Graduate assistantships: An option for funding graduate school

If your dream job requires a graduate degree, consider an assistantship to pay for graduate school.

As we look at the “Earnings and unemployment rates by educational attainment, 2015,” we can see the unemployment rate decreases as a person attains an advanced degree like a master’s degree, professional degree and doctoral degree in higher education. We can also see how the weekly median earnings can increase. Paying for higher education is not cheap, but financial assistance is available for students in higher education through financial aid and scholarships.

What are your career plans and how does higher education fit into the picture of your career plans? If you are planning on an advanced degree after the bachelor’s degree, have you thought about how you’re going to pay for graduate school? It’s never too early to start.

If you have thought about it, did an assistantship come to mind? Students in graduate school can receive funding for tuition and other possible benefits like health insurance and a monthly stipend through an assistantship. Students can receive teaching assistantships or research assistantships. With a teaching assistantship, graduate students teach undergraduate classes and other duties related to that assignment. For the research assistantship, students will assist with research or be involved with research. Also, according to Peterson’s, some awards are granted in exchange for full-time work in a specific field.

If you are in high school or college and your desired career requires a graduate degree, begin taking the steps to prepare yourself to learn about assistantships. One step is to visit the graduate school office of the university you’re interested in or to the department you’re planning to major in and talk to the faculty and staff about assistantship opportunities. If you can, find out the type of qualifications needed to receive an assistantship, like grade point average, participation in service activities, past research or teaching opportunities, extra-curricular activities in club or fraternities, etc.

Gathering this type of information is important because teaching assistant (TA) positions are competitive, according to Chris Diehl on Fastweb. Other information that’s good for you to know are how graduate (teaching and research) assistants are paid, the work hours for their assistantship and how a typical life is like for students who have a graduate assistantship.

Knowing there are future options for funding in graduate school can be one more step in helping you plan for your future career. It can give you an opportunity to experience less to no debt when you can receive scholarships for undergraduate school and funding like assistantships for graduate school. Make the effort to learn about your financial opportunities for higher education and take the steps to prepare for the opportunities.

For more information about assistantships at Michigan State University, go to MSU's Graduate Assistantships page.

To learn more about the positive impact of MSU Extension and Michigan 4-H career preparation, money management and entrepreneurship programs, read the Impact Report: “Preparing Michigan Youth for Future Careers and Employment.”

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