Graduate Assistantships

A number of graduate assistantships are available each year in selected departments. Appointment is made to the position(s) by the department. A general graduate assistant application form should also be completed and submitted to the graduate office. This form will be forwarded to the specified department. Graduate assistantships are awarded to highly qualified graduate students on the basis of academic merit.  See the Graduate Assistant page for the most current information.

Programs of graduate study have been established at Northern Michigan University to assist the students in gaining advanced knowledge within a chosen discipline and to facilitate the transformation from the role of student to that of professional scholar. Graduate assistantships attract good students. The primary role of the graduate assistantship is to facilitate progress toward completion of the graduate degree, while receiving valuable professional training. The graduate assistant is expected to make progress toward degree completion, while he or she also receives professional work experience under the supervision of a faculty mentor. Graduate assistants are expected to carry out responsibilities greater than those of other graduate students, but the opportunities for professional development are substantial.

Graduate assistants must perform well academically to retain their assistantship. As they develop their professional skills, assistants will receive regular counseling and evaluation by a faculty mentor. As employees of Northern Michigan University, graduate assistants must meet teaching, research and/or administrative obligations. They also must work under the supervision of experienced faculty/staff and receive in-service training for assigned duties.

General Information

A. Qualifications for a Graduate Assistant Appointment

An applicant must:

  • have completed all application processes;
  • be enrolled in a graduate degree program with regular status (without conditions).

Once appointed, the graduate assistant must:

  • not be employed in any other capacity at Northern Michigan University during their contracted dates;
  • be enrolled in a minimum of six graduate credits for part-time and eight graduate credits for full-time graduate status relevant to the declared program of study during the fall and winter semesters, but no more than ten credits;
  • maintain an overall graduate grade point average of at least 3.0;
  • maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress to be eligible for both the Graduate Assistantship and for the Tuition Scholarship;
  • meet the qualifications of the particular assignment; and
  • satisfactorily perform the duties assigned as evaluated by the faculty/supervisor.

NOTE: Graduate Assistants in the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program must enroll in at least one credit during the summer semester.


B. Job Description for Graduate Assistants

Duties of a graduate assistant are designed to complement the student’s graduate program and to advance the program of the assigning department. Duties assigned to the graduate assistant are subject to approval by the Assistant Provost of Graduate Education and Research.

The workload of a graduate assistant consists of up to 20 hours per week during the fall and winter semesters. These 20 hours should include time for preparing materials used in the classroom, teaching, office hours, planning activities and research assignments.

Graduate assistants are salaried employees of the university. Their pay dates begin the first pay day of the fall semester and end at the conclusion of the winter semester. As salaried employees, they have the same days off that faculty have during the year, which include holidays and semester breaks.

Typical duties and responsibilities of graduate assistants may include:

  • teaching/supervising a lecture or a laboratory section under the direction of a faculty member;
  • assisting in research projects for a department or individual faculty member;
  • grading papers and developing curriculum materials; and
  • performing limited clerical duties.

C. Graduate Assistant Stipends

Stipends for graduate assistants have been standardized for full-time appointments. Some part-time assignments may be available and will vary depending upon assignment. Salary and tuition reduction fees are stated in both the contract and the job description for each position. Amounts for each year will be identified, but may vary between departments.

Graduate Assistant Tuition Scholarships

Graduate Assistants normally receive tuition scholarships for graduate level credits for the period of time that they are appointed. Full appointments allow up to 16 credit hours of tuition scholarship per academic year. To qualify for the tuition scholarship, Graduate Assistants must be enrolled in at least 6 graduate level credits in each of the fall and winter semesters. The tuition scholarship can be split unevenly between the semesters (for example, 6 credits in the fall, 8 in the winter, and 2 in the summer).  The scholarship will adjust automatically for 6 – 8 credits. The student must contact the Financial Aid Office if requesting more than 8 credits of tuition scholarship in a particular semester. Graduate Assistants may receive the tuition scholarship for a maximum of 32 credits, except for MFA candidates, who are eligible for up to 48 credits of Tuition Scholarship. The Tuition Scholarship normally covers tuition charges, the University fee, Student Activities fee, Biology/Chemistry/Nursing fees, and the mobile device fee, as applicable. All credits paid for under this tuition scholarship must be required graduate program credits.

One semester appointments allow up to a maximum of 8 credit hours of tuition scholarship.

For the purpose of tuition charges, Graduate Assistants are considered residents of Michigan. The Graduate Assistant Tuition Scholarship is a tuition-specific award and adjustments may be necessary for students receiving other tuition-specific scholarships, awards, or benefits. The total of all tuition assistance programs that the student receives may not exceed the actual tuition/fees cost of NMU. A student receiving other tuition/fee sensitive awards, such as Chapter 33-Post 9/11 G.I. Bill, Army Continuing Education System [ACES], Indian Tuition Waivers, NMU Faculty Staff Tuition Waivers, Police Academy Scholarship, etc. will receive the combined awards up to the total tuition and fees. If this situation should occur, the amount of Graduate Assistant Tuition Scholarship may be reduced.

Summer Carry-Over Tuition

Graduate Assistants may elect to use part of their tuition scholarship from their current appointment to pay for summer graduate level credits. The maximum that can be “carried-over” is two credit hours from each semester, since the student must remain enrolled in at least six credits each semester of the academic year to be eligible for their assistantship. At the conclusion of the winter semester, the Office of Graduate Education will prepare a list of all Graduate Assistants who have unused credits leftover from the academic year, and submit this list to Student Services and the Financial Aid Office. The Financial Aid Office will put the tuition scholarship on the student's record, as long as the student is registered for the credits. Failure to enroll in the approved summer credit hours by June 1 will result in forfeiture of the credit scholarship. All credits paid for under this tuition scholarship must be required graduate program credits.

Graduate Assistants who enroll in summer session course work under this policy must complete all work assigned to their graduate assistantship by the end of the winter semester.

D. Ethical Research Conduct

During their graduate career at Northern Michigan University, some students will conduct research as a part of their thesis work. Students conducting experiments involving human subjects must complete an Institutional Review Board (IRB) application prior to beginning the research. The student cannot proceed with that research project until they have received approval from the IRB. Similarly, graduate students who conduct research involving vertebrate animals must submit an application to the Northern Michigan University Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) prior to the conduct of their research, and must receive approval of the proposed project before beginning their research. Note that ALL graduate students who have utilized human or animal subjects in their thesis research project must submit a copy of the IRB or IACUC approval form with their thesis, or the thesis will not be approved by the Assistant Provost of Graduate Education and Research.

E. Mobile Devices Over the Summer

During the summer, graduate assistants who want to keep their mobile devices must be pre-registered for the fall semester. If the student fails to pre-register, he or she will be given the choice of either turning in the computer or paying the computer fee.

F. Failure to Meet Assigned Responsibilities

It is expected that graduate assistants will meet their assigned responsibilities in a professional manner. If for any reason they are ill or unable to carry out these responsibilities, they are expected to notify the faculty or staff mentor and the department head immediately. Appointed graduate assistants do not have the benefit of paid sick leave. If protracted periods of illness or absence exist, the department maintains the responsibility to make recommendations that the assistant withdraw from the assistantship so that your assigned responsibilities are met. Because the appointment to a graduate assistantship does not provide the individual with employment rights, missed time is expected to be made up at the discretion of the departments.

Departments hold disciplinary oversight for those assistants who do not meet assigned responsibilities. The Assistant Provost of Graduate Education and Research will be notified by the appropriate department head when a graduate assistant fails to meet assigned responsibilities and can have input to the disciplinary process.