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All About Being a Teacher Assistant in College

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This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

Inside a university’s lecture hall, you will find three types of people: students, professors, and teacher assistants – or TA for short. As a student, you can earn some extra money while gaining work experience working in the classroom as a teacher assistant at your college campus.

As a TA, you will act as a licensed educator’s shadow by assisting them in their classes. You will be responsible for carrying out a variety of tasks such as creating and grading students’ assignments, instructing classes in place of the professor, and providing feedback to students, etc.

Teacher assistants can be upperclassmen like juniors and seniors, but they are commonly graduate students who instruct in undergraduate courses. Becoming one can be a major stepping stone for those pursuing a career in education, but it is also an enriching opportunity for students studying any subject to participate in.

If you are a person who wants to help students succeed in the classroom, continue reading to learn more about becoming a teacher assistant at your college.

Professors are often accompanied by at least one additional person helping them manage their classes. Teacher assisting is a part-time employment option for undergraduate and graduate students where they work closely with professors and students to help reinforce the course’s material.

Before you apply, understand that the application process can be rigorous and highly selective, especially at larger colleges. To be considered, you must showcase that you are well equipped to help support the academic environment and advance other students’ understanding of the course.

Take the time to reflect on what subject you feel comfortable with teaching. Teacher assistants are only selected if they have shown a strong proficiency in the field, either through their past grades, professional or research experience, or holding a related degree.

Consider your time learning a subjects’ material in the past. Did you breeze through your Economics class, did you enjoy doing research projects for Biology, or did you find yourself leading study sessions with your peers before every big Statistics test? If so, then being a teacher assistant could be in your future!

How to Find a Job in College

Once you have decided to become a teacher assistant, look no further than the teachers of courses you have taken in the past as you search for open positions. They are good points of contact to express your interests in returning back to their classroom working as a teacher assistant if you have a good relationship with them.

You should also visit your campus’s career center or student affairs office to learn about teaching opportunities. Familiarize yourself with your school’s guidelines regarding the amount of hours you will be expected to work and the compensation rate at your school.

Those who aid inside the classroom will receive either a salary or a stipend for their work. A stipend is a fixed amount of money given to a person to offset costs associated with doing their job, like gas and food. It is not considered a traditional form of payment as it is significantly lower than a salaried worker.

For future educators who plan on receiving their teaching license and are currently working as teacher assistants, you should explore the Teachers Tuition Reimbursement Pilot Program which provides financial assistance awards to offset your education related expenses.

You may also be able to receive academic credit that contributes to your graduation instead of payment, but this also varies by college and should be discussed with your school’s administrators before committing to the position.

Despite the benefits of working as a teacher assistant, the job can pose its challenges. Particularly on campuses with a sizable student population, teacher assistants can regularly be responsible for taking on the majority of a professor’s work.

Fortunately, many schools provide training for those chosen to teach before they begin working. Nevertheless, proctoring the exams of a hundred plus students, holding office hours regularly, and leading group or one-on-one study sessions can easily become overwhelming alongside managing your own coursework.

On top of that, you may be required to maintain a certain grade point average to continue working, increasing the burden of being a teacher and a student.

If you want to be a teacher assistant, you will need to develop strong time management skills in order to balance your own school responsibilities with your professional ones. Make sure you are up for the work by reviewing your course schedule.

People who are patient, caring, and effective communicators will do well as teacher assistants. Having past experiences tutoring will make you an even better instructor, so I recommend trying out tutoring to exercise your teaching skills.

Teacher assistants are a valuable and important resource in academia because they aid in strengthening classrooms by supporting students’ education. Becoming one is a great way to earn money and build relationships with other educators, giving you a chance to network in college.

The job is also a major resume builder for students preparing to apply to graduate programs, and it puts you in a favorable position to receive strong recommendation letters from faculty. Being the person that students can rely on to get more out of their education is a rewarding way to give back to your community!

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Author: Sophia Bangura

Virtual High School '22 read, write, repeat (in that order)!