Graduate Assistantships Terminology

Assistantship duties may vary considerably both within and between programs. Although clear and distinct boundaries between different types of assistantships may not always be easy to identify, assistantships have four basic categories. The type of assistantship given to a student should be that which in the judgment of the department most closely reflects the primary activity of the student.

Graduate Research Assistantship (GRA)

Students work on a research project that may lead to a thesis or dissertation or other scholarly output. Typically, these assistantships are externally funded, and, in the best case scenario, the work assignment aligns with the student’s research project, though this is not always the case.

Graduate Teaching Assistantship (GTA)

The students’ work supports the teaching mission of the university. Their work may involve but not be limited to teaching, class or laboratory set-up, grading papers, running tutorial sessions, and providing online course support.

Graduate Service Assistantship (GSA)

Students perform some professional service, in many cases for an off-campus client, that does not involve research in the typical sense of the word. Examples of such service might include an education student performing a service project in the K-12 school system, a mass communication student implementing a new program for a radio station, or an MBA student helping a small business develop a business plan.

Graduate Administrative Assistantship (GAA)

Students work on campus in an administrative capacity, providing useful services to administrative (e.g., the Ottenheimer Library, Graduate School, Provost’s Office, etc.) and/or academic units (e.g., history department, College of Business, etc.). As opposed to the other three graduate assistantship types, which are meant to contribute to a student’s professional development, GAA assignments are designed to be support mechanism in which a student receives pay for service with no expectation of an educationally enriching experience.

Return to Graduate Coordinator Handbook