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What is a graduate assistantship?

A graduate assistantship is an academic position that offers a stipend and usually covers tuition costs. The position often involves part-time teaching or research projects given to a qualified graduate student.

Usually, the university rewards the student with tuition exoneration and a small stipend that covers room and board in exchange for their work. Graduate assistantships have made it possible for many domestic and international students to get through graduate school and earn a master’s or doctorate degree in the United States.

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How much can I get with an assistantship?

Some universities offer assistantships to students enrolled in master’s programs who possess excellent academic backgrounds and good research or teaching skills. “I get around $1,500 per month for my research assistantship,” comments Marcel, an international student working towards his Ph.D. in electrical engineering at a university in Louisiana. Considering living costs are lower in Louisiana, $1500 per month can cover room, board, and other expenses for most students.

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Some universities may choose to reward the student with a monthly stipend while others may decide to reward them with full-time tuition (18 credits per year for graduate students) plus a small salary. For example, The George Washington University offers some assistantships that cover full-time tuition plus a salary of $5,000 per academic year.

How do I get an assistantship?

Generally, graduate students who have been enrolled in a master’s program for at least one semester are eligible for graduate assistantships, although this is not the rule. Some graduate school applicants can directly apply for assistantships as part of their application.

Some students who are admitted to certain Ph.D. programs automatically get their education funded since many doctorate programs are financed by companies, institutions, or government agencies interested in research and development in specific areas. Most Ph.D. programs admit very few students making it feasible to sponsor each one of these students through assistantships and fellowships.

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Many universities grant assistantships to new students who possess excellent academic backgrounds and needed skills. A student with some teaching experience or research experience could get an assistantship faster than a student without these skills.

What can I do to find an assistantship?

Most assistantship advisors recommend persistence, respect, commitment, and more persistence. They tell their students not to wait until an assistantship falls on their hands.

Being proactive and actively seeking assistantships is key– talk to professors and ask them whether they are interested in a research or teaching assistant, and contact different departments in the university.

If you speak a foreign language, contact the department that specializes in that language and offer to work as a teaching assistant.

Getting an assistantship does not only require good grades and testing scores. Creativity, focus, and commitment can be valuable factors that will get you closer to your goal.

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