GRADUATE ASSISTANTSHIPS HELPING THE LIFE-WORK BALANCE
April 12, 2012
There are plenty of ways to finance your graduate degree. Virginia Tech offers options such as scholarships, federal work study, loans, grants, and waivers. But I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes these types of aid just aren’t enough. Becoming a graduate student does not mean you are removed from “grown-up” responsibilities such as studying, cooking, cleaning, paying utility bills, attending class, keeping up with the Kardashians, or financing our personal budgets. That’s where the early emphasis on work-life balance gets hammered in our heads as grad students.
The great work-life balance of a graduate student is a mystery nationwide. I’m here to tell you what I’ve learned – two meaningful words that can help establish that work-life balance for a graduate student. These two words are ‘graduate assistantship.’
A graduate assistantship is a type of financial aid that is the best paying job you’ll find as a student. There are three different types: graduate assistant (GA), graduate research assistant (GRA), and graduate teaching assistant (GTA). GA’s are graduate students who provide academic and program support. This type of graduate assistantship is the most common. Tasks include basic administrative duties or grading papers. This is the type of assistantship I have (more on that later!). GRA’s are graduate students conducting academically-significant research under the direction of a faculty member, who is generally a principal investigator on an external grant or contract. GTA’s provide academic program support under the supervision of a faculty member and may even teach undergraduate courses.
Currently, I am a GA with the Virginia Tech Athletics Department. I discovered this assistantship through a friend who was the GA last year. I oversee a fantastic group of undergraduate students, and together, we organize and prepare the uniforms, accessories, and equipment for Virginia Tech athletes. It’s a great assistantship, not only because of my awesome co-workers, but because my bosses understand the importance of my schoolwork and accommodate my schedule when I have tests and papers due.
One of my fellow MBA’s, Sara, is a GRA. During her first semester on campus, Sara was selected to interview for the position by the professors leading the research project. She is a simultaneous degree student in the MBA program, which means she is also earning her Master’s in Civil Engineering at the same time, so she is working on an industry-funded and industry-driven project developing a tool to guide construction companies when they enter an unfamiliar country. Sara appreciates that her GRA enables her to work hands-on with a topic incredibly relevant in today’s globalizing marketplace.
A few of my classmates are GTA’s in various departments around campus. Steve earned a GTA this year for the Pamplin College of Business’s Finance Department via his impressive MBA application. He enjoys his assistantship because it enables him to interact with undergraduate students. His experience with his GTA this year has even made him consider becoming a college professor in the future.
If you are already an admitted student, be sure to explore the Graduate School website or start talking with any Virginia Tech contacts you have to make those connections and hopefully land yourself a GA next semester! One of the most important aspects of your graduate years at Tech is to manage that life-work balance, and an assistantship may help you achieve that goal.