Is a TA Position Right For You? Here's How to Find Out

By Alicia Geigel on August 6, 2019

“What are your plans after college?” “Do you know what you’re doing once you graduate?” If you’re a college student, I bet these questions sound familiar to you and I understand your pain. When in college, students are constantly bombarded with questions like these and many others that concern post-college plans. Depending on who you are, post-college plans can either be exciting and enticing or intimidating and scary.

Whether you want to go straight into the workforce or consider going to graduate school after graduation, the urgency to decide what to do is real. For some, the idea of graduate school has been woven into their college plans since the early days of applying to colleges in high school. Graduate school is the next step in furthering your education and becoming an expert in your field of specified interest. Unlike undergraduate programs, graduate programs are much more personal, focusing a lot more on working with faculty.

One of the many ways you can engage with faculty is through a teaching assistantship (TA), working alongside a professor both inside and outside of classes. Some graduate programs require students to take up teaching assistantships while others do not, but regardless, if you are thinking about accepting a TA position, there is a lot to consider!

Are you currently in graduate school? Unsure if a TA position is the right move for you? These four tips will help you decide as well as give you some insight into what to expect!

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  1. Evaluate Your Financial Situation: When it comes to grad school, perhaps the biggest issue to overcome is financing your education and figuring out how to. Since graduate school is different than your undergraduate years, the funding process is different as well. A teaching assistantship is great for many reasons, with one being compensation for your work- yes, you can get paid to get your degree while being a TA! What does this compensation look like? Tara Kuther of ThoughtCo writes, “As a graduate teaching assistant, you can typically expect to receive a stipend and/or tuition remission. The details vary by the graduate program and school, but many students earn a stipend between roughly $6,000 and $20,000 annually and/or free tuition.” If you’re having trouble funding your graduate education, being a TA could be a great option for you!
  2. Consider Future Career Opportunities: If you are in graduate school, it’s most likely that you are either in a field that requires a higher-level degree or you’ve evaluated your career options. However, becoming a TA, believe it or not, can do wonders for you and your career both while in school and post-graduation. Helping to teach in a college classroom gives you valuable experience, you become a local expert in the subject being taught, and you develop strong relationships with faculty. All of these qualities will stand out on a CV or resume in the future and definitely give you a level up if you’re looking into becoming a college professor.
  3. Determine the Teaching Requirements: Given the name “teaching assistantship”, you already are aware that there is going to be a level of teaching involved in the position, which is not something easy you can simply pick up, but rather, it takes a lot of dedication, time, and energy. When considering to pick up a teaching assistantship, determine the teaching requirements before you jump in headfirst. Not all TA’s requirements or duties are the same and will vary by course and program, however, you can expect a few general responsibilities. Some TAs work to grade papers or tests and monitor quiz/test-taking during classes. Others, like the Princeton Review notes, “might be expected to teach two classes per term. While first-year TAs are generally provided with a basic curriculum and syllabus, they still spend a lot of time preparing lesson plans, doing background reading, grading tests and meeting with students.”
  4. Measure the Responsibilities Against Your Workload: It is obvious that graduate school is not easy. Unlike an undergraduate program, graduate programs require more time, dedication, work and energy. If the baseline responsibilities of graduate school are overwhelming for you, then balancing a teaching assistant position on top of that might be difficult. Before you dive into being a TA, make sure that it is something you can jungle alongside your coursework as well as mentally handle. Evaluate your drive, level of dedication, work ethic, and ability to balance multiple projects to help determine if a teaching assistantship is right for you.
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Graduate school is a great opportunity to advance your education, broaden your knowledge, and advance your career. Taking on a teaching assistantship while in grad school may not necessarily be easy, but it can help you in a variety of ways if you are willing to take one on! As always, good luck!

By Alicia Geigel

Uloop Writer
Temple alum | columnist at Uloop News | photographer | food blogger if you want to learn more about me, visit my profile and check out my articles!

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