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PeppermintMocha

Does TAing affect research productivity?

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I'm currently deciding between graduate school offers and one of my main concerns with one program is the TA requirement. I would have to TA for at least 4 years during my studies. The official letter states that TAships require 20 hours per week, but I've been told that the workload is usually around or under 10 hours per week, but varies with class type (e.g., statistics) and time of year (e.g., exams). It usually includes attending lectures, holding office hours, administrative tasks, marking/monitoring exams, and teaching (e.g., labs). 

I've asked around and I've received mixed feedback: some tell me to avoid TA as much as possible, while others say it is not a big issue. Keeping in mind that I am not eligible for external grants because I am not a US citizen, how much does TAing affect my research productivity and quality of life?

Any advice is greatly appreciated!

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Some "20 hour" TA positions are 8-10 hours, some are 30+. All depends. No matter how many hours, those are hours you could be working on research. It's grad school so it is just a matter of making the most of your time.

No matter what, I would make sure that you do not go over 20. I've heard too many stories of people who couldn't say "no" and ended up working a lot more than 20 hours (one of the TAs in my master's program was working closer to 40!) and it hurt their applications, classwork, and research. Some profs or advisors will keep pushing to see what they can get out of you so draw some firm lines quickly. 

Edited by Plasticity

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That is a lot! I think getting teaching experience in grad school is really important, but I don't think it should be a 4 year, mandatory requirement. I would be very concerned that TAing would affect my productivity and concentration on research. That just seems like it would be really overwhelming, especially because as @Plasticity said, you aren't going to realize how huge the time commitment is until you are actually in the midst of doing it. In my mind, it would definitely affect your research and stamina during the program.

Also, just another thing to consider, how much are you actually going to be making from the TAship? The program that my SO is attending offers a fellowship/RAship every semester, and if students choose to TA a semester, the income they receive from that is a nice supplementary income to their fellowship/RAship, but it would by no means be enough to live off of. Of course, this could differ from program to program, but it's just another thing to keep in mind.

Edited by FeelTheBern

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I would suggest asking students at the program you're considering what the TA commitment is like. I think it can greatly vary from school to school, so a current students will have the best (and hopefully most honest) idea of what goes into that TAship. 

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Hello! I am a second year grad student in a master program. I have been a TA with a "20" hour commitment per week, and I found that it did not interfere too much. However, I often worked over 20 hours each week so I think the actual time commitment will vary. It takes good time management, but it never impaired my classes or research. I would still take @flowers advice and ask students in that program what it is like there since this can be drastically different across schools.

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On 3/27/2016 at 11:37 AM, PeppermintMocha said:

Does TAing affect research productivity?

Yes. There are only so many hours in the day.

In my grad program, internally funded students TA'd 10 hours/week for 2 of 3 terms/year as part of their funding package. Externally funded students (e.g., had a gov't fellowship) TA'd 5 hours/week for 1 of 3 terms/year. After a few years the divergent research productivity was very apparent. Twenty hours a week might be common but I can't imagine that I could have been as productive working that much.

 

 

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