All about Graduate Assistant jobs and how they can aid your education
Last Updated on January 23, 2021 by iSchoolConnect
Graduate assistant jobs can be a great way to get real-world experience, earn some money, while also doing cutting-edge research in your intended field.
Some graduate assistant jobs offer students several opportunities and workers benefits, helping them forge connections that can jumpstart their careers. Getting a graduate assistantship can be daunting, especially for international students, when but broken down they are not that scary. Keep reading to find out all you need to know about how to get graduate assistantships!
What is a Graduate Assistantship?
First, you may be a bit confused about what a graduate assistantship actually is. A GA position is quite a similar concept to an undergraduate work-study. In both positions, you get money to help pay for school, but as a graduate assistant, the work you do is specifically related to your major. Graduate assistantships can occur on-campus or off-campus where the university has connections. Graduate assistantships also offer students cash to cover basic living expenses. The biggest and most basic requirement to get a GA position is that you have to be in grad school.
How to apply for a Graduate Assistantship?
Professors or other faculty in the specific field are usually the ones who do the hiring for GA positions. The application process usually occurs a semester before the position begins, and students are hired based on their academic achievements, application materials, and faculty recommendations. There can be a lot of competition for these positions, so staying ahead of the game can give you an advantage in these situations.
The first step for preparation is research. Go to the specific college department’s website to find out what professors are actively doing in their fields. If you can find any information on the graduate assistantships the department offers, read through that too. If the department’s work sounds interesting to you, great! You can now go into the application process already well informed and ready to secure the position.
How to get a Graduate Assistantship?
Among a sea of well-qualified applicants, you have to stand out in order to be remembered and selected for the GA position.
Make sure your resume is up-to-date with all your relevant achievements. Though this is a great start, a simple resume may not cut it. Professors are going to be looking at your social media presence professionally and otherwise.
Update your LinkedIn profile with notable information and use a professional and friendly photo of yourself for the profile picture. Your other social media accounts should be kept clean from any inappropriate content such as expletives and alcohol and drugs.
Furthermore, can you think of any creative ways to showcase your accomplishments? For instance, if your field is computer programming, you could make a personal website that acts as an interactive resume.
Professors are going to look for signs that you have the innovative factor needed for research and development.
Since professors of the specific major department usually manage graduate assistantships, it would be extremely useful to start getting to know them in class. Graduate school is challenging in the first place, so using them as a resource for a class is probably a good idea in the first place. Go to their office hours and participate in class to show them you are interested and engaged with the subject. Ask them about their passions for the subject and the research they like to participate in.
Starting these conversations will open the door to a professional relationship which will help when it comes time to turn in your graduate assistantship application. Even if the professors you know are not hiring for graduate assistantship positions, they will surely write stellar recommendation letters for you.
What types of Graduate Assistant jobs are there?
The type of graduate assistantship position available to you will depend on what your major is. Majors like philosophy, English, history, and other liberal arts subjects will most likely have teaching assistantships. Common tasks in these positions include grading papers, preparing exams, or even sometimes running an entire class. The time commitment can vary heavily so you want to make sure it’s clear how much responsibility the position requires.
The other main type of graduate assistantship is a research position. This position usually focuses on the professor’s research or scholarly project and may not necessarily turn into the GA’s thesis, though this happens frequently. In this position, the student will likely have duties such as assisting with designing an experiment, inputting data, and analyzing research. These types of graduate assistantships are usually available in fields of science and law.
Are Graduate Assistant jobs worth it?
There are definitely a lot of factors to think about when applying for a GA position. Earning cash to cover living expenses and offsetting college debt is a powerful combination, but some students report it is not enough.
However, a part or full-time job would probably be pretty distracting to a focused student and would also probably not cover expenses. The experience of working in a graduate assistantship position will be extremely unique and positive for your career. Not only that, but the people you meet along the way may help you connect with your future employer, or be your future employer!
That is why it is so important to make sure you know the responsibilities that come with the position. The work you do should line up exactly with what you are interested in.
If you’re looking for much more autonomy, an option like a fellowship would be perfect for you. Fellowships can be extremely competitive though, so it is important you weigh your options realistically.
International students can easily apply for graduate assistant jobs. Since applicants must be enrolled in graduate school, even if you are international it will not hinder your ability to apply. It may help to mention an international background to highlight intercultural knowledge skills!
So, should I apply for a GA position or not?
Taking on one of the graduate assistant jobs at the university needs a lot of thought and consideration. But the benefits are vast. If being in this position seems like the right fit, learn how to secure the position and go for it! If you liked this blog post and want to see more international university life content, check out our endless resources!