Why Graduate Students Should Have Assistantships

Graduate internships or teaching assistantships are valuable positions that help further a student’s graduate school experience and employment potential.

Similar to an internship as an undergraduate or a recent college graduate, assistantships are important for graduate students to consider. Graduate or teaching assistantships allow students to work, research, or teach in their desired field while still in school, and also receive benefits such as insurance, tuition discounts, and free room and board provided by the school hosting the position.

How to Find and Receive Graduate Assistantships

Some graduate school programs require a teaching or graduate assistantship as a condition of acceptance into the program. These programs often have the assistantship hiring process as part of the admissions process for the program.

For those who are not required to have assistantships in order to be admitted into a graduate program, interested graduate students can contact a college or university’s human resources or hiring department, or talk to the graduate admissions or financial aid offices about possible openings.

Different Kinds of Graduate Assistantships

According to Virginia Tech University, there are three main types of graduate assistantships, each with their own specific responsibilities and benefits:

  • Graduate Assistant: GAs can be found in a wide variety of roles, from academic advising to tutoring to advising student organizations to providing administrative support to maintaining lab equipment. These students may sometimes have academic responsibilities, such as setting up classroom demonstrations or grading exams, but are usually in positions that are not related to academia or the teaching side of higher education.
  • Graduate Research Assistant: These students, also known as GRAs or research assistants, often run lab experiments or assist in other lab or research work to help a professor or staff member in order to gain research experience in their given field. GRAs may also be asked to help present at professional conferences or help prepare articles for peer-reviewed journals.
  • Graduate Teaching Assistant: These students, who are often looking to become professors or some kind of educator in the future, are often responsible for teaching entry-level undergraduate classes or non-major courses in their field of study. Additional responsibilities may include meeting with the class professor, creating lesson plans, and grading student evaluations.

Benefits of Having a Graduate Assistantship

Specific benefits of assistantship positions vary from college to college, but there are certain job benefits that are universal to graduate assistantships, such as health insurance, tuition waivers or discounts, and assistance in finding housing on or off campus.

In addition, some schools also allow graduate assistants to attend regional or national professional conferences with a college or university faculty or staff member. Not only does this give a student a wider picture of his or her field of study, but also allows a student to network with other professionals, make potential business contacts, and learn about potential practicum and job offers.

Graduate assistantships or internships can be a valuable part of the graduate school experience. In addition to making potential professional contacts, assistantship positions allow students to work in their field and put classroom knowledge to use before heading out into the professional world.

Editorial Staff

Noah is a PhD student in modern European history who loves to find time for travel, learning new languages, and exploring the food in her New York City neighborhood.

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