Duties and Responsibilities/Time Committment

The official University statement on what can be required of a graduate student is found in the Graduate Catalog, which is reprinted below.

The assigned duties of a Graduate Assistant are consistent with the objectives of the teaching and research missions of the University, including the objective that assistantships are to be educationally productive for graduate students.  Workload expectations of the department, and of the student’s advisor/supervisor, should be explicit and clear.  The appointment may be full-time (20 hours per week) or half-time (10 hours per week).  
Departments are to provide work assignments that GAs receiving full stipends can satisfactorily complete in no more than a 20-hour average work week, and are to ensure that GAs spend no more than 20 hours per week on average throughout the term of appointment on work unrelated to their research.  The actual number of hours required to complete assignments in any given week may vary.


The specific duties of graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) vary across disciplines and departments.  For the majority of teaching assistants, however, assignments and responsibilities fall into four categories:

  • Assuming teaching responsibility for a laboratory or discussion session of a course;
  • Assuming teaching responsibility for a classroom section of a multi-sectional course, under the close supervision of the director(s) of the course;
  • Assisting a faculty member in the grading, advising, and administrative duties necessary for a course(s);
  • Assisting in general departmental administrative duties, such as advising or the administration of community programs, workshops, etc.

Within a department, the particular assignment depends on the department’s needs and the experience and academic qualifications of the TA.  All GTAs serving in any capacity are under the direction and close supervision of a member of the faculty.

Time Commitment

For TAs, the 20-hour average should include the time spent in faculty lectures, class preparation, classroom or laboratory teaching, reading and commenting on student papers or examinations, office consultation, and other duties required to carry out the teaching role. 

The time that TAs devote to their assignments varies.  The proportion of hours spent in preparation, classroom or laboratory time, and grading, for example, differs from one discipline to another.  In some disciplines, a new TA may find that a task such as grading initially requires more time than the usual 20-hour weekly average allows.

TAs may be required to come to campus prior to the actual beginning of classes to participate in orientation and class-preparation duties.  TAs usually complete their formal duties when examinations have been graded.