The department awards a variety of graduate teaching and research assistantships consisting of a monthly stipend and a tuition waiver scholarship. Masters-level teaching assistants typically assist faculty with course preparation and grading, supervise computer labs, and teach laboratory sections of introductory physical geography, GIS, and meteorology courses. Ph.D.-level teaching assistants provide instructional support to introductory courses in the undergraduate curriculum. Research assistants work directly with faculty and staff on externally-funded research projects. Students appointed on a graduate teaching or research assistantships are given office space and access to department computer resources. Appointments on a teaching assistantship are normally made for two academic semesters (fall and spring), while research assistantship appointments are made at the discretion of the project director.
Persons employed by Northern Illinois University, including those appointed as graduate teaching or research assistants, must show proof of U.S. citizenship or employment authorization from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. The State of Illinois further requires that all persons engaged in oral instruction in the classroom, including teaching assistants, possess adequate competence in spoken English. Students whose native language is not English will be required to undertake and pass an English language speaking proficiency exam prior to appointment as a teaching assistant.
The Department of Geography administers several scholarship funds supporting graduate study.