Teaching assistant in front of class

Full-time Ph.D. and research master’s students may be awarded assistantships, which fall into four general categories: teaching assistant (TA), research assistant (RA), graduate assistant (GA), and graduate research assistant (GRA). These awards are administered by fields and departments. 

Assistantships are an arrangement in which financial support is given to a graduate student who engages in teaching and/or research in furtherance of the university’s academic mission, as well as his or her graduate education. 

Students on full assistantships receive the following:

  • a stipend,
  • a full tuition credit at the research degree rate, and
  • Cornell individual student health insurance.

Some fields may supplement the stipend and/or make summer appointments.

See also: University Policy on Assistantships


Assistantships are awarded by departments, fields, and Principal Investigators. There is no separate application for assistantships. The assignment is usually in your major field or a closely-related one.

Teaching Assistants (TAs)

A teaching assistant is an academic appointment in support of the teaching of a course. Teaching assistants may assist in teaching a section of a course, lead discussions, and/or lead laboratory sections. Teaching assistants average no more than 15 hours per week for the base stipend as established by the Board of Trustees.   

Special information for incoming international students: 

International students who come from countries where English is not the first language and who will TA in their first year at Cornell should visit the Center for Teaching Innovation’s International Teaching Assistant Program webpage for language assessment information.

See also: On-Campus Work

Support and resources for TAs: 

The Center for Teaching Innovation (CTI) offers a central place where teaching assistants can go for insight and assistance with their teaching responsibilities, including programs and workshops for teaching assistants with all levels of experience. 

Graduate Research Assistantships (GRAs)

A GRA is an academic appointment focused on thesis or other degree-related research of a type that is required from all candidates for the degree. The research project for a GRA directly supports the student’s thesis or dissertation. Because a student devotes considerable time to thesis or dissertation research, the time spent is connected with the project.  

Research Assistantships (RAs)

A RA is an academic appointment for research that is not directly thesis-related, 15 to 20 hours per week, averaging no more than 15 hours per week. For example, a RA appointment might include data analysis on a faculty research project not directly related to the student’s dissertation topic. As with other assistantships, there is no separate application. Students are appointed by departments, fields, or individual faculty.

Graduate Assistantships (GAs)

A GA is an academic appointment requiring 15 to 20 hours a week, averaging no more than 15 hours per week, for the base stipend as established by the Board of Trustees. For example, a GA appointment might include assisting a faculty member in developing and coordinating an academic conference.