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I am currently working on a Master's degree in mathematics and was recently offered a teaching assistant position for a graduate-level course that covers material I am really comfortable with.

My problem is that finding time to study is really limited and I am only considering this job if it would really help my future applications for a Ph.D. in mathematics, and would be a good point to have on my CV. Along with my courses, I am also working on my thesis and I don't want the quality of my work to be affected.

What are your experiences from the committee/applicant perspective? Do people usually have some teaching experience before going into a Ph.D.?

I understand that this might be a field-oriented question but all points of view are welcome.

Edit: This is about European applications for math Ph.D. programs.

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  • Is this about US applications or elsewhere?
    – Buffy
    Apr 3, 2023 at 22:01
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    I edited my post. It's about EU applications. Thanks for bringing this up.
    – Meliodas
    Apr 3, 2023 at 22:05

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I don't think there can be a general answer to this. Ways to admit PhD students can be quite heterogeneous, also within the EU. Particularly there are situations in which it is mainly up to the supervisor to decide (as long as the candidate fulfills certain minimum requirements), and other situations in which a commission decides this, and this can happen according to fixed list of criteria, a points system with points assigned to different aspects of the application before applications have been seen, but also more freely according to the opinions of the people who decide.

Furthermore there are certain paid positions that are meant to enable the holder to do a PhD (and also come with the opportunity to do a PhD in the same place) but involve other duties such as teaching, and experience in teaching may be explicitly desirable for such positions.

I suspect that more often than not this kind of experience will not help or not help much (probably it still is an advantage if two candidates look otherwise equally strong), but there are exceptions, and they may not be super-rare. It for sure won't hurt your CV, but your concern may be valid that it may be bad to lose valuable time to work on your project and maybe even give a try publishing it.

Personally I do think that it'd be a valuable experience though (and it would help to some extent if I could personally decide to admit PhD students).

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