Research assistants (RAs)

Each year a large percentage of graduate students at MIT hold appointments as research assistants (RAs) and research trainees.

The research assistant is a member of a research group in a laboratory or on a project, whose principal duty is to contribute, under supervision, to a program of departmental or interdepartmental research. Through project work, the assistant gains increased facility in organizing work, applying new experimental techniques to real problems, and oral presentation. Most students welcome the opportunity a research assistantship gives them to participate as junior colleagues of the faculty in an ongoing research project; this experience frequently influences their choice of thesis topic.

Graduate students holding research assistant appointments must register as full time resident students and are charged full tuition during the period of appointment. The RA appointment comprises a monthly salary as well as a tuition scholarship which is credited directly to the student’s account. Research Assistants are compensated on the basis of the time devoted to research activities. A 100% graduate RA appointment typically includes payment of full tuition for the period of the appointment. Tuition coverage for some professional masters programs may vary; all students should check with their program office to confirm the terms of their appointment. A 100% research assistantship requires no more than 20 hours of effort per week. MIT recognizes that graduate students may spend additional time conducting research in support of their academic studies. International students considering an RA appointment should review information regarding on-campus work.

Partial appointments (for effort less than 100%) are also possible, and are frequently used to supplement outside fellowships, scholarships, or teaching assistantships. Students who receive financial support from multiple sources must do so in accordance with Institute and department guidelines.

See also Appointments to teaching and research staffs.