You can find a wide array of on-campus jobs to help you fund your education as a graduate student. Some types of work like research and teaching assistantships are available exclusively to graduate students and can offer some important experience for your future studies. Others can help offset some of your graduate expenses and provide valuable professional experience. We take a look at a few types of jobs usually available on campuses for you to keep an eye out for and consider.
Professors, academic departments, and other campus offices may offer graduate students temporary employment and can provide benefits like tuition and/or fee waivers, a stipend, and health/vision/dental insurance, though individual programs vary. The work is usually considered half-time or less and typically 10-20 hours per week.
Graduate Research Assistants (GRAs) work on academic research projects under the guidance of a professor. PhD candidates who assist in research projects are sometimes called pre-doctoral associates rather than RAs. On many campuses you may be able to apply for a research assistantship in a department other than your home department if you hold the appropriate skill sets for working on the project. For example if you are a native speaker of German, but you are studying public administration, you may be able to assist a professor of German language or history in their research.
Graduate Teaching Assistants (TAs) support the teaching of other graduate students or undergraduates. Duties often include assisting faculty by holding office hours, grading exams and papers, teaching recitations of a large lecture course, or teaching their own smaller classes. On many campuses you may be able to apply for a teaching assistantship in a department other than your home department. For example if you were a writing major as an undergraduate or have experience teaching writing as a professional, but you are studying social work, you may be able to tutor undergraduates in the English department or campus writing center as part of a teaching assistantship.
Graduate Resident Assistants (RAs) are responsible for the general supervision and management of their residence halls. They may supervise undergraduate resident assistants, build a sense of community in the hall, and connect resident students to resources they need on campus. Resident assistants can also be first responders in the case of an emergency on the floor, and may be responsible for opening and closing their residence halls at the start and end of the school year. In addition to other benefits, a residence life position may include room and board.
Some additional things to keep in mind as you consider these assistantship positions:
- If it’s a contract position, the contract may be for one semester at a time
- There is usually a limit in how many courses you can assist in an academic year
- Sometimes there are GPA requirements in order to hold certain positions
The time required for an assistantship may occasionally exceed the usual number of hours (for example, after a large lecture course takes a final exam that the TA is then responsible for grading). This can decrease the time you will have to complete your own coursework or research.
In addition to graduate assistantships, other types of campus employment include work study, regular wage student jobs, and staff positions. Work-study jobs and regular wage student jobs are similar in that they do not typically come with benefits like tuition waivers or health insurance.
Federal work-study jobs
In addition to assistantships mentioned above, another type of financial aid that is awarded in exchange for work is called “work study.” Graduate students in financial need may be awarded a work-study grant that allows them to earn up to a specified dollar amount per year. The department or office where they work pays them a percentage of their hourly wage, and the government pays the rest. Jobs designated as work-study are not open to students who have not been awarded a federal work-study grant, so work-study jobs may be less competitive than other regular wage student jobs.
Examples of work-study jobs may include anything from clerical help in an academic departmental office to program assistance in a student life office. Some work-study jobs may be available off campus as well at nonprofit or other community organizations with a relationship to your university.
Regular wage student jobs
A variety of campus jobs are reserved for students carrying a minimum number of credit hours, including positions such as staffing the front desk of a residence hall, helping in the dining halls, and staffing the tech support desk in a computer lab. Student jobs tend to pay better than minimum wage, and your employers will work with (and around) your course schedule. If you are already on campus for much of the day, working in an on-campus student job may be more convenient than working a part-time job off campus.
Some additional things to keep in mind as you consider these types of positions:
- You may be required to carry a minimum number of credit hours to qualify for work-study and regular wage student jobs
- Work-study and regular wage student jobs do not typically offer benefits such as tuition/fee waivers or health insurance
- You must re-apply for work-study yearly to show financial need.
- The financial benefits of these positions may be factored into your financial aid package and decrease the dollar amount of student loans for which they are eligible.
Staff positions on campus
Staff positions on a college or university campus include office and clerical support, maintenance and trades positions, and administrative, research, and instructional roles. In addition to a salary or wage, staff positions often come with benefits related to tuition reduction or remission (for staff and for partners/children), health insurance, use of campus facilities, and more. Because you are on campus, your boss might be more willing than the average boss to work around your class schedule, if you take daytime courses occasionally.
If you hope to land a staff position on campus to fund your graduate education, be sure to read the fine print. Limitations of working on the staff of a university or college may include:
- The tuition benefit may kick in only after a certain number of months or years of employment or for employees who work a minimum number of hours per week.
- The tuition benefit may be limited to a maximum number of credit hours per semester and you may find it tricky to balance your work with your course load.
- Tuition benefits are considered taxable income by the federal government so you will need to discuss work-related education tax exemption with your employer to circumvent this.
We hope this digest of options helps you better understand the kinds of jobs that may be available to you as a graduate student. While most of these positions will only be available to you once you enroll, it might be a good idea to bring some of these questions to find out what jobs are available for grad students when you meet with the admissions office and visit campus.
Planning on returning to school? Check out our Grad School Resources and connect directly with social-impact programs through Idealist. And if you’re interested in speaking with an admissions representative, find out which cities near you are hosting an Idealist Grad School Fair this fall.