California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

Graduate Teaching Assistants in San Diego County

May also be called: Graduate Assistants; Graduate Research Assistants; Research Assistants; and Teaching Assistants

What Would I Do?

Graduate Teaching Assistants are graduate students who help faculty members or other instructional staff at postsecondary educational institutions by teaching or performing teaching-related duties. These duties include preparing and assigning course materials and developing and administering quizzes and exams. Graduate Teaching Assistants lead discussions on previously presented class material. They also make comments on and grade students’ in-class and homework assignments, papers, and tests.

Graduate Teaching Assistants prepare and conduct some of the lectures on topics from the course syllabus. They instruct and help supervise laboratory periods. If field outings are required as part of a course, they may help with supervision. Graduate Teaching Assistants assist students with research projects by reviewing procedures. They evaluate and discuss students' academic performance with the faculty member who oversees the course. They conduct office hours for students having questions about assignments or grades. Graduate Teaching Assistants may also tutor students who require extra help.

Some Graduate Teaching Assistants may help faculty members with authorized research projects by collecting, analyzing, and assembling data. They also attend weekly or monthly meetings with the professor and other teaching assistants. Even though Graduate Teaching Assistants job duties may involve many different tasks, they are always working under the direct supervision of a faculty member.

Tools and Technology

Graduate Teaching Assistants use a variety of technological tools, including cameras, computers, DVD players, the Internet, overhead projectors, smart boards, and televisions. They also use presentation, spreadsheet, and word processing software.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Lead discussion sections, tutorials, or laboratory sections.Instructing
Evaluate and grade examinations, assignments, or papers and record grades.Reading Comprehension
Return assignments to students in accordance with established deadlines.Customer and Personal Service
Schedule and maintain regular office hours to meet with students.Active Listening
Inform students of the procedures for completing and submitting class work, such as lab reports.Speaking
Prepare or proctor examinations.Monitoring
Notify instructors of errors or problems with assignments.Problem Sensitivity
Meet with supervisors to discuss students' grades or to complete required grade-related paperwork.Oral Expression
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

The position of Graduate Teaching Assistant is offered through the graduate studies program at private or public colleges or universities. Graduate Teaching Assistants work in classrooms, department offices, field locations, or laboratories. They may experience some stress because of increased workloads due to their own academic responsibilities. They may also face challenges with unmotivated or disrespectful students. Graduate Teaching Assistants are typically appointed to this position for one academic year and must reapply each time. They usually work no more than 20 hours per week. However, at times those who are doing research may work longer hours due to grant proposal deadlines.

Graduate Teaching Assistants may belong to a union, such as the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America or the Service Employees International Union.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Graduate Teaching Assistant may appeal to those who enjoy assisting, communicating with, and instructing people. In addition, this occupation may also be a good choice for an individual who prefers following set procedures and routines.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

Graduate Teaching Assistant wages vary by postsecondary educational institutions. Some may earn college credits/units instead of receiving wages. While other Graduate Teaching Assistants may receive a yearly salary for the duration of their graduate career.

Health and dental benefits offered to Graduate Teaching Assistants may vary among educational institutions. However, since they are students, a student health service fee is usually included with their paid tuition.

What is the Job Outlook?

Even though college tuition may fluctuate and programs may be cut, there should still be increased job opportunities for Graduate Teaching Assistants. However, there also has to be a need and available funding through the academic departments for Graduate Teaching Assistants.

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

A bachelor's degree is the minimum educational level that postsecondary institutions will consider for a position as a Graduate Teaching Assistant. However, some institutions prefer the applicant to have a master's degree or enrolled in a doctoral degree program. The types of courses Graduate Teaching Assistants teach depend upon the degree. Those with a bachelor’s degree teach only lower-division classes. Graduate Teaching Assistants that may be enrolled in a master’s or doctorate degree program teach both lower-division and upper-division courses. Other requirements include enrollment in a graduate degree program at the institution in the student's field of study and a minimum of a 3.0 grade point average. The student must also be registered in 6 to 12 units. New Graduate Teaching Assistants receive training from a faculty member to prepare them for their job duties. Advanced computer skills may also be vital to the success of the Graduate Teaching Assistant.


The experience required by postsecondary educational institutions is adequate completion of previous academic work. However, some research experience may also be a requirement.

Early Career Planning

High school students planning to work as Graduate Teaching Assistants should take college preparatory courses such as English, mathematics, chemistry, physics, and computer science. Students can also gain valuable experience by tutoring or mentoring other students.

Where Would I Work?

The largest industries employing Graduate Teaching Assistants are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Colleges and Universities 98.6%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

Finding a Job

Direct application to the California State University or University of California campuses websites remains one of the most effective job search methods. Job openings can also be found through private colleges or university campuses websites. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at and CalJOBSSM at

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Graduate Teaching Assistants.

  • California Colleges
  • California Colleges and Universities
  • California Universities

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

As Graduate Teaching Assistants gain experience, they are able use this knowledge to further their career development. In addition, this experience may also lead them to a career as a teacher or researcher.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Graduate Teaching Assistants with links to more information.

Health EducatorsProfile
Instructional CoordinatorsProfile
Teacher AssistantsGuide
Vocational Education Teachers, PostsecondaryProfile

Other Sources

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SOC - Standard Occupational Classification25-1191
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Graduate Teaching Assistants25-1191.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)SCA