GTA is an acronym for “graduate teaching assistant”, one of three types of graduate assistantships offered by Illinois State University. Read on to learn more about graduate assistantships and GTAs.
Illinois State University offers three types of graduate assistantships: Teaching, Research, and Pre-Professional. Regardless of the type, all graduate assistants are, first and foremost, students, and a graduate assistantship is primarily co-curricular training that provides both financial support to graduate students and the opportunity to learn career-specific knowledge and skills, engage in professional development and networking, and partake in other experiences that make them more competitive in the job market for their intended future career, including the opportunity to:
Graduate assistants undertake this training by serving a variety of important roles at ISU under the guidance of a faculty member or other academic employee, such as mentoring undergraduate students, serving as an instructor in a class or laboratory, assisting faculty outside the classroom, and supporting faculty in their research. Actual job duties and assignments vary between and within the three types of graduate assistantships.
In order to be eligible for a graduate assistantship, a graduate student must be enrolled in at least 9 credit hours of coursework (which is in addition to hours worked in their role as a graduate assistant) and maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0.
Graduate assistantships at ISU are highly competitive and sought after. As of the Fall 2023 semester, fewer than 35% of all ISU graduate students held a graduate assistantship.
Graduate students often rely on a combination of student loans, savings, family support, and wages from employment to cover their tuition, fees, books and associated living expenses. Graduate assistantships, which in most schools involve part-time work in exchange for a stipend and a full or partial waiver of tuition and fees, reduce the student’s cost of attendance and provide highly qualified graduate students the opportunity to develop skills and experience necessary to be competitive in the job market for the GTA’s chosen field.
A Graduate Teaching Assistantship is a paid opportunity to develop skills and experience to build the GTA’s resume and be more competitive in the job market for the GTA’s chosen field.
A majority of ISU’s GTAs do not deliver instruction but instead provide important support role services to faculty by assisting with teaching-related tasks, such as:
Some master’s-level GTAs, who have not yet obtained the credentials necessary to hold faculty positions at ISU (or any other university), help support undergraduate instruction by leading labs or delivering pre-approved content, primarily in introductory-level courses or laboratories, under the guidance of appropriately qualified faculty.
Doctoral-level GTAs may also be leading labs or delivering pre-approved content under the guidance of appropriately qualified faculty. In addition, as part of their degree requirements, some doctoral-level GTAs complete advanced coursework in pedagogy and have opportunities to develop content for an undergraduate course with guidance from faculty. That course content generally relates directly to the graduate students’ specific academic interest/area of scholarship and must meet course expectations and objectives. As part of their GTA experience, some of these doctoral-level students then have the opportunity in a subsequent semester to teach an existing introductory-level course featuring the content developed as part of their studies. This valuable experience significantly enhances the students’ competitiveness as prospective employees upon graduation.
ISU values our GTAs and the role they play in the instruction ecosystem. The university recognizes that graduate students who accept employment as GTAs are, first and foremost, students who have chosen to attend ISU to pursue advanced degrees and prepare for their future careers. In this regard, GTAs are the same as all other ISU students, with a personal responsibility to attend classes, prepare for exams, and fulfill other requirements of their academic program in addition to any employment they may have.
Graduate students choose to apply for and accept a GTA position for various reasons. Some do so because a position as GTA provides the financial benefits of a tuition waiver, fee relief, and a stipend. For others, career preparation is the primary attraction. Regardless, GTAs receive benefits and experiences only available to a small subset of students.
A graduate teaching assistantship is not intended to be equivalent to a full-time job in any way. Each GTA is hired with a specific “full-time equivalency” (FTE), which equates to the number of hours that GTA is expected to work on average per week. Due to the nature of their work, most GTAs are only employed during the 9-month academic year (39 weeks).
The average GTA FTE is 0.42 (an average of 16.8 hours per week). Individual GTA FTEs range from 0.25 (an average of 10 hours per week) to 0.70 (an average of 28 hours per week). About 29% of our GTAs are hired at 0.25 FTE. About 67% of our GTAs are hired at 0.50 FTE (an average of 20 hours per week).
During the term of their appointment period, all ISU graduate teaching assistants receive a financial support package that is competitive with those provided at peer schools and is in addition to any scholarships, grants or loans received by the student. The total value of the supplemental financial support package provided to .50 FTE graduate teaching assistants (who work up to 20 hours/week) over the 9-month academic year starts at about $20,000 for masters-level students and at about $21,000 for doctoral-level students. The supplemental financial support package includes the following: