Working as a TA during your studies can help build your public speaking skills.
A number of advanced degree programs, particularly at the PhD level, offer students the option to apply for a teaching assistant position. As the title denotes, the role involves helping professors teach students, typically at the undergraduate level.
Responsibilities usually include conducting lectures, conducting seminars, grading papers, holding office hours and answering student questions and concerns via email. The amount of responsibility in the role will vary, contingent on the professor you are working with, the length of your tenure and the program you are teaching. For example, a first year master's student working as a TA will likely have less responsibility than a fourth-year PhD candidate. The role is usually compensated with an annual stipend, which can help with expenses such as tuition and room and board.
Taking on a role as a TA is beneficial in a number of ways. If you are considering applying but need some extra convincing, review the list of four reasons to become a TA below:
1. It can help financially
Most graduate TA positions offer some form of monetary compensation, whether it's an annual stipend, tuition waiver or both. According to Talent Egg, payment can also be bestowed on an hourly basis as opposed to a salaried basis. And although the salary is by no means lucrative, the money can go some way toward lowering your student debt and helping you get by every day. Be sure to research the kind of payment you can expect to receive when you apply to the TA role.
"The money can help lower your student debt."
2. You learn how to teach
Perhaps the clearest benefit of taking on a TA role is that it teaches you vital pedagogy skills. As Michelle McDonough, writing for Bright Hub, pointed out, new teaching assistants will rarely teach a class on their own. Instead, you'll be able to watch the professor at work and then take on duties such as grading, holding discussions and offering advice during office hours. Once you have become more tenured, and especially if you are a PhD student, you will then likely be required to teach independently. In essence, you learn how to teach at the university level in a gradual way, accruing vital skills that will be attractive to future employers, particularly if you wish to enter the fields of academia or high school teaching upon graduation.
Furthermore, the knowledge you accrue while working as a TA, although often basic, can help your studies and expand your own knowledge base, the Rutgers University Student Blog argued.
3. You become better with time management
One of the main reasons why you may not wish to pursue a TA position is that you fear you may not have the time alongside your own studies. While this may be true in some cases, taking on the additional responsibility of a TA role can actually help with your time management skills. This is because, as the Oswego State University of New York pointed out, given the extra work on your plate, you'll have to find a way to balance your responsibilities. Whether that involves keeping a tight calendar, working ahead on weekends and so on, having the extra responsibility can help you become more adept at handling a large workload, which is a valuable skill to have in the workplace.
4. Helps build confidence
Getting up and speaking in front of a class each week can help build your public speaking confidence, particularly if this is something you have struggled with in the past, the Rutgers University Student Blog explained. And given that speaking in front of a crowd is a common expectation in many roles, the skills you learn as a TA will transfer well to your career, post graduation.