What is an RA, what is a GA, what is a TA…can I have one?

I’ve received numerous emails about available avenues for funding.  These emails include questions about receiving a position as a Research Assistant (RA), Graduate Assistant (GA) or Teaching Assistant (TA).  For the sake of definitions, let’s talk about what each one is and then we can talk about how these are given out.

Do you have RA/GA/TA positions?

For all intents and purposes, RAs and GAs are the same thing at Korbel. We just call our positions RAs. Job descriptions of RAs vary, but share a central theme in that they work alongside faculty with their research (duh, right?). HERE and HERE are some examples of RAs along with what they are doing.

Most admitted students ask about RA positions to get a better idea of the funding that comes with them. You likely have an Uncle Dan who got a PhD in Biology.  Dan’s studies were fully funded through his RA position, and while he had to work 40 hours a week (or more) with lab rats, he did not have to pay tuition. Sweet deal for Dan! The major difference between Dan’s RA and Korbel RAs is the funding (also, let’s have a discussion about social sciences vs. hard sciences). Korbel RA positions do not have a tuition benefit. Instead, RAs are paid a salary of approximately $10-$12 an hour and are limited to about 10 hours per week. Korbel students take on RA positions for the opportunity to work on research they care about and to learn skills they will use in the future.

Teaching Assistantships (TAs). We do not offer TA positions because our courses are not taught by TAs, they are taught by faculty, which is one thing you can bank on when you come to Korbel—you will get to know your faculty.

How do I get a GA or RA position?

This is where it gets a little tricky Some research centers hire RAs earlier in the year (like April), others hire in the summer, but the majority of our faculty members do not hire RAs until student orientation in September. Most RA positions go to continuing students since they already have a relationship with the hiring faculty member.

My Advice?

If you really want an RA position, pursue it because of the content of the work, the relationship with the faculty and the chance to improve your resume.  If you’re passionate about a topic, email a faculty member who is doing that work to see if they are hiring RAs. Remember, our RA positions do not come with a tuition benefit.  Also, when you email the faculty member, remember that this is a job interview. You would not email an employer to merely say you want a job. Instead, you should email them to tell them what you have to offer. Do you speak a foreign language (fluently, seriously, be fluent or don’t mention it), do you have a background in statistics, do you know GIS? Faculty always like students with advanced Excel skills or who have experience editing copy or coding data.  Let them know what you have to offer.

Brad Miller

Director of Admissions


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