Terms of appointment

Students who wish to be considered for appointments to the graduate student staff should contact their departments. Applications from new students are considered only after their acceptance to graduate programs.

Time commitment

An appointment for the academic year is normally for the period September 1 through May 31; a summer appointment is normally for the period June 1 through August 31. However, appointments may be made for shorter periods. Only resident graduate students who are candidates for advanced MIT degrees may be appointed.

A 100% research assistantship (RA) or teaching assistantship (TA) requires no more than 20 hours of work per week. MIT recognizes that graduate students may spend additional time conducting research in support of their academic studies. International students considering an RA or TA appointment should review information regarding on-campus work from the International Students Office (ISO).

Instructor-G and assistantship appointees observe normal Institute holidays and are entitled to two weeks of vacation with pay if their appointments are for a consecutive 12-month period of time. Their vacation schedules must be approved by their supervisors.

The supervisor must approve a student’s absence from the Institute during a working period. Some departments may require additional approvals.


Applications for reappointment are considered individually. Reappointment depends on academic progress as well as on work performance. A student’s appointment to an assistantship may be terminated at any time if progress in a graduate program is unsatisfactory, or if the student is not carrying out the duties assigned.

Termination of appointment

A department should notify a graduate student of any unexpected or unusual change in their appointment status as soon as the change is known, particularly if funding might be terminated. The student should be notified of the type and amount of funding in question, and any of the following changes:

  • RA or TA support will not be renewed for the following term, and the reason why;
  • RA or TA support will be renewed if the student meets certain specified conditions; or
  • RA or TA support will be renewed if certain external conditions, such as contract funding, will be met.

Rules and requirements

Assistants are subject to the policies and procedures of their departments and of the Institute and must respect and conform to the rules and procedures of the division or laboratory to which they are assigned. Students who hold full time graduate student staff appointments and wish to engage in additional employment for which they would receive compensation from MIT should see policies on “Employment and professional activities.”

Research assistants and supervisors should refer to the Common Principles on the Graduate Student Experience and Institute Policy Guiding the Graduate Student Experience for guidance.


While an appointment specifies either teaching or research as the primary duty, occasions may arise when it is necessary to reassign duties in whole or in part. Any assistant may be called upon to aid in proctoring examinations.

Special cases

Military service members

A graduate student on active duty in the military can apply for an RA or TA appointment, but may not be permitted to receive the salary. Active service personnel who are admitted to MIT for graduate work continue to receive their full military pay. Thus, by law, they are ineligible to receive additional payment from any federally funded research contract or other federal funding resource administered by MIT. If the RA is industry funded, then it may be appropriate to negotiate a salary supplement; however, this would be considered on a case by case basis.

Supplemental payments

Students who hold full fellowships, traineeships, or other awards from MIT, or outside sources, cannot be appointed to full time graduate student staff appointments. The above restrictions include payments on hourly payrolls as well as academic, administrative, or research staff appointments.

Supplemental payments (exclusive of tuition and fees) exceeding the guidelines established by the Academic Council must be approved by the Office of Graduate Education.