Graduate research, teaching, and service assistantships are available on an annual or nine-month basis. Individual academic and non-academic departments/units are responsible for making the assistantship award, establishing the amount of the stipend and work schedule, and monitoring the performance of the graduate assistant's duties and responsibilities. A graduate assistant's work schedule is a maximum of 20 hours per week. The minimum stipend rate is $600.00 per month.
Graduate Research Assistantship (GRA) - Many of the University's academic, research, and administrative offices employ Graduate Research Assistants. This opportunity provides an excellent means for students to learn new techniques and methods as well as expand their knowledge by association with research-oriented responsibilities, whether employed by a unit within the student's academic discipline or in another department. Duties and stipends vary from program to program and are dependent upon the nature of assigned duties.
Graduate Service Assistantship (GSA) - Graduate Services Assistant is the title given to students employed to aid faculty and staff members with administrative functions within a unit. Many academic and non-academic unit service assistantships are available. Duties vary, depending on administrative needs of the unit making the award. Stipends vary according to the nature of assigned duties.
IRS Code states that graduate students who are hired in non-teaching/non-research assistantships can receive non-taxed tuition remission of $5,250.00 per calendar year at MSU; these assistantships are titled Graduate Service Assistants. Amounts in excess of $5,250.00 per calendar year are taxable.
Graduate Teaching Assistantship (GTA) - Graduate Teaching Assistants normally serve in an instructional capacity and are selected on the basis of past teaching experience or academic promise as effective instructors in their field of study. Most academic units offer a graduate work budget for one or more teaching assistants each year. All prospective teaching assistants are required to participate in the appropriate Teaching Assistant Workshop(s) prior to beginning their first assignment as a teaching assistant. During the Teaching Assistant Workshops, students are certified at one of the following levels that correspond to the responsibilities and duties of the assistantship appointment:
- Teaching Assistant 1 (TA1): Graduate assistant will perform such tasks as preparing examinations, grading papers, preparing class lectures, maintaining records, and tutoring students outside formal classes. This position does not require classroom certification.
- Teaching Assistant 2 (TA2): Graduate assistant may have some of the same duties as TA1 in addition to making presentations in laboratories or classrooms, conducting lectures, and leading discussion groups but not as the teacher of record. These tasks involve direct contact with students. This position requires classroom certification.
- Teaching Assistant 3 (TA3): Graduate assistant will have the same duties as TA1 and TA2 and will teach classes for credit as the instructor of record and/or as the person primarily responsible for assigning grades. This position requires classroom certification.
Graduate Teaching Assistants who have the primary responsibility of teaching a course/laboratory section for credit (TA2) and/or for assigning final grades (TA3) for such a course/laboratory section must have earned at least 18 graduate semester hours in the teaching discipline, be under the direct supervision of a faculty member experienced in the teaching discipline, receive regular in-service training, and be regularly evaluated.
Teaching Assistant Workshops - The Teaching Assistant Workshops are designed to introduce students to the techniques and skills necessary to be effective instructors in the University environment and promote excellence in undergraduate education at Mississippi State University. Additional information on the Teaching Assistant Workshops is available online at www.grad.msstate.edu/workshop/.
- General Teaching Assistant Workshop is offered in August and January prior to fall and spring semesters. All prospective GTAs, both domestic and international, are required to attend the General Teaching Assistant Workshop. Failure to complete the General Workshop will render a student ineligible for a teaching assistantship award. The General Workshop provides new teaching assistants with an introduction to effective teaching methods and tools and serves to educate GTAs about University policies and resources. The workshop emphasizes the importance of providing high-quality instruction at Mississippi State University.
- Classroom Certification Workshop is offered in August and January prior to fall and spring semesters immediately following the General TA Workshop. The evaluation for Classroom Certification is the tool used to ensure that GTAs are equipped with the skills needed to deliver high-quality instruction to undergraduate students at Mississippi State University. In a 10-minute micro-teaching presentation followed by a 5-minute question/discussion session, prospective Graduate Teaching Assistants for TA2/TA3 certification present to an evaluative panel of graduate faculty members an abbreviated lecture that would be presented to students as part of an assigned course. Classroom Certification is required for all teaching assistants whose responsibilities involve direct contact with students such as giving presentations in lectures or laboratories, conducting lectures, and leading discussion groups. A Teaching Assistant who initially received assignment to a TA1 level may later complete the evaluation for Classroom Certification in anticipation of a change in duties that require direct contact with students. A GTA who has already received assignment to a TA1 level is not required to attend the General Workshop again. Waivers to allow classroom teaching (TA2/TA3) without successful completion of the International Workshop and/or General Workshop and Classroom Certification will not be issued.
- International Teaching Assistant Workshop is offered in August prior to fall semester only. The International Teaching Assistant Workshop, offered in collaboration with the Office of International Education, provides teaching assistants who are international students with the cultural education and communication skills necessary to achieve effective performance of their duties. The workshop also serves as a tool for evaluating international students' teaching and language skills. The training, evaluation, and certification of international GTAs are essential to ensure that undergraduate students receive a high quality of instruction. The International TA Workshop consists of the following three parts: classroom culture (60%), presentation and pronunciation skills (20%), and teaching evaluation and English certification (20%). International students with a bachelor's degree from an accredited US institution are not required to complete the International TA Workshop.
- International Students Beginning Assistantship Appointment in the Fall Semester: Students who are not successful in meeting the required standards during the August evaluation for classroom English Certification cannot proceed to the evaluation for Classroom Certification for the fall semester. They must enroll in ESL 5313 (Classroom Communication and Presentations) during the fall semester. These students are still required to complete the General TA Workshop in August for TA1 certification. After successful completion of ESL 5313 and reevaluation of classroom English in December, the student can be evaluated for Classroom Certification in January prior to the beginning of the spring semester to be certified at the TA2/TA3 level. Participation in the spring General TA Workshop is not required.
- International Students Beginning Assistantship Appointment in the Spring Semester: International TAs beginning their assistantship appointment in the spring semester are only allowed to hold a TA1 level assistantship and must complete the General TA Workshop in January. These students may enroll in ESL 5313 (Classroom Communication and Presentations) during the spring semester and be evaluated for classroom English Certification in May. If successful, these TA1s will be temporarily allowed to hold a TA2/TA3 level assistantship during summer terms and then must successfully complete the evaluation for Classroom Certification in August to continue at the TA2/TA3 level in the fall. International students beginning their assistantship appointment in the spring semester may opt to participate in the International TA Workshop the following August instead of enrolling in ESL 5313 during the spring semester. These students will only be allowed to hold a TA1 level appointment prior successfully completing the International TA Workshop and evaluation for Classroom Certification in August.
Eligibility for an Assistantship - To be eligible for an assistantship appointment, a student must have "regular" or "contingent" admission status to a specific graduate degree program. However, a student with "contingent" status must, within the first award enrollment period, satisfy "regular" admission requirements. A student with "provisional" or "unclassified" admission status is not eligible for an assistantship appointment. An assistantship award will be terminated when these requirements are not met. A student's admission status may be verified by calling the Office of the Graduate School at (662) 325.7400.
Application for Graduate Assistantships - Application for an assistantship appointment must be submitted to the college, department, school, or support unit with a position available. Each department may provide its own application form or use the generic "Graduate Assistantship Application" available on the Office of the Graduate School web site. The department establishes application deadlines and reviews procedures.
Required Course Load for Fall and Spring Semesters - Graduate assistants must be full-time students (registered in at least 9 graduate credit hours) and may not enroll in more than 13 graduate credit hours. The required full-time status must be maintained throughout the entire semester. Therefore, no course may be dropped if the resulting course load would be fewer than the required 9 graduate credit hours, nor may any course in the 9-hour load consist of or be converted to audit status. The 9-credit hour course load may not be composed of undergraduate courses unless the course is a program prerequisite. In such case, the minimum graduate load required will be 6 credit hours and only one undergraduate course will be permitted as part of the 9-credit hour load (per Graduate Council, March 2001). Some international students are required by the University to take ESL 5323 and/or ESL 5313. Both are considered prerequisites, and a graduate student may enroll in one of the courses and 6 credit hours of degree-program courses while holding an assistantship. ESL 5323 and ESL 5313 may not be taken concurrently.
Required Course Load for Full-and Half-Summer Awards - Full-summer awards require an enrollment in at least 6 graduate credit hours with a maximum allowed of 13 credit hours. Any combination may be used to make up the 13-credit hour maximum; however, enrollment in either 5-week term must be at least 3 graduate credit hours with a maximum allowed of 7 credit hours. Additionally, a student holding a half-summer graduate assistantship must be registered for courses scheduled during the term of the assistantship.
Termination of Assistantship - If the assistantship is terminated prior to the specified ending date, the assistant's duties, stipend, and tuition exemption will cease. The student will be required to pay a prorated portion of the previously applied tuition exemption.
Distance Education Courses - A student enrolled in a total of 9 credit hours: Six graduate credit hours and 3 Distance Education credits are treated as the student's required full-time load. Tuition will be assessed at the current University rate. The full-time tuition exemption credit will be applied to a student's account covering the basic tuition of the Distance Education course. Tuition exemption does not cover the Distance Fee.
A student enrolled in a total of 10 or more credit hours: Additional tuition will be charged at the current University credit rate for any graduate student's course schedule that includes Distance Education or ESL courses if the total credit hours exceed 9. Therefore, graduate assistants should note that the graduate assistant tuition waiver does not cover the cost of Distance Education or ESL courses when a student is enrolled in more than 9 credit hours.
Course Overload - Graduate assistants wishing to schedule more than a full-time course load may, with the approval of his/her major professor, department head, graduate coordinator and dean, register for more than 13 hours. The student must submit an Overload Form to his/her major professor. The dean's office sends the approved form to the Registrar's Office. Such transmission will allow application of additional tuition exemption consistent with current policy.
Satisfactory Progress - To retain an assistantship, a student must demonstrate satisfactory progress in the academic program. Failure to do so may result in a termination of the assistantship.
Unsatisfactory Progress - Unsatisfactory progress may be defined as the failure to maintain a B average in graduate courses attempted after being admitted to a specific program, a grade of U, D, or F in any course, more than two grades below a B, failure of the comprehensive/preliminary examination, an unsatisfactory evaluation of a thesis or dissertation, failure of a research defense, or any other failure of a required component of one's program of study. Any of these, or a combination of these, may constitute the basis for the termination of a student's graduate study in a degree program. Individual programs have the right to establish their own criteria; however, the preceding definition should be considered the minimum standard for continuation in graduate programs of study and holding graduate assistantships. In the case of dismissal, a student's assistantship will be terminated.
Stipends - Stipends are paid semimonthly on the fifteenth and the last working day of each month. When employment begins during a pay period, stipends are calculated on a pay-period basis. The employing department must be contacted to obtain specific information regarding paycheck delivery or pickup.
Matriculation Fees - Assessment of tuition and required fees is made on an equal basis for all students classified at the graduate level. All Graduate Assistants receive an exemption equal to approximately 71% of assessed tuition and required fees. Graduate Assistants who are not Mississippi residents will receive a 100% exemption of the additional charges assessed for non-resident tuition. All students are personally responsible for paying any student account charges in excess of the tuition exemption. (For the 2014-2015 academic year, the amount of charges in excess of the tuition exemption is $1,033.00 per semester. During the summer enrollment period, the fee charges are assessed on a per credit hour basis.)