The Economic Advantages of Becoming a Teaching Assistant 2

Teacher's AssistantThis is a guest post from Liam McIvor Martin.  If you enjoy this post, check out his university tutoring program or consider even joining his staff as a tutor.

One of the biggest questions I would get from students as a teaching assistant is “How’d you get this job?”  Being a teaching assistant offers you many advantages in college – making connections, building your resume and of course, a reliable paycheck. However, many students don’t know the first thing about getting a teaching assistantship. So to remedy this, here are the most popular questions I get from students and readers that are interested in becoming a Teaching Assistant.

How much do TA’s get paid?

This is kind of a difficult question to answer as schools greatly differ in how much they pay their TA’s. You can more or less be assured that they make between 20 and 40 dollars and hour not counting overtime. If your school has a teaching assistant union (and if it doesn’t you should start one) you will usually be making a living wage and can actually exist quite comfortably off of a full time teaching assistantship. I personally made around 18 grand a year for TAing, with a research assistantship and a little bit of bartending on the side I was making approximately 30 thousand a year. Not too bad for a graduate student!

How do you get the job?

There are multiple strategies for getting a teaching assistantship. First off, some schools have a seniority program and give graduate students first priority. So if you’re not a graduate student your chances of landing the job on your first application are pretty low. However, I started a teaching assistantship in my undergraduate degree because I knew a professor really well who liked me. Therefore, one of the best strategies is simply to tell a professor that you are applying to become his teaching assistant, if they like you, you’ll probably get the job over a student that they don’t even know. Once I had the first semester under my belt, I had seniority and was continually rehired each semester. Therefore, if you are a graduate student you shouldn’t have much trouble getting a job (some graduate programs actually require you to assist professors.) If you aren’t a graduate student here are some quick tips to get you a fighting chance.

  1. Connect with a professor and ask him to hire you.
  2. Make sure you have an A in the class you want to TA.
  3. Be friendly with the secretaries as they sometimes make the final decision
  4. Apply every semester as grad students sometimes go off on research semesters and they need quick replacements.

What are the other advantages of being a TA?

Being a teaching assistant won’t just pay your way through school but can also set you up with crucial experience in our increasingly competitive economy. I got my first job because of my letter of recommendation from a Yale professor that I had worked for. I got into grad school due in part to a professor that I worked for. I’ve gotten speaking spots in three big conferences due to connections with professors that I had worked for. Lastly I’ve made advantageous connections with other teaching assistants that I’ve worked with who have gone on to become cornerstones in business and academia.

Although there is quite a lot of work that goes into being a TA, it is one of the easiest ways to make it through grad school in the black.

Picture by Daniel Hurst

2 thoughts on “The Economic Advantages of Becoming a Teaching Assistant

  1. Reply Stefan | StudySuccessful.com Aug 8,2009 11:30 AM

    Sounds really interesting! Nice article Liam!
    As I am joining the University this year, I don’t think I have a big chance to be a tutor, because I am only a first year student.
    But for the future, it sounds cool. You get a lot of experience from it!

  2. Reply Lynn M Aug 20,2009 7:39 AM

    Excellent post and proof that networking is a powerful tool for landing the job you want. In addition, working is such excellent experience and will do wonders for your resume once you do hit the career path (and so will the connections you make through your employment). All that and money through college as well!

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