ease their foreign education journey. You can refer to our country-specific blogs for more information on scholarships. You can also search for scholarships on GyanDhan’s Scholarship Finder

    First published date: 22 Jan 2021

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About author

Gurbani kaur Suri
A keen lover of reading and loves to explore new things. A strong believer of spirituality and goodness.

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GyanDhan is India's first education financing marketplace.

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