Graduate Assistantship Info for Students
One of the most common sources of funding for graduate students are assistantships, which can support general administrative duties, teaching, or research projects. The university documents assistantship policies and procedures in University Policy No. 6210.
Many departments routinely evaluate graduate admission applications to match them with available assistantship positions. Departments may contact newly accepted students to inform them if a funding offer is available. Current students in search of funding should check with their departments to discuss the availability of assistantships and eligibility requirements.
Quick guide for new GAs, GRAs, and GTAs
Graduate Assistant (GA)
Graduate Assistants provide academic and program support to academic, administrative or service units of the university. GA responsibilities may be administrative in nature and consist of duties not directly related to teaching or research (such as academic advising, program planning, advising student groups, and assisting with the administrative duties of an office). GA responsibilities may also be academic in nature and include grading examinations, problem sets, and/or lab assignments, setting up displays for lectures or laboratory sections, and preparing or maintaining equipment used in laboratory sections.
Graduate Research Assistant (GRA)
Graduate Research Assistants conduct academically significant research under the direction of a faculty member who is generally a principal investigator on an external grant or contract. GRAs are awarded by departments and professors who are engaged in research projects. Research assistantships offer exciting opportunities to participate in ongoing research developments at Virginia Tech. Since GRAs are often funded by sponsored research grants, they may be paid at a higher stipend level than GAs or GTAs.
Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA)
Graduate Teaching Assistants provide academic program support under the supervision of a faculty member. GTAs may assist faculty in teaching undergraduate courses, including laboratory teaching assignments, or in providing other appropriate professional assistance, including grading examinations, problem sets, and/or lab assignments, setting up displays for lectures and laboratory sections, and preparing or maintaining equipment used in lab sections. GTAs must have 18 hours of graduate-level course work completed in their teaching disciplines to be assigned full responsibility for teaching an undergraduate course. GTAs lacking this training will be assigned to work under the supervision of a faculty member who will be the instructor of record for the course.
The GTA workshop is held during the week before the start of Fall classes; in the fall phase I is usually held on Tuesday before classes begin, while in the spring it's on Thursday before classes begin. Although this workshop is primarily for new GTAs, continuing graduate students who have not previously attended may also attend. Participants will be enrolled in GRAD 5004 (1 credit) upon the recommendation of their departments.
GTAs are given special parking passes each semester that allow them to park in restricted lots on days that they teach classes. GTAs should apply for these passes by completing the request form and submitting it to Parking Services. A regular student parking pass is also required.
- Must be enrolled in 12-18 credit hours in fall and spring
- Maintain a 3.0 GPA; departmental requirements may be higher
- Make satisfactory progress toward degree as defined by academic departments and the Graduate School
- Meet requirements to be eligible for employment in the U.S. You can find information about employment eligibility verification and tax forms from the Payroll Office, or review their website.
Students who plan to defend early and leave the university during the semester should not be on an assistantship but may be paid on wages.
A full assistantship requires a student to work for 20 hours per week on average. Students may or may not be required to report to work during school breaks. Departments may also offer partial assistantships.
In addition to assistantships awarded by departments, there are other university administrative units that employ graduate assistants. When a position becomes available, a notice is posted in the GLC-programs weekly listserv distributed on Mondays.
To be competitive in the recruitment and retention of high quality graduate students, the University provides an assistantship compensation package that is comparable with those offered by our peer institutions. The key components of the compensation package are:
- competitive stipends
- in-state tuition scholarship in proportion to the assistantship FTE and contract period, and out-of-state tuition waiver (if eligibility requirements are met)
- health insurance subsidy (if eligibility requirements are met)
- payment plan for comprehensive and CFE fees (see below).
The stipend table for graduate assistants ranges from Step 1 to Step 50. Each step represents a pay range within which full-time (20 hrs/wk) graduate assistants must be paid. Departments determine which pay step to use based on the student's qualifications and experience, academic standing and availability of funds. Departments have a wide range of stipend options to make competitive offers.
During the academic year (Fall/Spring; tuition for summer and winter enrollment not included) students who are paid less than $3502/month receive a tuition remission for the in-state tuition, applicable program fee, and library and technology fees for the semester of their assistantship, in proportion to the assistantship appointment FTE and time period. Tuition remission is earned in 4-week increments, with full remission earned when students complete at least 16 weeks of work between the standard assistantsthip contract dates of the semester. Students who are paid at $3502/m or more may need to pay their tuition and fees from their assistantship stipends.
Payment of Comprehensive fees and CFE (Commonwealth Facility and Equipment) fees is not provided. Students who are Virginia residents should complete the In-State Tuition Request form in order to avoid being charged the CFE fees that out-of-state students are required to pay.
Graduate students who earn more than $4000 in an academic year on assistantship appointment(s) may be eligible for a waiver of the out-of-state portion of tuition for the year (see eligibility details below). This waiver does not apply to the Commonwealth Facility and Equipment (CFE) fee. Students must be enrolled full-time and be on assistantship to qualify for the out-of-state tuition waiver. Summer earnings on assistantship or wage employment do not count towards meeting the $4000 minimum earnings requirement. Tuition bills from the Bursar's Office will show the out-of-state tuition charge and a credit to reflect the out-of-state tuition waiver (may also be referred to as "UF Differential"). Students who are enrolled in programs that have a program-specific graduate tuition rate (such as MIT, MNR, PSALS, and LGMC) are not eligible for the out-of-state waiver, since they are assessed a flat rate that is not residency specific.
The out-of-state tuition waiver is automatically applied to students' accounts when the following three criteria are met (this does not apply to level 46 bachelor's/master's students whose out-of-state tuition cannot be waived):
- the student's appointment (PAF) is entered in Banner by the hiring department
- the student meets the earnings criteria described above
- the student has registered for the semester
Students who are Virginia residents do not automatically receive in-state tuition status when they enter a graduate program at Virginia Tech, even if they were undergraduate students at Virginia Tech paying as an in-state resident. All applicants wishing to be considered for in-state tuition must submit the In-State Tuition Request form. Also, any current student being charged out-of-state tuition and wishing to be considered for in-state rates must submit this form.
Eligibility for out-of-state waiver based on assistantship status and earnings:
- Fall: Must be on a GA/GTA/GRA and earn at least $2000 on assistantship stipend between Aug 10-Dec 24
- Winter: Must be on a GA/GTA/GRA and earn at least $2000 on assistantship stipend between Aug 10-Dec 24, or $4000 or more between Aug 10-May 9
- Spring: Must be on a GA/GTA/GRA and earn at least $2000 on assistantship stipend between Dec 25-May 9
- Summer: Must have been on a GA/GTA/GRA in immediately preceding spring semester and earned at least $4000 on assistantship stipend between Aug 10-May 9
Out-of-state tuition differential waiver eligibility chart
In recognition of students living and studying away from the Blacksburg campus, comprehensive fees may be reduced for students enrolled in an all virtual schedule or who have only research hours/ independent study not located on campus. Students must certify that they will reside more than 50 miles from the Blacksburg campus for the entire semester. More information can be found on the Bursar website. To be considered, this form must be submitted by the last day to add courses each semester.
Graduate students on assistantship appointment may pay their comprehensive and CFE fees through a payment plan during the fall and spring semesters. Enrollment is managed through Hokie SPA and students must sign up each semester in which they wish to take advantage of this opportunity. Enrollment is not available for the summer terms. The payment plan allows students to pay their comprehensive and CFE fees over the course of the semester. Fully integrated with the students account system, the plan debits coincide with university payroll dates and adjust seamlessly with changes to the student account balance.
Enrollment periods for 2020-21:
- for fall semester: by Sep 29, 2020
- for spring semester: TBA
Students may enroll in the plan only after they have registered for classes and, after their tuition remission has been entered in the Banner system by the hiring department. The projected debit amount and remaining debit dates will be displayed during the enrollment process. There is no cost to participate. Once enrolled in the program, students cannot cancel unless the balance is paid in full.
Graduate assistants who maintain at least a 50% assistantship (10 hours per week), may be eligible for health insurance benefits. Visit the Graduate School's insurance benefits webpage for additional information.
Students offered an assistantship must electronically sign the Graduate Assistantship Contract, which is a contract between the student and department. Assistantship contracts can be accessed through onecampus.vt.edu, Graduate Contracts. All contracts stipulate start and end dates, type of appointment, monthly stipend, percentage of tuition remission, whether the student is expected to work during school breaks, and any other special conditions.
Comprehensive/CFE Fees: Students are responsible for comprehensive fees each semester. Out-of-state students must also pay a Commonwealth Facilities & Equipment (CFE) fee. See the Bursar's web page for a description of fees. The CFE fee requirement cannot be waived and is not part of the tuition charges.
Taxes: Federal and state taxes, if applicable, are withheld from the assistantship stipend check, which is issued semi-monthly at approximately the first and sixteenth of each month. Students on summer assistantships who are not enrolled will be taxed at a higher, non-student rate.
Students receiving financial aid need to report tuition scholarships and out of state waivers to their financial aid counselors.
Graduate students on full assistantships are not prohibited from seeking additional employment (restrictions may apply to international students). Students should consult with their academic advisor and/or assistantship supervisor as applicable regarding the fulfillment of their assistantship and graduate study responsibilities. Students must notify the Graduate School about any additional employment, including the period of employment, name and contact of employer, and job title or short description of duties. Use the online tool for reporting:
Five-year bachelor/master's students can hold assistantships in the last semester of their senior year and receive an in-state tuition scholarship, but their out-of-state fees cannot be waived. Bachelor/Master's students in the last semester of their senior year (level 46 students) who are offered assistantships cannot accept funds from the undergraduate scholarship funds and the graduate scholarship funds concurrently. Departments should discuss with each student the scholarship options before awarding an assistantship and issuing an agreement.
If for any reason a student leaves the assistantship appointment before the end of this contract, please refer to the table below for tuition responsibility. Students must inform their departments and the Graduate School in writing if they terminate the assistantship prior to the contract ending date. Departments wishing to terminate a student contract should notify the student and use this form.
Except in cases where the student is withdrawing from the university for family/medical reasons, if a student or department terminates the assistantship prior to the completion of the academic semester, the remission of tuition and E&G fees shall be calculated in four week increments, with each quarter of tuition earned by the completion of four full weeks of work and full remission earned only if the student completes the assistantship (16 full weeks or more in a semester). Other benefits, such as health insurance subsidy and out-of-state tuition waiver, will be recalculated based on eligibility requirements, and the student will be billed for the remaining balance.
The table below details the tuition obligations for students who leave the assistantship appointment before the semester is complete.
Standard assistantship contract start and end dates are the same each year to provide 9 pay periods a semester regardless of the actual semester start/end dates. Assistantship benefits such as the health insurance subsidy are distributed evenly through the 18 pay periods in an academic year. Your reporting to work date and last day of work might be different from the contract start/end dates.
Standard assistantship appointments:
Academic Year: Aug 10 through May 9
Fall Semester: Aug 10 through Dec 24
Spring Semester: Dec 25 through May 9
Summer I: May 10 through Jun 24
Summer II: Jun 25 through Aug 9
Departments must specify whether a student is to work over school- or semester breaks. Students may be offered assistantships at any time of year. Tuition remission is prorated based on percentage and length of contract.
For assistantships starting on Aug 10, the first paycheck is on Sep 1.