General Source of Financial Support for Graduate Students

An important difference between undergraduate and graduate study is that quite frequently a university pays graduate students to go to school, not the other way around.

The primary sources of support are (a) graduate teaching assistantships; (b) graduate research assistantships; and (c) fellowships. Some 40 of our full-time graduate students are currently supported by one of these means.

All of these provide a stipend and a full waiver of tuition, though students are required to pay their own fees as shown here. A downloadable application is available here. Completed applications may be sent directly to the Director of Graduate Studies at All applications received by March 1 will be given equal priority. After that date, applications will be considered in the order received until all positions are filled.

Graduate teaching assistants (GTAs)

The Department employs about 40 graduate students in this role. A GTA is expected to work about 20 hours/week. A typical assignment would be for a lower level course (say, college algebra, finite mathematics, or business calculus) and would work as follows. A professor would lecture to 240 students 3 times a week. The 240 students are broken down into 8 recitation sections of 30 students each. In general, a GTA will meet with 4 of these recitation sections once a week to answer questions, go over homework problems, give quizzes, etc. The GTA will also hold 4 office hours per week to provide assistance to students either in her/his office or in the MAC (the department Math Assistance Center). The GTA thus spends 3 hours attending lectures, 4 hours conducting recitation sections, 4 hours meeting students in his/her office or the MAC, and 9 hours preparing and scoring quizzes and other related work, for a total of 20 hours/week.

There are other types of GTA assignments as well. Some GTAs serve as graders for mathematics courses (including some junior and senior level courses). Experienced GTAs are given the opportunity to teach their own section of a course (college algebra, trigonometry, or calculus) with full responsibility and an enhanced stipend. Many of our GTAs actively seek this opportunity to develop their skills in teaching and in relating to students in a classroom setting. Finally, some GTAs work full-time in the MAC or the Emporium.

Graduate research assistants (GRAs)

Almost all members of our faculty are actively engaged in research, and many of them welcome assistance from graduate students in this work. For example, our faculty in mathematics education use GRAs to carry out interviews with children who are learning mathematics and to transcribe taped records of such interviews. Our faculty in numerical mathematics rely on GRAs to write computer programs for algorithms they are developing, and then to test the programs on actual data. Advanced doctoral students in all parts of the department become full partners in research with their professors, and can sometimes be appointed as GRAs while they work on their dissertations.

Fellowships holders

Northern Illinois University offers fellowships on a competitive basis to outstanding entering students at the master's level and also to advanced students who are completing their doctoral dissertations. There are several very attractive fellowship programs for minority students as well. Fellowships allow the student to devote full-time to graduate study since there are no duties connected with them. Typically, a fellowship recipient will take 4 courses (12 credit hours), while a GTA will take 3 courses (9 credit hours).

Fellowships awarded in national competitions (e.g., by the Department of Defense or the National Science Foundation) can also be used to support graduate study at NIU. One of our recent doctoral students held a three-year fellowship of this type.

Level of stipends

The stipends for full-time GTAs and GRAs are about $1325/month (MS students) and $1700/month (Phd students with an MS degree) for 9 months, depending on the level of experience and the kind of assignment which is undertaken. The stipends for fellowships range from $7000 (this may be augmented by a 1/2-time appointment as a teaching assistant) to $14,500 for the academic year. A limited number of summer assistantships are also available on a competitive basis. The stipends for Summer GAs ranged from $825 to $1700.

Doctoral students in our program spend at least one semester as an intern, usually in a governmental or industrial research laboratory. In some cases, the laboratory which is hosting the student is able to provide a salary as an alternative to an appointment as a graduate assistant.

Doctoral students interested in pursuing research in statistics should contact the Director of the Division of Statistics for information on their policies regarding GTAs and GRAs.

Director of Graduate Studies: Prof. Jeff Thunder

Last modified: 2/27/2017 (jt)