Lecture 2 PhD Goals and Criteria
"The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing." - Socrates
2.9. What are the differences between a TA-supported PhD student and a RA-supported PhD student
A teaching assistant (TA) and a research assistant (RA) are both positions that support faculty in a research university, but their responsibilities and duties differ. A TA is responsible for assisting with the delivery of course material and providing support to students. This may include grading assignments, holding office hours, and leading discussions or laboratory sessions. On the other hand, an RA is typically responsible for supporting faculty in their research endeavors. This may include conducting literature reviews, collecting and analyzing data, preparing research reports, and assisting with grant proposals. In general, a TA focuses on teaching and student support, while an RA focuses on research and supporting the faculty in their research activities.
A TA-supported PhD student has to spend a significant amount of time each week, around 20 hours, on teaching-related duties. This leaves limited time for their own research work, and the time they do have may be chopped into smaller chunks, making it difficult for research projects that require a long, focused time investment. To maintain the same quality of research work as an RA-supported student, the TA-supported student may need to double their efforts. Alternatively, if they maintain the same working hours, the quality of their research may be less than half that of an RA-supported student.
On the other hand, an RA-supported PhD student has the opportunity to focus all of their time on their research project. This support is often funding-oriented, meaning that the student may not always get the chance to work on what they initially were interested in. The demand may also be high depending on the funding agent, which can lead to a high pressure environment.
In conclusion, both TA and RA support have their pros and cons, and it is important for a PhD student to consider these differences when making their decisions.