10.0 Graduate Student Employment

10.1 Working While Studying

Student service appointments are intended to help qualified graduate students meet the cost of their studies at the University.

Student appointments may involve part-time duties in teaching, research, or other academic activities. Normally, only those students registered full-time in the College of Graduate Studies are eligible.

Appointments offered to students prior to their admission to the College are contingent upon admission.

10.2 Appointments: General

There are five categories under which graduate students may be appointed: Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) I and IIMarkerGraduate Research Assistant (GRA), and Graduate Academic Assistant (GAA).

Only registered full-time graduate students are eligible for GTAGRA, and GAA appointments.

Most student appointments average 12 hours of work per week, with the exception of GRAs whose hours may be bound by granting agencies.


Most faculties have a limited number of GTA positions available for registered full-time graduate students. Full GTA positions entail 12 hours of work per week in preparation, lecturing, or laboratory instruction. Many graduate programs offer partial GTA appointments with fewer than 12 hours of work per week.

Full details concerning GTA rates and employment guidelines are available in the full document, Collective Agreement between UBC and BCGEU.


It is a conflict of interest for a graduate teaching assistant to grade the work of another graduate student, regardless of differences in degree program or year in program. It is the responsibility of the faculty member who is instructing the course to grade the work of all graduate students in the course.


Many faculty members offer Graduate Research Assistant (GRA) positions to full-time graduate students under their supervision. The duties may constitute part of the graduate degree requirements for the student. Funding for such positions comes from the research grants of the faculty member and are coordinated and administered at the program level.

Stipends for GRAs vary widely and are dependent on the field of study and the type of research grant from which the assistantship is being funded.

The entire stipend of a GRA is considered a scholarship, the conditions of which may be specified by the granting agency. For tax purposes, the stipend is considered an award rather than payment for work. Appointments may be for any specified period satisfactory to the grantee, and conditions of appointment may be specified by the granting agency. A GRA appointment is a form of financial support for a period of graduate study and is therefore not covered by a collective agreement.

Unlike other forms of fellowship support for graduate students, the amount of a Graduate Research Assistantship is neither fixed nor subject to a university-wide formula. The amount is determined by those who administer the funds, including grant holders and granting agencies.

Individual faculty members should ensure that payments from grants are consistent with the norms of their graduate program and discipline.

All letters to students offering funding through a graduate research assistantship should clearly state the period to which the offer applies. Students requiring Study Permits must have such letters in order to enter Canada. Such letters should indicate that the offer is subject to satisfactory academic progress and to demonstrated competence in duties and/or other procedures relevant to the student’s area of study.

Transfers from one degree program to another, or from one supervisor to another, may affect the remuneration or even retention of GRAs.

The continuation of a research assistantship is always contingent on the student maintaining satisfactory academic standing in his or her graduate program.


The duties of a Graduate Academic Assistant (GAA) include all academic duties not conforming to those specified in the GRA role (for example, research not directly related to the research of the student performed for a faculty member).

The stipend for a GAA may not be considered a scholarship.

10.3 Teaching a Course for which a Board of Governors Appointment is required

The UBC Board of Governors has established specific requirements for graduate students to teach a course requiring a Board of Governors Appointment:

  • A graduate student must have suitable academic credentials or experience to teach any course that he or she is assigned;
  • All teaching appointments of a graduate student require the Dean’s Approval for a Graduate Student to Teach;
  • A master’s student may not normally hold an appointment to teach a course unless the master’s degree program in which the student is enrolled is the highest level credential offered at the University in that field of study, or unless the dean of the College of Graduate Studies determines that an exception may be made;
  • A doctoral student admitted to candidacy may be granted a part-time appointment as a sessional lecturer to teach up to nine credits of coursework per academic year, with no more than six credits of coursework per term;
  • In general, a doctoral student not yet admitted to candidacy may only be granted an appointment to teach courses in special circumstances. In those cases where a doctoral student holds suitable credentials independent of those being acquired through pursuit of their degree program, they may be appointed to teach up to six credits of coursework per term, up to a maximum of nine credits of coursework per academic year;
  • A graduate student may not hold an appointment to teach a graduate course. Exceptions may be granted at the discretion of the Dean of the College of Graduate Studies when it is determined that:
    • allowing such an appointment is unlikely to give rise to any conflicts of interest;
    • the appointment meets all other requirements of Policy 75; and
    • the appointment is consistent with the purposes of Policy 75;
  • The graduate student must be making satisfactory progress in their degree program;
  • Teaching appointments will not normally be made if they will raise a student’s employment commitment 
to the University above the level of 12 hours per week averaged over the year;
  • Prior to accepting an appointment under Policy 75, graduate students are advised to ensure that the number of hours worked under such employment will not affect their eligibility to receive or maintain scholarships and fellowships, whether internally or externally funded.

10.4 Teaching While on Program Extension

Only under exceptional circumstances will a student on a first program extension (in the seventh year of their PhD program) be permitted to teach a course or courses for which a Board of Governors appointment is required.

A request for permission to teach must be submitted to the College of Graduate Studies and must include an outline of the exceptional circumstances. A detailed timeline for degree completion, signed by both the student and their supervisor, must accompany the request.

Teaching responsibilities should not significantly impede a student’s progress towards degree completion.

Students on their second extensions (in the eighth year of their PhD program) are not permitted to teach a course for which a Board of Governors appointment is required.

These restrictions are intended to ensure that the student’s main occupation is finishing their doctoral degree and that the student’s best interests in this regard are protected. Granting a second or third extension because a student’s progress has been slowed by teaching responsibilities is undesirable and in some cases, in contravention of policy.

For full details, please read the complete policy document at Policy No. 75.

10.5 International Student Employment

International students who want to work in Canada, need to follow certain regulations and may require a work permit.


On-campus employment is defined as employment within the boundaries of the campus or in facilities owned, leased, or rented by UBC. Further information regarding on-campus work is available on the International Programs and Services website.


Off-campus work allows eligible international students to work off-campus while completing their studies at UBC. Further information on off-campus work is available on the International Programs and Services website.


Co-op work permits allow international students to work when the work is for credit and is integral to your program of study. Further information is available on the International Programs and Services website.


Spouses or common law partners of international students studying full-time with a valid study permit, can apply for an open work permit. For further information, visit the International Programs and Services website.

For questions or concerns regarding a student’s legal status or ability to work/study in Canada, please visit International Program and Services.