A graduate teaching assistant is an instructor who helps a professor conduct a college course. Sometimes graduate teaching assistants may preside over their own course, with simply some guidance from a professor. A graduate teaching assitantship is not a life-long career. It is simply a job that one is able to have while they are attending graduate school. After one is no longer in enrolled in graduate school, they must cease their position as a graduate teaching assistant. Most graduate teaching assistants have further career goals of becoming a college professor or university researcher.
A graduate teaching assistant assists in running classes at a university. This may include helping a professor teach an especially large class, grading papers, running classroom related errands, and performing other menial tasks at the suggestion of their overseeing professor. At some schools, experienced graduate teaching assistants are given their own class to teach, and only meet with their assigned professor occasionally to discuss the matter. The classes that they teach are usually introductory courses in their field of study. For example, a graduate student studying English Literature will generally instruct or assist in instructing a Freshman Composition class, or a similar class within the field.
Graduate teaching assistants also sometimes help professors complete research. Assistants in the sciences may work preparing, setting up, and cleaning labs and scientific instruments. They may also work in university-sponsored tutoring centers, helping undergraduate students succeed. For example, a graduate student in Physics may work at a university tutoring center assisting introductory physics students in understanding ideas in their courses that they find to be complex. Graduate teaching assistants perform many jobs that professors are not interested in or consider to be menial or tedious.
In order to be a graduate teaching assistant, one must first graduate from high school or obtain their GED. Next, they must be admitted to a four-year college or university, maintain a competitive GPA, and graduate with a Bachelor's degree. Then, they must enroll in a graduate program, and apply for an assistantship. Not all students who apply for an assitantship are accepted. Those that are accepted will spend their time working as a graduate teaching assistant, in addition to taking classes. Once a student graduates from the program they are enrolled in, they will no longer be eligible to be a graduate teaching assistant. Similarly, they must also resign from their position if they choose to withdraw from graduate school.
Some programs do not offer graduate teaching assistantships, so it is important to check and make sure that the graduate program that one is applying for offers this type of job, if it is something that a student is interested in. Many places that do offer assistantships only offer a limited number, the competition for which is steep. At many schools, only the best of the best students will go on to earn a graduate teaching assistantship.
Graduate teaching assistants work for universities. Generally, they are given a cubicle in an office, which they can use for their studies and their assistantship work. Teaching assistants will also work in classrooms. Graduate teaching assistants spend a lot of time interacting with students, professors, and other assistants. Most graduate teaching assistants work part-time, in addition to completing full-time graduate studies. Many universities do not allow graduate teaching assistants to obtain additional employment outside of their assistantship. Graduate assistant offices are often some of the least funded places in a university. However, they do promote a sense of community between graduate students because of their openness and proximity to each other.