For something I'm applying to, I need to know if I'm considered a student, a part-time employee, or a full-time employee.

I am a graduate research assistant with a yearly stipend. No other employment is allowed. 20 hours a week of research is expected according to the contract.

  • P.S. If you don't like my question, instead of downvoting let me know so I can delete it. (I don't like downvotes.)
    – James
    Apr 19, 2013 at 2:59
  • 3
    Considered for what purposes? Apr 19, 2013 at 3:02
  • Hmm... I assumed it would be the same for whatever I was applying for. In this particular case, it is for a condo. However, this question has come up a few times in other places as well.
    – James
    Apr 19, 2013 at 3:04
  • In my program, a teaching assistantship is "technically" paid an hourly wage with the TA supposed to work 12 hours a week. This would make it part-time work.
    – user4383
    Apr 19, 2013 at 3:07
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    For non-academic purpose, 20 hours is of course part time. If you call it full time, how do you call 40 hours? Overtime job?
    – Nobody
    Apr 19, 2013 at 3:31

3 Answers 3


I don't have citable information to give you but being a doctoral student and usually being on a research assistantship, anecdotally, I can tell you that in the United States, if you are a full time MS/PhD student and are on a research assistantship then it is not considered a full time job. Your full time job is that of a "student".

This was confirmed by an HR representative of my university because I asked her this exact question.


For your purposes, I would use either "full-time employee" or "student," depending on which answer gives you the most benefit. Because you aren't allowed other employment (the legality of whether that is enforceable is disputable), your position is full-time because it implies that the other 20 hours a week of 40-hour a week employment* will be spent on studies. You can certainly claim to be a student, as I assume you have a student ID that demonstrates that.

*if you make it through graduate school working only 40 hours a week, you're either brilliant, or not working hard enough, or both.

  • 1
    Haha, certainly not. I think 2 all-nighters a week makes that point very well. I guess 40 hours is the "official" amount though.
    – James
    Apr 19, 2013 at 4:45

For something I'm applying to, I need to know if I'm considered a student, a part-time employee, or a full-time employee.

The answer could heavily depend on the country you are located in.

The following is obvious:

  1. do you have a proper work contract with the university? If yes, then check your contract and see what kind of employee you are;
  2. are you officially enrolled at a university as a student? If yes, the program you are enrolled in tells you what kind of a student you are.

Now to the non-obvious part. As pointed out by others, in some countries you would be a either a full-time, or a part-time employee, but despite that, for many purposes (grant applications, student fellowships, conference registration, etc.) you could be considered a full-time student. This is the case for Germany (among others) where your contract would stipulate an amount of hours you are paid for, but you would be nevertheless expected to work full-time as a PhD. student and the university would have no problem issuing a certificate about your "studentship" for you. So to tackle your question, the first instance to consult is your supervisor/adviser, and the second one would be your department/faculty administration.

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