Graduate Studies

Graduate Assistantships

A Graduate Assistantship at USM is a great opportunity to gain valuable work experience and develop professional skills that enhance a student’s academic and career goals, while also providing them with financial support.

USM’s Graduate Assistantship program also encompasses Research Assistantships and Teaching Assistantships, depending on the focus of the work.

Graduate Assistants (GAs) are, first and foremost, students – so each Assistantship is designed to serve the needs and cater to the lives of graduate students. However, GAs are also highly valued employees of the University, who support faculty scholarship and teaching; serve as mentors to undergraduate students; conduct meaningful research, outreach, and analysis; and uphold USM’s Service Promise of being “Student focused every day.”

GA appointments are for either 10 or 20 hours per week during the 15-week fall and spring semesters.

Our Graduate Assistants work in a variety of University settings, from academic departments to student service offices to research divisions. The positions are carefully allocated to the most qualified students through an application and hiring process.

Under the umbrella of Graduate Assistantships there are three categories that differ according to the type of work, but are at the same level of employment and follow the same policies and procedures: Graduate Assistant, Graduate Research Assistant, and Graduate Teaching Assistant.



Graduate Assistants are appointed to perform various types of duties other than those related directly to teaching or research. Most commonly, these duties relate to administrative functions for the college and/or department, such as academic and student advising, recruiting, event planning, and data management.

Graduate Research Assistants perform duties in support of college, departmental, or faculty research, which may or may not relate directly to the student’s thesis or program of study. Research assistantships may be financed through funds from gifts, grants, contracts, state appropriations designated for research, or through an academic program’s resources.

Graduate Teaching Assistants work under the direct supervision of faculty members and are assigned duties related to instruction. These include activities such as assisting in the preparation of lectures, assignments, and exams, leading discussion sections, conducting laboratory exercises, holding office hours and review sessions, grading papers, and keeping class records. In consultation with the supervisor, the teaching assistant works to gain teaching skills and an increased understanding of the discipline.

GA Financial Support

All graduate assistant hires (regardless of funding source) are subject to the following minimum stipend requirements:

  • Full-time (20 hrs/week) $9,000 per academic year ($1,000/month)
  • 1/2 time (10 hrs/week) $4,500 per academic year ($500/month)

These stipends are based on 15 weeks of work during each semester.

Stipend payments are typically monthly, and disbursed on the last business day of the month.

Tuition assistance is an award of credits in addition to the monthly stipend. 
Positions funded by the Office of Graduate Studies include tuition assistance of 9 credits per academic year for 10-hour/week positions and 18 credits for the academic year for 20-hour/week positions. For other assistantships, the tuition assistance is optional and dependent on available funds. The GA appointment letter will indicate if the position includes tuition assistance.
The Office of Graduate Studies reports any awarded tuition assistance to the Student Financial Services Office. This may impact the student’s financial aid award, so it is recommended that students notify their financial aid advisor upon receiving their GA appointment letter.

As per the Graduate Catalog, a graduate student may be able to apply up to six credit hours of undergraduate work to his or her graduate program according to the determination of the particular program of study. Please see here for conditions that apply. If a student has a graduate assistantship and is receiving tuition assistance, the university will apply that assistance to a maximum of six undergraduate credit hours as per university policy. These six undergraduate credit hours must apply to the student's graduate degree. Please note that this policy does not pertain to students enrolled in 3+2 or 4+1 programs. These students should consult with the Office of Graduate Studies for more information.

Application Process and Eligibility

In order to be eligible for and maintain a Graduate Assistantship position, students must:

  • Maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0.
  • Enroll in 6 graduate credits or more in each semester that you are employed as a GA.
  • Be matriculated in a graduate degree program at USM (students in certificate-only programs are not eligible).
  • Remain in good academic standing and be making acceptable progress towards your degree.
  • NOTE: University of Maine System employees are not eligible for Graduate Assistantships.

Students who withdraw from the University, are dismissed from their degree program, or are released from their graduate assistant position due to inadequate performance, will forfeit their assistantship. If the status change occurs during a semester, the graduate assistant may be required to reimburse the University for any unearned salary and tuition benefit associated with that semester.

Returning Students

Returning students are not guaranteed their previous assistantships. Re-appointments, approved through the department’s or program’s normal processes, are made by previous funders.

You must also maintain a 3.0 GPA and make acceptable academic progress in your graduate program to receive an assistantship.

There are a few ways to inquire about and apply for Graduate Assistantships:       

  1. When applying for graduate admission, you have the option of indicating interest in an Assistantship. This information goes to your academic department and to the Office of Graduate Studies, who will then contact you about opportunities.
  2. Graduate Assistantship openings are posted on the Office of Graduate Studies website. The online Graduate Assistant Application is available on our site as well.
  3. Contact your faculty advisor to inquire about potential Graduate Assistantship opportunities in your academic area.

When a student is hired as a Graduate Assistant, they are sent an official notification of appointment from the Office of Graduate Studies, which includes the name of the supervisor, the length of the appointment, amount of compensation, and the type of assistantship (teaching, research, or other). You may also receive a letter about your award from your academic program.

Hiring paperwork (the I-9 paperwork, confidentiality statement, direct deposit form, and required tax documents) will be completed by the student and supervisor, or HR liasion.

  • The confidentiality statement and I-9 forms are available on the Human Resources website.
  • The tax documents and direct deposit form can be accessed via MaineStreet once the GA has received an email notification from HR confirming that the GA position has been set-up in the system.

Onboarding and Training

The Office of Graduate Studies has partnered with The Career and Employment Hub to offer a series of GA onboarding training sessions which will include an overview of policies and procedures, professionalism, expectations and more in January, August, and September. Your supervisor or another appropriate person within your employing department will also conduct training for your graduate assistantship. Specific expectations of your job performance should be explained in detail before you begin work. You should also familiarize yourself with the Graduate Assistant Handbook.


The Graduate Assistant Handbook will help you understand what to expect as a Graduate Assistant and provide you with all the information you need know about your rights as a student; the policies and procedures you and your supervisors are expected to follow; and where to go for questions or concerns.