Assistantships for Studying in USA

Assistantship is similar to scholarships. The difference is that, when you are awarded an assistantship you are required to work for the assistantship provider, while when you are awarded a scholarship, you get the money for free.

In most cases, the provider of the assistantship is the department in which you enroll. Therefore, normally you are required to assist a professor in your department or taking care of the department’s computer lab.

However, it is not uncommon to get an assistantship from a department other than the department in which you enroll, for instance, working in the university’s business office, the university’s athletic department, or in the library.

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Basics of Assistantships

Assistantships are normally only awarded to graduate students or PhD candidates. American as well as International graduate students / PhD candidates can apply for Assistantships. Full-assistantships pay for the entire student tuition. The student is then required to work for 20 hours per week depending on the type of Assistantship he is awarded. Half-assistantships pay for half the tuition and the student is required to work for 10 hours per week depending on the type of Assistantship he is awarded. Assistants also receive a monthly stipend of about $500 to $1500 depending on the type of Assistantship. The amount of the stipend varies depending on the type of work you will do, the department, and the university. In some cases it is enough to cover all of your expenses, but in some other cases you need to provide some money out of your pocket to cover your remaining expenses.


When to Apply

You should apply for Assistantships when you send in your application for admission to that University / College. There is a separate application form for Assistantships that you need to fill up and send it along with your admission packet. Many universities award assistantships when the admission is granted. If you do not receive an assistantship with your admission, you can try again once you arrive at the University. You can talk personally with the admission officials, your academic advisor and also with the professors and check with them if any Assistantship positions are still available.

Typically, most assistantships are awarded in the Fall semester, followed by the Spring semester. In the Summer, none or very few assistantships are awarded. So, you should apply for assistantships much before the Fall or the Spring semester begins.


Documents required

The documents required depend on the type of Assistantship that you are applying for. However, typically you will need the following documents for applying for Assistantships:
  • Application form

  • Resume (CV)

  • Recommendation Letters (from your past professors, supervisors, etc)

  • Essays (you may also be required to write an essay explaining the need for the Assistantship, and explaining why you think you qualify for Assistantship openings)

  • Statement explaining your past work experiences

In some cases you need to appear for an interview before your application for Assistantship is approved.


Types of Assistantships

Following are the three main types of Assistantships that are awarded for international students:

Graduate Assistantships (GAs): Graduate Assistantships require the students to work for up to 20 hours per week in lieu of their Assistantships. Graduate Assistants are typically required to work in the libraries, administrative offices, computer labs, cafeterias, dining services, parking lots, etc.

Research Assistantships (RAs): Research Assistantships require the student to assist professor(s) in their research. The number of hours of work per week vary depending on the professor's projects. A Research Assistant's typical job are: assisting Professor(s) doing research in libraries or labs, grading test papers for undergraduate students, performing experiments, analysis, etc.

Teaching Assistantships (TAs) : Teaching Assistantships require the students to teach in undergraduate classes. The number of hours of work per week vary up to 20 hours. The Teaching Assistants need to be proficient in the course that they teach. In most cases, the Teaching Assistants have to appear for the Test of Spoken English (TSE) exam. Teaching Assistants may also be required to work in testing centers, grading tests, etc.


Sources of Assistantships

Following are the various sources that provide Assistantships for international students:

University: Assistantships for international student are typically awarded by the International Admissions office of the University. The Admissions office is aware of the positions available for the particular semester, and awards the Assistantships based on qualifications of the applicant and requirements of the Assistantship.

Departments: Individual departments also award Assistantships. Each department determines its budget for Assistantships and based on that budget determines the number of Assistantship positions available for a particular semester. In most cases, the department head, your academic advisor and the professors in that department decide on who will get the Assistantships. You should therefore be in constant touch with all three of them If you are a current student seeking for an assistantship.

Professors: Professors usually receive research funds from either government or non-government organizations / insitutions.The professors than award Research Assistantships to candidates for assisting them with the research. You should therefore check with individual professors about the requirements of the positions available under them. Typically, professors tend to awards Research Assistantships to students who have taken a class under them in the past and to those who have similar research interests or to those who have similar work experiences. If you want to talk with a professor regarding research assistantship availability, do not forget to make an appointment in advance. It is not polite to just drop by in your professor's office to discuss this matter.

Private companies: Some private companies who have research contracts with universities / departments also offer Research Assistantships to deserving candidates. In this case you will have to do specific research / experiments in that companies' labs. Please check with your university / department for more information about these kind of Assistantships.



Can I get an assistantship if I enroll for an undergraduate program?

Assistantships typically are not available for undergraduate students. They are available only for Masters and PhD student. Nevertheless, we suggest you to check with you international students office for more details.


How can I apply for an Assistantship?

The application form for an assistantship can be found in your application package or the web site of your college / university. Do not hesitate to apply even if you already have enough funding. You have nothing to lose.


What if I'm not awarded an Assistantship?

If you are not awarded an Assistantship, you can always re-apply for the following semester. In most cases, your chances of getting an assistantship will be higher as you are more familiar with the Assistantship application process and the professors are more aware of your work.



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