Graduate Program:  Part-Time Employment Opportunities


Collage of students and professors 

A limited number of opportunities are available for students in the form of part-time employment while pursuing the MS or PhD degree. These opportunities are in the form of teaching assistantships, research assistantships, and biweekly payroll assignments. Reappointment is based on continued progress towards the degree. The expectation is that support will be terminated after 2 years for MS and 3 years for PhD students.

Assistantships are awarded only to students who have exhibited a high level of scholarly achievement. This is done to ensure that the student can complete a rigorous and high-quality graduate program while carrying out the responsibilities inherent to an assistantship. Assistantships are part-time employment, and differ from scholarships or fellowships awarded solely based on merit, allowing students to focus on their courses and research project. Students who receive assistantships or biweekly payroll assignments are expected to exhibit the same degree of commitment, responsibility, and accountability as any other staff member employed by the University. Continuation of part-time employment is contingent upon adequate progress in the degree program, as described in the Evaluation section.

The department assumes that any student on assistantship will have no other employment outside the University.

Graduate Research or Teaching Assistantships

In the department, both teaching and research assistantships are available to students and gives them the opportunity to work within the department to enhance their training. The number of assistantships available in a given year varies with funding available to the department and individual faculty members. Students are expected to provide 10 hours MINIMUM service for a ¼ time assistantship, 20 hours MINIMUM service for a ½ time assistantship, and 30 hours MINIMUM service for a ¾ time assistantship, per week. These duties can and often fall outside a student's thesis or dissertation research responsibilities.

Graduate Teaching Assistantships (GTA)

Graduate Teaching Assistants work under the direct supervision of a teaching faculty member in activities such as helping to prepare lectures, teaching discussion sections, conducting laboratory exercises, grading papers, keeping class records, etc. The GTA should not be considered as support for your research activities, and adequate progress in the research program is expected beyond the assistantship duties. During the summer semester, when classes normally are not held, GTAs should report to the department head for work assignments.

A GTA orientation provided by the Graduate School is required in the fall of your first year, and online Blackboard training is also required. All GTAs whose first language is not English must pass the ITA Testing Program ( before assuming teaching responsibilities.

Graduate Research Assistantship (GRA)

GRAs at the MS and PhD levels will generally be defined as ¼ or ½ time employment. When GRAs are not in class, they should be available to assist their major professor and the department. GRAs may be assigned teaching duties, particularly if the GRA is funded from departmental sources. The purpose of graduate research assistantships is to further the major professor or department's research goals. It is not payment for your time spent on a thesis or dissertation project.


Graduate assistants are a special class of university employee. The IRS considers assistantship support taxable, as it is not a fellowship or scholarship. It is a type of employment with the following benefits.

  • Annual stipend
  • Costs associated with required coursework (i.e. for MS students the maintenance fees for 24 graduate credit hours plus 6 hours of ANSC 500). Note that you are responsible for other fees, including health, library, technology, facilities, transportation, special course fees, etc. (see Bursar's website)
  • Heath insurance
  • While you do not earn sick leave or vacation days, flexibility in scheduling can be obtained from your supervisor

It is important to note that maintenance fees are a real expense to the department or other funding source. Therefore enrolling in excessive hours not approved by your advisory committee or unnecessary to meet degree requirements is not permitted. Should you do so, or fail to complete a course (grades D, F or W), YOU may be personally responsible for maintenance fees for that course.

Bi-weekly Payroll Assignments

A number of graduate students have been hired on a part-time basis to assist in teaching and research operations. These students are paid on an hourly basis and generally have more flexibility as to the time for performing their duties.


A number of fellowships are available through the Graduate School. These awards are for full-time study at UT Knoxville, and awardees are selected on the basis of high achievement, broad intellectual ability, and potential for significant career contributions.