Why in the World Should I be a Teacher’s Assistant?

By: Megan

First, big news. Today’s post is our 200th one since we started this blogging adventure last academic year. Yay!

Now onto today’s post.

We all know what a TA is, don’t we? They’re those people who sit in the way back (or exact front) of the class, doodling. The ones who have to read our names scribbled on the top of our paper. The ones who hold office hours that nobody goes to. So why would you want to be one of those people?

Assisting Students

The Experience

Most TA’s have an invested interest in the topic that they’re assisting for. They may be majoring in the subject, have a minor in it, or it’s just something that really caught their attention. It allows you to spend more time with that topic, and possibly do some research. Teaching to others often helps broaden your understanding of something, even if you already understand it pretty well. So that may be another reason to TA, if you think you could delve deeper into your desired topic.

Many instructors have their TA’s present at least once during the semester. This requires a little bit of research, some excitement about your topic and, yes, public speaking skills. You will be required to speak in front of some sort of group all throughout your life. Getting some experience in that while speaking about a topic that you’re excited about is an amazing opportunity.

Being a Teaching Assistant does require assisting people. You need to be able to work with both the instructor and students. The TA walks a delicate line between student and instructor, and being able to navigate a position like that is something that will come in handy for future positions. A student may come into your office hours and actually need help, and you’ll need to be able to help them. That may require a small “tutoring” session, or just being able to calm them down and lead them to the understanding they already have on the topic. Either way, being able to read people is a necessary skill that you will continue to develop as a TA, and will use throughout the rest of your life.

The Involvement

Getting to know the people in your department is almost a necessity now. Yet, many students put this off or never do it. The instructors in your department can help you figure out a career path. Learn from their experience! If you ever need to talk over required classes, or find out when a class is offered, knowing people in the Department is a good place to start.


Being a TA allows you to see behind the scenes to what makes up a class. Students aren’t the only ones that put effort into a class. The instructor has to come up with the whole syllabus! A TA gets a tiny glimpse at the effort that goes in (and the source material that could be pulled from), without having to actually do it all. It’s a good experience for somebody thinking about pursuing a career in teaching.

Why wouldn’t you?

Being a Teacher’s Assistant is a lot of work. It can vary from class to class, but it generally involves attending the class at least some of the time, grading, meeting with the instructor, meeting with students, and possibly some research and presenting. If you already have a full plate, this might not be a good idea.

An Undergraduate Teacher’s Assistant position is generally for credit. That means that at the end of the semester, you get a p/f for the credits you signed up for. These are generally upper division credits in the subject that the class is taught in. So if you have those filled, or have classes you want to take to fill those requirements, and not a lot of time, that’s something to take into account as well.

Read Megan’s other posts

Photo: UC Davis College of Engineering