is a Graduate Assistantship?
It is a job that pays tuition and a stipend. The responsibilities
are either to do research or to help teach. Respectively, these roles are referred to as a "Research Assistantship" ("RA")
or a "Teaching Assistantship" ("TA").
are the duties of Graduate Assistants?
RAs and TAs are appointments that expect continuous participation
over the course of their duration, for example, from September
1 to May 30. They do not simply follow the schedule of classes.
It is important to understand that Graduate Assistants are expected
to work during periods when classes are not in session –
just as faculty and other research staff do.
At the discretion
of the research or teaching supervisors, graduate assistants may
take holidays provided that they make arrangements to make up
the work time that is missed while absent from their employment.
many hours a week is a Graduate Assistant expected to work?
Graduate Assistants are paid to work for 20 hours a week.
I am looking for a Graduate Assistantship. Where does ESD post open positions?
Open positions are posted here!
How do I
ensure that my appointment is set up (so that I get paid by my MIT Fellowship or for my work as a Graduate Assistant)?
Approximately one month before the start of the term (Fall, Spring, or Summer) RAs and TAs should submit an
ESD Graduate Appointment Form to esd_grad_appointments "at" mit.edu or E40-221.
Your supervisor will need to approve the form. Depending on the type of appointment, your supervisor is...
- ... for RAs: the Principal Investigator for your project.
- ... for TAs: the Lead Instructor.
Note: Your supervisor must approve this form either electronically (using a .pdf signature), by email (with a copy of the email attached to the form), or by physically signing the form.
MIT fellowship recipients should contact the office administering your fellowship (e.g. MITEI,
and ask them to send an email to esd_grad_appointments "at" mit dot edu with the
name of your MIT Fellowship, your name & MIT ID number, account number, award amount, and award period. Or, you may use the ESD Graduate Appointment Form if you prefer.
You will know that your appointment has been processed and that you are going to be paid when you receive a Notice of Appointment by email. You should also check
your paystubs at the end of each month to ensure everything is in order.
How many credit units may I take if I have a Graduate Assistantship?
The number of units a graduate assistant can take is limited. The principle is that students must leave
room for the work for which they are getting paid.
or equivalent unit at MIT sets its own rules for the limitation
on the number of units. For ESD, these limits are:
- RAs and
TAs may register for up to 54 units/year, including up to 33
units/semester without petitioning the graduate committee, and
may petition to take up to a maximum of 36 units in one semester
- The average
number of units/semester over the student's graduate program
must not exceed 27
of thesis or research do not count as part of the total
If the student
is on a part-time assistantship, these numbers can be prorated
with the agreement of the supervisor.
many credit units may I take if I do not have a Graduate Assistantship?
may take a “full load” which is normally considered
to be around 45 to 50 MIT units of subjects. [Note: 3 MIT units
correspond to 1 unit at most North American universities.] Some
people may take more if they have particularly good backgrounds
in the basics for their subjects. Others may find themselves fully
loaded with fewer units, for example if they are not used to taking
classes in English, have been away from school for many years,
or are studying new material.
should consult with their advisors to discuss this issue.
that the perspective of the International
Student Office (ISO) is shaped by visa regulations, which change periodically. They require
international students to take a “full load” but, in this
context, the number of total units is considerably less (around
36 units, but consult with ISO for exact details).
Does ESD offer financial assistance?
ESD assists its current and admitted students in obtaining financial assistance, but ultimately, the graduate student is responsible for finding and maintaining the financial support they need to sustain their MIT education. Most ESD graduate students are able to support their MIT education by working as
Students are encouraged to secure funding from external sources. The deadlines for many fellowships are much earlier than the typical deadline for university applications. The Office of the Dean for Graduate Education (ODGE) maintains an extensive list of fellowships and grants. Student Financial Services is another resource for answering financial questions.