Information for Graduate Assistants

Graduate assistantships are funding packages awarded to degree-seeking students that involve teaching, research, or administrative activities. They are designed to support and enhance a graduate student’s overall educational experience, and are an opportunity for professional development, and provide financial support. Each graduate program or academic college is responsible for awarding assistantships to graduate students, and more than 4,500 graduate assistantships are awarded annually.

Students interested in internship opportunities should contact their graduate program for information, and can also note their interest on their Graduate School application.

Assistantship funding support

An assistantship includes:

  • a stipend

  • tuition remission

  • insurance premium subsidies

  • payment of Student-Initiated Fee

Stipend amounts

A stipend is commensurate with both the type (quarter, half, or three-quarters) and grade level of an assistantship, and these are determined by the department providing the assistantship. The type refers to the volume of activities associated with an assistantship.

Stipend amounts for each grade are set annually by the University, and the minimum recommended grade level for all assistantships is grade 12. Stipend amounts increased by 3.5 percent for the 2023-24 academic year, and will increase by 3.5 percent in the 2024-25 academic year, as approved by the Penn State Board of Trustees.

To view stipend amounts, visit the Table of Graduate Assistant Stipends.

Length of assistantships and summer funding

Graduate assistantships last 18 weeks per semester, or 36 weeks for a fall and spring appointment. Students who had assistantships, fellowships, or traineeships in both the fall and spring are eligible to apply for summer tuition assistance (STAP) of up to 9 credits of required coursework during the subsequent summer. Many graduate students find additional funding for the summer through wage payroll, scholarship funds, summer graduate assistantships, or other means.

Required credit load

The table below lists the minimum and maximum credit load for each of the three types of assistantships: quarter-time, half-time, and three-quarters time. Post-comprehensive doctoral candidates should be enrolled in a 601 level course in place of the typical course load.

Assistantship Type Expected Hours Per Week Typical Course Load
Quarter Time 10 9–14 credits per semester (5–7 per summer semester)
Half Time 20 9–12 credits per semester (4–6 per summer semester)
Three-Quarters Time 30 6–8 credits per semester (3–4 per summer semester)

Health insurance subsidies

Penn State subsidizes health insurance (medical, dental and vision) for graduate assistants and full-time fellows and trainees. Health insurance is required for international students. The Penn State Student Health Insurance Plan provides robust coverage tailored to meet student needs for the entire academic year, including summer.

Insurance Type Amount subsidized for graduate assistants Amount subsidized for dependents
Medical 80 percent 75–76 percent
Dental and Vision 80 percent 70 percent

For more information, visit the Student Affairs website for dental and vision insurance or health insurance premiums.

The SHIP provides robust coverage tailored to meet student needs through input by graduate student representatives to the Student Insurance Advisory Board (SIAB) and the Student Insurance Administrative Council (SIAC). SHIP provides coverage for the entire academic year, including summer.

Total Estimated Value of 2023–24 GA Economic Benefits

For GAs Receiving Individual Insurance Coverage

Benefit Amount
Average Stipend for Fall/Spring 2023-4 Half-Time Assistantships $25,357
2023-24 Fall/Spring GA Tuition $20,780
2023-24 Student Initiated Fee $562
Summer 2024 University Park Tuition and Student Initiated Fee (9 credits) $9,360-18,603
Total Medical Insurance Subsidy (12 months of coverage) $2,932
Total Dental and Vision Subsidy (12 months of coverage) $261
Value of Total Support Package $59,252–68,495

For GAs Receiving Family Insurance Coverage

Benefit Amount
Average Stipend for Fall/Spring 2023-4 Half-Time Assistantships $25,357
2023-24 Fall/Spring GA Tuition $20,780
2023-24 Student Initiated Fee $562
Summer 2024 University Park Tuition and Student Initiated Fee (9 credits) $9,360-18,603
Total Medical Insurance Subsidy (12 months of coverage) $11,288
Total Dental and Vision Subsidy (12 months of coverage) $634
Value of Total Support Package $67,981–77,224

The table includes the average stipend amount across the University for the Fall/Spring 2023-24 academic year.

Graduate students on fall/spring assistantship appointments often receive some form of additional support in the summer, so that total annual support is often greater than reflected for the fall/spring assistantship.

Actual support value will vary with assistantship type, stipend amount, number of summer credits taken and residency status, and choice of SHIP, Dental and Vision coverage (e.g., Individual, Individual & Dependent, Family, etc.).