A bit of background: I just completed my MA at a large Canadian university, and I will be starting my PhD in Sociology in the fall (at the same large Canadian university). Over the course of my 2-year MA, I worked as a teaching assistant (TA) both years, and also held 6 different research assistant positions with different faculty and projects.

For my PhD, about 30% of my total funding is tied to a guaranteed TAship for the next 4 years, so I will be working as a TA no matter what. As the summer progresses, I've started to receive offers for new research assistant positions in the fall from faculty in my department and other affiliated departments. Currently, I have 3 offers. They're all very part-time (a few hours a week each, tops), so I could theoretically accept all of them from a time-management perspective. I held 3 positions simultaneously in addition to my TAship in my MA and did not find it overwhelming, nor did it compromise my academic work in any way.

Before accepting, however, I've been trying to calculate the cost-benefit analysis. The extra money is definitely nice, but I have enough funding that I could survive without it, although my finances would be tight. Overall, how valuable this experience would be to my career is a bigger factor than the money.

With all that in mind, is accepting as many research assistant positions as I can manage (without compromising my other work) a reasonable career decision in terms of what future hiring committees (in the humanities) would likely be looking for? Again, I'm in the Canadian context, and my understanding is that most positions are seeking a solid mix of both teaching and research experience here.

Does the reputation/prestige of the faculty members I am working for matter in this case? (The way it would for an advisor?)

I recognize that one of the other major factors is whether or not taking all of these positions would compromise my ability to publish, but the flip side of that is that it's not entirely uncommon in my field for research assistants - especially at the PhD level - to end up co-authoring papers with the faculty they work for, so it may actually open up more doors for publication. I have two small/less-prestigious publications accepted so far (an interview with a senior scholar in a journal, and a chapter in an edited book), and I'm working on two others currently that will be submitted to peer-reviewed journals, so I'm in okay shape as far as publications go relative to where I am timing-wise in my career.

Sorry if that's too much context, just trying to be thorough!

  • This question is very similar and might be of interest: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/134440/… Commented Jul 30, 2020 at 19:09
  • Usually the value of these small RA positions is not money, but getting your name on papers and being in a good position to launch new projects alongside the faculty member.
    – Dawn
    Commented Jul 30, 2020 at 20:55

2 Answers 2


I'm a faculty member in a Canadian university who hires a lot of RAs (and who has sat on hiring committees), so I can speak to this.

In general, you need to really watch the balance you take on. The extra money is great, of course, and if you need the funds you ultimately should take these positions - the hourly rate is good.

In terms of CV building: some RA work is great, especially if it can dovetail with your research project (i.e. accumulating knowledge for your field) and if you can get a publication as a co-author. Others may involve more clerical work. The important thing is that the RA position in and of itself is not a real addition to your CV when it comes to hiring, but the effects of it can be: a publication, skills, or having a faculty member who can write a positive letter of reference.

The reputation or prestige of the faculty member would I think only really matter if they wrote you a letter of reference or co-authored with you.


The value of these types of RA positions lies in the connections and research experience (seeing up close how a successful faculty member puts together high-impact papers, learning skills).

You should select RA positions based on whether the position is likely to position you well for relationships with high-productivity scholars in your area. These can then lead to mentorship relationships and joint research in the future.

In addition to looking at the faculty publication record, you could talk to past RAs. Some faculty use RAs as a stepping stone to joint work, and some just burn through RAs on grunt work tasks. You obviously want the former, not the latter.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .