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Research and Course/Teaching Assistantships are paid positions available to Stanford students who are registered and making satisfactory progress in a graduate degree program.

Research Assistants

Research Assistants are selected and paid by individual faculty members. During the academic year, assistantship appointments may not exceed 50% FTE (20 hours/week); most Aero/Astro RAs are hired at 50%. Salaries are set according to department standards, within limits set by the University and School. Generally, salaries are highest for students who have passed the Qualifying Exams.

When Aero/Astro faculty members agree to pay a student as a research assistant, the faculty and student, together with the administrative associate, fill out an online Engineering Research Administration RA Appointment form. This form specifies the salary, hours per week, and grant/contract which will pay for the work; it also clarifies the terms and conditions of the RA pay. The admin should submit this online form for approval before the start of each quarter; late forms will result in late pay and possibly loss of the health subsidy! Faculty and students then approve the forms online.

Aero/Astro Course Assistants

Course Assistants are assigned by the Aero/Astro Department prior to the start of each quarter. Application information for Course Assistantships is posted by the Aero/Astro Student Services Office in the Spring Quarter. Applicants are expected to have taken and done well in the course in which they will assist. Aero/Astro CAs can be 50% appointments (20 hours/week) or 25% appointment (10 hours/week); salaries are comparable to RAs. Aero/Astro students may also serve as course assistants in other departments. Procedures for selecting course assistants vary from department to department; students interested in applying for positions in another department should contact the appropriate student services office for information.


Students who hold assistantships receive tuition grants in addition to their monthly salaries, if their research or teaching is related to their academic degree. (Assistantships awarded within the student's academic department are always considered related to the degree.) This tuition grant is intended to support the academic progress of the student, not the specific needs of the grant, contract, or department providing the funds.

A 50% RA or CA tuition payment covers the full 8-10-unit cost, and students holding these appointments may not enroll for more than 10 units. RAs and CAs for less-than-50% bring a proportionally smaller salary and tuition grant (see Tuition and Assistantships chart, below). These students may enroll at either the 8-10 unit rate or the full tuition rate; the RA/CA tuition grant will partially pay the bill, and the student must pay for the remainder. Students with a less-than-50% appointment may accept more than one RA/CA appointment in the same quarter, so long as the combined percentage does not exceed 50%. The student will receive both salaries and a tuition grant based on the combined percentage (e.g., if they total 50%, the tuition grant will be 8-10 units).

  • Enrollment: All students holding assistantships must be enrolled in the quarter for which the assistantship is held (including summer).
  • Unit requirement: Students with assistantships must be enrolled in at least 8 units during Autumn, Winter and Spring Quarters. Part time enrollment is only allowed during Summer Quarter. Maximum enrollment is 10 units if you have a 50% RA/CA.
  • TGR: Students who have fulfilled unit requirements and only need to complete their oral defense and dissertation may apply for Terminal Graduate Registration (TGR) status for a reduced tuition rate. TGR students with assistantships must enroll in the 0-unit TGR course.

Other Paid Positions: Occasionally, there are temporary jobs available (course grading, office work, etc.) which pay an hourly wage and no tuition benefit. Employment in addition to a 50% assistantship must be formally approved by the faculty research supervisor, and may not exceed more than 8 hours per week. International students may not work at all in addition to a 50% RA/TA/CA (their visas set a limit of 20 hours/week of paid work during academic terms.) Students with fellowships may work 8 hours in addition; students without financial aid are not limited (except by their visas, if any).

The standard Research Assistantship, during the academic year and during summer quarter as well, is a 50% appointment which requires 20 hours a week of work and pays for 8-10 units or TGR fees. However, in Summer Quarter students can also be hired to work for MORE-than-50%, up to a maximum 90% - which brings proportionally more salary and less tuition payment. Different labs have different policies about whether, and when, students will be paid for more than 50% effort.

Students who are "trying out" research with a faculty member might also be hired for less-than-50% appointments, which bring proportionally less salary and fewer units. This can happen during any quarter. In Summer Quarter only, however, students may enroll at less than 8 units (minimum 1 unit), so an RA which pays for less than 8 units will not necessarily leave the student with a large tuition bill to pay.

Examples of 50%, 25%, 75% and 90% appointments are described in some detail below. (Other percentages are also possible, but these should be sufficient to demonstrate the principles involved.) In every case, the salary is proportional to hours-paid (e.g., 25% is half of the 50% standard; 75% is 150% of that standard; 90% is 180% the standard). Tuition charges will be proportionally lower, however, with the minimum tuition = 3-unit rate.

50% RA (20 hrs/wk), not TGR
quarterly salary: $12,246.00 postquals, $11,820.00 prequals tuition paid: 8-10 units: $12,540.00/quarter
Enroll in 8-10 units (AA 290 may be more than 5 units in summer)

50% RA (20 hrs/wk), TGR
quarterly salary: $12,246.00 postquals
TGR tuition fully paid: $3,531.00/quarter - Enroll in TGR course

25% RA (10 hrs/week)
quarterly salary: $6,123.00 postquals, $5,910.00 prequals
tuition paid: 5 units: $6,270.00
Summer Only: Enroll in 3-5 units; you are billed for additional tuition if enrolled in > 5 units.
During the academic year: Enroll in 8 units or more; you will be billed for 8-10 units or for full tuition, as appropriate, and will be responsible for paying the remainder.

90% RA (36 hrs/week) - not TGR SUMMER ONLY
quarterly salary: $22,042.80 postquals, $21,276.00 prequals tuition paid: $3,762.00 - Enroll in 3 units

90% RA (36 hrs/wk), TGR SUMMER ONLY
quarterly salary: $22,042.80 postquals
TGR tuition fully paid: $3,531.00 - Enroll in TGR course

75% RA (30 hrs/wk) - not TGR SUMMER ONLY
quarterly salary: $18,369.00 postquals, $17,730.00 prequals
tuition paid: 5 units: $6,270.00
Enroll in 3-5 units; you will be billed for additional tuition if enrolled in > 5 units

75% RA (30 hrs/wk), TGR SUMMER ONLY
quarterly salary: $18,369.00 postquals
TGR tuition fully paid: $3,531.00 - Enroll in TGR course

Units Tuition RA/CA which pays for this amount of tuition [%FTE] Weekly work effort (Average)
11-18 "full tuition" $19,287.00 none  
8-10 "minimum fulltime" $12,540.00 50% the "standard" RA/CA 20 hours
7 $8.778.00 35% 14 hours
6 $7,524.00 30% 12 hours
5 $6,270.00 25% 10 hours
4 $5,016.00 20% 8 hours
3 $3,762.00 15% 6 hours
TGR (0) $3,531.00 15% or more  

Graduate students will usually be charged a minimum of the 8-10 unit tuition rate – which is considered minimum

full-time registration for a graduate student. Enrollment in more than 10 units for a quarter will result in a higher tuition charge. Enrollment in fewer units will NOT lower tuition charges, but will result in academic and visa problems.

The chart above does not imply that students holding a less-than-50% assistantship may reduce their tuition bill. Students whose assistantships (or fellowships) pay for less than 8-10 units are expected to enroll for at least 8 units during the academic year, and are responsible for paying the remainder of their tuition bill. For details, including the few exceptions to this minimum tuition and minimum enrollment rule, refer to the Stanford Bulletin or to the “Registration Requirements” section of this Guide.

Several fellowships will pay for “full tuition” (11-18 units). Students holding such fellowships are advised to take advantage of this generous support, and to enroll in at least 11 units – or more likely, in 15-16 units – each quarter. If they enroll in 8-10 units, their tuition bill will remain at the 8-10 unit rate. This remainder is usually not “bank-able” for use in a later quarter, nor convertible to stipend or to the payment of other fees. (Of course, students should always consult their academic advisors and the Student Services Office about a specific academic or financial situation.)