Columbia University

Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Student Appointments

Each academic term, a number of graduate students are appointed to part-time service in the University to assist in the instructional and research programs of their units and schools.  They include teaching assistants, graduate research assistants, departmental research assistants, and preceptors. 


On the nomination of the deans and vice presidents, and with the concurrence of the Provost, the Secretary of the University appoints students to assist in the instructional and research programs of their departments and schools.

Most assignments as student officers of instruction and research are reserved for students enrolled in the University’s Ph.D. programs whose mission is to prepare their students to be educators and scholars. For these students, their instructional and research assignments are an integral part of their own educational training.

Other graduate students are appointed in one of the following titles when they participate in the instructional programs of the University:

  • A graduate research assistant is a full-time graduate student who participates in externally funded research.
  • preceptor offers part-time instruction under the supervision of an officer of higher rank. A preceptor must be a full-time candidate for a doctoral degree in the University who has completed the residence requirement for that degree. Appointments in this grade are made for not more than three consecutive years.
  • A research fellow is a Graduate School of Arts and Sciences stduent engaged n the research programs of the University but is not funded by external awards.
  • A teaching fellow is a doctoral student in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences who engage in teaching. 
  • teaching assistant directs drill, recitation, discussion, or laboratory sessions related to courses offered by an officer of higher rank, and engages in other similar activities. In addition to these duties, they may grade written work.
  • teaching assistant III is an undergraduate enrolled in Columbia College, the School of General Studies, or The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science and assists officers of higher rank in the conduct of discussion or laboratory sessions or in the grading of written course work.
  • reader is responsible for grading written course work under the direction and supervision of an officer of higher rank.