An assistantship is an academic position offered to graduate students as part of their in-school funding package. They can also be applied for, like any job, as it isn’t exactly free money. It requires the student to assist one of their department professors teaching a (usually) lower-level course. Such courses (for example, Freshman Composition) can have hundreds of students enrolled, which necessitates several Teaching Assistants (TAs) to aid the lecturer. Oftentimes the professor lectures the entire class two days a week, and the TA meets with 15-20 students in a classroom once per week. This, of course, varies from institution to institution. Most universities require grading as part of the TA’s duties as well.

Recipients of an assistantship receive a full or partial tuition wavier and can earn a small stipend, which usually pays like a full-time job at McDonald’s.