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Graduate Student Opportunities

TA Program

Students in good academic standing may elect to teach pre-calculus for the mathematics department. Graduate students typically teach College Algebra I or II (three-unit course) or Pre-calculus I and II (four-unit course).

The pay for teaching these courses depends on the number of units as well as which quarter, since Fall quarter is slightly longer than Winter and Spring. Currently the range is from about $2700 for a three unit course in Winter or Spring to about $3900 for a four unit course in Fall.

If you are interested in being a TA you should plan to enroll in Math 505 in the Fall, which is our one-unit TA preparation seminar, as it is a co-requisite for teaching. TA positions are not guaranteed for all students, and continuing in the TA program is contingent on remaining in good academic standing.

After passing both preliminary exams, TAs may request to teach two sections of the same course, if there are enough courses available.

Graduate Assistant

Graduate assistants are hired to provide research or instructional support for a specific faculty member. Applications can be found at and are open on January 1st and close on April 1st each year. GA applicants must have a recommendation from a faculty advisor and are evaluated and ranked by their corresponding College Associate Dean. The Graduate Education office will make the final decision on all appointments, which typically are for an entire academic year.

Students may apply for a limited number of paid summer research opportunities. These vary from summer to summer as well as by faculty interest. Students interested in writing a thesis are encouraged to take part in summer research after their first year, and then to extend their work as a thesis the during their second year, assuming they have found a faculty advisor.

Master’s Thesis Option

You may choose to complete a thesis instead of an oral exam as the culminating experience for the graduate program. Along with a faculty supervisor, you will spend three quarters (Math 599, which is a 3-unit class, will be taken 3 times) focusing on a specific research topic. When ready, theses are presented to the public as a 45-minute defense, after which a three-person committee will have the opportunity to privately ask related questions.

Completing a thesis will provide students with the opportunity to work closely with a faculty member on a research topic of interest and is a rewarding experience for those seeking more experience and opportunities for research.

Some important details: You may not begin a thesis until passing both qualifying exams. You, with the input of your faculty supervisor, will put together a thesis proposal which will be submitted to the department chair and the graduate coordinator. If the proposal is approved, then you will need to follow all the procedures for completing a Master’s thesis at Cal Poly. You should be able to find a handbook from the Grad Ed web page (

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