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How to Find a Graduate Assistantship in 2024: Tips & Resources

Posted by Shelly Quance on 10/17/23 8:21 AM

  October 17, 2023    

How to Get a Graduate Assistantship in 2023-1

Graduate school is an investment — one that requires time, energy, and money. Especially today as higher education tuition costs continue to rise. 

While the benefits of graduate school are evident, it's also clear that graduate students want the assurance that they will enter the workforce equipped with the marketable, competitive skills needed to secure the career they want.   

One way that graduate students can gain practical field experience, deepen their academic understanding, and network with thought leaders and students in their field is to secure a graduate assistantship position

Let's discuss how to get a graduate assistantship — no matter your field of study.

️ Download WVU's Graduate Assistantship Guide!

What is a grad assistant?

A graduate assistant is a graduate student who secures a specific academic job for which students are selected based on academic excellence and faculty referral. Most graduate assistants receive a tuition waiver and small stipend for the tasks they perform for faculty members or departments.

As a grad assistant, you will have the opportunity to do the following:

  • Network with faculty and industry thought leaders who share your passion and goals

  • Gain practical, quality, and hands-on work experience

  • Collaborate and learn with other graduate students in your field of study

  • Offset the cost of graduate school with a stipend and tuition waiver.

  • Make lifelong connections with likeminded, driven professionals

Types of graduate assistantships:

There are different types of graduate assistantships, and prospective grad assistants should closely consider which type will best augment their graduate education experience:

  • Graduate teaching assistantships

  • Graduate research assistantships

  • Graduate service assistantships

Graduate teaching assistantship Graduate teaching assistantship Graduate teaching assistantship

How to find a graduate assistantship:

Graduate assistantship positions are institution specific, and they can be competitive to secure — especially in today's increasingly competitive professional landscape.

Grad assistantships are competitive because in order to successfully land a graduate assistantship, you have to demonstrate academic excellence in your program while competing against many other qualified, dynamic applicants.

1. Do your research.

Depending on your program of interest and your career goals, you will need to carefully research the type of graduate assistantship that will prepare you to succeed in your industry.

For instance, if you hope to obtain a graduate degree in public health with the goal of researching the impact of the opioid crisis, you may want to obtain a graduate assistantship position that is research-focused. Alternatively, if you are passionate about higher education administration, you may want to secure a position in your university's administrative or career services office.

Graduate assistantships are incredibly valuable for many industry professionals, so take the time to research the position that will bolster your graduate education the most. 

2. Find a mentor (a respected faculty member if possible).

As a graduate student, it is critical that you make connections with expert faculty members who can help guide you as you seek employment in your field of interest.

As you research and consider obtaining a graduate assistantship in addition to your graduate degree, utilizing the knowledge and connections of a respected faculty professional will give you a competitive edge as you prepare to compete with fellow grad students vying for the same assistantship position.

Networking with seasoned industry professionals can seem challenging (especially for people who aren't naturally extroverted or talkative), but you can take steps to find a mentor by simply taking the time to connect with faculty members outside of class or by taking the initiative to drop by their office hours to talk about potential opportunities they think might be beneficial to your graduate education experience.

Be friendly, be respectful, be professional and you'll make a good impression on the experts you want to impress.

️ Listen to The Summit Ahead Podcast, Episode 3: Let's Talk About Graduate  Assistantships and Fellowships.

3. Understand requirements and customize your application.

Before applying to the graduate assistant position of interest, make a list of necessary application requirements, which might include course load, potential working hours, immigration authorization (if applicable), letters of recommendation, etc. In addition, be prepared to list at least three professional references on your application — these references can be previous employers, current or past professors, or an admissions professional with whom you have a good relationship.

If you’re applying to more than one assistantship position, make sure your assistantship application and resume contain up-to-date information and more importantly, position-appropriate information.

4. Get prepared for an interview.

Prepare for a graduate assistantship interview by keeping on top of your communications with the department, understanding the appropriate dress code, and being ready to interview on relatively short notice. As much as possible, you will want to accommodate the interviewer's first available interview suggestion slot.

The interview is crucial as it will be one of the most (if not the most) influential steps of the application process, so be prepared to conduct yourself professionally — with respect, self-awareness, and enthusiasm.

5. Choose wisely and respectfully follow up.

After you've completed your graduate assistantship interview and submitted your application, follow up and be sure to let the department know that you’re interested, invested, and excited about the opportunity. 

If you are offered a graduate assistantship position, you should be proud of yourself! You've proven yourself to be a qualified asset to the department and institution at large. Be sure to follow up with the department in a timely manner. 

Considering how to pay for graduate school?

It is a requirement for many graduate students to offset the cost of graduate school with some kind of financial assistance — whether that means scholarships, loans, grants, work study programs, or graduate assistantship positions.

While researching and applying for various financial aid opportunities can seem overwhelming, there are so many resources to help you find the solution that works best for you, including:

At WVU, we value our graduate assistants — and we want to help them thrive.

West Virginia University awards approximately 1,700 graduate assistantships annually to incoming and continuing graduate students. All graduate assistants must be accepted into a graduate degree program and are required to be enrolled full-time while employed during the fall and spring terms (9 credits or more).

The graduate assistantships at WVU are incredibly valuable experiences, and graduate students from all over the nation benefit from these professional opportunities. If you want to benefit from the graduate assistantship opportunities at WVU, learn more by exploring our Graduate Education and Life page or our Graduate Assistantship Guide.

Ready to talk to us about how to get a graduate assistantship at WVU? We're here to help.

At West Virginia University, we aim to produce ethical, marketable professionals, and we are committed to cultivating a community that values diversity, inclusion, and academic excellence. 

By offering graduate assistantships that prioritize experiential learning and practical application of skills, we contribute to the thousands of transformative professionals who enter countless industries ready to impact positive change.

If you think that choosing graduate school at WVU could be the right decision for your academic and professional future, then we encourage you to get in touch with us. You can request more information, visit our Resource Library, or review our admissions requirements


Ready to reap the benefits of being a graduate assistant? Download WVU's Graduate Assistantship Guide today!

Download Assistantship Guide



Topics: Funding Your Graduate Education

Posted by Shelly Quance

Shelly Quance has spent almost 20 years working in higher education marketing communications. She currently serves as Director for West Virginia University’s Office of Graduate Admissions and Recruitment where she works collaboratively with College leadership to develop, implement, and evaluate creative and effective comprehensive communication and marketing plans to increase graduate student enrollment.


About the Blog

Deciding what graduate school to attend can be daunting at times, and navigating the admissions process can be that much more difficult. We hope to make the journey from considering graduate school to enrolling in a graduate program easier by publishing content that will be helpful to you as you discern if, when, and where, to pursue your next degree.

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