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What are TA, RA and GA? What other main types of funding is available in Universities ?

Teaching Assistantship Graduate Assistantship Research Assitantship Funding in USA Graduate Schools


Getting funding is the most desired thing for many of the students. Various kinds of funding options exist in US schools, the most popular types of funding on campus are TA, RA and GA. Depending on the research and enrollment in the University, these positions vary. This post will explain some fundamentals of these and cover other funding types as well.

Teaching Assistantship (TA) :

TAs usually help out the instructor for anything related to course anywhere from grading the home works to teaching a particular topic in class.  Depending on the professor and the level of course, TAs will have little to full work.  TA usually does the grading of homework, projects, and quizzes. Based on the school, TAs are available for Undergraduate level courses and Graduate level course. If you are Undergraduate TA, there can be quite a bit of work. TAs are supposed to help out the students in class for any questions regarding homework and other course related material.  The expectations from TA vary based on the professor. Typically, you can apply for TA for a position if you taken the class in previous semester Or if you have done similar higher level course.  It is up to the instructor to decide whom to pick. If you have taken a class and got an A in the class, then you have high chances.  You can talk to the instructor too that you applied and in fact, sometimes you have to get the signature of a Professor before you apply. Students typically apply for TAs in the second semester as they would have done some classes. Students can also apply in first semester in some other departments to get funding. The applications are due at the end of semester or sometimes 10 days before classes start.  TAs usually work 20 hours a week.

TA Funding :

Teaching Assistants usually get at least in-state tuition ( Instate tuition Vs Out of state tuition ). In some universities they get full tuition waiver. They can get paid anywhere from $550  to $1200 per month depending on the University. Your pay and working hours depend on what you are offered. If it says 0.5 FTE( Full time employment) it means you work 20 hours per week. Sometimes it will 0.25 FTE and it will be only 10 hrs per week.

Research Assistantship (RA) :

Research Assistantships are very common in research oriented Universities. The funds for RAs come from the research projects under a professor. They professors usually get grants to do research and professor seeks students to help them with the research. If the University has PhD programs, then you have high chances of having more RAs. Also, the flipside is PhD students take some RA positions. The job typically consist of doing experiments, simulations, programming, writing research papers, setup labs, etc. Anything that is related to professor’s

research is typically done by RAs. It is mostly awarded to students who take Thesis option in their Masters program.  Professors usually look for your skills and research experience when they offer you a position.  It can be very hectic job with long hours of sleepless nights too if your professor expects a lot from you. You should like the area of research, otherwise it could be a nightmare.  Be careful !

RA Funding:

Research Assistants funding is very similar to TA’s funding. RAs usually get at least in-state tuition. Ideally, most universities give RAs full tuition waiver and stipend. The stipend varies based on the grant anywhere between $500 to $1500.  The funding depends on 0.5 FTE or 0.25 FTE just like above and work hours vary from 20 to 10 hours. The reality is, RAs work more!

Graduate Assistantship (GA) :

GA is similar to RA, but the duties are a bit different. There is no hard fast rule, but GAs are expected to do some research and as always it depends on University.  Graduate Assistants are typically involved with marinating the Department Websites, Web Servers, UNIX and other Servers. They work with network setups, accounts creation, deletion, etc. The duties vary based on department. The GA is a departmental position and they are available in various departments. In some places there is no difference between GA and RA.

RA Funding:

The funding is exactly like above for RA. Sometimes, GA have more funding than other positions. They get paid a little more depending on University. There is more work involved though.

Other types of Funding :

There are other types of funding like Scholarships, Fellowships and other Tech jobs that give you full tuition waiver or at least in-state tuition waiver. It all varies on the University. The good place to go is to ask financial aid office and ask them what kind of position gets you what kind of funding. You can check the same at the Department offices too.  You may have to write good essay and show need for financial support to get funding for scholarships. In some cases, you will have to prove your technical ability to do some technical work to get funding. It depends.

Overall, the goal of a student is to get funding in any way possible. It could be hard in the first semester because you are trying to understand the system in University. But, in second semester you know where to go and when to apply. Also, you would have some classes taken and if you have good GPA you can get funding, provided you apply at the right time and the competition is not too bad.

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