Teaching Assistants, Tutors, and Readers

A Teaching Assistant (TA) assists in the instruction of any 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. Graduate students enrolled full-time (twelve units or more) may be appointed up to 50 percent time (twenty hours/week) Teaching Assistants during the academic year.

Graduate students may also be appointed up to 50 percent time (twenty hours/week) as Readers and Tutors. 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. In some instances tutoring may focus on improved use of the English language. A Reader, on the other hand, assists a course instructor by grading homework, papers, or exams and may also hold office hours to answer students' questions about such assignments.

All appointees 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.

Teaching Assistants and others appointed on academic titles at 25 percent time or more for the quarter are eligible for payment of partial tuition remission. For Teaching Assistants, these fee payments are credited to students' accounts prior to the beginning of the quarter. Readers and Tutors who work a minimum 110 hours during the quarter are also eligible for partial tuition remission and are required to turn in time sheets. The Graduate Student Academic Title Pay Rates provides information about salary for teaching assistant, reader and tutor positions.

Graduate students appointed as teaching assistants, associates, readers or tutors (ASE'S) are represented by the Association of Student Employees/UAW under a collective bargaining agreement with the University of California. All salary payments under these titles are subject to a deduction for union membership dues or agency fee deduction for students who choose not to become members of the union. The university/UAW Agreement can be retrieved electronically here.

International graduate students whose undergraduate degree is not from an English-speaking college or university, or who has serious pronunciation problems, may not serve as a TA until s/he has been certified to have the requisite English language skills. This English language policy does not apply to a student who serves as a TA which is conducted in his/ her native language.

Contact information:

  • TA Application, Eligibility and approval, evaluations and training: Please contact Joshua Reeves
  • Assignments and Payroll for Biology TA's contact the Division of Biological Sciences, TA Coordinator at 858.534.9766
  • Assignments and Payroll for SIO TA's Contact the Earth Sciences and Environmental Systems Programs, Assistant Director at 858.534.8157

Graduate Program:

For general graduate program questions and admissions information, please contact the department by phone at (858) 534-3206, or by email at siodept@sio.ucsd.edu

TA Work Rules

These rules are intended as a general job description for students employed as Teaching assistants in the Department of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Undergraduate program. Teaching Assistants should be sure to discuss any problem with Faculty and/or any member of the subcommittee of the Graduate Committee (making TA assignments). Teaching Assistants will be given advance notice of any significant changes made to the SIO Teaching Assistant's job description or responsibilities.

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 ensuring that each understands the division of work responsibilities.

TA duties include the following: facilitate a discussion section or tutorial; hold weekly office hours; grade homework, programming assignments, exams, or projects; keep records; distribute and copy reading materials; prepare answer keys or supplementary notes; and act as the course web-master as needed. TAs are required to attend the instructor's lecture regularly.


A training program for Teaching Assistants is made available through the Teaching + Learning Commons.  In addition, SIO students appointed to TA for other campus departments must adhere to the training requirements of those departments.  Students must also attend an orientation for employees with the ASE unit who are covered by the collective bargaining agreement between the University and the UAW. Faculty should periodically evaluate the TAs performance and provide the TA with constructive feedback. See Center for Teaching Development http://commons.ucsd.edu/ for more information and training sessions.


TAs with a standard 50% time appointment should normally work between 16 and 20 hours per week (8 to 10 hours for TAs with a part-time 25% appointment). Workload may fluctuate from week to week, but a TA should speak to the instructor if they are unable to complete their work in 20 hours per week (10 hours for 25% time TAs). Both the TA and the instructor are jointly responsible for ensuring 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

TA 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. TAs 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 POLICIES AND PROCEDURES MANUAL, URL: http://adminrecords.ucsd.edu/ppm/index.html.

Graduate students who accept an offer of a teaching assistantship 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 with equal to or greater than a 25% teaching appointment 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.