I help students in a lab for 10 hours a week then have to grade their labs every other week. Does anyone know what the norm is? Are they supposed to assign grading hours for you as well?

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    It may depend a lot on the country you are in, and on the institution, and also whether you're an undergraduate or a graduate student, and whether you are an international student, or a citizen / permanent resident. I can elaborate on each, but it would be better if you edited your question with these details.
    – Matteo
    Jul 19 at 13:22
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    As the country is relevant, it should be stated in the question - laws and expectations vary wildly.
    – Chris H
    Jul 19 at 13:47
  • The main point is that you should ask those in charge in your school/department, and make sure that you get a clear statement of your duties and your pay before you accept the job. For example in my school, marking is part of the job for most casual staff - but we recognise this by paying more than other schools do.
    – David
    Jul 20 at 4:33
  • 1
    This is going to depend upon country, type of university (public vs private), specific university, department within a university, and these days, whether grad students at your institution are unionized or not. Jul 21 at 18:51
  • Depending on where you are, you might be part of a union—that's worth finding out (they'll have a lot more information on the local rules of engagement). Jul 22 at 4:19

11 Answers 11


There are "contract hours", "contact hours" and "hours it takes to do the job". For example, your contract could specify that you are 0.5 time TA, so assuming a 40-hour week, that means that you are a "20-hour employee", or if it's 0.25 time, then a "10-hour employee" etc. But this is just accounting fantasy, as TA jobs are treated as salaried positions. What matters are the contact hours.

Contact hours are the hours which you are expected to be standing in front of the students during lab time. You are then expected to spend time prepping the lab (setting up reagents/specimens/etc.), prepping your presentation to the students (reading the manual, preparing notes, making a presentation), developing assessment materials (pre- or post-lab quizzes, lab exams, lab projects, lab report instructions), and then grading all of this. Your department might also require you to hold office hours for say, 2-3 hours a week.

This all depends on the norms of the institution and/or department, but as part of your TA duties, you might be expected to also attend the regular lectures taught by the professor (another 3 hours of your time a week), write the professor's lecture exams, and then grade those exams. When I was a grad student, I had to TA for a professor who pretty much abandoned the class to me: his only apparent job duty was to cash the checks. In another instance, a different professor wanted to control everything in the class and lab, and my job through the semester was to keep a chair warm. Most TA duties range between these two ends, even though the pay is the same.

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    This is a fine listing of TA duties, but I can't tell if your answer is "yes, TA's get paid for time to grade" or "no, contact hours only". Esp. reading the last line in the 1st para: "What matters are the contact hours". That makes it sounds as if your answer is that paid hours are a formula based on contact hours. Jul 19 at 21:15
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    The contact hours rule how much you get paid, regardless of what the accountants say on the contract or how long it takes to do the actual job. That's the point. It's not a list of duties, it's a list of the things you do outside the contact hours, which you are required to do for no extra pay.
    – Cheery
    Jul 20 at 7:41
  • "contact hours rule how much you get paid" Citation? It has not been this way for me, in both departments I have TA'd for at different universities, I was paid for prep and grading time. Jul 21 at 22:32
  • My TAships have never referred to contact hours as the deciding factor. Jul 22 at 16:22

If you are hired as a TA for 10 hours a week, that includes all activities, unless your hire letter states something different.

That said, it would not be uncommon for the expectations of a TA load to exceed 10 hours a week. Is this right? No.


To add another system, here's how my contracts mostly looked when I was at U of Toronto.

Each TA was allotted a flat # of hours per course, e.g. 60 or 100, from which our pay would be calculated. Then we would get an hours allocation form. The allocation was sometimes the result of consultation but was usually unilaterally determined by the instructor. Here's what it looked like:

duties and description of hours

So there was some logic about how to allocate: 22 tutorials, 1 hour each = 22 hours makes sense. For 3 assignment markings, no time per task is given, but there are 36 hours so evidently 12 hours are supposedly needed to mark each assignment.

There was a column for revised hours "as applicable". I don't remember that column ever being used, but maybe other TAs asked about it. As others have noted, at the end of the day this is a reasonable guess, but the pay is not actually materially tied to how many hours each TA spends on each task. The reporting and verification of each individual's hours would be a much greater headache and cost than being wrong by a few hours here and there. (Besides, if I mark twice as fast, should I really get paid half as much?)

So the hourly rate is a bit of a fiction, but I'm sure they occasionally revised these estimates to get them more or less right on average.

  • 4
    Probably worth mentioning that TAs are unionized at U of T. At York I had one or two courses where someone ran out of hours and work got reassigned (a good reason to actually keep track of them, which most dont do). I think there was also a case or two of hours being revised upwards during a term when marking turned out to be more time consuming than expected (which meant more pay in total for that term). Allocated hours and hours actually worked not matching up could in principle escalate to a union grievance, though I never heard of such a case and assume departments managed this themselves.
    – llama
    Jul 19 at 20:23
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    @llama Yes, true. Most of my contracts were actually fixed numbers of hours as multiples of 54, which I guess is what had been agreed on as the standard for one undergrad CS course TA-ship, and the one above is atypical at 89. In one instance, I ended up doing a lot more work, and it was easily trackable as being more than expected (assignment design that wasn't mentioned in the original contract), so they augmented my contract by either 27 or 54 hours, I don't recall. Jul 19 at 20:27
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    Yeah at York the main unit is a "full TAship", which is how many hours (or equivalently how much money you'd get) over a year, and each course would typically be some clean fraction of that, 0.2 or 0.125 or whatever such that the admin can add them up to ~1 per year for each student.
    – llama
    Jul 19 at 20:34

In my experience (UK), the hourly rate for contact hours is stated to include the expected additional time required for marking rather than the marking being paid on top of that. So, no, no additional money is paid for marking.

However, I would strongly suspect that this varies by country and likely even by institution within a country.

  • 3
    My UK experience was rather different - we were paid for the marking we did outside contact hours at the same hourly rate, but not really for enough hours (probably about 2/3 of the time we spent). This was physics labs, when marking took place every few weeks by interview within the contact hours, but twice a year we had written reports to mark.
    – Chris H
    Jul 19 at 13:46

Most TA jobs are "contracted" 10-20 hours. But TA jobs are salaried, which means in reality, you get assigned what's "theoretically" 10 or 20 hours of work per week, and paid a fixed salary.

My experience and hearing others is that most TA positions take less than the contracted time most weeks, except the weeks when grading exams or big projects, they take a lot more. Also see: What are the standard workloads for mathematics TAs at state and private universities in the US?

Look at your TA contract or what your job position is: is it listed "0.25 FTE" (10 hours/week), "0.5 FTE" (20 hours/week), or something else? If it's 20 hours/week and you spend half the time in the lab and half the time grading, then that seems reasonable. But if you're only 10 hours/week and/or working considerably more than your assigned hours, that's an issue; whether or not it's common, it's wrong.

Unfortunately I have no idea how to address that, other than simply working faster and sloppier to make your actual hours match your contracted ones. At least, this seems to be what most TAs do, but it hurts the students...really this is a big problem at some universities, where the university itself and classes are overenrolled and TAs are overworked and underpaid. Others more familiar with this situation can probably give better advice, and I'm sure it will be specific to your country and university as well, because some are more receptive to graduate students and have stricter contract rules than others.

  • "Faster" doesn't need to be "sloppier". Yes, universities do cynically hire TAs and underpay them (though it could be argued that they are actually fairly well compensated in the US, once tuition waivers are taken into account---I don't hold much truck with that argument, but it exists, and is made in good faith), but working as a TA is also a benefit to the TA---they are learning how to do an important part of the job that they are, in all likelihood, enrolled in a graduate program to learn how to do. Learning to quickly and consistently evaluate student work is important. That said, (+1). Jul 20 at 2:44

In Australia, NTEU (the union) has repeatedly won large amounts of back pay for union members. Universities were caught engaging wage theft. Very often this theft was failing to pay staff for time spent marking/grading.

In Australia, almost all staff who are marking/grading must be paid. Union contracts cover almost all universities and TAs are covered by the contracts.



In Germany it seems to be the norm, that you are technically being underpaid (paid for 10hours/week but the workload is ~20hours per week) BUT your contract lasts the entire semester (6 months) where lectures are only 3 months of that. So you get the rest of the money for doing literally nothing. I assume this is likely done to keep your income below tax margins.

  • Legally speaking, in Germany, a TA work contract is the same as any other employment contract. Marking protocols, grading written or oral exams etc. is all part of the working time. There's even supposed to be a time sheet of the hours actually worked. That may accumulate overhours during certain times, which are compensated by free time during other periods. Whether 3 months on 3 months off is inside the legal limits may be questionable. Re: tax margins, having one ongoing contract rather than many intermittent short ones avoids lots of burocratic work with social insurance, and for the... Jul 20 at 14:41
  • ... studient potentially lower overall health insurance fees since they are covered by the contract all the time rather than switchting between employee status and student status every few months. The tax margin depends on total income for the whole year, so that should not change. Tax withholdings are more difficult, and would be too high for some scenarios. Jul 20 at 14:44

This is going to be highly dependent upon what country or state you are in, what kind of institution you are studying at, what department you are in, and a whole host of other details. However, the most important thing is read your contract.

When you agreed to be a TA, you should have signed a contract which outlined your duties. For some perspective, my own experiences as a TA are outlined below.

I completed my masters degree at the University of Nevada, Reno. During my time there, I was employed as a TA, where I was a half-time employee. My contract specified that I would

  • teach a certain number of hours every week (typically 4–5 recitation sections which totaled 4–5 hours per week, or a lecture section for 3 hours per week, plus one or two recitations for some other class),
  • hold office hours (1 hour for every 3 contact hours, so another 2–3 hours per week),
  • grade coursework,
  • prepare lecture material,
  • meet with lead instructors,
  • help to proctor exams (if relevant), and
  • perform "other duties, as assigned".

Half-time employees are expected to work approximately 20 hours per week. The expectation is that your time with students (contact hours in recitation or lecture, plus office hours) would constitute something like 8–10 hours per week, and that the remaining 10–12 hours of contracted time would be spent performing the other listed duties. However, this was a salaried position—I was paid per semester, not per hour. I was expected to perform my duties, and the institution didn't really care how much time I spent on it (aside from the contact hours and student hours).

I did my doctoral work at University of California Riverside. Unlike Nevada (which is a right-to-work state, which means that you can be fired at any time for any reason), California has fairly strong labor protection laws, and the graduate student union in the UC system was strong. My basic contract was very similar, and stipulated that I would

  • teach recitation sections (TAs at UCR did not independently teach classes),
  • hold office hours,
  • grade coursework, and
  • perform other duties as assigned.

Again, this was a salaried position, and the expectation was that I would (a) work 20 hours per week, and (b) get all of my work done. However, again, the union was strong, and encouraged TAs to keep timesheets as a defense against exploitation. If our duties consistently exceeded 20 hours per week, the union would help mediate discussions with the departmental chair and lead instructors. So the contract was very similar, but there was a cap on the numbers of hours I could be required to work, and enforcement was a little different.

TL;DR: You should have a contract. Read that contract, and ask your department chair (or union rep, if you have one) about anything that isn't clear to you. That contract probably stipulates that you are expected to complete certain tasks, rather than work a certain number of hours per week. Grading is almost certainly one of those tasks.


They should although exactly how this number of hours is computed is black magic. To list some of the variables:

  1. Are you provided with a solution key or do you have to make your own?
  2. Are all assignments the same length/difficulty or is this variable?
  3. Is it a large or small class?

As a result it’s unlikely that the number of hours you devote to this will be exactly reflected in the number of hours assigned by the administration. In other words, the number of hours in your contract is an estimate, sometimes higher sometimes lower, than the actual number of hours you will actually devoted to the task.

Moreover in some cases the time allotted for preparation and marking is just a multiple of the number of actual contact hours, irrespective of the items above, recognized either directly or via a higher hourly pay.

So: this is definitely variable although some recognition of the time and effort spend outside of contact hours should be given.


Converting what was starting to become a long comment into an even longer answer.

This seems not only country-dependent, but even within the same country it seems to be organisation-dependent. E.g. people here seem to suggest that a TA is a "salaried" position (which I understand to mean you will get paid some sort of standard salary regardless of the nature of the work or the odd missed session). I'm assuming they must be speaking from a US perspective. This is not my experience from the UK. And compared to another answer here, my experience seems different from another colleague's experience in the UK in a different institution. So, take all advice here with a grain of salt.

To relay my own experience from hiring TAs (or GLAs: Graduate Lab Assistants) in my own institution: I had to specify in my request form whether the TAs required "preparation time" and/or "marking time" on top of "lab time", and how many hours would be required for each component per TA (remunerated at a standard rate dictated by the university), and how many TAs would be required for me to teach the module and why. (typically the expectation is that you will hire one GLA for every extra 30 students after your first 30 in the class).

Then the TAs would perform this work, but would have to get a signature after each lab to confirm they performed the work, so that that they could be remunerated for that session appropriately (meaning if they missed a session they would not get paid).

Also, in terms of the above, when proposing to hire GLAs, I had to make sure that my request was "reasonable" from a financial point of view; if deemed as "unreasonable" by the finance department, it may be "adjusted" or rejected outright. This partly means that some lecturers might opt for the "suboptimal" solution of making preparation/marking time implied and not actually formally remunerated. In theory this is not illegal as long as the TA understands and agrees to the nature of the job. Though in practice this naturally risks your TAs not preparing and doing suboptimal work during the labs (in practice there is also always the chance that this is the case regardless of preparation payment, however...), or similarly, spending a bare minimum of time on marking, meaning you'll probably be asked to remark most of those assignments due to odd marks / low quality feedback anyway... (again though, this may happen regardless of payment).

Finally, it's worth distinguishing between TAs as Lab assistants, vs actual "Teaching" assistants (GTAs), vs "Fixed (short) term Teachers". My understanding is that GTAs have significantly more duties than GLAs and help out also with lectures and preparing the module, and thus get paid more (in terms of a base hourly rate), but are still not salaried. Fixed-Term teachers on the other hand are salaried, but for a short period of time, to help out with a specific module; the expected contribution may be the same as that of a GTA, bit more, or to more or less take charge of the module outright.


Are TAs supposed to get paid for hours it takes to grade?

Yes, they are. Grading is time you spend doing work for your employer, and that's what workers get paid for.

However - that does not mean all universities actually pay for this work: Many universities, especially where the academic staff is non-unionized, often try to under-count the amount of work done by non-full-time, non-tenured staff. A common custom is only counting hours spent in a classroom or in the lab and ignoring everything else, or using a unrealistic estimate of the extra work time.

Another relatively common practice is using abstract figuring of extra pay for out-of-class work without even trying to estimate time. For example: You get 1 gold coin per month for each class hour taught, and 0.05 gold coins for every student in your class. Obviously, this reflects the fact that there is extra work per student, but not explicitly, and it is more difficult to claim that the 0.05 is insufficient, or that it should vary in some way between courses because, say, the amount of time to grade an assignment is different or there is a different number of lab/homework assignments.

Does anyone know what the norm is?

Well, management knows; but your academic staff union (all-staff, just adjuncts/temporaries, whatever) should know. The fact that you asked us rather than them means they are either weak, or non-existent - and that's something you should consider helping to rectify.

Further reading: Graduate student employee unionization on Wikipedia.

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