The way you become a teaching assistant in college is a processes that really depends on your situation. Teaching assistants, or TAs, are usually graduate students learning from and researching under tenured professors, and the requirements to get this kind of job vary between academic subjects. TA positions can be hard to obtain, because competition for these jobs is high, so your GPA plays a big role in being hired by the university. Not only is competition for these positions strong, but the work requires you to be a sharp enough student so that you can perform teaching tasks, such as grading homework and even standing in for the professor during labs, according to the University of Texas.
The Different Types of Teaching Assistants
It’s up to the university to decide whether to hire undergraduates, master’s students or Ph.D students for a TA position, and your education level will determine how much you earn and how much responsibility you have. Typically, undergraduate TAs work in freshman and sophomore courses, but graduate TAs often work in these courses as well. Naturally, the university puts less responsibility on lower-level students, so it’s usually graduate students who work in the more difficult courses, such as engineering, physics and computer science.
However, many universities have testing labs where students go to take exams for courses in an entire department, such as the math department. These tests aren’t administered by the professors, and instead, a group of TAs works in the lab to process students through the front door, record their starting and ending times and make sure there is no cheating. Undergraduate TAs can often obtain these positions, but an applicant’s GPA and overall record must be exemplary to be considered. Of course, a strong background in the subject for which you want to be a TA is necessary, and while it usually makes sense for you to be a TA in the subject of your major, it’s not always a requirement.
TA Positions for PhD Students
Ph.D students often become TAs automatically as a part of their graduate programs. These students spend about four semesters earning the equivalent of a master’s degree and then spend another two to four years doing research under a tenured professor. During this time, the Ph.D student helps his or her professor teach classes and labs, grade homework and other small assignments, and meet with undergraduate students to answer questions and talk about grades.
The professor usually gives these Ph.D students a chance to deliver a few lectures so that they can get a taste of what it will be like to actually teach classes when they become professors themselves. The requirements to become a TA in this case are the same requirements for being accepted into a Ph.D program.
How Much to TAs Make?
TAs usually earn a stipend for living expenses as well as financial aid for completing their degrees. This income is similar to the stipends and financial aid offered to Ph.D students for doing research and helping professors.
Related Resource: When To Apply For Financial Aid
Although the process to become a TA is competitive and positions are in relatively short supply, the rewards can be quite nice, especially for graduate students. If you have an excellent college record and a high GPA, ask your school how to become a teaching assistant in college.