Graduate teaching assistants, or TAs, are full-time graduate or PhD-level students who are given an opportunity to gain invaluable classroom teaching experience while still in school. TAs are also generally the first point of contact between students and faculty. Their duties include preparing lectures, grading papers, leading study sessions, and proctoring exams and quizzes. Some are even asked to teach introductory classes. Assistants generally work part time, while continuing their graduate or doctoral coursework. As college enrollment has been steadily rising, departments and professors increasingly turn to graduate assistants in the classroom.
Enroll in a graduate or PhD program. Gain a strong academic background with a solid GPA and test scores, while demonstrating a strong interest in pursuing a career in teaching on the post-secondary level. Inquire within your department about available TA opportunities. Check with your university, because some schools require TAs to take classes or undergo training before assuming their duties. Attend an orientation session, where you will learn about interacting with students and become familiar with your school's academic integrity guidelines.
Review your school's graduate teaching assistant handbook, which outlines the regulations governing TAs, as well as each department's expectations of its assistants. TAs may work one-on-one with their professor or may be one of several assistants in the classroom. It is possible that as a TA, you will be allowed to teach at an another institution besides the one you are attending. Often, TAs elect to teach at a nearby community college. Several organizations, such as the Association of American Colleges and Universities and the Council of Graduate Schools, have developed programs to assist graduate students in getting these teaching jobs.
Meet with the faculty or staff member you will be assisting to determine their needs and expectations for the semester. To alleviate their workload, some professors delegate a number of responsibilities to their TAs, asking them to teach classes or hold office hours. In fact, most full-time professors spend the bulk of their time away from the classroom doing research. Some professors allow their TAs to sit in on their classes, while others have outside tasks for them to complete during class time.
Learn the nuances of the teaching position. Know how to flesh out a curriculum while balancing your teaching, research and administrative responsibilities. At times, the workload can be heavy, particularly if you are teaching a class alone while also juggling your coursework, but the payoff is rewarding as you gain invaluable teaching experience at the post-secondary level.
Marlon Trotsky was born in St. Paul, Minn. and graduated from Mississippi State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications, while minoring in sociology. His work has appeared in various print and online publications, including: "The Trentonian," "San Jose Mercury News" and "Oakland Tribune."