Students admitted to the Graduate School may be eligible to receive financial support in the form of an assistantship. The primary purpose of graduate assistantships is to promote the successful completion of an academic program by enabling students to work in an academic setting while they earn their degrees. Graduate assistants work under the supervision of an appropriate faculty member. Graduate assistantship assignments provide support of the university’s teaching, research or service missions for the benefit of the student in an area closely related to the student’s chosen field of study. Employment is measured as a proportion of full-time equivalent (FTE) status, with 1.0 FTE representing employment estimated to be 40 hours per week. For a full list of the requirements and eligibility criteria applicable to graduate assistants, please see the Graduate Assistantship Contract.
Types of Graduate Assistantships
There are three types of graduate assistantships at East Carolina University: graduate teaching assistants (GTA); graduate research assistants (GRA); and graduate administrative support assistants (GSA).
Graduate Teaching Assistant
A graduate teaching assistant (GTA) works with a supervising faculty member to gain instructional skills and an increased understanding of the discipline. The GTA is provided a stipend and their primary responsibilities are to support the university’s instructional mission. Services provided by a GTA may include some or all of the following: classroom or laboratory teaching; advising and mentoring of students; proctoring examinations; grading papers, homework, and/or projects; accompanying/coaching musical or vocal performances; providing artistic instruction or assisting with preparation and management of materials and programs that are utilized in imparting knowledge or in the instructional process; or providing other general assistance in the instruction process.
Graduate Research Assistant
A graduate research assistant (GRA) works with a supervising faculty member to provide general support to the university’s research mission. These responsibilities may or may not relate directly to the student’s thesis or dissertation. Duties of the GRA primarily involve applying and mastering research concepts, practices, or methods of scholarship. Services provided by a GRA may include some or all of the following: assisting faculty members in a research or creative activity; performing degree-related professional or administrative services that support research, instruction, professional development, or outreach missions of the university; developing and evaluating instructional materials or curricula; or assuming responsibility for designated scholarly endeavors.
Graduate Administrative Support Assistant
A graduate administrative support assistant (GSA) provides general services to the university that may or may not be directly related to the student’s chosen field of study.
A student worker is different from a graduate assistant. A student worker is an employed student who may not meet some or all of the above criteria pertaining to graduate assistants. Student workers must be paid based on actual time worked as assigned. Documentation of hours worked via a time sheet and an hourly wage of at least the federal minimum wage ($7.25, as of 2019), are required. For more information about requirements for employment of students workers, contact The Office of Student Employment.
The Graduate School limits the FTE of graduate assistantships in order to ensure that students make adequate satisfactory academic progress and complete their degrees within appropriate time limits. A graduate assistantship of 0.50 FTE is estimated to be the equivalent of 20 hours of work per week. Assistantships up to 0.625 FTE are equivalent to an estimated maximum of 25 hours per week and do not require permission of the dean of the Graduate School. Exceptions for appointment totals exceeding 0.625 require the approval of the dean of the Graduate School. The sponsoring unit must allocate sufficient funds to cover the employer’s portion of the NC State Employee’s Health Insurance plan, if applicable.
These guidelines are applicable to all academic terms.
The combined maximum workload limits for ECU graduate assistants as stated above extend to include all forms of graduate student employment including, but not limited to, hourly graduate student employment, work-study employment at ECU, and other forms of employment. If you have questions about workload limits, please contact the Graduate School.
Eligibility for Assistantship Funds
Graduate assistantship funds are allocated by the Graduate School to departments to be used to support graduate teaching assistantships and graduate research assistantships only, and may only be awarded to graduate students enrolled in on-campus programs. It is appropriate for students in campus-based programs supported with a graduate research assistantship to engage in research or fieldwork at a remote site for extended periods of several months or more, with appropriate supervision and mentoring. At an academic or administrative department’s discretion, graduate administrative assistants may be supported with department funds. At a department’s discretion, graduate students in online only programs or off-campus students may receive graduate assistantships with department funds; however, they may not be supported with Graduate School funds. For more information, see Graduate Assistantship Terms and Conditions of Appointment.
A full-time graduate assistantship (20 hours per week - fall and spring semesters) is worth a minimum of $9,000 ($4,500 per term). Units may opt to pay graduate assistants in their program at a higher rate if they deem it appropriate. Units may opt to split assistantships into 1/4 (5 hrs/wk),1/2 (10 hours/week) and 3/4 (15 hours/week) appointments as deemed necessary.
Tax Withholding Requirements
In order for graduate assistants to be exempt from FICA tax withholding, they must have a minimum registration of 4 hours for the fall and spring semesters and 3 hours in the summer. If the graduate assistant is registered for less than the stated hours FICA will be withheld. Departments paying students from sources other than state appropriated dollars should note that the university’s portion of the FICA (7.65%) will be taken from the funding source used to pay the assistantship and should therefore budget accordingly.
Time Limit on the Use of Graduate School Assistantship Funds
Students in master’s programs may not receive assistantship support from Graduate School funds after their fifth semester of enrollment (excluding summer sessions). Students in doctoral programs may not receive assistantship support after their tenth semester of enrollment (excluding summer sessions). A department may use its own funds in such cases where a longer length of time is necessary and appropriate, at its own discretion.