Instructional Assistants

Instructional Assistants:

A Teaching Assistant (TA) assists in the instruction of an upper or lower division course at the University under the supervision of a faculty member. The TA primarily assists the faculty member in charge of the course by conducting discussion or laboratory sections that supplement faculty lectures and by grading assignments and examinations. A TA may also assist with the development of assignments or exams, hold office hours and proctor examinations.

An Associate-In may conduct the entire instruction of a lower division or upper division course with approval granted by the Dean of the Graduate Division. The Associate-In is assigned a faculty mentor to provide guidance and training as needed. Appointment to this title requires evidence of extraordinary merit in teaching and scholarship and prior relevant teaching experience. For PhD students, the candidacy exam must have been passed.

A Reader assists a course instructor by grading homework, papers, or exams and may also hold office hours to answer students' questions about such assignments.

A Tutor provides tutoring to individual (one-on-one) or small groups (three or more) of undergraduate or graduate students who require additional help to understand a course or topical material.

Graduate students may be appointed up to 50% time (20 hours/week) as Instructional Assistants (IAs) during the academic year. For academic year employment at 25-50% time, a student must be registered full-time (12 units or more) and must be in good academic standing, i.e., maintain a GPA of 3.0 in upper-division and graduate course work, meet departmental standards, and must not have more than a total of eight units of F and/or U grades overall.

International graduate students who are non-native speakers of English must be certified as having requisite language skills before they can serve as Teaching Assistants. See the Graduate Division policy on the English language skills of International Teaching Assistants here. More information on how to satisfy the English Language Proficiency Requirement can be found on the Teaching and Learning Commons website.  

IAs appointed at 25% time or more for the entire quarter are eligible for payment of health insurance and partial tuition remission: Fee Payment Information for Teaching Assistants. Salary rates for for Teaching Assistant, Associate-In, Reader and Tutor positions can be found on the Student Academic Title Rates document.

Graduate students appointed as IAs are represented by the Association of Student Employees/UAW under a collective bargaining agreement with the University of California. The UAW/ASE contract with the UC system can be viewed here.

There are approximately 100 SIO IA positions that need to be filled every year. Students can apply for IA positions online before the deadline in July. IAs are selected from the applicant pool based on instructor requests, graduate student preferences, and financial support circumstances. IAs are expected to be present and available for the entire quarter. Here is the list of SIO courses and ESYS courses.

Contact Information:

IA application, eligibility, assignments, evaluations and training: Contact Shelley Weisel

Other UCSD IA Opportunities:

The Role of the TA and the Instructor

Teaching Assistants enhance the learning experience of UCSD students by complementing the activities of the course instructor. TAs receive training under the mentorship and supervision of the instructor.


The TA and the instructor share joint responsibility for insuring that each understands the division of work responsibilities.

TA duties may include the following: facilitate a discussion section, laboratory section, or tutorial; hold weekly office hours; grade homework, programming assignments, exams, and/or projects; assist with field work; distribute and copy reading materials; prepare answer keys and/or supplementary notes; act as the course web-master as needed. TAs are required to attend the instructor's lecture regularly. TAs will be given advance notice of any significant changes made to their job description or responsibilities.


First-time IAs must attend a campus wide orientation for new employees within the ASE unit who are covered by the collective bargaining agreement between the University and the UAW.  First-time IA are also required to complete the training, "Preparing for Success: Online Course for Instructional Assistant". SIO students appointed to TA for other campus departments must adhere to the training requirements of those departments. Additionally, the Teaching + Learning Commons offers graduate student teaching programs, workshops, and resources. Faculty should periodically evaluate their IA's performance and provide the IA with constructive feedback.


IAs with a standard 50% time appointment should normally work between 16 and 20 hours per week (8 to 10 hours for IAs with a part-time 25% appointment). Workload may fluctuate from week to week, but an IA should speak to the instructor if they are unable to complete their work in 20 hours per week (10 hours for 25% time IAs). Both the IA and the instructor are jointly responsible for insuring that the workload time limit is not exceeded.

A TA may not be employed as a substitute instructor, where the effect is to relieve the instructor of his or her teaching responsibilities. (This is specifically prohibited by University Policy.) In the event that an instructor is absent from school, they will normally ask another faculty member to act as a substitute. However, in the event of an emergency, the Department Chair may ask the TA to substitute for the instructor. A TA may decline to substitute for the instructor if doing so would interfere with their studies (e.g. a class), or if they feel unprepared to lecture. Whenever a TA serves as a substitute lecturer, a faculty member shall be appointed to supervise.

Work Attendance and Preparation

IA course responsibilities begin at the start of the academic quarter and continue until the final grades have been turned in, usually the Tuesday after the end of final exams. IAs are responsible for contacting the instructor for their course prior to the first day of instruction.

TAs are expected to be present during scheduled office hours or sections. If a TA must cancel office hours or sections due to illness or another conflict, they should notify their students as soon as possible preferably by an announcement in the course lecture, but at least by having a notice posted at the appropriate location. The instructor should also be notified. Canceled office hours or sections should be rescheduled, if possible, in consultation with the instructor.

TAs are expected to be adequately prepared for office hours and sections. (For sections, it is common to spend as much time preparing examples or other notes as in the section itself.)

Compliance with Academic Appointment Guidelines TAs have academic appointments and must comply with all the regulations relating to such a position. These include regulations prohibiting Sexual Harassment, misuse of University property, substance abuse, and any violations of the law. The definitive source about such regulations is the UCSD Policy & Procedure Manual.

Graduate students who accept a TA offer have a professional obligation to teach during that period. Students who are not able to fulfill their commitment to teach should notify the Department as early as possible in order that a qualified replacement may be found. Only students appointed as 25% time or more are eligible for a partial fee remission; students who elect not to teach, or who reduce their workload to less than a 25% appointment must obtain tuition support from another source, (i.e., Graduate Student Researcher).


All completed assignments, exams, grades, correspondence, and other information about individual students in the class shall be kept confidential except where the student has give written consent. In particular:

  • No student in the class should ever be allowed access to a TA computer account or to TA files. Grade files on the computer should be kept protected.
  • Grades should never be posted by name, nor by any identifying number such as a student ID or social security number.
  • Graded assignments should not be left in a public place.
  • Answer keys or exam materials should be kept secure in a locked drawer.

These provisions are consistent with Federal and State privacy laws.

Use of Authority

Decisions made by TAs have a significant effect on their students' grades. TAs should carry out their responsibilities professionally, and be especially careful not to abuse their authority. TAs should evaluate student work objectively and fairly. In particular:

  • TAs may not agree to be paid as tutors for students in their class. These students would by definition receive preferential access to the TA.
  • TAs should not become romantically involved with students in their class. Such involvement makes objective evaluation difficult and also raises questions of sexual harassment.
  • If a TA has a friend or partner who is a student in the class, then they should not grade that student's papers.


On rare occasions, a TA may be threatened or harassed by a student, either in person or by electronic mail. These problems should be taken seriously. The TA must immediately report the incident to the instructor who will attempt to resolve the problem.