Career Development

What Does a Graduate Assistant Do?

Find out what a graduate assistant does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a graduate assistant.

Graduate assistants are students who work full-time while they’re earning their degree. They typically have a specific role on campus, such as teaching assistant or research assistant. Their duties may include anything from grading papers to leading classes or conducting research projects.

Graduate assistants often earn competitive salaries and receive benefits like health insurance and paid time off. In exchange for these benefits, they must fulfill certain requirements set by the university. These might include taking classes related to their job, completing coursework within a certain timeframe, or maintaining a minimum GPA in their classes.

Graduate Assistant Job Duties

A graduate assistant typically has a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Providing support to professors in a wide range of activities, such as grading papers, teaching courses, and conducting research
  • Undertaking research projects on behalf of professors or departments
  • Conducting interviews with prospective students, alumni donors, prospective employees, and other stakeholders
  • Assisting with course registration, registration scheduling, and course/section changes for students
  • Providing administrative support such as answering phones, taking messages, and handling correspondence
  • Conducting research on topics related to the professor’s field of study or area of interest
  • Preparing and maintaining classroom materials such as syllabi and PowerPoint presentations
  • Assisting faculty members with research projects and other academic tasks such as grading exams, preparing presentations, and editing manuscripts
  • Coordinating with other staff members to arrange lectures, meetings, conferences, and other events

Graduate Assistant Salary & Outlook

Graduate assistants’ salaries vary depending on their level of education, the university or school they work for, and their specific duties.

  • Median Annual Salary: $47,000 ($22.6/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $70,500 ($33.89/hour)

The employment of graduate assistants is expected to grow at an average rate over the next decade.

Employment growth will be driven by student demand for graduate-level education. As more students enroll in graduate programs, universities and colleges will need more graduate assistants to teach classes and conduct research.

Related: Graduate Assistant Interview Questions and Answers

Graduate Assistant Job Requirements

A graduate assistant is a position that requires the following:

Education: Graduate assistants are typically required to have a bachelor’s degree in a field related to the industry they wish to work in. Some of the most common majors for graduate assistants are business, education, English, psychology and communications.

Many graduate assistants pursue a master’s degree in the same field or a related field. A master’s degree can help a graduate assistant qualify for a higher-level position or increase their earning potential.

Training & Experience: Many graduate assistants will receive on-the-job training from their supervisors. This training may include learning how to use the university’s computer systems, how to grade papers and how to organize classroom materials. Some graduate assistants may also receive training in the classroom, such as learning how to assist professors with demonstrations and how to help students with their coursework.

Certifications & Licenses: While specific requirements vary by state, all employers typically seek employees who have a valid driver’s license and proof of basic health immunizations. Many employers also require employees to have proof of professional liability insurance.

Graduate Assistant Skills

Graduate assistants need the following skills in order to be successful:

Communication: Communication skills are important in any job, but especially in a graduate assistant position. You may be required to communicate with faculty, students and other assistants, so it’s important to be able to convey messages clearly and concisely. You can also use your communication skills to help you collaborate with others and solve problems.

Organization: Organization skills are important for assistants in higher education because they often have many tasks to complete each day. You can demonstrate your organizational skills by keeping your workspace clean and by keeping track of your tasks. You can also show your organizational skills by keeping track of your office’s files and records.

Time management: Time management is another skill that can be useful for graduate assistants. This is because assistants often have multiple tasks to complete in a day and may have to prioritize their tasks. For example, if a professor is expecting a research paper from a graduate assistant, the assistant may need to complete the paper before attending a meeting with a student.

Teamwork: As a graduate assistant, you’ll likely work with a team of other assistants and professors. Being able to work well with others is an important skill for a graduate assistant to have. You can show your teamwork skills by being friendly, respectful and helpful to your colleagues.

Leadership: Leadership skills can help you in your role as a graduate assistant. You may be responsible for supervising other graduate assistants, leading group projects and organizing events. Leadership skills can help you to take charge of these tasks and motivate others to work hard.

Graduate Assistant Work Environment

Graduate assistants usually work 20 hours per week in return for a tuition waiver and a stipend. Their duties vary depending on their department and area of specialization, but may include teaching undergraduate courses, grading papers, conducting research, or working as a teaching or research assistant. Graduate assistants typically work under the supervision of a faculty member, and their work hours are generally flexible to accommodate their class schedules. Some graduate assistantships are full-time positions, which may require 40 or more hours of work per week, but these are usually reserved for advanced graduate students who are nearing the completion of their degree.

Graduate Assistant Trends

Here are three trends influencing how graduate assistants work. Graduate assistants will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

More Focus on Digital Learning

The trend of digital learning is growing rapidly, as more and more students are turning to online resources for their education. This means that graduate assistants will need to be familiar with the latest technologies and how to use them effectively in the classroom.

Graduate assistants can utilize this trend by becoming experts in digital learning tools and resources. They can then help teachers integrate these tools into their lessons, which will make learning easier for students and improve the overall quality of education.

More Attention to Diversity and Inclusion

As businesses become more aware of the importance of diversity and inclusion, they are beginning to place a greater emphasis on hiring assistants who can help promote these values.

This trend is especially important for those working in higher education, where promoting diversity and inclusion is essential to creating a safe and welcoming environment for all students. As such, graduates who are able to understand and appreciate different cultures and backgrounds will have an advantage when it comes to finding employment.

Greater Use of Technology in Education

The use of technology in education is becoming increasingly common, as schools look for ways to improve the learning experience for students.

As a graduate assistant, you can take advantage of this trend by becoming familiar with the latest educational technologies and how to use them effectively in the classroom. This includes everything from using software to create interactive lessons to using social media to connect with other educators.

How to Become a Graduate Assistant

A graduate assistant career can be a great way to get your foot in the door of academia. As a graduate assistant, you’ll have the opportunity to work with faculty members and learn about their research. You’ll also gain experience working in a university setting and develop skills that will help you succeed in your academic career.

If you want to become a graduate assistant, start by looking for opportunities at universities near you. Many universities offer graduate assistant positions in a variety of fields, so there should be something that suits your interests. Additionally, many universities offer online programs, so you can find an opportunity no matter where you live.

Once you’ve found an opportunity that interests you, make sure to apply early. Many graduate assistant positions are competitive, so it’s important to submit your application as soon as possible.

Advancement Prospects

Graduate assistantships are usually awarded to students based on academic merit and/or financial need. Some graduate assistantships are awarded through a competitive process, while others are assigned to students based on their department or program of study. Graduate assistantships typically include a tuition waiver and a stipend, and may also include health insurance and other benefits.

Graduate assistantships are typically awarded for one academic year, but some may be renewed for additional years. Some graduate assistantships are part-time, while others are full-time. Full-time graduate assistantships typically require 20 hours of work per week, although this varies depending on the position.

Graduate assistantships provide students with the opportunity to gain experience in their field of study, as well as to earn money to help pay for their education. In some cases, graduate assistantships may lead to permanent employment after graduation.

Graduate Assistant Job Description Example

The [DepartmentY] at [CompanyX] is seeking a Graduate Assistant (GA) to join our team. The GA will provide support to the department in the form of administrative tasks, research, and event planning. This is a great opportunity for a graduate student to gain experience in their field, while also earning a stipend.

The ideal candidate for this position will be a current graduate student at [UniversityX], enrolled in a full-time degree program. They will have excellent organizational skills, be detail-oriented, and have the ability to multitask. They will also be able to work independently and be a self-starter.

Duties & Responsibilities

  • Serve as a teaching assistant in one or more undergraduate courses, providing support to the instructor and students
  • Develop course materials, such as syllabi, handouts, assignments, and quizzes/exams
  • Lead discussion sections and review sessions
  • Grade assignments and exams
  • Hold office hours to provide individualized attention and support to students
  • Serve on departmental committees, as needed
  • Attend departmental meetings, as needed
  • Assist with research projects, including literature reviews, data collection and analysis, and manuscript preparation
  • Present research findings at conferences, as needed
  • Perform administrative tasks, such as maintaining databases, preparing reports, and ordering supplies
  • Supervise undergraduate students working on research projects, as needed
  • Disseminate information about departmental events and opportunities

Required Skills and Qualifications

  • Bachelor’s degree or equivalent
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills
  • Ability to work independently and as part of a team
  • Strong organizational skills and attention to detail
  • Proficient in Microsoft Office, with aptitude to learn new software and systems
  • Flexible schedule and ability to work evenings and weekends as needed

Preferred Skills and Qualifications

  • Master’s degree or higher
  • Previous experience working in higher education
  • Experience with event planning and coordination
  • Experience with marketing and social media
  • Familiarity with graphic design software


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