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Grad school stipend questions?

  1. Oct 19, 2013 #1
    I had two questions regarding grad school stipends. For starters, about how many hours per week do you have to typically spend working to earn your stipend? Second, I have heard that the amount of grad students receiving stipends is extremely high in most colleges, where actually not getting one is quite rare. Is this true?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 19, 2013 #2
    Generally, as a grad student you'll work 50-60 hours a week most weeks, and many more (70-80) when you hit crunch times. As to whether all of that is "earning your stipend" depends on your appointment. If you are teaching expect 10-15 hours a week of that to be spent teaching, and the rest doing research. If you aren't teaching, then all of your time will be spent researching.

    Where I did graduate school, everyone had a stipend and tuition waiver.
  4. Oct 19, 2013 #3
    Thanks for the information. So, other than about 10-15hrs/week (if teaching), the rest of your time would be doing research and studying, is that right? I'm assuming you are including the time for studies and classes taken into those hours. Anyway, from what I'm gathering from you, the majority of the time you earn your stipend, you are still learning? I was just wondering if TAs ended up having to spend hours and hours of their week grading, putting together exams, or things like that which pulled away from studies.
  5. Oct 19, 2013 #4
    I work at least 70 hours a week. Sometimes more. If you are not really gifted physics/math is hard.
  6. Oct 20, 2013 #5
    I think most people on our floor probably work 50 hrs per week or less in lab.

    If you arent getting a stipend then going to school at that place isnt worth it. Never take out loans and debt for grad school unless it is for a professional degree. Grad school should not only be free they should pay you to do it in the sciences and engineering.
  7. Oct 20, 2013 #6
    Thanks. Now, is that time spent in lab also time spent learning? I'm still not clear from the responses as to how much of the work for the stipend takes away from studies and how much coincides with it? Also, does that 50hrs per week include classes and time studying for those classes?
  8. Oct 20, 2013 #7


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    I think the question you want to ask is slight different from the one you're asking. A lot can depend on the definitions here.

    I tend to separate "stipend" from a teach assistanceship (TA), from a research assistanceship (RA), mostly because that's how it was when I went to school. The stipend can be considered money that you get just because you're in the program. It's like an award. For the TA and RA you are required to put in time. The way it worked when I was a student about half of what we made was a stipend and the other half was from a TA/RA, and that was sometimes replaced by additional awards and scholarships. (Note this may vary from place to place since in some schools tuition is waved.)

    The TA basically worked out to two 3 hour labs per week + prep and marking time. Officially we were paid for 12 hours. Aside from reinforcing the basics (which is important) that would probably not be considered learning/studying/research time for a graduate student.

    It's safe to assume that you'll be working as if at a full time job, and likely doing some studying or marking or reading or other research-related work (including writing papers/thesis, preparing talks, administration) in the evenings as well. Assuming you don't have family obligations, you'll have time for extra-curricular activities. Some people are able to hold down a part-time job or do some volunteer work. You'll get busier as exams, committee meetings, conferences and thesis deadlines approach - some more than others.
  9. Oct 20, 2013 #8


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    When I was in grad school at Michigan 30-35 years ago, that was considered a 1/4 time TA.

    Most incoming grad students (like me) had 1/2 time TAs for their first year at least. This usually meant four 3-hour labs per week. The rest of the time was spent on our own graduate classes and on checking out research opportunities.

    When we hooked up with a research group or a professor for our Ph.D. research, we switched to either a 1/2 time RA (if the group/professor had enough funding) or a 1/4 time TA + 1/4 time RA.
  10. Oct 20, 2013 #9
    Typical day:

    In lab by 8-8:30 AM, leave around 5:30. Many times I'll stay until 7. On days that I have class, I don't go to lab until 3 PM and leave at 6. Class days: I have them from 9-10:15 AM and 1:30-2:45 PM, so it's really a waste of time to run back and forth between 2 different campuses in between classes, I just stay until they are done.

    When I get home, there's usually some studying or HW until 12-1 AM after dinner.

    Basically I put in the bear minimum effort I need to pass a class. Most of the time I spend much more time and effort running around in lab, writing grants, reading papers, and trying to optimize/trouble shoot experiments. During the summers when there is no class I usually work 7:30-5:30/PM M-F and maybe 2-4 hours on Sat. and Sun.
  11. Oct 20, 2013 #10
    Well thank you for the clarification. Yes, I really wasn't sure of how the various different processes work and it seems like I wasn't clear on exactly what I was looking for because I didn't know about much of the details. You definitely cleared it up for me here. Thanks again.
  12. Oct 20, 2013 #11
    Thanks. I have heard most first year grad students start as a TA, then you eventually work your way into an RA position later on. Seems like your experience is consistent with that.
  13. Oct 20, 2013 #12
    Thanks for taking the time to go into such depth. I really appreciate the information.
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