MIT Technology and Policy Program

Research Assistantships and Financial Support

What is a Research Assistantship?

A research assistantship (RA) is a formal MIT appointment used to hire a graduate student to work under the supervision of a research-conducting member of the MIT community (faculty, research scientist, etc.)

How are TPP students supported financially?

Research assistantships are overwhelmingly the most common from of support among TPP students, while some students receive fellowship support (e.g., from US or international government funding agencies), fellowship students will typically require an RA to make up the difference between fellowship benefits and MIT costs. The terms of a typical RA provide for payment of a student’s (a) full tuition, (b) a monthly stipend, and (c) health insurance.

While funding through research is not automatically guaranteed, it is the presumptive method by which TPP students cover their educational expenses. All students are expected to actively seek out paid research opportunities at MIT with help and guidance supplied by TPP staff. TPP does not expect students to take out loans or use family resources or personal savings to support graduate studies.

What responsibilities do students have in the RA search?

After being admitted to the program, students are expected to reach out to prospective research labs or groups and to interview for available RA positions. TPP staff help incoming students secure funding via a collaborative process, including by recommending best practices for reaching out to potential advisors, sharing job postings in relevant research groups, and checking in frequently with suggestions and assistance.

Students should recognize that a certain amount of flexibility with respect to research topic will be an important part of securing an RA position. Students are not obliged to confine their RA to the precise domain(s) they specified in their statement of objectives. Roughly half of each incoming cohort has an RA secured by the start of the fall semester and the remaining half secure their RA once they arrive at MIT. Students can apply for transitional (“bridge”) funding from TPP to ensure that their tuition and stipend are paid during their search.

© MIT Technology and Policy Program | 77 Massachusetts Avenue | Cambridge, MA 02139-4307 | 617-253-7693 |