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Graduate Assistantship Student Resources

Important Note!  Students holding assistantships may not engage in other on- or off-campus employment, including additional assistantships, during the period they hold an assistantship without explicit written approval from the department chair, program director, or dean.

In this section

Types of Assistantships

Graduate assistants (GAs) fulfill a number of different roles at Mason, as described below. All forms of assistantship are intended to contribute to the graduate student’s educational experience. Therefore, they may not be assigned to perform secretarial or clerical duties.

Graduate Teaching Assistants

GTAs are Mason graduate students who participate directly in instructional activities under faculty supervision for no more than 20 hours per week. GTAs may not teach more than two lower-division lecture courses, six semester hours of recitation sections, or nine semester hours of laboratory.

Students hired as GTAs to teach a class must have at least 18 hours of graduate work in the field in which he or she is to teach. The student must be under the direct supervision of a faculty member in the discipline, receive regular in-service training and be evaluated regularly.

Graduate Research Assistants

GRAs are Mason graduate students who participate directly in research or research support activities under faculty supervision for no more than 20 hours per week.

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Students must be admitted to graduate study at George Mason University. Eligibility may further be limited to students in degree programs.

Students must be in good academic standing; that is, the student must have a minimum 3.0 GPA and may not have any recent unsatisfactory grades.

International students whose native language is not English must have a TOEFL score of at least 600 (or an equivalent score on the computer based test version) to be hired as a teaching or research assistant. This requirement must be met for every graduateassistant, whether or not the student actually teaches a class. The TOEFL test may be waived if the student has a bachelor's or master's degree from an English speaking institution.

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Restrictions on Appointments

Graduate students will normally be limited to the equivalent of one 20-hour per week assistantship or lectureship. Students may (under exceptional circumstances) be appointed for more than a total of 20 hours per week, but under no circumstances may students be appointed for more than 30 hours per week. Exceptional circumstances must be approved by the dean of the academic home of the student in question. This policy applies whether the student is appointed in a single unit or in multiple units across campus. F-1 or J-1 international students may not work more than 20 hours per week during the fall or spring semester.

If the student is hired by another unit, perhaps jointly, the home unit of the student must approve the appointment and the conditions attached.

Any student who holds an assistantship and engages in other employment during the semester without explicit approval of the departmental chair may be removed from the assistantship.

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Appointment Periods and Dates of Service

Fall Semester - August 25 to January 9
Spring Semester - January 10 to May 24
Summer Session - Dates of service are for three months extending from May 25 to August 24

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GA appointments generally begin one week before classes start and end one week after classes are over each semester. GAs are not required to work on a day that is listed on the academic calendar as a holiday. GAs do not need to make up these hours later. However, if the faculty member needs to have a GA work at other points in the holiday period, and the student is able to, the faculty member should give the student compensatory time off during the semester. 

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Enrollment Requirements

Academic Year

With certain exceptions noted below, all full-time (20 hrs/wk) GAs must be enrolled for at least 9 hours of graduate work during the fall and/or spring semesters during which they are employed. Part-time GAs (10 hrs/wk) must enroll for a minimum of 6 hours of graduate coursework during the fall and/or spring semesters during which they are employed. Each academic unit will monitor enrollment at the end of the schedule adjustment/registration period. However, the student is ultimately responsible for notifying the department when enrollment status has changed. A GA not enrolled for the minimum hours of coursework must relinquish his or her assistantship.

Exceptions to the 9-hour enrollment required are only considered for students who need fewer than 9 hours to complete their degree and graduate. If the student falls into this category, the student's graduate coordinator must forward a written request to carry a reduced load to the unit by the latest Schedule Adjustment Date. This request should include the student’s status in his or her program and the number of remaining hours and specific courses that remain. If all dissertation or thesis hours have been expended, the student must still register for one credit of dissertation or thesis work per semester.


Students who receive GA appointments for the summer do not have to enroll in classes and are permitted to work up to 40 hours per week. Students who have recently graduated or who have not begun their degree program are ineligible to work as GAs during the summer.

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International Students

The Office of International Programs and Services provides the following information for international students:

  1. F-1 and J-1 students are required by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to take a full course load each fall and spring semester (excluding summer term). A full course load for graduate students is 9 credit hours per semester; however, DHS has declared that students who are assigned teaching or research responsibilities pursuant to the terms of a scholarship, fellowship, or assistantship may carry a reduced course load.
    1. For international students with teaching or research assistantships of 20 hours per week, full time is defined as a minimum of 6 credit hours per semester. See the Graduate Assistant Full-Time Status Form, posted at
    2. Part-time assistantships requiring only 10 hours of work per week do not allow a student to reduce his or her course load.
    3. Students who require fewer than 9 credits to complete their course requirements may take only the required credits in their final semester, but still need to have OIPS approve the reduced courseload.
  2. F-1 and J-1 students who are maintaining their status are limited to 20 hours of work per week during semesters, and may work full time during breaks.
  3. F-1 and J-1 students are admitted to the U.S. for “duration of status,” that is, to complete an educational program. If a student must remain in an educational program beyond the date originally estimated for completion of the program (as stated on Form I-20 or Form DS-2019), the student must comply with DHS or Department of State (DOS) procedures for a program extension. Delay caused by academic probation or suspension is not an acceptable reason for a program extension. The Office of International Programs and Services projects that the normal period of time required to complete a master’s degree is 2 ½ years; the normal period required to complete a Ph.D. degree is five years.
  4. Students may use stipends as proof of financial support for issuance of their I-20/DS-2019.

    A copy of GRA/GTA offer letters must be sent to OIPS indicating stipend amount and specific tuition benefit. If the student’s financial support is based on a GRA or GTA, it is assumed that the same level of financial support will be renewed in subsequent years. U.S. law requires the Designated School Official to verify source of financial support for all years of study prior to issuing an I-20 or DS-2019. In some cases, the stipend will not cover all of the student's educational and living expenses and may need to be supplemented with personal or family funds or sponsorship by an outside organization. Immigration forms will not be issued until all financial support documents have been submitted and have met estimated expense requirements.

  5. I-9 forms for all employees in nonimmigrant status must be completed at the Office of International Programs and Services by the employee. In addition, all employees in nonimmigrant status must complete a Foreign National Information Form and federal and state withholding forms and review them in an interview with the OIPS International Tax Coordinator at the time they are first hired. The Foreign NationalInformation Form needs to be updated when any information thereon changes. These forms can be obtained from OIPS. F-1 and J-1 students must bring proof of identity and evidence of their eligibility to work at George Mason University for purposes of completing Form I-9. In addition, J-1 students require written permission from OIPS for all employment.
  6. International students on nonimmigrant visas are required to provide hiring departments with verified copies of the I-9 for the original appointment and all reappointments before they are entered into the Banner HR system.
  7. International students who have completed their program of study are no longer eligible for student-based employment. They may be eligible to work based on Optional Practical Training or Academic Training, but this eligibility should be confirmed with OIPS before a job offer is extended.

Note: OIPS must verify, in person, the immigration documents of any GRA/GTA who has a temporary, nonimmigrant visa. OIPS must receive copies of the offer letter and signed acceptance form. OIPS will work with the student to complete the I-9 and necessary tax forms.

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The Hiring Process

GAs must be selected from the available applicant pool of all students who have requested consideration. Each department or program establishes procedures to ensure that students are selected fairly and in accordance with university hiring guidelines.

The most up to date versions of these forms are available from the GMU Human Resources website at Print out this checklist below to determine which forms to retrieve from the Human Resources site.

  • Form I-9 – This form will need to be verified in person by Human Resources or the Office of International Programs and Services (OIPS). On page 5, there is a list of acceptable documents that are required in order to verify employment eligibility. Copies are not allowed. If the appointment is for an international student, the student MUST go to the OIPS to verify immigration documents, and to complete the I-9 and prepare tax forms. Students should take their immigration documents, passport and I-94 and other appropriate information to OIPS.
  • Tax Forms
    • State Tax Form
      • Virginia - VA-4
      • Maryland - MW 507
      • District of Columbia - D-4
      • Other – Please contact Payroll at 703-993-2600.
    • Federal Tax Form (W-4)
  • Employment Information Sheet
  • Commonwealth Drug & Alcohol Policy
  • Selective Service (for US citizens/males only)
  • Direct Deposit - Once the student has been set up in the system, they will be able to enter their direct deposit information on Patriot Web (
  • Timesheet – GRAs/GTAs will not submit their hours on Patriot Web. Students will record their hours and faculty members will sign to verify hours worked during each pay period.
  • GRA/GTA Contract – Once the above forms have been completed, the hiring department will prepare an offer letter for the student.

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Graduate Student Housing

There are many housing opportunities at Mason. Students are encouraged to go to for more information. Additionally, up to 70 units at Masonvale will be offered to graduate students. Mason graduate students can apply for 1, 2 or 3 bedroom units. If you are interested, visit, email, or call 703-865-4870.

Mason also offers off-campus housing services. Please go to

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Tuition Waiver Benefits

Tuition benefits are awarded at the discretion of the unit. The awards will vary depending on the amount of tuition dollars allocated to the unit. Receipt of an assistantship does not guarantee a tuition waiver. Tuition for summer is not guaranteed to students receiving waivers in the fall and spring semesters. Tuition benefits must not be used as a substitute form of compensation.

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Points of Contact

  • Office of Research
    Robinson Hall A, Room 489
    4400 University Drive, MS 2G7
    Fairfax, VA 22030
  • Keith Howell, PhD
    Associate Dean for Research
  • Holly Park
    Assistant Director of
    Post Award Services
  • Rebecca Warden
    Grants Administrator