How Much Do Assistantships Pay?

Depending on your field of study, you will have opportunities to work as a graduate assistant or teaching assistant, but how much do assistantships pay?

Pay varies depending on your academic area of specialty, school, and region. A graduate assistantship or similar position is often considered an academic honor. It is also intended to provide financial support and living expenses in order for students to complete their education or perform research.

Assistantship pay is sometimes referred to as a stipend, and the pay may be broken into categories, including sums for room and board and travel.

Types of Assistantships

Many universities have different types of assistantships. Pay and other forms of compensation and work requirements can differ depending upon assistantship category.

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For example, Cornell University offers compensation for graduate assistants, teaching assistants or associates, research assistants (undergraduate) and graduate research assistants. Assistance is also provided to Fellows at Cornell as well as other universities. Fellows are typically not required to perform any specific duties in return for their fellowship, unlike teaching and research assistants, who usually have work hours and duties assigned.

Stipend Rates and Types

Most colleges and universities have eliminated large differences in the pay rates for different types of assistantships. Assistantships are usually compensated on a semester or annual basis, with differing amounts for summer or interterm periods. A 9-month assistantship can range from $20,000 to $40,000, with separate amounts for the three summer months, and additional allowances for food and housing.

Research assistantships may include funds provided for travel or equipment purchase. Some universities will provide an allowance for health insurance purchase.

Assistantships which require teaching responsibilities are usually compensated for 50% or 25% of full-time work, depending on the college or program.

Scholarships and Grants

Some universities will also offer grant and scholarship support in addition to assistantships. Tuition scholarships, which cover tuition and fees, are generally provided to students who are enrolled full-time in graduate programs and qualify for assistantships in their field and department.

Work Limitations

Assistantships are part-time jobs provided to students, usually at the graduate level. They are not intended to be full-time jobs. Teaching and research assistants are seldom allowed to work more than 50% of the time or 20 hours a week. The amount of work is limited by contractual agreements with full-time teacher unions and associations, as well as the purpose of assistantships: to support graduate students and researchers while they pursue their studies. Many assistantship positions combine work with completion of a dissertation or other project related to receiving a graduate degree.

The U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that there were more than 135,000 graduate teaching assistants in the U.S. in May 2016. The BLS reported that the highest level of pay was a little more than $55,000 a year.

This amount is somewhat deceptive, however, because it represents residents and interns working in hospitals as part of their medical degrees. Most graduate assistants worked at a college or university, according to the BLS, but some worked at junior colleges where higher pay was also found.

How much do assistantships pay? Most pay enough to cover basic living expenses while students complete educational programs and receive their degrees.