Financial Support Guidelines

Students in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in good academic standing* are guaranteed support for their first five years of study. Students may receive financial support from a variety of sources. The most common forms of support are teaching assistantships (TA), teaching fellowships (TF), and graduate research assistantships (GSR). The availability of these positions is subject to overall financial constraints.

The University Policy Statements for these main forms of funding support can be found at:

For new graduate students, the application for a teaching assistantship is part of the Application for Admission and is reviewed by the department's Graduate Admissions Committee. Recommendations for appointments are then submitted to the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies who makes the actual appointments.

Graduate students beyond their first year who wish to be considered for continued teaching support must inform the graduate administrator when notified electronically or by posted announcements. The following notification schedule applies:

  • Fall term appointments - preceding JUNE 1
  • Spring term appointments - preceding NOVEMBER 1
  • Summer term appointments - preceding APRIL 1

Late notification may result in failure to obtain support. The list of requests for continued teaching support will be kept by the graduate administrator and the Director of Graduate Studies. These graduate students, or their interim or formal research advisor, should consult with the graduate administrator (or DGS) during the week before the applicable deadline to make sure that their name is indeed on the list. They should withdraw their name if they have received other support in the meantime.

There are other forms of financial support, such as fellowships, administered at the university level or nationally; in some instances, the department plays a role in the selection of grantees by providing recommendations. Other forms of aid also exist, such as payment for services rendered, either inside or outside the department.

Because of the limited financial resources of the university, the department and its faculty attempt to obtain student support through external research funds wherever possible. Students often can participate in this effort and are encouraged to apply for national fellowships whenever eligible. Graduate students should watch for electronic notifications of fellowships and announcements posted in the department and are encouraged to view our posted listing, Fellowships and Funding A-Z. Another resource for graduate students is to visit the University of Pittsburgh's Office of Research website for funding opportunities.

To aid advanced students in their search for financial support while they complete their degree, the following guidelines concerning the appointment of teaching assistants and teaching fellows have been adopted. The appointments, in most cases, are made term by term, but they may be renewed subject to the following restrictions: No student shall receive support from the departmental teaching budget (through teaching assistantships or teaching fellowships) for more than a total of 9 terms.

No student is eligible for teaching support if he/she is a member of a research group within which a graduate research assistantship is available to him or her except in cases where the teaching requirement has not been met.

Students who conduct their PhD research outside of the department must refer to the current department policy. 

The implementation of these guidelines is to be monitored by the Director of Graduate Studies.

Teaching Assistantships

Teaching assistantships are reserved for the support of first- and second-year graduate students, with the following exceptions:

  • University or national two-term fellowships may be supplemented by one-term teaching assistantships.
  • Last-minute teaching assistantship appointments for advanced students may be requested after consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies in unusual circumstances, such as the following:
    • A student who is supported by a graduate research assistantship is working with a research group or professor whose funding is interrupted or lost.
    • The thesis advisor of a student supported by a graduate research assistantship leaves the University before the completion of the thesis.
    • Students who did not complete their teaching requirement.
    • Spring and Summer term teaching assistantships are awarded in the following order of priority:
      • Continuing first-year students who are in good academic standing*.
      • University or national fellowship designees whose fellowships commence in the fall term.
      • Second-year students who are in good academic standing*
      • Preference will be given to students with good teaching evaluations and an English Comprehensibility Test Score of at least 3.
      • Because of the limited number of teaching assistantships available, students are encouraged to actively seek graduate research assistantship support as soon as possible.

* According to departmental criteria, "good academic standing" includes: GPA = 3.00 for students in their first year of graduate study; GPA = 3.25 for students in their second year of graduate study or beyond.  Graduate students must maintain a GPA of at least 3.00 for all required core courses and for all graduate courses overall.

Teaching Fellowships

Ph.D. candidates are eligible for a teaching fellowship if they are making normal progress toward the degree, have received their MS or equivalent,  have excellent evaluations, and are able teachers. Only students who have achieved TF status are eligible to have primary teaching responsibility for a course. Students who wish to teach a course in that manner must obtain approval from the Department Chairperson.