So You Want To Be a Teaching Assistant?

A large number of students attending college are looking for ways to improve themselves and also take on responsibility outside of their schoolwork. For high achieving individuals with a love for their field of study, becoming a teaching assistant is a great option. Especially for those who plan to become professors or teachers in the future.

Depending on the school and department, one may be eligible for an assistantship as an upperclassman. But the position is also designed for graduate students as they work toward earning their degrees.  For some, this may sound like a lot of extra work. But for others, it is a great opportunity to expand their skills and donate their time and talents to undergraduate students. If you are debating taking on this position, continue reading to see what the job may entail and what benefits you may receive. Here’s how to become a teaching assistant, if you want to be one.

What does a teaching assistant do?

The overall purpose of a teaching assistant is to aid the professor in conducting the class. While TA’s typically don’t lecture, they are usually required to attend the class so that they are up to date with the current lesson. In assisting the professor, they are responsible for grading tests, assignments, and papers throughout the course. In some cases, they may actually have a hand in preparing course materials, writing the tests and determining the overall structure of the course.

Teaching assistants must have already taken and received a good grade in the course. This is to assure that they understand the material and can effectively help students. TA’s work directly with the students, conducting their own discussion groups, test reviews, and lab sessions. Discussion groups can range anywhere from 10-30 people, which is much more manageable in comparison to the larger lecture. During these sessions, the teaching assistant clarifies concepts, provides additional learning materials and mechanisms and offers study review tools for students. In lab sessions, TA’s help the professor facilitate lab activities, evaluate the quality of students’ work, and assess students’ knowledge of concepts.

Time commitments vary

Time commitment varies depending on the degree of responsibility a TA assumes for the course. Some TA’s may only grade tests and hold office hours. Others are responsible for conducting a lesson or designing a lab. With this in mind, one can expect to dedicate anywhere from 10-20 hours a week to their teaching assistant duties. Compensation also varies depending on the institution and the program. Schools may provide, scholarships, fellowships, salaries or a combination of the three. According to GlassDoor, the average salary for a graduate teaching assistant is $20,900 per year. It is recommended that you research your college or university’s teaching assistant program page for compensation information.

How a teaching assistant helps

Teaching assistants are particularly helpful at larger Universities. Lecture sizes can exceed 100 people, making it nearly impossible for the professor to grant each student one-on-one time. With TA’s, everyone in the class has the opportunity to receive extra help and have their questions answered. While some colleges pride themselves on not utilizing teaching assistants, by and large, TA’s are also intelligent and high achieving individuals capable. They improve upon a course and provide valuable supplementary information and resources to students.

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