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Programs The meaning of funding during grad school

  1. Mar 11, 2016 #1
    This is a topic that has kept me wondering for some months. In grad school one of my friends said that when he was applying to study for his Ph.D, one of the first things one must find out before applying was if funding was available. Where I went to study, many professors were available for advising students for their thesis/dissertations. However, almost no one had funding available. Several professors could not promise that their prospective student can receive funding at the moment they apply. I have two questions:

    1.) What funding are they referring to? Is it related conducting research or just grants or scholarships to cover tuition costs + room and board?

    2.) Do they mean assistantships? If so, how can one obtain an assistantship whether it is teaching or research and what are some tips?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 11, 2016 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    In the US, when you apply to a grad school, you normally apply for an assistantship at the same time. In physics, most first-year grad students start out with teaching assistantships. At least, that's the way it was when I was at U of Michigan many years ago. I had what they called a half-time assistantship which consisted of teaching four sections of introductory physics labs. The other "half-time" was my own coursework. These assistantships were paid for out of departmental funds.

    Sometime during the first two years you were expected to hook up with a professor (and his research group) for your dissertation work, and at that time you switched to a research assistantship, normally again half-time, with the same pay as with a teaching assistantship. Here the principle was that you spent half your time helping with your professor's (or group's) research, and the other half on your own research (preparing for it, performing it, writing your dissertation). These assistantships are normally paid for out of the professor's or group's grant money.

    Some groups didn't have much money available, and their grad students got split assistantships: 1/4 time teaching plus 1/4 time research.

    The details probably vary somewhat at different schools, but this is probably a common pattern.

    A half-time assistantship covered your tuition and fees, and provided enough money for basic living expenses for a single person. I always shared an apartment with another person, and didn't own a car until my last year of grad school, so I was even able to save some money to travel a bit during vacations.
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