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Working as an RA before grad school

  1. Jul 26, 2012 #1

    I am currently an undergrad. Now, I have some student loans to pay off and I also don't feel like going to grad school right after my undergrad. I thought it would be a good idea to work as a research assistant in my physics department after I graduate.

    During these RA years, if I do some good research that ends up being published (hopefully), will it help with grad school applications? Or is it of no real advantage since I techincally will have done it after my undergrad?

    Thank you for your replies.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 26, 2012 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    Do you have the job lined up? "Hello, please hire me as an RA instead of taking on a student of your own" may not get the best results.
  4. Jul 26, 2012 #3
    My school usually hires some graduating students as RAs. At least for the past three years, I know quite a few people who have graduated and stayed on as RAs or TAs (some of those also work on research). Perhaps things are different here because this is not an American university?

    So, I'm not 100% certain but it's a very good chance.
  5. Jul 26, 2012 #4
    A couple of thoughts. Publishing creditable work is never a negative and should be somewhat helpful in job shopping, if relevant to the job. Getting an RA/TA position and going to graduate school are not mutually exclusive. I had a TA position in college and an RA position in graduate school. IMO, suck it up for a little longer and stay in school, and try for an RA or TA position. In every case I know of, the RA or TA got you a little money and "in state" status for tuition. Since I always went to school “out of state” the savings was huge!
  6. Jul 26, 2012 #5
    Yes, this is what I thought. But I also heard that since any work that I publish will be after my undergrad it wouldn't really count. Essentially, the argument is: I get the opportunity to do extra research during those years while those who apply directly after their undergrad don't. Hence, work done during this time is not a factor in grad school decisions in the interest of fairness to undergrads who apply directly after they finish school. Is this true?

    Thank you for your other points too.
  7. Jul 27, 2012 #6
    No. That's not how admissions committees think.

    The way that admissions committees think is "we are able to spend massive amounts of time and effort on person X, how can we be sure that person X will be useful to our department." Anything that you can do to convince the committee that you will be useful to them (i.e. you are smart and dedicated enough to finish the program) will help.

    Also publications are a difficult issue because the question always comes up "how much effort did the person actually put into the publication." Just haven't a publication is pretty useless. Having a publication and then having recommendations letters from people saying how great a researcher you are will help a lot.

    The other thing is that if you aren't sure you want to be going to graduate school, then you shouldn't apply, so not applying now will give you some time to figure out if you really want to go or not.

    They are. In American universities, RA and TA'ships are generally reserved for graduate students. I've seen a few rare examples of an undergraduate staying on as a lab assistant, and that has always been a big asset.
  8. Jul 27, 2012 #7
    Thanks twofish! Your reply was very helpful.
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