HTA & UTA Hiring FAQ
- When and how much do TAs get paid? Where does my check go? What if I'm working other on-campus jobs?
TA base pay is $10.60 per hour, and you get a $0.20 per hour raise each semester. Head TAs are paid an additional $0.30 for the semester. You are usually paid through Brown's student payroll, and will receive your pay every two weeks during the semester. If you're working multiple on-campus jobs, you'll get one check combining your pay for the various jobs.
Note also that, if you haven't worked on campus, you'll need to fill out an I-9 to establish employment eligibility. By default, you will be granted 0 withholding allowances and considered non-exempt from federal withholding. To change this, you can fill out a W-4 at the payroll office on the 2nd floor of the Brown Office Building (enter at the back of the bookstore), but keep in mind that federal withholding exemption expires every February.
- What's "TA camp"? Do I have to come back to campus before the semester starts?
TA camp is the name generally given to the TA orientation and planning activities that happen just before the start of the semester. In most cases yes, you will need to return for TA camp, sometimes as much as a week before classes start. The head TAs can provide you with this information at your interview.
- Can I apply to TA for a course I haven't taken? What if I have a background in the material from similar coursework, at Brown or elsewhere?
This is very much dependent on the course. In most courses, every TA has previously taken the course, and every head TA has previously TAed the course. In some upper-level courses (and obviously in courses being offered for the first time) none of the TAs will have previously taken the course, but will work a few months or a couple semesters ahead of time to prepare to TA. In addition, non-concentration courses (including CS 2 and CS 4) generally have very few applicants who have taken the course, and will certainly select applicants who have not taken the course.
- I'm not a United States citizen. Am I eligible to work as a TA?
If you're a US citizen or permanent residents, you may work on campus provided you complete an I-9 form to establish your identity and employment eligibility. In most cases, you only have to do this for your first on-campus job.
- I'm working another job on campus. Can I TA in addition to that? What if I'm on work study?
It depends a lot on you and on the specific situation. One of the purposes of the interview is to help you decide whether or not you have time in your schedule to TA the next semester. You should discuss other jobs (and other anticipated time commitments) at your interviews just to keep expectations clear on both ends.
TAing is a wonderful way to fulfill one's work study. Work study is, however, a somewhat complicated situation at Brown, since it's sometimes not in your best interest to exceed your package's work study allocation. If you're on work study and have questions, you should probably talk to a financial aid officer.
- I'm taking leave or studying abroad right now, but I'll be back next semester. How do I apply to TA?
Apply on line, and get in touch with the head TAs to arrange for a phone interview. If it's well in advance, you may want to conatct the professor to let her or him know of your intention to apply.
- I want to work as a TA next semester, but I'm not going to be enrolled as a student. Can I do that?
Most courses are willing to hire TAs who are not currently enrolled, though it depends on your specific circumstances and the circumstances for the course that semester.
If the course is willing to hire you, this is generally possible, and is arranged through Brown's "miscellaneous payroll".
- I've never TAed before. What kind of experience is required?
Except in the case of non-concentration courses like CS2 and CS4, you should have taken the class before. However, no other experience if required. When you apply to TA, any previous academic or work-related CS experience helps, in addition to any experience you may have with teaching, tutoring, or grading.
- To be hired as a TA, what grade do I need to have gotten in the course?
There are no strict requirements, but doing well in the course demonstrates a good grasp of the material and the ability to work hard, both very important qualities for a TA.
- I'm thinking about TAing this particular course, but I know my roommate/best friend/(ex-)lover is planning to take it (or is HTAing it). Should I apply for a different course instead?
You'll have to decide this for yourself. For UTAs, it's usually possible to avoid potentially awkward student-TA interactions by bringing the issue to the attention of the HTAs, and requesting that the student not attend your hours (or section, lab, etc.). They can almost always guarantee that you won't have to be responsible for grading a certain person, and will keep the request private to every extent possible. It's probably not quite so easy to avoid interacting with your HTAs, so if you think those interactions will be awkward, you should probably think carefully before applying. If you live with the person, you probably know better than anyone else whether TAing would put a strain on your environment at home.
For most people, none of these potential issues are a problem in practice. In other cases, mutual communication and a bit of cautious attentiveness suffice. There are probably some cases where it just wouldn't be worth the potential tension or awkwardness.
Note that, given the nature of the HTA job, it's more difficult (and usually impossible) to really avoid interactions with or decision-making about students and staff members. The increased demand for professionalism comes with the job. If you're concerned, talk it over with someone (i.e. the professor, the meta-TAs, the other HTAs) as early as possible.
- I think I want to TA next semester, but I'm not sure. What should I do?
There are lots of ways you can try to figure this out. Come to the UTA info session, talk to the head TAs for the course, talk to your current TAs or friends with TA experience, or get in touch with the meta-TAs. Like so many advising-type activities at Brown, your best bet is to "work the network."
If it's getting around time for applications and you're still not sure, you should apply, and talk about your reasons for being unsure at the interview, or tell the head TAs and professor that you'll be back in touch if you change your mind. Once you've gone through the interview process and been offered a position, you're expected to fill the position, so you should probably establish in your interview when you'll make a decision if you're still unsure.
- I'm pretty solid on the material, and think I would enjoy teaching things to people, but I don't know much about Unix or the department computer systems. Should I be worried about my chances as a TA?
Not at all. While knowledge of the department's systems (and experience with scripting, permissions, HTML, etc.) will definitely come in handy TA, the average first-time TA doesn't have much system knowledge beyond what they've picked up doing their own coursework. In general, UTA selection is focused primarily on instructional and personal interaction skills and knowledge of the course material. Besides, if there's a technical skill you really need to have, you can learn it (that's one of the things TA camp is for).
- I'm enrolled as a grad student at Brown. Or I will be next semester. Can I work as an undergraduate TA or a head TA?
In many cases, you can. Talk to the professor or the head TA of the course you are interested in. In general, Masters students should usually apply through the normal UTA process and will be allocated as UTAs. PhD students are more often hired as separate grad TAs.
- Who is responsible for making the hiring decisions for a course?
Though there is always extensive input from head TAs, the professor is responsible for making the hiring decisions for the course.
- I want to apply to consult (or head consult). Whom do I contact about that position?
New consultants are hired for the following year each spring semester. Hiring is conducted by the user services coordinator and the head consultant. Occasionally, if vacancies need to be filled, one or more additional consultants will be hired in December.
The head consultant is hired each spring for the following year, such that the new head consultant is involved with interviewing and hiring the new consultants. The term lasts one school year, plus hiring, transitioning, and training responsibilities during the previous semester. The head consultant is hired by the user services coordinator.
- I want to apply to U-Staff (SPOC or Meta-TA). Whom do I contact about these positions?
The Meta-TAs are generally hired midway through the fall and are "in training" until midway through the spring, at which point the current Meta-TAs will stick around as support and let the new Meta-TAs take the reigns. The term lasts one school year, but includes all interactions, from hiring through final exams, with the fall and spring course staffs. The Meta-TAs are hired by the director of undergraduate study.
- Can I get paid (or get course credit) for doing course development in advance of a course I'm TAing (or HTAing)?
Yes, under many circumstances. Students are sometimes able to receive course credit retroactively for independent study or group independent study done in advance of the semester they're TAing. It's sometimes possible to arrange with a professor to receive credit specifically for course development.
Professors can sometimes request special funding to cover course development during summer and winter breaks, as well as during preceeding semesters.
The best way to do this, though, is during a preceeding summer or semester through a university fellowship such as an UTRA or an Odyssey grant.
The meta-TAs are happy to give relevant advice on how best to approach this issue with a professor.
- If I TAed a particular course last year and I want to TA it again, am I hired automatically?
No. You must apply and be selected again (and, in many cases, interview again), even if you've TAed the same course in the past. In general, assuming that things went well the last time around, having prior experierience TAing the same course will greatly increase your chance of being hired again.
- Can I apply to head TA a course I haven't TAed before? Is this even a good idea? What are my chances?
In general, any other applicant who has UTAed the course will have a better chance then you during the selection process. However, if you have specific ideas/ambitions for the course and have a strong interview with the professor, you may well be hired. A head TA with particular skills that a professor is looking for who has passion and ideas may well be chosen over someone with more experience. If the professor is planning to have more than one head TA, you might share the job with someone who has UTAed it. Even if you haven't TAed this particular course, however, it is still a good idea to have UTA experience before you try to become a head TA.
- This TAing thing just seems like a lot of work. What's the point? Is it worth it?
TAing is a lot of work. Ask 10 different people why they do it, and you'll probably get 11 different answers. Some people enjoy going at the material again, some people just like to teach, some people do it for the experience. All these things can be quite rewarding. And the money is nice, too.
Certainly, TAing is not the thing for everyone. If you have doubts, the best thing to do is probably to talk to people about it. Your TAs and head TAs are great resources for this, and you can always contact the Meta-TAs.
- I was contacted by a head TA and asked to apply to TA a course. Does that mean I have the job if I want it?
Not necessarily. The head TA probably contacted you because you did well in the course, you TAed the course in the past, or because somewhere down the line, someone thought that you might make a good TA for the course. To be hired as a TA, you still need to fill out an application, go through the course's interview process, and be selected.
- If I TA for course credit, do I get a letter grade or must I take it S/NC?
It depends. Most professors allow you to TA their course for a grade, though some professors require you take it S/NC. You should contact your professor and ask about their course-specific grading policy.
Have a question that could be mentioned here? Fill out this form to send it to the Meta-TAs. General questions and questions specific to hiring are equally appropriate.