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How rare are (TA/RA)ships for Masters' students?

  1. Aug 7, 2009 #1
    Not sure if this belonged here or in Career Guidance, but since TA/RAships are in academics, here it goes:

    I'm about to start my 3rd year as a Physics undergrad. I commute to campus from home but I am planning on moving into an apartment senior year. Unfortunately, that will probably drain all of my funds, but I do not plan on stopping just with undergrad. I'm strongly considering grad school in either Electrical Engineering or Mechanical Engineering. I have room for 2 "spare" classes which I'm planning on using to help me decide, and 1 more summer before graduation with which I can hopefully snare an internship in EE or MechE with (through poor planning, I barely squeezed into a volunteer position in a low-temp physics lab at current school for the summer).

    So basically, I see two options:
    1) Try to find some sort of engineering-related work for a year or two to finance the Masters' degree.

    2) Continue straight into grad school for a PhD. It seems like much of my tuition and housing would be covered, although for now, I seriously doubt that I have the dedication or love for a field to pursue this path.

    With that said, I am wondering how rare are (TA/RA)ships to obtain for Masters' students. I'm asking since I think it would be preferable for me to go straight to grad school instead of taking some intermediate step(s) in an attempt to figure out how to pay it off.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 7, 2009 #2
    TA positions are very common for masters students. A lot of the TAs in my school are just masters students. Getting an RA position as a masters student is highly unlikely. Getting an RA position as a PhD is difficult, doing it as a masters only student is usually unheard of.
  4. Aug 7, 2009 #3
    It depends on the school. The more competive schools offer less to masters student in terms of tuition remission and TA/RA positons. Schools that aren't quite in the elite of the engineering world need to snag talent some how, so they are much more willing to dedicate funds towards masters students. The elite universities don't put as much funding towards master's students because they have alot of top PhD candidates to choose from. PhD candidates offer a better return on investment since they will be around for 4-5 years where as masters students are only around for a year or two.
  5. Aug 7, 2009 #4
    I don't know about engineering. But at my physics department, all of the MS students are funded by TAs during the school year, and I think they also get RAs during the summer months. The condensed matter people have some weird rule about not being able to get school year RAs before passing the qual, so I'm guessing the MS students are stuck teaching. But in the high energy and astro groups this rule is unheard of. Astro also has a lot of MS students, so the faculty is pretty accustomed to giving them RAs.
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