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Graduate Assistant and Associate Workload Policy

At the University of Arizona, the goal of graduate education is to provide high quality advanced education, training and apprenticeship for our students. With this goal in mind, the University requires that the time and workload of students engaged in Graduate Assistant/Associate[1] positions be carefully planned, monitored and limited. The duties involved in the position must be directly aligned with the education and professionalization of the student. 


Students have different kinds of expectations placed upon them. They all are expected to conduct scholarly or creative work in their programs. They are also typically subject to expectations for professionalization towards their career goals. Some or all of these scholarly and training expectations may overlap with expectations of workload associated with a paid GA position. The policies articulated below are meant to articulate and constrain how the workload associated with the paid part of a student’s training is regulated.  


Policy 1: If the work would normally be done as GA position in the University, then graduate students materially and actively participating in teaching or research must be hired as Graduate Assistants/Associates and may not be hired[2] as staff[3] or as student workers.   Exception: Students who are hired to work on a project that is either 9 hours or less per week and/or who are hired for projects of a duration less than a single semester, may be hired in student worker category D. The rate of pay should be commensurate with that of a GA at the similar level.


Policy 2: Students who are hired as GAs must be given a clear description of the following:

  1. An explicit description of payroll compensation, tuition benefits, and health care. The amounts presented should mirror actual compensation rather than annualized salary amounts.
  2. An explicit description of goals, duties and workload associated with their GA position. Wherever possible, a description of deadlines and timeframes for turnaround on work should be included. 
  3. A clear statement of who the GA will report to, and who to appeal to if there are issues related to the workplace and workload. This should include mention of programmatic leadership, the Graduate College, Office of Institutional Equity, and the ombudsperson.
  4. In the normal course of business, GAs should not be expected to work during official holidays or university closures. If for some reason (e.g. maintenance of an animal laboratory, or clinical support), this is not possible, then this should be discussed with the GA upon hiring, and equivalent compensatory time off should be given[4].
  5. If the position is an RA position that might result in a publication, then the description should include a clear discussion of the ownership of intellectual property rights of the material and authorship. 


Policy 3: All GAs must be supervised by a faculty member or equivalently qualified staff member. GAs may not be supervised by other graduate students or staff without the necessary qualifications.  


Policy 4: All GAs must receive regular mentoring and feedback from their supervisors throughout their appointment. 


Policy 5: All GAs must receive a written evaluation through the TA/RA/OA conversation system for each position to which they are appointed on at least an annual basis. For TAs, this should occur in each semester they are employed[5]. In the event the GA’s performance requires improvement, then the student should be given early written and oral warning and a remediation plan. 


Policy 6:  As salaried employees, FTE (full time equivalency) corresponds to the following average weekly work hours, as defined by the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Actual hours per week can vary, so long as the average number of hours across the employment contract corresponds to these numbers. As salaried employees, GAs are expected to complete work assignments as assigned and work with their supervisors to set expectations and duties that will result in this average.


  • .50FTE = 20 hours
  • .33FTE = 13.2 hours
  • .25FTE = 10 hours


Policy 7: Teaching Assistants must not be assigned too many sections or be responsible for too many students. The assignment must be consistent with the hours listed in 7 above. Consideration should be given to the full range of duties assigned to the student and the size of the classes and sections they are responsible for. Academic Colleges and departments should develop explicit guidelines about the appropriate number of sections and students for TAs and make those guidelines available to students. 


Policy 8Research Assistants hired at .5 FTE whose assignment significantly overlaps with their own research may be expected to work on their research beyond the usual 20 hours per week. These extra expectations should not be stated as a condition of employment but should instead be expressed as expectations of time the student should commit towards their own research goals and academic training. Such non-compensated expectations should either be made clear in the program’s Graduate Handbook or should be discussed in advance with the student as a means to help the student set academic and professional goals. 

         In units that wish to track and evaluate non-compensated research expectations, the Graduate College recommends that they use credit hours such as directed research, individual studies, or thesis/dissertation to account for any additional scholarly effort beyond 20 hours of paid work. 



  • Effective date:  Fall, 2020
  • Students who are currently hired in positions that would be affected by policy 1 are excepted until 2025.

Approved by Graduate Council, November 15, 2019. Amended by Graduate Council, January 18, 2020. 


[1] The term Graduate Assistant/Associate (GA) is a cover term for Teaching Assistants and Associates (GTAs), Research Assistants and Associates (GRAs) and Outreach Assistants and Associates (GOAs).

[2] Staff currently employed in research or instructional duties who wish to take advantage of QTR benefits to enroll in graduate programs should contact the Graduate College to determine eligibility. 

[3] Please consult the GA Manual ( for details on eligibility to serve as a GA..


Last updated 28 Jun 2021