Graduate Assistantship Positions: Trading Time for Money
An assistantship is an arrangement where a school waives your tuition and pays for you to work as a research or teaching assistant. This is designed to be mutually beneficial, providing cash-strapped students with income and the university with affordable labor. Full graduate assistantship positions are typically reserved for doctorate students, but sometimes you'll find partial assistantships at the master's level. If you don't mind working while attending graduate school, this is a phenomenal way to keep your finances intact.
Types of Assistantships
Assistantships come in two flavors: teaching assistantships ("TAships") and research assistantships ("RAships"). A TAship requires you to help teach an undergraduate course. This can include anything from taking attendance, grading papers, holding office hours, supervising laboratories, or teaching classes. In an RAship, in contrast, you'll focus on helping faculty conduct their research projects and laboratories. Sometimes, you'll be able to incorporate the work you do into your master's or doctorate dissertation. With both TAships and RAships, you'll gain valuable experience that will help you in the job market down the road.
Full assistantships normally entail 20 hours per week and are designated 0.5 FTE (full-time employee). Reduced forms of assistantships (0.25 FTE) normally require you to work 10 hours per week and receive commensurately lower compensation. Other benefits of assistantships may include free (or discounted) health insurance, and other fringe benefits depending on the school's policies.
How to Apply
Each school has its own policies regarding graduate assistantship positions. In most cases, schools will automatically consider you based on the merit of your application. In other cases, you'll have to submit a separate application, usually explaining why you are worthy of receiving such funding. Inquire with each school if you're not sure!