How Do You Become A Teaching Assistant in College?

Teaching AssistantEven if you don’t plan to enter a teaching profession after graduating, you can enjoy quite a few perks if you become a teaching assistant in college. TA’s earn money for tuition plus room and board. Depending on your enrollment status, you could earn enough money to pay all your expenses. Due to budget constraints and competition for these roles, becoming a teaching assistant can be difficult if your record is less than exemplary. Humanities students have the hardest time finding TA positions, while excellent science and math students can usually obtain them a little more easily.

Colleges choose the best upper-level undergraduates and post-graduate students to help professors teach lessons, grade papers and meet with other students. TA’s must maintain a high grade point average while working long hours for their professors, and this schedule can strain even the most dedicated Ph.D students. Since colleges often save money by hiring adjunct or part-time professors to help tenured professors teach courses, TA positions are becoming harder to find.

How to Apply for a Teaching Assistant Position

If you’re at the beginning of your college career, you can start preparing for a TA position by maintaining an excellent GPA. According to The New York Times, your GPA is the most important factor in a university’s decision to hire you, but your extracurricular record can also make a difference, especially if you’re a liberal arts major. Any awards, grants or scholarships you receive can set you apart from other students competing for the same position. While the same advice is basically true for science majors, these students are evaluated strongly by GPA. In the top technical schools, where most graduate students have high grades, extracurricular achievements play a more important role.

Visit your school’s website, talk to a counselor in your department or ask a current TA to find out how to apply at your university. Traditionally, Ph.D students pay their way through graduate school with assistantships and financial support based on their academic performance. Depending on your location, your college may or may not hire master’s degree students as TA’s. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the states with the highest rates of TA employment are Texas, Illinois, Michigan, Georgia and California. Community colleges tend to hire TA’s less than universities or scientific research institutions.

How Much Do Graduate Teaching Assistants Make?

In 2013, TA’s earned a median annual wage of $29,950. While this amount is lower than colleges pay adjunct professors, TA’s cost more to employ, because they typically don’t pay tuition while employed. While employment of TA’s has increased 3.3 percent, wages have only increased 2.1 percent. The top-earning 10 percent of TA’s make $49,350, while the lowest-earning 10 percent make $17,730. This difference may have to do with course load as well as the number of hours worked. The states that pay TA’s the most are Montana, New Jersey, Kentucky, Nebraska and Florida, although these states employ comparatively few TA’s.

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While colleges increasingly put more focus on science and math programs, business, economics and liberal arts majors can find TA positions as well. If you have a genuine passion for your major and believe you’re at the top of your class, you can get money and experience by learning how to become a teaching assistant in college.