Becoming a graduate teaching assistant or GTA is an excellent way to help pay for the cost of graduate school as well as to gain valuable experience in your chosen field. A graduate teaching assistant assists a professor in teaching classes, grading exams or homework, hosting tutoring or discussion sessions, or keeping regular office hours, among other tasks. To become a graduate teaching assistant, it is generally necessary to note your interest on your graduate school application.
Some graduate students are simply pursuing master's degrees, while others may be pursuing doctoral degrees. Each university may have different requirements for those who want to become a graduate teaching assistant. For instance, some universities will require their teaching assistants to already have a master's degree in their chosen field, and be in pursuit of their doctoral degree; other universities may simply require graduate teaching assistants to have a certain number of graduate credits in their field.
Once you have determined the education-level requirements to become a graduate teaching assistant, and noted your interest on your application, it will likely be necessary to have an interview with the department as well as the specific professor with whom you will be working. It is very important to appear professional and knowledgeable in this interview, and to demonstrate your willingness to perform the graduate teaching assistant work on top of your studies.
Once you have become a graduate teaching assistant, the requirements do not end. Most universities require their teaching assistants to maintain a certain GPA in order to keep their position. If your GPA falls below a certain level, for instance 3.0, your job may be offered to someone else. Each university may also require different things of their teaching assistants; some may be expected to lecture and teach an entire course, generally on a basic, freshman level. Others may simply be required to fill in if the professor is absent, or to proctor exams in the class and offer office hours for students who may have questions.
Keep in mind that while it may be extremely financially beneficial to become a graduate teaching assistant, it can also be very stressful, particularly around the times of midterms and finals. Keep in mind that you will likely have your own exams and papers to prepare for, but all of the undergraduate students will likely need help at this time as well. For those who are able to manage their time well, and who enjoy working with other students, becoming a graduate teaching assistant can be a great choice during graduate school, and can help you make excellent contacts to use down the road.