Post-secondary teaching and research assistants (NOC 4012)

High opportunity occupation

About this job

Post-secondary teaching and research assistants provide support to university professors, college  teachers and other faculty members. Usually, they are enrolled in a master’s or doctoral program in the same department at the university or college where they work.

Common job titles
  • assistant, graduate - university
  • assistant, lab - college / university
  • assistant, research - post-secondary
  • assistant, teaching - college / university
  • assistant, teaching - lab demonstrator
  • assistant, teaching - marking

Duties

Post-secondary teaching assistants:

  • Organize visual aides and other lecture materials
  • Hold seminars, tutorials, discussion groups, studio sessions and labs to supplement lectures
  • Help prepare and give exams
  • Assist grade student work
  • Help students during office hours
  • Teach classes when the lecturer is away
  • Help manage online learning systems

Post-secondary research assistants:

  • Carry out literature reviews, surveys, experiments and other research for use in articles/research papers
  • Compile and help analyze research results
  • Help prepare journal articles and research papers
  • Manage web-based materials, such as social media accounts
  • Assist in planning conferences

Work environment

Post-secondary teaching and research assistants work on university and college campuses. They perform their teaching or research duties while they study toward their degree.

Large classes may have multiple teaching assistants who work together. Small classes usually have a single assistant.

Post-secondary teaching and research assistants typically work in an office or lab. They may have access to their supervising professor’s office. More often, they share a larger office with other graduate students. Some may work from home.

Work levels vary and at times can become stressful, depending on the assistant’s own course load. Positions tend to be seasonal, with fewer opportunities from May through August.

Teaching and research assistants use technology, including online learning platforms. On-the-job technology-related training is usually provided.

Insights from industry

Most teaching and research assistants leave their position once they earn their graduate degree. This creates job openings for other students.

The switch to online teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic greatly increased the demand for teaching assistants in the short term.
 
Demand for teaching and research assistants is also increasing as undergraduate enrolment rises. In particular, demand for assistants with science and engineering specializations is expected to increase as undergraduate interest in these areas grows.

Increasing undergraduate enrolment can also add to the workload of existing assistants. Moreover, larger class sizes can mean that teaching assistants do more grading.

Non-research-based institutions tend to hire more non-student research assistants. Because B.C. has a limited number of research universities, a relatively small number of research assistant positions are available to students.

Career paths and resources

Career paths

Working as a teaching or research assistant is a valuable stepping stone for graduate students to gain teaching and research experience. Senior teaching assistants (TAs) can add to this experience by mentoring and training junior TAs.

Teaching and research assistants typically view these jobs as temporary. After earning their graduate degree, they may apply for positions as university or college faculty members. Some are hired for part-time or sessional work. Those with fewer qualifications may be hired to teach on a course-by-course basis. Some continue in their roles as teaching and research assistants even after they have completed their studies.
 

Additional resources