Teaching Assistantships

Updated November 29, 2017

Teaching assistantships provide graduate students with an opportunity to develop a number of skill sets that are directly applicable to jobs in academia as well as industry.  There are several resources for TAs who wish to learn the most from this experience, including faculty mentorship, CSE 599, the Senior TA, and student affairs staff.  The information below is intended to more fully inform the TA 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.


Currently, the 2016/2017 compensation for a TA is $2,227/month for a 50% appointment (20 hours/week on average) and $1,113/month for a 25% appointment (10 hours/week average).  In addition, a fee and health insurance subsidy will reduce fees owed by the student from $5,543.59 to $263.59.  Those classified by UCSD as non-residents must also pay non-resident supplemental tuition of $5,034/quarter.   For most CSE doctoral students, these balances of fees and tuition are paid by the adviser or department.  MS students must pay the balance of the tuition and fees by the Registrar’s deadline.

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, the master TA and/or the departmental TA advisor. 

The Role of the TA and the Instructor

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


Specific job responsibilities will vary with teaching assignment, and the instructor will communicate the specific responsibilities expected of the TA at the beginning of the quarter. 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, the following: 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; and act as course web-master. 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. However, CSE 599 (Teaching Methods in Computer Science) fulfills the university requirement.  CSE students take it prior to or during their first quarter as a TA.   CSE 599 usually is taught each fall and winter quarter. 

Faculty should periodically evaluate the TA's performance and provide the TA with constructive feedback. Faculty and the senior TA may provide training in developing teaching skills in relations to the duties stated above.  At the end of the quarter, faculty are encouraged to provide written evaluations to their TAs.  


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 average 20 (50%) or 10 (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 ask another faculty member 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 my 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 student serving as a 50% TA.  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

TA's 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 UCSD 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 teach should notify the department as early as possible in order that a qualified replacement may be found. Only students with equal to or greater than a 25% teaching appointment are eligible for a 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.


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 student ID 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, then 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 they are in a position where there is concern about the the well being or safety or one or more individuals, including the TA him or 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 problems 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.  


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.