Log In

SoC Teaching Assistant Application FAQ

Why TA? What do TAs do?

Question: Why should I be a TA?

Answer:

Being a Teaching Assistant is a great way to earn money on campus, help other students, solidify your understanding of topics, and make close connections with the faculty.

Question: What do TAs do?

Answer:

TAs grade, hold office hours to answer student questions, sometimes present laboratory material, etc. TAs should have good communication skills and a desire to help other students.

Important Dates: Hiring Decision Time Frame

Question: When can I apply to be a TA?

Answer:

Applications for Fall will be accepted from May 1st of the year until June 30th.

Applications for Spring will be accepted from October 1st of the year until Dec 27th.

Summer hires are handled directly by the faculty teaching these courses.

Question: What if I am late to apply for a TA position?

Answer: If you miss the deadline, you may still apply but your likelihood of being accepted is very low. You should schedule a meeting with Prof. de St. Germain to advise him of your late application and explain why it was late.

Question: When will I know if I will be a TA?

Answer: Because of the nature of class enrollments (we often don't know final student counts until the start of classes) we cannot make hiring decisions far in advance. That being said, we try to let outstanding candidates know that they will probably be hired (meaning that if enrollments stay at the projected level, they will be hired) a couple weeks before classes start. Other hiring decisions will usually be made the week before classes start. Sometimes, hiring decisions are made the day before classes start, or even the first week of classes.

We will do our best to let students know as promptly as possible.The initial and final TA job lists will be posted on this web site.

Note: If you have applied for a TA position and are subsequently employed in another fashion, it is your responsibility to let us know. (You should remove your application, and, if already accepted as a TA directly speak with Prof. de St. Germain.)

Who can TA?

Question: Who can be a TA?

Answer: TAs are selected from candidates at both the graduate and undergraduate level. TAs should be very familiar with and quite good at the material covered in the class. In most cases, a TA should have previously taken the course and received an A grade.

Additionally: TAs are first selected from student pursuing a CS degree. Students in other programs are welcome to apply but will only be considered if equal candidates from CS are not available.

Hiring Decisions

Question: How are hiring decisions made?

Answer: Students are hired based on several criteria. These include:

  1. Was the student formally promised aid by the School of Computing upon acceptance to the program?

  2. Has the student previously TAd for a UofU CS course?

  3. Has the student taken a UofU version of a course and received a top grade?

  4. Has the student been in Utah and with the School for more than a year?

  5. Has the student received a recommendation from a faculty member to be their TA for a specific class?

  6. Has the student received a general recommendation from a faculty member?

  7. Can the student effectively communicate in English, both written and spoken?

  8. (For International Students:) Has the student passed the ITA workshop?

  9. Does the student have an acceptable GPA?

  10. Is the student a Computer Science major or graduate student?

Students who meet many of these criteria are much more likely to be awarded TA positions.

Undergraduate students are often chosen to TA for courses that they have taken in our department and done well in, usually resulting in a recommendation by the faculty teaching these courses. Undergraduate applicants wanting to TA such a course should seek a recommendation from their professor. (See: 'Can I approach a faculty member.')

Graduate students are chosen based on the aid status, their communication skills, their year(s) in Utah, and their Utah coursework. Note: First year graduate students who have not been promised funding should not expect to be hired as a TA.

Finally, students who have TAd for a UofU CS course and received a top evaluation from their instructor will almost always be asked back as TAs and will be given preference over other applicants.

Question: How can I improve my chances to get a TA position?

Answer: Often prospective Teaching Assistants wish to know how they can be a more attractive applicant. The answer is two-fold:

  1. If you have a special talent (e.g., you have taken a course that is in high demand of a TA, or you have worked in industry using the skills specific to a course) then you will have a greater likelihood of being chosen. The more advanced the knowledge the higher the likelihood of being chosen. You should communicate this in your application.

  2. You have a recommendation from a faculty member. This can come in two forms: a) a direct desire from the faculty member for you to be their TA for their class; b) a letter of recommendation from a faculty member. In either case, the faculty member him/herself should email Prof. de St. Germain with this information. (See: 'Can I approach a faculty member.')

Question: Can I approach a faculty member for a TA position?

In general, students should only approach a faculty member if they have an established relationship with that person. This relationship can be from you having taken a course from the faculty member (you should have earned high marks, e.g., an 'A' grade) or worked with the faculty member in the past (e.g., as an RA). If you do not have a relationship with the faculty member, you should not approach them.

If you have a good relationship with the faculty member, you may ask them to email Jim de St. Germain with a short recommendation. (Note: you should not send the recommendation yourself; it must come from the faculty member's email.)

It should be noted that first year graduate students are extremely unlikely to be hired as TAs.

TA pay and benefit information.

TA pay and benefits depend on the TAs position within the department. See below for information on Undergraduates, BS/MS students, and Graduate Students.


All TAs

Question: How much are TAs paid?

Answer: see your appropriate designation below


Undergraduate TAs

Question: How much are TAs paid and how many hours do they work?

Answer: Undergraduate TAs are typically paid $12 per hour in their first semester and expected to work up to either 10 or 20 hours a week (usually 20). The actual amount of hours worked must be logged each week.

Question: Do TAs get raises?

Answer: In general, undergraduate TAs who receive excellent reviews, will be paid an additional $0.50 per hour each semester they TA. Those who have successfully TA'd for more than 3 semester, will receive a substantial raise.

Question: Do Undergraduate TAs receive tuition waivers.

Undergraduate students do not receive any tuition assistance nor health insurance benefits.


BS/MS TAs

Question: How much are TAs paid and how many hours do they work?

BS/MS students who are still in the undergraduate portion of their program will be paid at the undergraduate rate (see the previous section).

Question: What happens once BS/MS students declare themselves to be in the graduate portion of their work?

First time TAs will receive an hourly rate of ~$13.50 and are expected to work 20 hours a week. Such students can receive up to 75% of their graduate course tuition as a benefit.

Question: Do BS/MS students get raises?

BS/MS students (again those doing their graduate work) who have previously TAd and have received outstanding reviews will be hired as Funded TAs in future semesters (see TAs in the Graduate Student TA table).


Graduate Student TAs

Question: How much are TAs paid and how many hours do they work?

Graduate TAs are paid according to the following scale (valid for Spring 2014, but may be changed in the future). Full time graduate student TAs may also receive a tuition waiver (pays for their course work) and money toward health insurance.

Type of TAs Semester Hour Tuition benefit Health benefit
Promised Aid TA $8,400.00 $21.36 100% X
Funded TA $7,250.00 ~$18.00 100% X
BS/MS First Time TA $5,250.00 $13.35 75%
TA Grader $3,250.00 $9.02 50%

First time students will be hired either at the Grader or Funded level depending on need and ability. Only experienced TAs with excellent reviews will be funded at the Promised Aid level. (Note: students entering the School of Computing with promised aid will have their pay rate set based on their acceptance letter. Such students are expected to convert to Research positions in the future.)

International graduate students who have not passed the ITA workshop will not be eligible for the student health benefit.

Graduate student TAs are expected to work 20 hours per week. Please schedule your course workload appropriately.


Non Student TAs

The School of Computing rarely hires TAs from outside the department, but in certain circumstances where a highly capable person is available with specific skills, an arrangement may be possible. If you are not an SoC student and are considering becoming a TA, please contact Prof. de St. Germain (germain@cs.utah.edu) to discuss the possibility.


Disclaimer

Final benefit decisions and pay rates are assigned by the School of Computing financial staff. The rates and benefits listed on this web page are not guaranteed to be correct. Please bring any discrepancies to the attention of Prof de St. Germain.

TA Responsibilities

Question: What are the job expectations and responsibilities for TAs?

Answer : Students who TA are expected to:

  1. TAs are expected to spend 20 hours per week on TA duties. Students who are TAing should plan to take a lighter load than normal. This is especially true for students new to the University of Utah.

    TAs must allocate enough time to properly prepare for office hours, including pre-reading and pre-doing the course assignments. When in charge of a discussion section, TAs will be expected to pre-prepare and practice their discussion.

    TAs will be expected to finish assigned grading promptly and accurately within 7 days of the due date. Grading takes priority over other academic endeavors. If you are unable to complete your grading duties on time, you should approach your supervisor to discuss what can be done.

  2. TAs are expected to be in town the week before school starts.

  3. TA applicants should only choose classes for which they can attend the class lectures and lab sections. You can find information about when and where classes meet on the CIS system.

  4. TAs are expected to be able to effectively communicate with the professor and students in the class. You will be expected to be fluent in the English language and comfortable speaking to individuals and groups.

  5. Excellent TAs will provide additional support to your faculty supervisor above and beyond normal duties, e.g., suggesting and/or creating new assignments, holding extra study sessions, stepping in to answer questions to students and solve issues, etc.

  6. TAs are expected to be evaluated by their faculty member at the mid point and end point of the semester. It is the TAs responsibility to make sure the faculty member fills in the TA evaluation questionnaire online. Failure to be evaluated will likely result in the TA not being hired in future years.

Question: How much course work should I take along side a TA position?

Answer: A 10 hour course load in CS roughly equates to a 40 hour work week. In general TAs are expected to spend 20 hours a week in assigned duties. This can equate to some 60 hour weeks during the semester.

Thus, it is strongly suggested that graduate students take only 3 courses (or approximately 9 credit hours) while TAing. Further, these courses should not all be large time consumers (e.g., Operating Systems alone may take 15 hours a week). Please speak with the graduate director for more advice in this area. Note: it is especially important for new graduate students to take a lighter load in order to acclimatize to the rigor and demands of the School of Computing curriculum.

For undergraduates, a similar load of 9-12 credit hours is suggested. Again, these should not all be CS courses (i.e., students are encouraged to do some general eds).

Finally, effective time-management skills will be extremely useful. Students should make sure to use a calendar program to manage their duties. Time for homework, grading, office hours, etc., should all be pre-scheduled.

Information for International Students

Question: Are there any special requirements for international students?

Answer: International students must pass the ITA workshop to verify their English communication skills. Students should talk to Leslie LeFevre (leslie@cs.utah.edu) and/or Robert Barber (rbarber@cs.utah.edu) for information about the ITA workshop.

Graduate student applicants who have been promised funding as a TA will be guaranteed a place in the ITA workshop. Graduate students who were not promised funding, will be allowed into the ITA as space becomes available. Unfunded graduate students are not guaranteed to be able to enter the ITA workshop and thus may not be eligible to TA.

Students who have not passed the ITA workshop should talk with the SoC staff about benefits. Such students may be hired as Graduate Assistants and, while possibly eligible for tuition benefit, will not be eligible for student health insurance coverage.

I was hired for another job...

Question: What should I do if I get hired for another job after applying for a TA position?

Answer: If you are no longer seeking employment as a TA, it is your responsibility to let us know. If you have not already been selected to TA, you should remove your application by clicking the appropriate status button from the main page. If you have already been selected to TA, you should speak with Prof. de St. Germain directly.

What to do if hired

Question: I was hired as a TA what should I do:

Answer: New TAs who have been set as 'hired' should:

  1. Make sure that you can attend the lab sections and lectures of the assigned class. If you cannot, make sure to mention this when you contact the professor, as it may affect your ability to TA . If a problem exists, you and your professor should contact Prof. de St. Germain as soon as possible

  2. If you are an undergraduate TA, you should sign up for the required Teaching Introductory Computer Science course, CS 5040. This course begins one week before the official start of classes.

    More info can be found here: CS 5040 Info

  3. Meet with Maya Frost <mfrost@cs.utah.edu> (in the Front Office) to arrange to be paid.

    Please bring identification:

    • Graduate Students

      • Passport
      • I-20
      • I-94
      • Social Security card or letter from the International Center and the receipt from the Social Security Administration
    • Undergraduate

      • Passport or Drivers License
      • Social Security Card

    Students who have not previously been paid by the University of Utah should sign up as soon as possible.

  4. Arrange to meet with your assigned professor as soon as possible.

  5. Plan to attend the campus wide or CoE TA orientation.

If for some reason you are no longer interested in being a TA, let both the course professor and Prof. de St. Germain (germain@cs.utah.edu) know right away. Please note: last minute changes sometimes take place (e.g., course enrollments fall, a course is cancelled, etc.) and there is always a small chance that a TA position may fall through. This seldom occurs, but we cannot guarantee your position until the actual start of classes.

TA Learning Opportunities

Question: How can I become a better TA and what training is required?

Answer: Student TAs should always strive to improve their teaching skills. First time TAs should make sure to attend the following training sessions, as appropriate:

  1. CS 5040 is a required course for undergraduate TAs. Note this course is only taught during the fall and if you have already attended it once, you may petition to waive this requirement.

  2. The University has an Annual Teaching Symposium. TAs are encouraged to attend: ctle.utah.edu/ats

  3. The College of Engineering hosts TA training, which is required of all new TAs. Information will be sent about this via email.

Can TAs tutor or date students? What if there is an ongoing relationship?

Question: I have been asked by a student in the course I am TAing for, to tutor them privately. Can I do this? For Money? For Free? How about tutoring them for another class?

Answer: It is a conflict of interest to tutor students for which you are also TAing. This is because you may be in a position to favor them in grading (you may not even be aware you are subconsciously giving them the benefit of the doubt). Further, other students may interpret your actions incorrectly (e.g., that you are giving special favors to a students, or you are biased for a student). Therefore the SoC policy is that you are not allowed to tutor students who are in the class you are TAing, even if you are tutoring them for another class.

You are of course welcome to tutor students from other classes, and you can do this for pay or gratis. One way to become more 'official' as a tutor is to sign up with the Student Union Tutoring Center.

Question: I find a student attractive and would like to ask them on a date. Can I do this?

Answer: No. TAs are not allowed to date students. Should you be assigned to a class where you are currently dating a student, you need to bring this to the attention of the course instructor and the TA director immediately.

Question: I believe there is a conflict of interest in my grading a particular student, because... (I like them from a previous experience, I don't like them from a previous experience, I am related to them, etc.) What should I do?

Answer: Talk with the course instructor and ask that you not be directly assigned to grade that student.

Question: Can I allow other students to use my computer/account?

Answer: Because of the strong commitment TAs need to make to security and the integrity of the grading process, TAs are not allowed to share their computing resources with any students.

TA Offices

Question: Do TAs get offices?

Answer: TAs who need office space for grading, consultation, etc., will be grouped into sets an then assigned an office near the SoC main office. Check with the SoC front office staff for your assignment. It will be up to the group to decide on how the office is shared (i.e., when various TAs will hold hours in the office).

Please be aware that TA consultation hours for most programming intensive courses will be held in the CADE labs as dictated by student use and your course instructor.

I have a question that was not answered here.

Question: What should I do if my questions were not answered?

Answer : Please email germain@cs.utah.edu or talk directly with Prof. de St. Germain in person.