Graduate Students - opportunities beyond the classroom

T.A.s and G.A.s – What they mean to you as a Graduate Student

T.A. = Teaching Assistant
G.A.= Graduate Assistant

In American colleges/universities that have graduate schools, graduate students may have the opportunity to provide leadership and assistance in their academic area of interest. These may or may not be available to you as an international student. It is best to contact the Chair of the academic department you will be enrolled in to find out if you qualify for these positions. If English is your second language, you may have to take an additional test or course to qualify.

Why you should take advantage of these positions:

In addition to being enrolled as a full-time graduate student, attending graduate school is a time to add important experience to your resume/CV.  These positions highlight your role as a leader and can be counted as teaching, administrative or research experience. Often a Graduate Assistant can earn money for their work. However, laws permit very limited hours for international students to work and be paid. Not being paid should not be a deterrent, as the experience in itself is beneficial. Working alongside a professor has many benefits.

Definitions and Responsibilities of  (Graduate)Teaching Assistants and other Graduate Assistant Positions

Teaching Assistants

From: The University of Alabama website

Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA)

A Graduate Teaching Assistant serves an instructional role in a class or laboratory within a specific department of the University, performing pedagogical (teaching) functions such as preparing lectures, conducting classes, constructing and grading tests, holding student conferences, and assigning course grades. 


Teaching Assistant responsibilities

From the website

Meet with supervisors to discuss students' grades, and to complete required grade-related paperwork.

Notify instructors of errors or problems with assignments.

Order or obtain materials needed for classes.

Prepare and proctor examinations.

Return assignments to students in accordance with established deadlines.

Schedule and maintain regular office hours to meet with students.

Arrange for supervisors to conduct teaching observations; meet with supervisors to receive feedback about teaching performance.

Assist faculty members or staff with student conferences.

Provide assistance to faculty members or staff with laboratory or field research.

Provide instructors with assistance in the use of audiovisual equipment.

Provide assistance to library staff in maintaining library collections.

Evaluate and grade examinations, assignments, and papers, and record grades.

Lead discussion sections, tutorials, and laboratory sections.

Teach undergraduate level courses.

Develop teaching materials such as syllabi, visual aids, answer keys, supplementary notes, and course websites.

Attend lectures given by the instructor whom they are assisting.

Complete laboratory projects prior to assigning them to students so that any needed modifications can be made.

Copy and distribute classroom materials.

Demonstrate use of laboratory equipment, and enforce laboratory rules.

Inform students of the procedures for completing and submitting class work such as lab reports.

Graduate Assistants

From: The University of Alabama

Categories of Graduate Assistants
Graduate Assistant (GA)
The term Graduate Assistant refers generally to all graduate students enrolled at the University who are employed to assist a faculty or staff member in the areas of administration and research or to serve in some instructional capacity.

Graduate Administrative Assistant (GAA)
A Graduate Administrative Assistant assists the University’s administrative staff or that of a specific department within the University by collecting, ordering, and interpreting various kinds of administrative data. A GAA may assist at registration, help with departmental exhibitions, or work on special projects of a wide variety. Minor activities may include attending seminars, doing library research, and holding conferences.

Graduate Research Assistant (GRA)
A Graduate Research Assistant assumes research-oriented responsibilities such as library research, computer programming and analysis, fieldwork, laboratory experiments, scientific investigations, writing and editing material, and averaging and assigning grades.


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