Advanced degrees like master's and doctorate are expensive and not many students can afford the cost. Stopping your education is not really the preferred option. Instead, you can try applying for the position of a graduate assistant. Although it may be slightly tricky to balance your graduate assistant responsibilities with your coursework, becoming a graduate assistant is a great way to help fund your education and get practical experience in your field at the same time.
There are three types of graduate assistants -
An administrative graduate assistant assists the staff of the administrative office of the University or a particular department. The assistant orders, interprets and collects different types of administrative data. The GAA also helps with departmental exhibitions, registrations, research projects, etc.
He/she may also be asked to do research, attend seminars or hold conferences. Co-ordinating undergraduate events, developing websites, marketing activities, preparing presentations for meetings, etc., are some of the jobs performed by a graduate general assistant. A GAA may also have to do clerical work, assist faculty members with their research projects and prepare notices for students.
Students who are pursuing advanced computer science degrees may also help in the maintenance, operation and programming of the college computer network.
The responsibilities of a graduate research assistant are mainly research-oriented. The exact duties may vary from department to department. Some of the typical duties of a GRA are he/she may have to perform tasks such as looking for information in libraries or on the Internet, do fieldwork, conduct laboratory experiments, analysis of the data, etc.
Some graduate research assistants may also be asked by the professor to co-write the papers. A GRA also has to attend seminars, prepare samples and may often have to take a few classes. The research assistant is also responsible for designing and conducting experiments for the professor. During vacations, the GRA may work on field projects off the campus like archaeological or geological field research.
A majority of the graduate assistants are teaching assistants. Graduate teaching assistants assist the professor in his/her teaching duties. They may have to take lectures, grade assignments or tutor the students.
Teaching assistants usually teach the undergraduate courses and though they are called assistants, they are often the sole instructor for that particular course. A GTA may also play the role of an academic advisor for students, prepare teaching materials, proctor exams and conduct the lab or teaching part of the class. Graduate teaching assistants are considered to be members of the faculty. Some GTAs may also conduct research.
If the student wants to pursue a career in the teaching profession, working as a graduate teaching assistant will provide valuable experience and learning opportunities.
Some of the typical employers of graduate assistants are -
Regardless of which type of graduate assistant you work as, this position provides you with a lot of experience and will be a good addition on your resume when you step into the professional world. Many professors also have good contacts in their field, so if you manage to impress your professor, he/she can help you find a good job. This field has a good potential for growth and the employment opportunities are also increasing. The National Employment Matrix by the U.S. Bureau of Labor predicts that employment for post-secondary teachers is likely to show a 15% increase by 2018.
Becoming a graduate assistant involves a balancing act; you have to fulfill all your graduate assistant responsibilities along with your responsibilities and tasks as a student. Ensure that you are capable of this juggling act before you apply for the post of a graduate assistant.