This section covers Research Assistantships (RA) and Teaching Assistantships (TA).
PhD students are offered support when they are admitted to the graduate program. This support is contingent on satisfactory academic progress and satisfactory job performance, support is typically guaranteed for up to five years. Both RA and TA appointments pay a monthly stipend, tuition waiver, and health insurance coverage.
How RA/TA appointments are made: The Graduate Program works with RA supervisors and TA instructors to make decisions on the appointments for current and incoming students. Decisions are based on a combination of factors: prior experience, computing knowledge, grades, GRE scores, English ability, hiring faculty preferences, and letters of recommendation. More details about this process may be found below.
RA information: An offer of RA support generally means that the department will provide a 220 hours per quarter (about 20 hours/week) Research Assistantship. Many RA positions are under the mentorship of a Biostatistics faculty member. Other positions offer opportunities to work with scientists in other departments. RA duties are often varied, but every student is informed of the specific duties via the "Job Duties Form" and have an opportunity to discuss them with the supervisor in advance of accepting any RA position. Note: First-year RA assignments typically involve the development of several skills. The RA might call upon the student to perform data analyses on real data, or write a statistical programs perhaps to do directed simulations, or maybe work with a faculty member to read papers to learn techniques that are relevant for that RA.
TA information: An offer of TA support generally means that the department will provide a 110 or 220 hours per quarter (about 10 or 20 hours/week) position under the direction of a Biostatistics course instructor on a quarterly basis.
Student obligation: A student supported on an RA or TA is obligated to provide 220 hours of service per quarter for a 50% FTE appointment (about 20 hours per week) or 110 hours per quarter for a 25% FTE appointment (about 10 hours per week), perform the job in a satisfactory manner and maintain good academic standing in the program. Students are expected to maintain good work ethics and satisfactory job performance as in any other type of employment. Students with 50% FTE positions must register for full-time study throughout their appointments. Full-time graduate study is ten credits for Autumn, Winter, and Spring quarters, and two credits for Summer. Students are expected to serve for the entire term of their appointment. Students may not accept any additional UW appointments or employment without receiving prior approval from the GPD.
English proficiency requirement: Proficiency in English is required for graduate study at the University of Washington. Every student in the Department of Biostatistics whose native language is not English must demonstrate English language proficiency by the end of their first year. Click here for information on meeting the University of Washington's English proficiency requirements. In addition, graduate students at the University of Washington who are not native speakers of English and will be serving as TAs must meet the spoken English proficiency requirement in one of the following three ways. Please click here for more information on English Proficiency Tests.
Vacation and leave policies: Student employees are entitled to five days of vacation per quarter worked, normally to be taken during quarter breaks. An additional seven days of leave per year is available for sickness, disability, or family-related leave (birth, adoption, bereavement, or care of family member). For more information, please see the UW RA/TA Union Contract website.
How RA openings are matched up with students: The Department makes every effort to match students with their first choice of RA. Most RAs are for 12 months beginning on September 16. Starting in late August the Graduate Program reviews the available RA positions, the requirements for each one (level of experience, software knowledge needed, etc), and the interests of the students. A RA is viewed as employment; i.e., a way to help the student financially. However, we seek to match RA positions to students' individual areas of interest whenever we can..
How RA positions become available: Biostatistics Department policy is that faculty who have a RA position available contact the GPA with a description of the position. Available positions are then posted on the Department’s internal website Employment Opportunities webpage. While students may discuss potential RA opportunity with faculty, an individual faculty member cannot directly offer a position to a student. All employment offers and decisions must go through the Graduate Program office.
RA process step-by-step: Faculty notify Graduate Program re: an available RA position, GPA posts the RA description on the Department’s internal website and sends an e-mail alert to the student mailing list that there is a new posting, students review the open position and may apply by sending the GPA a letter of interest and CV, GPA forwards applications to the RA supervisor who may contact students for an interview, RA supervisor sends GPA preference rankings, GPD reviews all information and makes appointments (in communication with the RA Supervisor), Graduate Program sends student an Appointment Letter and Job Duties Form via e-mail. To accept the appointment, student must sign and return the Appointment Letter as well as meet with the RA Supervisor to review and sign the “Job Duties Form” which must be sent (scanned pdf) to the GPA.
How TA openings are matched up with students: Every quarter the Graduate Program reviews the TA positions available, the requirements for each TA (level of experience, knowledge needed, etc), and the interests of the students. As much as possible, TAs are matched to the student's area of interest. Ph.D. students are required to TA for at least one quarter in their third year. Note: Some students serve as a TA earlier but, at the latest, this will happen in the third year of study.
TA Resources at the UW: available here.
Turning down an offer: If a student voluntarily declines or withdraws from an offer of support, the Department is no longer obligated to provide support. This does not mean the Department will not try to find support for such students; we will continue to make such efforts but with a lesser priority.
In rare circumstances, a student will have a compelling reason to withdraw from an RA or TA. These cases will be reviewed by the Graduate Program on a case-by-case basis. In the event the Graduate Program determines the student has a valid reason for leaving the position, the Department will not withdraw its support obligation to that student.
How appointments are renewed: The Graduate Program reviews each student’s source of support. As a RA nears the appointment end-date, the GPA contacts the RA supervisor to find out if the RA appointment will be renewed and extended. If yes, a new Appointment Letter is generated for the student to complete. If RA will not be renewed (usually due to the project or budget ending), the student RA will apply for a new RA.
Changing an appointment: Students who want to change their RA appointment at the end of the current term of appointment for any reason must notify their RA supervisor. The Graduate Program can try to accommodate changes that involve thesis/dissertation work (e.g., a student’s thesis advisor has RA money available for the student to work on the thesis). All changes from one RA to another need to be discussed on a case-by-case basis with the current RA supervisor(s), student's advisor, and GPD. Only in exceptional cases will a student be released from an appointment prior to the end date specified in the letter of appointment.
Supplemental RA/TA appointments: Students on Training Grant traineeships often have supplemental (10-hour/week) RA or TA appointments to cover the costs of study that are not covered by training grants. The policies above also apply to these appointments with the exception of remuneration. Supplemental appointments pay a monthly stipend, but do not cover any portion of tuition or health insurance. Many RA positions for students supported by training grants offer research experience in the subject area of the training grants.
Salary rates and increases: The Graduate School determines RA and TA salary rates. Both RAs and TAs are referred to by the Graduate School as “Graduate Service Appoinments” (GSAs).
Salary rates for Graduate Research Associate and Teaching Associate positions are determined by negotiations between the University of Washington and the UAW (the union which represents graduate student employees). Please refer to the Appointment Letter for the current rates.
Important note: The amounts in Appointment Letters are gross (before taxes). It is the responsiblity of students to know what they owe in taxes. For tax information please consult the IRS.
Residency: The Department of Biostatistics does not require students to become Washington State residents. Applying for Washington State residency is solely at the student’s discretion. Full information on establishing residency may be found at: http://www.washington.edu/students/reg/residency.html
Fred Hutchinson (FHCRC) RA positions: For RAs paid by FHCRC, FHCRC hires the student directly; the student then presents tuition and health insurance bills to the FHCRC. This is usually the simplest arrangements and the preferred hiring method for in-state residents.
For international students and non-Washington State residents with FHCRC appointments, the Department's budget office prepares “Staff Assignments” so that we can arrange payment through the UW system. Staff assignments operate the same as a regular RA, with tuition/health insurance paid for through the UW system, not by the student.
FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions)
Q: Can I work more than 20 hours during summer quarter?
A: Yes. For Summer quarter ONLY, students may hold up to 100% (40-hour/week) appointments without filing a petition, provided the funds are available. An interested student must discuss extra work/funding during summer with his/her RA supervisor, academic advisor and the Graduate Program. NOTE: Students on Training Grants should be sure to also discuss their wish to work more during the summer with their Training Grant Director.
Q: Can I work outside the UW while holding an RA?
A: It is not uncommon for Biostatistics students to take on a small amount of consulting or tutoring work for students from other departments for a few hours a week. In fact, the Graduate Program maintains a list of students who are interested in taking on outside consulting work or in tutoring UW students from other departments. However, students need to be aware of how many hours they are allowed to work (this varies by citizenship status, fellowship/scholarship requirements, UW/UAW (Student) Union regulations, etc.). The student should take responsibility for determining his/her eligibility as well as ability to handle an extra workload. The Department cautions against taking on a workload that is detrimental to academic progress. Note: Students may not accept any additional UW appointments or employment without receiving prior approval from the GPD.
Q: Can I do private consulting/tutoring work for other UW departments in addition to my RA?
A: This depends on precisely where the money to pay you is coming from, and should always be discussed first with the Payroll Coordinator.
Q: Can I have a summer internship?
A: Internships can provide wonderful professional learning experiences and we can often accommodate them. Each case is individual and must be discussed with the Graduate Program Director, academic advisor and RA supervisor (if applicable)
Q: I'm unhappy with my RA or TA or Training Grant. What should I do?
A: Always try to discuss the situation first with your RA supervisor/TA instructor/TG Director. Also, please contact the GPA for a confidential conversation so we can work with you to resolve the situation.
Q: This is my first RA. What are the expectations?
A: It is a good idea to develop a professional attitude towards your RA work. There is large variation among RA positions so each RA should start with a discussion with the RA supervisor about expectations. Students should expect to work the number of hours for which they are remunerated. Please see your "Job Duties" form for the exact expectations of your position.
FHCRC = Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (also called “the Hutch”)
GPD = Graduate Program Director
GPA = Graduate Program Advisor
GSSA = Graduate Student Service Appointment (synonymous with RA/TA, sometimes also referred to as ASE - Academic Student Employee)
PI = Principal Investigator (main faculty researcher on a grant)
RA = Research Assistantship