Job Duties of a Graduate Research Assistant

Taking a position as a graduate research assistant is one of the best ways to gain a leg up on future job applications or make yourself stand out when applying for doctoral programs.


Graduate research assistant positions are usually part-time appointments with terms of employment that coincide with academic semesters, and the duties vary greatly depending on your field.

(1)Research and Experiment Design

Your primary duty as a graduate research assistant is conducting research. The level of responsibility that you are assigned varies with your experience. If you are a master’s student, it is more likely that you work on an experiment designed by someone else. If you are a doctoral student, study design is often your responsibility. You serve as a study lead, carrying out or delegating various tasks, including sample collection and data entry.

(2)Worker Supervision

In many fields, you are unlikely to be the only student working on a research project. Expect your supervisor to hire other students, often undergraduates, to work under you. Part of your responsibilities as a research assistant with a supervisory role are providing training, creating schedules, delegating work responsibilities and ensuring that the work is being done properly. Another component of your duties is to communicate regularly with your supervisor about worker performance and any issues that arise.

(3)Data Analysis

Data analysis is another important task you perform as a graduate research assistant. Some positions also expect you to compile data into a form that is acceptable for publication and even aid in writing drafts for articles. Another component of analysis work is compiling information on similar, contradictory or interesting experiments by examining already-published literature.

(4)Teaching Assistance

While you do not teach classes as a graduate research assistant, your supervising professor asks you to aid with classroom activities in courses related to your major. This frequently means helping out with laboratory components of a class. Duties include responsibilities like proctoring exams, leading field trips, providing one-on-one help to students in the classroom and grading homework or quizzes.

While most of your work as a graduate research assistant directly involves research, expect to have other tasks assigned to you. Some professors assign duties like managing laboratories, ordering and calibrating equipment, running errands and acting as tutors to students. Although the workload is often difficult in combination with your studies, most of these positions come with the opportunity of grant-based pay, tuition assistance, stipends or funding for your own research.


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