Graduate Teaching Assistants
Written by Ben Taylor
Becoming a graduate teaching assistant is a great way to fund your PhD while gaining valuable teaching experience. Along with earning a salary, you’ll have the chance to lead seminars, give feedback and supervise practical work.
This page is an introduction to graduate teaching assistantships, covering applications, responsibilities and average salaries.
What is a graduate teaching assistant?
A graduate teaching assistant (GTA) is a PhD student who takes on paid teaching responsibilities for undergraduate university courses. You may work at your own university or at another local institution. These graduate teaching assistantships are designed to help postgraduate research students develop valuable teaching and assessment skills, with a full training programme.
GTAs are often awarded as part of a PhD scholarship programme, offering a living stipend and tuition fee waiver, as well as a salary for the teaching activity. This means that applying for a GTA can be a competitive process, like a job application. However, successfully completing a GTA can be an important first step in a career in academia (as well as a great source of funding during your PhD).
What are the responsibilities of a graduate teaching assistant?
Most graduate teaching assistantships will require you to complete a set number of hours of work and professional development over the course of an academic year. This amount varies from GTA to GTA (and from university to university), but generally speaking you should expect to undertake between 180 and 240 hours of work per year.
These are some of the responsibilities you’re likely to have as a GTA:
- Holding tutorials and seminars
- Supervising practical work (particularly in the laboratory and on field trips)
- Providing feedback, marking and assessment to student
- Taking part in professional development activities
- Support the department with administrative duties
- Give pastoral support to students who need it
You’ll usually be responsible for teaching undergraduate students, but in some cases you may also be involved with Masters students (particularly in the case of lab supervision activity).
Teaching during a PhD
Our guide to teaching as a PhD student has more detail on what to expect from this, with tutoring tips and more.
How do you apply for a graduate teaching assistant job?
You can usually apply for a graduate teaching assistant job after you’ve been accepted onto a PhD programme or project. The process is, unsurprisingly, fairly similar to applying for a traditional role, in that you’ll have to provide a cover letter and a CV, as well as the likelihood of an interview for the position.
The main requirement that you’ll come across in most GTA roles is that you have a good undergraduate degree and / or Masters in a relevant subject (if you’ve already been accepted onto a PhD, it’s pretty likely that you already satisfy this requirement!). You won’t usually be expected to have teaching experience, but any evidence you can show of extra-curricular academic activities during your university career will be very beneficial.
As with any job application, it’s very important to tailor your documents to the position you’re applying for. Don’t be tempted to copy and paste the personal statement or CV you put together for your original PhD proposal.
It’s vital to write a new graduate teaching assistant cover letter that emphasises your existing teaching and supervisory experience, as well as tweaking your academic CV to show that your skills match the requirements of the job role.
If you’re invited to an interview for the GTA position, make sure you have a clear idea of your motivations for applying (don’t just say that you desperately need the stipend!). Be prepared to answer questions about how you want your experience as a GTA to shape your future career ambitions. You should also ensure that you have plenty of concrete examples to back up any claims you make in your cover letter / CV.
Can international PhD students apply for a graduate teaching assistantship?
Yes, full-time international students are normally eligible to apply for a GTA role. The UK student visa allows applicants to work for a maximum of 20 hours a week, so you cannot exceed this during your PhD.
You should make sure that you meet the English language requirements of the GTA, which might differ to those stipulated for your PhD.
What is a graduate teaching assistant salary?
How much you earn during a graduate teaching assistantship depends on the nature of the position and whether or not it’s tied to Research Council funding.
You can usually expect to earn the equivalent of a Research Council stipend per year. In 2020-21, this was at least £15,285 per year (tax-free).
In some cases, you may be paid on an hourly basis. Each university will have its own pay grade for GTAs, generally corresponding to a scale agreed upon by the University and College Union. At the University of York, for example, GTAs are paid £13.45 per hour.
If you’re paid on an hourly basis, you will usually be allocated between 45 minutes and an hour of preparation time for every hour of teaching you undertake.
Most GTAs are also entitled to a certain amount of paid annual leave, too.
Importantly, you’ll receive a tuition fee waiver as well as earning a salary. This will usually be at the domestic rate – international students might have to pay the difference themselves, unfortunately.
Where can you find graduate teaching assistant jobs?
If you're looking for a graduate teaching assistantship scholarship you can search for GTA as a keyword in our course search, highlighting those programmes that mention GTAs in their description.
If you’re applying for PhD funding or a scholarship, you may find that you’re given the option to say whether you’re interested in a teaching position.
Universities will often advertise GTA roles on their internal job boards, or on departmental websites.
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Last Updated: 25 June 2021