Graduate assistants are an integral part of the intellectual community at Northern Illinois University. The purpose of graduate education is to develop scholars and professionals equipped with the knowledge and skills to succeed in their chosen fields. By working under the supervision of faculty mentors or administrative professionals, graduate assistants gain valuable experience relevant to their profession. Students who hold assistantships experience educational and professional benefits. The responsibilities and benefits of assistantships vary, but in general, students gain further instruction in techniques in their fields; hone their research skills; acquire pedagogical experience necessary for an academic career; develop professional skills, including leadership, interpersonal effectiveness, and performance evaluation; and have collegial collaboration with advisors that result in joint publications.
The Graduate School does not hire graduate assistants. Instead, you must complete and submit an application to the department or unit in which you seek an assistantship. Graduate teaching assistantships (GTA: direct instruction as a “stand-alone” instructor or assisting a professor with their course) are typically arranged by a chair or graduate program director of a program. A graduate research assistant (GRA) is often hired by individual faculty members. If you are looking for a GRA position, it is a good idea to look and see if your research and skill sets match the work that is being done by professors in your program. There are also GSA positions that are typically offered by departments or other units that may offer applied learning experiences that will enrich your time at NIU.
Learn more about graduate assistantship employment by reading the Graduate Assistantships Policy Library or visiting NIU's Human Resource Services website. Also, please see Tips for Graduate Students Seeking Assistantships.
International Students and Graduate Teaching Assistantship Positions
Under Illinois law, a student whose native language is not English must demonstrate competence in spoken English to be appointed as a graduate teaching assistant engaged in oral classroom instruction. A minimum score of 50 on the new version (220 on the old version) of the Speaking Proficiency English Assessment Kit (SPEAK) administrated at Northern Illinois University, has been set by the university for this purpose. This requirement is independent of the Graduate School’s admission requirement.
Information about the SPEAK Test can be found on the NIU English as a Second Language (ESL) Center. There is a cost for this test. Please contact the ESL Center with any questions.