What is a Graduate Teaching Assistant?

A graduate teaching assistant is a qualified graduate student who helps a professor conduct lab or study groups, grade papers, or prepare lectures.

Sometimes graduate teaching assistants preside over their own course, with some guidance from a professor. There is a stipend (financial assistance) that is provided for this type of part-time academic employment.

What does a Graduate Teaching Assistant do?

A graduate teaching assistant grading papers at a desk.

A graduate teaching assistant may help a professor teach an especially large class, grade papers, run classroom related errands, and perform other menial tasks at the suggestion of their overseeing professor.

At some schools, experienced graduate teaching assistants are given their own class to teach, and only meet with their assigned professor occasionally to discuss how things are going. The classes they teach are usually introductory courses in their field of study. For example, a graduate student studying English literature will generally instruct or assist in instructing a freshman composition class, or a similar class within the field.

Graduate teaching assistants may also help professors complete research. Assistants in the sciences may work preparing, setting up, and cleaning labs and scientific instruments. They may also work in university-sponsored tutoring centers, helping undergraduate students succeed. For example, a graduate student in physics may work at a university tutoring center assisting introductory physics students with understanding concepts that they find to be complex.

Are you suited to be a graduate teaching assistant?

Graduate teaching assistants have distinct personalities. They tend to be social individuals, which means they’re kind, generous, cooperative, patient, caring, helpful, empathetic, tactful, and friendly. They excel at socializing, helping others, and teaching. Some of them are also artistic, meaning they’re creative, intuitive, sensitive, articulate, and expressive.

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What is the workplace of a Graduate Teaching Assistant like?

Most graduate teaching assistants work part-time, in addition to completing full-time graduate studies. Typically, they work in a classroom, and are given a cubicle in an office, which they can use for their studies and their assistantship work. They spend a lot of time interacting with students, professors, and other assistants.

Graduate Teaching Assistants are also known as:
Graduate Assistant Graduate Student Instructor