Graduate Programs

Graduate Assistantships

Assistantships are paid from the departmental budget and their source are either the appropriated budget or sponsored grants or contracts. They are either Teaching assistantships (TAs), Staff assistantships (SAs) or Research assistantships (RAs). Some tuition waivers are allocated to departments by the Graduate School and additional ones are available from the International Student and Faculty Office on a need basis. Fellowships are available from university funds or outside agencies and are usually targeted to outstanding students, women or minorities on a competitive basis.

Assistantships carry a stipend and an associated tuition waiver scholarship. The stipend depends on the weekly hours and the monthly rate. The weekly hours range from 10 (half-time) to 20 (full-time). The rate is determined by departmental policy, within the guidelines of the Graduate School, and depends on the availability of funds.

In addition to the sources of aid given above, a certain amount of hourly work may be available to staff laboratories and perform specific tasks, within the department. Students interested in hourly work should contact their adviser.

External sources of financial support exist in the form of internships and part-time work at companies and nonprofit institutions in DeKalb and nearby counties. Such activities provide valuable practical experience and improve the student's employment opportunities upon graduation.

Information about fellowships, loans and other student employment is available in the Graduate Catalog.


Assistantships and tuition waivers are awarded only to students who are admitted to the Graduate School. Students-at-large are not eligible.

Assistantships and tuition waivers are awarded on the basis of merit, departmental needs, and availability of funds.

Students interested in financial aid are encouraged to submit a request for an assistantship with their application for admission to the Graduate School, and if they are already admitted, as early as possible before the start of the semester applied for.

Information about fellowships may be obtained from the department or sought from the graduate school. Applications are made directly to the university office involved or the sponsoring agency.

Any student whose native language is not English who is to be appointed as a teaching assistant engaged in oral instruction in the classroom must present a satisfactory score on either the Speaking Proficiency English Assessment Kit (SPEAK) administered at Northern Illinois University or on the Test of Spoken English (TSE). A score of at least 50 is currently required by the Graduate School for this purpose.

Duties and Responsibilities

Teaching assistants are assigned to courses according to instructional needs. They assist the faculty in instructing students in laboratory sessions, prepare laboratory assignments, grade homework assignments and midterm tests, and perform other duties as assigned.

Staff assistants are assigned to laboratories to assist the laboratory directors in setting up and operating the equipment, to help the students use the equipment, and to support laboratory research.

Research assistants support the faculty in conducting sponsored research, whether it be basic or applied. In applied sponsor-oriented research, special consideration must be given to the sponsor's needs and to sponsor's relationships. The RA may be involved in independent or closely guided activities which include data gathering, modeling, experimentation, data analysis, and written and oral presentations. Research conducted under an assistantship may or may not be part of thesis research.

Graduate assistants report to one or two designated faculty members, depending on the duties assigned to them. The supervisor of a GA may or may not be the designated adviser.
Graduate assistants must observe the office hours posted on the doors of their offices or laboratories. RAs, SAs, TAs, and student workers must follow the NIU staff guidelines and must be aware of the discrimination, sexual harassment and other relevant policies. They must also fulfill their work requirements and their performance will be evaluated every semester by their supervisors and the department chair.