Did you sit in on your first day of college and wonder who all those minions running around for the professor were? Then later you found out that these people are pretty important- grading some of your papers and even teaching some classes. Well, those were TA’s, short for teaching assistants. It’d be great if the job title sounded a little more elegant, but TA’s are a very important component of the college environment. They’re there to help the professor reach as many students as possible hence being a TA can be very rewarding.
Why become a TA?
The most important reason to become a TA would be a love for teaching. After all, that’s what most of the job entails. But there are some other good perks too. Some colleges may pay a portion or the entirety of your fees or it could simply be a good opportunity to earn some extra cash. Unlike other college jobs, you work right on campus, so you don’t have to travel far and it is generally within your field of knowledge. It also offers great experience and can be a fine addition to your resume if one day you intend on becoming a professor yourself.
Be great in your field
The most important thing for the college to see before they employ you as a TA is that you actually know what you’re talking about. Some colleges require you to have an undergraduate and be registered as a graduate student in the same field. You have to work really hard in your undergraduate years to get the best marks as possible because the TA arena is very competitive. Obviously, those with better grades have a bigger advantage.
Get recommendation letters
Another aspect that gives you an advantage when applying for a TA position is recommendation letters from professors or other staff, especially in the relevant faculty. Network during your undergraduate years and get to know the professors and staff, and let them get to know you so that when the day comes they can give honest and shining recommendation letters.
Get some experience
Some experience in the field goes a long way in helping you get chosen for a TA position. Relevant experience includes tutoring subjects related to your field during your undergraduate years. Another experience that reflects well is if you interned during your undergraduate years under some professors and helped them conduct some research. Having these items on your resume will reflect some practical experience and is rather invaluable in the long run.
Complete the training
Depending on your college or state, there might be some extra training required to become a TA. Most commonly this consists of a few-weeks-long course that happens before the start of the college year. Be prepared to take this course if you are selected because if you can’t make it someone else will take it and get the position.
Every college is different
Each college has its own set of rules and procedures as to how they employ TA’s. It’s a good idea to start talking to some professors even in your junior and sophomore years to understand how they go about employing a TA. Make sure to get a list of all the qualifications and experiences relevant to your college. From there just do your best and give it your all.