How to Become a Teaching Assistant in College

How to Become a Teaching Assistant in College

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Taking up college or pursuing graduate studies entails a significant amount of educational expenses. Some students even decide to stop their educational aspirations for higher education and immediately start looking for job opportunities after finishing high school due to the lack of financial resources.

However, several programs are offered in universities and colleges that aim to lessen the students’ financial burden. One way to secure financial support is by being a teaching assistant through assistantship programs. The responsibilities of teacher assistants include: preparing course materials, attending course meetings, conducting lectures, answering questions from students, conducting laboratory sessions, and evaluating student performance.

If working as the teacher’s assistant sounds good to you, we have gathered crucial information to help you become a teaching assistant.

5 Steps to Become a Teaching Assistant

If you intend to become a teaching assistant in college or graduate school, here are some of the steps that you can follow to secure the position:

  1. Choose your preferred school – Enroll in your preferred college or university that offers teaching assistantship programs. Most universities, if not all, only accept teaching assistant applicants admitted to a certain degree program within their institution. So you must be a student at the university to be qualified.
  2. Inquire for teaching assistantship program openings – Once you enroll in a university that offers teaching-assistantship programs, you can apply as a teaching assistant in any department.
  3. Check for eligibility – The department offering assistantship programs may have varying eligibility requirements you should meet, including a full-time enrollment and an excellent academic standing. Each university is different, so make sure you comply with everything they require.
  4. Start applying for the teaching assistantship position – If you are eligible for the program, you may start processing your application. Submit all the application requirements needed to the hiring department.
  5. Wait for the application result – Being a qualified candidate does not necessarily mean that you will acquire the teaching assistantship position. Aside from you, there may be other qualified applicants that the department must consider before awarding the job. Once the deliberation is complete, the HR officer or the department chair will notify you of the results of your application. 

These 5 steps are an overview of how to become a teacher assistant. In the following sections, we will guide you on the process of application for the teaching assistantship position.

requirements to become a teaching assitant

What Are Teaching Assistantship Requirements?

To qualify for an undergraduate teaching assistantship position, you must meet certain eligibility criteria established by the hiring department within the university or college that offers undergraduate teaching assistantship programs. Being a junior or senior student is one of the common requirements in becoming an undergraduate teaching assistant.

However, some universities, such as the University of Minnesota, allow newcomers or sophomores with exceptional skills in other areas. For undergraduate students, most universities also require a high school diploma and exceptional grades demonstrated during last year’s examination.

Minimum Grades to Become a Teaching Assistant

In addition to your current level, having a good academic standing is a necessary qualification for the teaching assistantship position as required by most universities, including the University of North Dakota and the University of Maryland. Both universities require having a grade point average of at least 3.0 (A) in the course you are assigned to assist with. Other universities, such as George Mason University, emphasized the need for the teaching assistant to have good communication skills to explain the course concepts to the students effectively. 

For graduate teaching assistantship, Ph.D. students and Ph.D. graduates have an edge over graduate students. As a graduate teaching assistant applicant, you must also have a good academic standing with a minimum of 3.0 cumulative grade point average in your undergraduate studies or in your most recent graduate coursework to be eligible for the graduate teaching assistantship program of the institution.

Full-Time Enrollment Status May Be Required

Moreover, some universities, such as the University of Tennessee, require you to have a full-time enrollment status for the entire semester to be awarded the teaching assistantship position. Upon appointment, other schools need you to complete certain training requirements. For instance, first-time graduate teaching assistants at the University of Nevada must enroll in the GRAD 701S (Preparing Future Faculty: College Teaching I) course in their first semester of being appointed for the teaching assistantship position. In the University of Georgia, a graduate teaching assistant assigned as an instructor of record must first finish the GRSC 7770 (Intro to College Teaching) course to teach an undergraduate course.            

Minimum Number of Available Hours

Undergraduate teaching assistants should have sufficient time to do teaching-related assignments. Having a significantly high number of enrolled courses within the semester or having additional commitments reduces the time dedicated for teaching assistant duties and may cause schedule conflicts.

Requirements: The Bottom Line

The assistantship programs offered in a university may have their specific criteria for eligibility; nevertheless, the requirements mentioned are among the general standards required of you as the student applicant to be considered as one of the qualified candidates for the teaching assistantship position.

how to secure a teaching assistantship position

How to Apply for a Teaching Assistantship Position?

The hiring process for teaching assistantships may vary across different departments of the university. Generally, departments offering teaching assistantship programs employ formal procedures that involve job postings, application submission timelines, compliance of pertinent documents, and interviews. This practice provides qualified students with an equal opportunity to secure the teaching assistant position offered by the hiring department.

The Formal Hiring Process of Teacher Assistants

Though some universities follow formal hiring procedures, other schools have no formalized process of hiring undergraduate teaching assistants. Qualified undergraduate students may be hired as undergraduate teaching assistants through a recommendation of a faculty member. Approaching a faculty member directly for possible teaching assistantship employment opportunities in the department is another opportunistic way of securing an undergraduate teaching assistant position.

On the other hand, most graduate schools follow the formal hiring process for graduate teaching assistantship programs. Generally, graduate students who intend to become graduate teaching assistants must directly communicate with the department offering the program. Before sending your application for the teaching assistantship position, you must first check if you have met the eligibility requirements established by the department. 

When Should I Apply to Become a Teaching Assistant?

Most teaching assistantship programs are offered every semester. You may apply as a teaching assistant in any department offering the program within your school during the fall semester, spring semester, or summer period. Though, continuing teaching assistants with excellent work performance are given priority over new applicants. Also, some graduate teaching assistants are appointed for the entire academic year, including the summer period.

be smart if you want to become a teaching assistant

How Can I Have a Better Chance of Securing a Teaching Assistantship Position?

Typically, departments in an educational institution offering teaching assistantship programs hire qualified students with excellent academic standing. Thus, maintaining an above-average academic record throughout your educational career is essential if you intend to become a teaching assistant in college or graduate school.

The Ideal Teacher Assistant

Student applicants with good grades are more likely to be appointed as teaching assistants than other applicants with average grades. Moreover, having exceptional communication skills also gives you an edge in securing the teaching assistantship position. Communicating is crucial in interacting with students as you may be assigned with teaching-related tasks that involve leading group discussion, conducting review sessions, and delivering a course lesson.

Reach Out to Other Departments

In cases where no assistantship programs are available within the department, you may be allowed to apply for assistantships in other departments you intend to be employed. Building a network of professors and students from other departments may help you be up-to-date for any teaching assistantship job opportunities within the school.

The Bottom Line

For graduate assistantships, you must have a good academic standing with a minimum of 3.0 cumulative grade point average in your undergraduate studies or in your most recent graduate coursework. Ph.D. students and Ph.D. candidates have an edge over graduate students.

For undergraduate assistantships, it is possible to become a teacher’s assistant as long as you have a high school diploma, exceptional grades during elementary education, and passed last years’ examination with flying colors.

We have also published this article to provide you with other important information on teaching assistantships such as teaching assistant’s salaries, job outlook, and other information that might be useful to you as a student who aspires to be a teaching assistant in college.