3.8. Criteria

Students in the computer science PhD and MS programs, the data sciences MS program, and in graduate programs related to computer science are welcome to apply for TA positions (however, by department rules, MCS students are not eligible for TA positions in the Computer Science and Engineering Department). The primary criteria for getting or continuing a TA offer are communication skills, teaching ability and quality of past TA performance, how well an applicant's area of interest matches with department TA needs, and whether the student is in the PhD program. These, as well as other, secondary, criteria, are explained below:

  • Communication skills: this includes the ability to speak clearly, explain CS concepts well, relate to students, faculty, and staff, write well, etc. International students whose native language is not English must pass the University's TA English requirements to be eligible for a TA position.
  • Teaching ability and quality of past TA performance: this is measured by previous teaching experience, student evaluations, any faculty evaluations of TAs, etc.
  • How well applicants' areas of expertise match with departmental needs: Each semester there are some areas where it is difficult to find qualified applicants and some where there is a glut of applicants.
  • Ph.D. vs. Masters: the department gives preference in TA offers to Ph.D. students. M.S. students are considered only if there are no suitably qualified Ph.D. students available. (Students currently in the M.S. program who are in transition to the Ph.D. program are not considered Ph.D. students until the change is officially completed. Moreover, the department usually allows such a change only with strong faculty backing, which usually implies that the involved faculty member(s) will support the student with a research assistantship, rather than having the student rely on a teaching assistantship.) Moreover, MCS students are not eligible for CS&E TA appointments.
  • Program: in general, students in the CS&E department graduate programs have priority over students from other programs such as EE or Math.
  • Degree progress: students should make appropriate degree progress. This means taking and passing an appropriate number of classes, fulfilling the various degree requirements in a reasonable time, not taking overlong to complete their degree, and (for Ph.D. students) getting an appropriate rating on their annual degree progress evaluation.
  • Whether a student was admitted with TA support: Students who got TA support as part of the admission process have priority in continuing their TA support beyond its original guaranteed term.
  • Academic integrity: it is department policy that students with a record of academic dishonesty not be given TA offers (see also the sections on Ethical issues for TAs and Department Policy on Cheating by TAs in this handbook).
  • GPA: GPA is a lesser criterion that will be used to make coarse distinctions, not fine ones. For example, a 3.9 is not significantly better than a 3.8, but a 3.9 is significantly better than a 3.2.
  • Flexibility: some applicants are able or willing to TA only a small number of classes. This is not beneficial for their chances.
  • Seniority: seniority is a little complicated. One on hand, students who have been TAs for very long will have less chance if they exceed the 3 year aggregate TA support limit, or if they are not making satisfactory degree progress. On the other, students who were last hired in the previous semester will have less priority, if all else is equal, than students who have been TAs longer. Moreover, if all other things are equal, students who are currently TAs or who have recently been TAs will have priority for the next semester's offers over students who have not had a CS TA appointment, or who have not had a CS TA appointment recently.