Facebook Pixel The Graduate School - Graduate Assistantships | Western Kentucky University

The Graduate School - Graduate Assistantships

Western Kentucky University awards assistantships to select graduate students. Educational goals at WKU are met in at least two important ways by the Graduate Assistantship program. Graduate assistantship stipends serve as the primary means of support for many graduate students enabling them to pursue higher degrees and grow professionally through the development and application of discipline-based knowledge. At the same time, the University gains the benefit of assistant-provided, high quality services at reasonable cost. Thus, the graduate assistantship program is mutually beneficial to both the student and the University. 

Please contact the department of interest for information on the availability and application process for graduate assistantships.  Departmental contact information can be found here.


Note: graduate assistantship scholarships cannot be awarded during the Winter term.


Appointment to an assistantship is contingent upon admission into a degree program, academic eligibility (3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale), the programmatic needs of the hiring department and/or the allocation of funds for the position. Specific assignment of duties is made by the hiring department.

In order to be eligible for a graduate assistantship, you must be enrolled in at least 6 credits per semester in a graduate degree program, maintain satisfactory academic progress in that program, and remain in good standing. Any semester in which you are enrolled less than 6 credits will be treated as your last semester for the purpose of graduate assistantship appointments. Students who are in their last semester may enroll part-time and receive full benefits as a GA. Academic programs or hiring units may also impose their own eligibility requirements.

Graduate Assistants work during the Winter term (the three-week term in January immediately prior to the Spring term) is governed by this policy: Winter Term and Graduate Assistants.

If you have applied for federal financial aid assistance, federal law requires these additional awards be considered as part of your total financial aid package. Any tuition scholarship may reduce the total amount of financial aid available to you. Please direct  any inquires to the Student Financial Assistance office.

A criminal background check is a prerequisite for employment as a graduate assistant. Appointment as a graduate assistant may be denied on the basis of prior criminal convictions that would compromise your ability to perform your assigned tasks or compromise the safety of others.

Additional required information on these processes is available from Human Resources. Please visit this page to ensure you are ready to begin your assistantship!

International students should report to International Enrollment Management Office with their immigration documents. For further information, please contact iso@wku.edu, phone number: 270-745-4857.

There are additional language requirements and tax implications for international students participating in the program.  Please read this section carefully if you are an international student interested in becoming a graduate assistant at WKU.

Professional development and support for students in assistantships that involve teaching is available from the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning (CITL).

Criteria for Exemption Eligibility

  1. The Graduate Catalog provides definitions for determining full-time status of a graduate student. In any given term, graduate students are considered full-time when they are registered for 9 hours in Fall and Spring terms, and 6 hours in Summer terms.
  2. In order to be exempt from FICA tax, students must be (1) enrolled in at least ½ time status, (2) regularly attending classes in the semester and (3) working as a graduate assistant.
  3. Students must be “scheduled” to work less than 30 hours per week in order to have FICA exception.*

*A schedule is determined by the employing department and submitted to Graduate School office via an EPAF. If an EPAF is submitted to Graduate School with an incorrect schedule, the EPAF will not be approved.

Failure to meet the above criteria will result in the student paying Social Security (6.20%) and Medicare (1.45%) tax on the taxable gross paid for the pay period. Each department is responsible for the employer-matching portion of the tax and it will come out of the same funding department being charged for the student’s salary.

Keep in mind that graduate students are limited in the number of hours they may work. If the student works 20 or more hours, they will become subject to FICA taxes.


Graduate Education

A tuition reduction you receive for graduate education is qualified, and therefore tax free, if both of the following requirements are met:

  • It is provided by an eligible educational institution.
  • You are a graduate student who performs teaching or research activities for the educational institution.

You must include in income any other tuition reductions for graduate education that you receive.

Please note: all graduate assistants are charged in-state tuition rates (regardless of residency) for all terms except Winter.

Graduate Assistantship Details

There are four different types of Graduate Assistantship appointments:

A Graduate Research Assistant (GRA) is employed by the university to perform duties related to a scholarly project or program of research under the guidance and direction of faculty members. The duties of a research assistant involve applying and mastering conceptual and theoretical ideas, practices, or methods of scholarship. Research Assistants may be employed outside their academic department in a capacity in which the assistant brings knowledge or skills related to their program of study.

Graduate Assistants Working on Multiple Projects

The salary and tuition for a Graduate Assistant (GA) should be charged proportionally to the amount of effort devoted to the projects. For example, if a GA is working on a US Department of Education grant with 75% effort and 25% effort on an NSF grant, the salary and tuition should be charged proportionally 75% to the US Department of Education grant and 25% to the NSF grant.

A Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) is employed by the university to provide direct support for the teaching mission of the unit. Teaching Assistants do not have primary responsibility for a course, but they may serve as discussion leaders, graders, leaders of laboratory sections,or may assist in capacities such as preparation of assignments, and other administrative duties necessary for a course.
A Graduate Assistant Instructor (GAI) supports the teaching mission of the unit in a more advanced capacity than a teaching assistant by serving as instructor of record for a lower division course or courses (numbered 100-299). Graduate Assistant Instructors must complete additional training prior to serving as an instructor of record.

The combined load of teaching responsibilities and graduate course enrollment may not exceed 15 hours per semester.

The Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning (CITL) mentors graduate students via the Graduate Assistant Teaching Institute (GATI) training program.  The Graduate School encourages all graduate students who have an interest and passion for teaching to complete the GATI training program.  The GATI training program must be completed if a graduate student wishes to serve as an instructor of record under the Graduate Assistant Instructor (GI) designation.  If you are interested in completing the GATI training program, please contact the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning.

GAI Application
A General Graduate Assistant (GGA) is employed by the university in a capacity related to their program of study, but they are not engaged in activities directly related to research or teaching. Note: General Graduate Assistantships are not eligible for tuition waivers.


Health Insurance

WKU offers an excellent subsidized health insurance plan which graduate assistants may opt-in to at minimal cost. Students with a 20-hour/week assistantship are eligible to receive a partial scholarship towards the Graduate Assistant Health Insurance program. Upon processing of the Graduate Assistantship Agreement, you will receive an email with instructions as to how to enroll. You must opt-in to this program each semester you wish to participate.


Graduate Assistantship Openings

Click on the heading to find a listing of known, available graduate assistantships.


Some of the links on this page may require additional software to view.

 Last Modified 3/14/23