Over your four years at college, you’ll run into your fair share of teaching assistants (TAs). But has it ever crossed your mind that you could be one too? After all, that hot guy supervising your bio lab or the girl leading your econ quiz section with a killer PowerPoint presentation is a student just like you. But if going from behind your desk to the front of the classroom seems intimidating, don’t worry. We’ve got the inside scoop—and nine reasons becoming a TA might be a great choice for you.
1. You’ll form a relationship with your professor
Obviously, being a TA will help you build a relationship with the professor you work for. Not only is this a great opportunity to learn more from their experience and expertise, but professors are also networking gold. Most professors worked in a related industry before transitioning to teaching, and likely have connections that could help you toward your dream job. They might be able to help set you up an informational interview or put in a good word for you—just ask! When it comes time to apply to an internship, they’re also a great person to ask for a recommendation letter, since they’ll have seen your work ethic and professionalism day in and day out. Plus, you two might hit it off and bond over your shared love of tennis or Game of Thrones!
2. You’ll be compensated
Obviously, the school doesn’t expect you to work for nothing. It depends on the university, but most TAs are compensated with either an hourly wage, partial tuition waivers or academic credits. This is something to keep in mind when you’re deciding whether to take the position—after all, if you’re already taking a full credit load, registering for those extra credits might actually come with an extra fee. Likewise, if you’re on a full academic scholarship, tuition waivers won’t really benefit you. However, this is a great way to earn some cash on campus or those extra credits might get you earlier registration privileges!
3. It demonstrates leadership
Not only is this a great leadership role for your resume, but officially working for your college or university comes with extra weight behind it. You help represent the school to every student in the class you TA for, and future employers will be impressed. Being a TA requires professionalism, discretion and integrity—traits that will serve you well in a job hunt and in life.
4. It’s flexible
Though you’ll likely have to attend lectures and possibly hold review sessions or office hours, chances are most of your work can be done at home in your pajamas. Grading papers in your pajamas or watching Friday Night Lights while scoring quizzes beats going into the office any day! This means that even if your planner is already jam-packed with classes, clubs and other commitments, being a TA can still work with your busy schedule. That said, make sure you’re being realistic about what you can handle.
5. You might already be tutoring your friends
Your study dates with friends turn into you giving them the Cliffnotes version of the last lecture every. single. time. People are always asking you to proofread their papers or critique their PowerPoint presentations. You’re everyone’s go-to for questions about the syllabus or a concept from lecture they don’t understand. If any of this rings true, you’re practically a TA already. Why not make it official?
6. You like helping others
There’s no better feeling than helping someone finally understand something that they’ve been struggling with. If you have a knack for boiling something down to its simplest parts or coming up with quirky analogies, you’d probably be a great TA. Since you’ve already taken the class, you can also share any tips or tricks you picked up, like mnemonics or the best way to study for the final.
7. You’ll meet a LOT of new people
Don’t get too close while they’re still in your class, since we do NOT recommend students date their TA, but if you’re all in are in the same department, it’s likely you’ll run into each other again. If you see them in a different class or sitting alone at a café, why not try getting to know them better? You have a built-in conversation starter and you already know you have similar interests. If your professor has multiple TAs for the class, you’ll likely befriend them as well, so you’ll always have someone to vent to over last-minute syllabus changes or crazy grading deadlines.
8. You’ll master the material
If this class is key to your major or a specialized lecture that inspired your future career, this is a golden opportunity to become a pro in that area. After a few months of review and helping others with the same material, those key concepts (and even the obscure trivia) will be second nature. You’ll be able to recite the textbook in your sleep, and will understand the subject at a much deeper level.
9. You can avoid burnout
Alternatively, staying involved with something outside your department or concentration might be just what you need to avoid hating your major. If your eyes are glazing over while trying to do your assigned reading, focusing on another subject for a few hours—one that won’t affect your GPA—might be just what you need. It’s easy to throw yourself into your chosen field and end up burned out, so staying involved with a wide range of subjects might just keep you sane.
If you’re interested in being a TA, talk to your professor and let them know that you’d like to be considered! Don’t be discouraged if they don’t need someone right away. If you really want to work with them, continue that relationship so they keep you in mind when another opportunity arises. Ask them for career advice or book recommendations, then follow up to show you’re truly interested. Some professors have more than one TA, so your chances of nabbing the job might be better than you think. Academic advisers also a valuable resource. They’re familiar with your entire department, and will likely know about all the upcoming opportunities.
A simple conversation might be all it takes to set you on the path of becoming a TA—so what are you waiting for?