Research & Teaching Assistantships in USA: Find Out How to Get Teaching & Research Assistantships in US Universities

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Yocket Editorial Team

Updated on Oct 8, 2021

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Although the US is considered one of the best countries to pursue higher studies, it also happens to be one of the most expensive. Therefore, students are constantly looking for ways to reduce the financial burden by means of scholarships, grants, etc. Obtaining an Assistantship is one such way of supporting students financially.

In this article we will take you through the nitty-gritties of assistantship for international students, why they are important, and how to get an assistantship in US universities. So, stay with us right till the end.

Why are Assistantships Important for International Students Studying in the US?

Although one of the finest countries for higher education, the US is very expensive. You can imagine the cost just by the fact that the annual cost of MS in US can reach up to 50,000 USD or more per year! 

While a number of financial aids including scholarships are available to international students in the US, they are quite limited and mostly merit based. Therefore, a number of universities offer assistantship to reduce the cost of education in the US.

An assistantship is basically an arrangement between the graduate student and the university whereby the student is asked by the department to assist in research and/or teaching along with continuing their own education.

The assistantships help students in many ways that include:

  • In lieu of this assistance, the students mostly receive a stipend, fee waiver, university health insurance cover or such similar perks. The benefits vary between universities and departments.

  • Assistantships also give them an opportunity to get hands-on experience in their respective fields. Therefore, it also helps building a strong CV.

  • You get a chance of working and learning with experts in their fields. Therefore, assistantship is a great way of networking and the references from these experts can come in handy after school when you’re applying for jobs.

  • Obtaining assistantship is by far the best way to take care of your non-academic expenditure. As opposed to scholarship, as an assistant you will be getting money in your hand and this can be used at any place such as rent of your room or your monthly food expenses.

Assistantship is a kind of grant which is a little bit difficult to live with as it requires your time of the day on physical work while you apply your brain in studies. However, assistantships help you save up on your expenses abroad and gain relevant experience.

Different Types of Assistantships that are Available for USA Students

There are different kind of assistantships available at most of the universities in USA and three of such types are stated below:

  • Teaching Assistantships (TA)

  • Research Assistantships (RA)

  • Graduate Assistantships (GA)

Before we discuss each one of them, it is important to understand that assistantships are different from scholarships.

IMPORTANT

Assistantships are on-campus employment for students who are providing some service to the University’s functioning. Scholarships on the other hand are fee waivers offered to students without any student service. Scholarships are something you get by studying hard but assistantship doesn’t only help you with your tuition fee but also saves a lot on your daily expenses. In the case of US, you might find assistantship availability more than you find scholarships.

SUGGESTED: How to find on-campus work opportunities in US

Teaching Assistantship (TA)

Teaching assistantship in USA universities means being an assistant to a professor. Usually, every professor has some work to do apart from conducting classes. Most of them choose to pick an assistant to teach the classes when they are not present.

What are the Responsibilities of a Student doing a Teaching Assistantship in USA?

The duties of the teaching assistants in US Universities generally include:

  • Preparing and conducting lectures

  • Leading discussion groups

  • Preparing & checking assignments

  • Assisting students

  • Helping professors with daily activities

Most professors in the US look for a dedicated and eager student who wishes to work long hours and give the desired results to the Professor.

How to Get Teaching Assistantship in US Universities?

Now the next question that might pop in your mind must be how to get teaching assistantship or in US universities? Well, you can apply for it the moment you apply for admissions but you can only be on that post once you complete your first semester.

The basic eligibility of teaching assistantship in most universities is:

  • Admitted to one of the graduate programs at the university

  • Proficiency in English Language (both written and spoken)

  • Participation in the required teaching assistantship workshop sponsored by college/university

  • Good Overall score or GPA

Now that you know the eligibility requirements of how to get TA, next begins research. Post completing your semester you need to go through the profile of the professors from your course and choose them wisely. The funds that you get are not from the professor's pocket, instead they come from the university which in turn are provided from the government or other personal trustees.

In some universities you might get a full tuition waiver for TA and that is pure luck. Else on an average you might get paid somewhere between $550-$1200 per month depending on your work hours and quality. Your pay and working hours depend entirely on the kind of work you are offered.

However, before applying for a TA’s post you must consider that you will have to give in your long hours. But in return you will learn a lot while you earn enough.

Research Assistantship (RA)

When a student is assigned Research Assistantship, they are required to help the professor with their research work and assigned to work in their   lab or office. The assistant gets first-hand experience in research while the professors benefit as it reduces their workload.

If we talk about Teaching assistantship vs Research assistantship, the main difference between the two is that while TAs are mainly concerned with helping the professor with teaching, RA has a much broader role in research projects.

What are the responsibilities of a student doing Research Assistantship in USA?

A student doing research assistantship in USA is expected to help a professor with the research work. The duties of research assistants vary by discipline and lab. Their duties may include:

  • Data collection and analysis

  • Report Writing

  • Reviewing Literature

  • Reorganising the professor’s lab/ office

How to Get Research Assistantship in USA?

You can apply for this post when you apply for your university, but you will only get the job once you finish your first semester. 

The basic eligibility of research assistantship in most universities is:

  • Admitted to one of the graduate programs at the university

  • Proficiency in English Language (both written and spoken)

  • Research experience & knowledge of the field is desirable

  • Good Overall score or GPA

This job might add a sum of between $500-$1500 monthly by working up to 10 to 20 hours weekly which differs from subject to subject.

While selecting your professor you must consider that the professor is specialized in a field of which you have some knowledge. The grants are provided by the University funds which are in turn sponsored by the government of USA or other private agencies.

Graduate Assistantship (GA)

Graduate assistantship for international students is one of the other major ways for financing education in the USA. A graduate assistant helps the professor or faculty member in a number of fields including teaching, class preparation, research, etc.

GA requires 15 to 20 hours a week, for the base stipend established by the university.

What are the responsibilities of a student doing Graduate Assistantship in USA?

The duties of a graduate assistant may vary with the supervisor, and the department. The duties may include:

  • Assisting with academic tasks and class preparation

  • Developing and conducting academic conferences

  • Working on funded projects

  • Evaluations and Outreach

  • working in non-academic areas such as Student Affairs.

How to Get Graduate Assistantship in USA?

GA is the same as RA and so is their process of application in most universities.

The basic eligibility of research assistantship in most universities is:

  • Admitted to one of the graduate programs at the university

  • Good Overall score or GPA

  • Proficiency in English Language (both written and spoken)

  • Fulfill any university-specific enrollment requirements

Generally, the only difference between teaching assistantship vs research assistantship versus graduate assistantship is that GA are paid more than that of RA and TA as they have more knowledge of the field.

How to get Assistantship in US Universities?

The process of obtaining assistantship may vary between departments and universities. The process may include an application, face-to-face interview, or submitting an essay.

The step-by-step Guidelines for obtaining an Assistantship are:

  • Contact the Department to enquire about any present or future assistantship openings.

  • Study the profiles of the professors at the University Department very carefully. Shortlist the professors who are currently working in your department.

  • Study about the professor and the research area that he/she is currently working on in detail.

  • Prepare an Assistantship cover letter

  • Schedule an appointment with the professor to discuss possible opportunities to work as a teaching or research assistant.

  • Explain in detail your teaching and research experience, if any, and all relevant work you have performed.

  • The professor will make the final decision whether to employ you or not and he is the one who will decide your pay.

Preparing Assistantship Cover Letter

Preparation of Assistantship Cover Letter is another step in obtaining Graduate level Assistantship. A perfect cover letter consists of relevant information about your knowledge and skills, which would help you in grabbing assistantship effortlessly.

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An impactful Assistantship Cover letter should have the following:

  • You being a degree-seeking student in a graduate program

  • Reason for your aspiration to obtain the specified assistantship

  • A good academic record

  • Multitasking

  • Work & achievements

  • Excellent oral and written communication skills

  • Self-motivation

  • Professionalism

  • Computer competences

  • Organizational skills

  • Problem-solving orientation

  • Teamwork

  • Other information that would create impact

On a final note, it is important to understand that assistantships are not that easy to get but if you get them, they can prove to be immensely helpful. You must consider Assistantship’s option apart from Scholarships and financial aids as this will really help you learn while you make some money for living in an unknown space.

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