Graduate school fellowships and assistantships can come with waived tuition and a monthly stipend, making you feel like you are being paid to attend graduate school. Fellowships typically offer larger sums of money for longer periods of time with no required work hours attached, while teaching, research or general graduate assistantships are more plentiful and come with the added bonus of professional exposure.
Types of Assistantships
Teaching assistantships allow you to work closely with faculty to develop or teach courses, which is an added benefit if you wish to teach in the future. Research assistants work in developing research-related projects, such as gathering data or publishing. Graduate assistants typically help with more administrative roles, such as clerical or outreach positions. Assistantships are awarded on a per-semester basis, but your graduate program may offer you a package that guarantees multiple semesters of assistantship positions.
Types of Fellowships
Aimed at promoting research in a given field, fellowships are typically reserved for advanced graduate students, such as doctoral students, and tend to be more competitive. Fellowships can be funded through specific university departments or outside organizations. The National Science Foundation, for example, offers a wide variety of fellowship funding opportunities in the sciences. While smaller, interdepartmental university fellowships might only last a year and offer less funding, larger fellowships, such as those generated by the NSF, can award thousands of dollars in funding over several years.
What They Cover
Fellowships can vary in duration and scope of funding, but they all offer a full tuition waiver, a monthly stipend for the academic year and often medical coverage. Assistantships provide a stipend in the form of an hourly salary and depending on your assistantship work hours, either a full tuition waiver or a reduction in tuition to an in-state resident rate. Some assistantships also offer additional perks, such as medical and dental coverage.