If you have been kicking around the idea of graduate school, you need to know what a graduate assistant is and why you might just want to become one. A graduate assistant is a student who is enrolled in a graduate degree program at a university. They are hired to work (typically 10 or 20 hours) as a research assistant, teaching assistant, or in a practical/applied administrative position. While working, they get their tuition taken care of – no loans necessary. In addition, there is a stipend of some sort to pay you for your time. Don’t get excited, it’s usually just enough to get by.
So, why might you be interested in a graduate assistant role? Did you miss the paid tuition part? How about getting practical experience while you’re in school? This is something you can’t put a dollar figure on. Leaving school with a graduate degree AND the experience that employers are looking for. It’s a win-win situation.
Providing specific details is hard to do because every school has their own set of rules. Some are extremely specific and some are much more flexible. Here are a couple of examples of graduate assistant guidelines. One is from Western Michigan University, which you will hear about in the video clip,and the other from Grand Valley State University. It also depends on whether you are interested in teaching, research, or gaining applied experience. I have found that many teaching assistant positions are reserved for students in doctoral programs who have the long-term goal of becoming tenure track faculty to teach at the university level. That is now always the case though.
If you are considering this route for yourself, one thing I have found that would save you a considerable amount of time in your search would be to narrow it down to a few specific schools and search their graduate studies website. There are also graduate assistant positions posted at specific locations that are associated with higher education such as BlueFishJobs.com, and the NCAA. However, general job sites like Indeed also post these. Just search the words graduate assistant to find them.
I asked a colleague, Senika Harrison, about her experience as a Fitness & Wellness Graduate Assistant while pursuing her Masters of Science in Exercise Physiology at Western Michigan University. Her role was an applied, administrative and hands-on type of position that allowed her a great deal of professional development and ultimately a job. Check out what she has to say about her experience here.