Teaching Assistantships

Updated May 11, 2018

Teaching assistantships provide graduate students an opportunity to develop a number of skill sets that are directly applicable to jobs in academia, as well as in industry. There are several resources for TAs who wish to learn as much as possible from this experience, including faculty mentors, enrollment in CSE 599, and the Student Affairs staff. The information below is intended to more fully inform potential TAs about the position itself.

The Union Contract Agreement is the authoritative document for any questions about the differences between this document and the Union Contract Agreement.

Compensation

Currently, the 2017/2018 compensation for a TA is $2,294/month for a 50% appointment (20 hours/week on average) and $1,147/month for a 25% appointment (10 hours/week average). In addition, a partial fee remission and health insurance subsidy will reduce fees owed by the student from $5,673.06 to $272.06. Those classified by UC San Diego as non-residents must also pay non-resident supplemental tuition of $5,034/quarter. For most CSE doctoral students, the balance of tuition and fees is paid by the department or by their advisor. Regardless of their remission status, Masters students must always pay the balance of their tuition and fees by the Registrar’s deadline to avoid a late fee.

International Students & Eligibility

International students must take and pass the English Language Proficiency Exam prior to finalization of a TA assignment. 

Students with a spoken TOEFL score of 26 or above are exempt from this requirement and may be considered for a TA position in the first quarter of their admit year.

Students whose spoken TOEFL score is 23-25 or who received a TOEFL waiver during admission must pass the in-person English Language Certification Examination (ELCE) prior to being hired as a TA for the first time. This test is administered during Finals Week of each quarter, and students who pass will be eligible to hold a TA position two (2) quarters after passing (i.e. a student who passes the exam during Finals Week of Fall quarter will be eligible to TA in Spring quarter). All students in this category will have their TA applications marked as ineligible until they have satisfied the requirement. We will contact you to formally schedule the exam if this applies to your situation, but you may submit a request to take the ELCE here

Students with a spoken TOEFL score of 22 or below will not be permitted to take the certification exam until they have completed formal English proficiency training. All students in this category will have their TA applications marked as ineligible until they have satisfied the requirement. Students who fall into this category may obtain the required English language proficiency skills through courses offered in the English Language Institute and the English as a Second Language (ESL) Program. For more information, please see the Graduate Division's policy here, and a helpful FAQ guide from the Teaching + Learning Commons here.

Students who are being hired for the first time and who do not yet have a social security number must apply for one through the International Students & Programs Office.

TA Work Rules

These rules are intended as a general job description for students employed as Teaching Assistants in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. Teaching Assistants should be sure to discuss any academically related matters (e.g. curriculum, teaching methods) with the instructor and/or the departmental TA advisor. 

The Role of the TA and the Instructor

Teaching Assistants enhance the learning experience of UC San Diego students by complementing the activities of the course instructor. TAs receive training under the mentorship and supervision of the instructor.

Duties

Specific job responsibilities will vary with teaching assignments, and the instructor will communicate the specific responsibilities expected of the TA at the beginning of the quarter via the Description of Duties form, which can be accessed through ASES. The TA and the instructor share joint responsibility for ensuring that each understands the division of work responsibilities.

TA duties may include, but are not limited to: facilitate a discussion section or tutorial; hold weekly office hours; e-mail contact; grade homework, programming assignments, exams, or projects; keep records; distribute and copy reading materials; prepare answer keys or supplementary notes; act as course webmaster. TAs may be required to attend the instructor's lecture regularly.

Training and Evaluation

In accordance with University rules, all TAs must participate in the TA training program provided by the Center for Teaching Development. CSE 599 (Teaching Methods in Computer Science) fulfills this University requirement. CSE students must take it concurrently with their first quarter as a TA. CSE 599 is usually offered every quarter.

Instructors should periodically evaluate the TA's performance and provide the TA with constructive feedback. The course instructor may provide training in developing teaching skills in relation to the duties stated above. At the end of the quarter, instructors are strongly encouraged to provide written evaluations for their TAs.

Workload

A TA with a 50% appointment is assigned a workload of 220 hours per quarter, and a 25% TA position is 110 hours per quarter. Hours worked each week may vary, but should average 20 hours (50%) or 10 hours (25%).

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. Normally, faculty members will ask other faculty to act as a substitute, if one is needed. 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.

Disputes regarding workload are not subject to Article 11, Grievance and Arbitration of the Union Contract Agreement. For workload complaint procedure, please see Article 30, Workload.

Course Credit

The CSE department requires TAs to take between two (25% TA) or four (50% TA) credits of CSE 500 each quarter they are appointed as a TA. CSE 500 should be taken for S/U grade only. Credit is awarded for instruction a TA receives under the mentorship of a faculty advisor. Such instruction will enable the TA to develop the skills and knowledge necessary to enhance the learning experience of students. Areas of instruction include, but are not limited to: organizing discussion sections or tutorials, writing homework or test questions, setting grading policies, communication, and teaching skills that promote learning. Instruction will entail regular faculty contact hours, and may also include visits by the faculty supervisor at the discussion sections given by a TA. Lastly, instruction may include outside preparation to gain specialized knowledge required by a particular course.

All CSE students enrolled in the PhD program must have one quarter of training as a Teaching Assistant. This is a formal degree requirement and must be completed before the student is permitted to graduate. The requirement is met by the student serving as a 50% TA and enrolling in CSE 599. The student must also satisfactorily complete in 4 units of CSE 500.

Work Attendance and Preparation

TA course responsibilities begin at the start of preparation for 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 of their course prior to the first day of instruction and for determining when their responsibilities have finished for the quarter.

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 contact the course instructor about the possibility of having someone substitute to cover duties. The TA should notify their students as soon as possible if there will be a cancellation or rescheduling of the usual discussion section or office hours. 

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 UC San Diego Policies and Procedures Manual.

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 teaching should notify the department as early as possible so that a qualified replacement may be found. Only students with teaching appointments equal to or greater than 25% are eligible for 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.

Confidentiality

All completed assignments, exams, grades, correspondence, and other information about individual students in the class shall be kept confidential except where the student has given 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 PID, other student identification number, 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, they should not grade that student's papers.

Safety and Well Being

  • Emergency Numbers: Campus police: 9-1-1 from campus phone or 858-534-4357 (Help) form cell phone
  • Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at 858-543-3755
  • Most classrooms and labs have signage about where to evacuate if there is an emergency.

TAs may find themselves in a situation where there is concern about the well-being or safety of one or more individuals, including the TA him/herself. This could include a highly distressed or upset student, a threat made by a student to harm him or herself or others, or harassment of others (including the TA). It could take place in person, on the phone, via email or other electronic formats. These issues should be taken seriously. The TA must immediately report the incident to the instructor. If you ever feel there is an imminent danger (student harming themselves or others--including you), dial 9-1-1 or numbers above.

Grievances

Please refer to the Grievance Procedures as outlined in the Union Contract Agreement, Article 11. Disputes regarding workload are not subject to Article 11, Grievance and Arbitration of this Agreement. For workload complaint procedure, please see Article 30, Workload.