MS in US: How to get Assistantships ?

I got a GREAT assistantship in my college where there was a lot of competition for assistantships. So i feel eligible to write this blog. My personal story included here.

Some universities readily provide them with admits. But some don't, this for those who don't have GA or TA or GTA offers with the admits. Get these offers and dodge these heavy expenses

get an assistantship, save money

What are Graduate teaching assistant, Teaching assistant, Graduate assistant?

GTA/TA

Graduate teaching assistant or teaching assistant positions are where a student works for a professor.

  1. A TA/GTA will sit in classes along with the professor,
  2. Corrects the exam papers
  3. Clarifies the students doubts
  4. Conduct office hours where students can come to the TA/GTA and get questions clarified

Professors usually provide the lecture materials, answer sheets, key sheets etc. So when students come to the TAs , the TAs can refer to those materials, and clarify the students’ questions.

Graduate assistant

Graduate assistants helps faculty in setting up labs, helping with development projects and research projects at the university. This may require technical knowledge such as network security , java etc.

How or when or why are these roles available?

Usually the professors or the departments should have funds available to open the TA or GTA positions. Some professors will have funds available every semester. So they open those roles every semester. Sometimes professors will have funds only in the Fall semester, so they open TA roles only in those semesters.

Assistantships vs on-campus jobs

Assistantships are different from on-campus jobs. On-campus jobs are usually available in libraries, kitchens etc. Jobs such as receptionists, book keepers, counter jobs etc are usually on-campus jobs.

Pay for on-campus jobs are usually around $10–$15 per hour.

Pay for assistantships we can discuss in the upcoming section

Why are they required for you ?

Assistantships provide fee discounts and monthly salaries to the students. Fee discounts and salaries depend upon whether it is a 10hr or a 20hr assistanship.

In our university, a10hr assistantship comes with a 50% fee discount, and $600 per month salary. Whereas a 20hr assistantship comes with a 70% fee discount, and $1200 per month salary.

Example: So if your course fee is $60000, it may come down all the way to $30000 , with $1200 per month, which is a big deal !

These stats are 8 years old, as of May 2022.

What I want to communicate is — assistantships are a big deal and why they’re required for you. It’s worth spending efforts on TA or GA.

How to get them ?

  1. networking with seniors: talk to the current seniors who are also TAs. once they leave the college you may get those positions if they refer you and you clear the interviews. or talk to them and they may suggest you other options or positions in the university that they know of.
  2. program co-ordinators: each course in your Master’s college will have a program co-ordinator. talk to him or her and find out about the opportunities. convince them that you have the right skills to the take up the position, and ask for a referral. usually the professors or the department heads would value referrals from the program co-ordinator.
  3. knock the doors and drop the resumes: just go to the professor’s office in each department, knock on their doors and ask if they have any opportunities. worst case, they’re going to say — I don't have any roles, with respect and a smile. People here in US are generally nice and they value your hard work. They appreciate it if people ask for things. They don't help out the unasked. So always ask.
  4. check university job sites: university internal job sites will have positions open. register yourself for it, and start applying. after applying, drop a personal email to the relevant professor explaining your candidacy.
  5. cold email professors: not a recommended way, but sometimes it works. go to each department website from the university website, and go to professors page -> all the professors email would be visible there. directly email the professor about the potential opportunities. if there are any you may get lucky, otherwise its okay !
  6. keep up to date with funding news: keep up to date with funding news. as soon as you get to know about the funding news, approach the professor and see if there are any positions open.
  7. volunteer to do a job for the professor and see if it converts to an opportunity later. usually professors do a lot of research projects, take up a research project, volunteer for the professor and see if it later converts to a potential opportunity.
  8. Take a headstart, don't wait for friends: don't wait to do this along with your friends. there are very limited opportunities, go out and grab them.
  9. After the interview send a thank you email to the professor. IT MAKES A DIFFERENCE.

Personal story

I got a good assistantship in my university. It’s a 20hr assistantship, with $1200 per month salary and 70% fee discount. My university fee is very expensive. And its hard for me to bear such huge expenses.

I followed all the above steps that are mentioned above. What worked out for me are step-1 and step-2. I spoke with my program co-ordinator, I explained all my hardships to her (I used to do a part time job on campus that time). I convinced her that I am going through a very tough time managing course, and a part time kitchen job. She said that she has a GTA job opening available with a professor — for Operations management course.

Luckily, on my brother’s recommendation, I did a coursera certificate 2 months ago on that course, from Wharton University. (in 2013, coursera was new and free, it was amazing).

My professor was blown away by that. even though i didn’t have a formal work experience in operations management, i have blown my professor’s mind away in the interview. he liked the conversation with me, and a 30min interview went to 50min — that means he liked talking to me , and i got the job. :)

even though i didn’t have a formal work experience in operations management, i have blown my professor’s mind away in the interview.

that was me after i got the job !

i got a 70% fee discount, and $1200 .. yayy !!! one of the biggest achievements in my life !

Can you hack them?

yes, for GTA’s or TAs you need NOT be experts in the subject. If you know basics and if you can make a good connection with the professor, you can definitely make it.

Like i explained above,

  1. professors look for ethical candidates (comes from a good recommendation),
  2. professors want someone easy to work with,
  3. professors provide the material to help you succeed,

so you don't need to be an expert to crack these interviews, you can hack through them with your basic technical skills and great inter personal skills.

Be confident about yourself as an individual, ask around, be shameless, be aggressive in searching, and humble in approaching !

1 hack i did was: After the interview send a thank you email to the professor. IT MAKES A DIFFERENCE. (my neighbor who was a friend of mine told me to do this and i did it, of course he composed the email for me)

Conclusion

GTA or GA saves a lot of money. Ask around, get them at ANY COST. Give it your best to get it. It’s worth it.

But if you don't get it, that’s okay ! Not everyday is your day, there’s something better waiting for you. You may be breaking into a big 6-figure fulltime job, who knows !

More questions? Follow me on medium. or

talk to me: https://www.linkedin.com/in/janakiramvit/

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Life is transient. A PM, a Startup founder, was an SDE. Lived & worked in USA, Canada & India. Love startups/Data? Let’s talk: www.linkedin.com/in/janakiramvit

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Ram Pulipati

Ram Pulipati

Life is transient. A PM, a Startup founder, was an SDE. Lived & worked in USA, Canada & India. Love startups/Data? Let’s talk: www.linkedin.com/in/janakiramvit

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