Graduate Funding Policy
Effective Winter 2024, the Department of Astronomy follows the Graduate Funding: Employment and Compensation Policy.
Generally, students are supported for their careers at UW through a mixture of research assistantships (RAs), teaching assistantships (TAs), and fellowships. We are all but certain to have assistantships for all entering and continuing graduate students. These positions all provide a stipend and a tuition waver. Expectations for a 50% appointment are 20 hours of service per week.
RAs are funded through the research grants held by members of the faculty. Students holding such positions participate in specified research projects; the total time commitment depends on your FTE appointment, but is usually less than 30 hours a week.
TAs are employed by the University to assist faculty in their teaching activities. TAs teach undergraduate labs for four hours per week. They also grade homework and exams, design learning exercises, and meet with students during office hours; the expected total time commitment is 20 hours a week. More information on TA duties is given on the Grad TAs page.
Although all our students usually have access to TAs and RAs administered directly by our Department, there are also a variety of very attractive optional fellowship programs that may be of interest to students enrolled in the Department. Some of our graduate students have held or currently hold a variety of fellowships, including the Astronaut Fellowship, the Dorothy Danforth Compton Fellowship, the NASA Graduate Student Researchers Fellowship, Space Grant Fellowship, the Harriett G Jenkins Predoctoral Fellowship, and the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.
National Science Foundation Predoctoral Fellowships are open to first-year graduate students as well as graduating seniors. These national awards are very competitive. They provide up to three years of support, in which the recipient is free of teaching obligations. The deadline for application is in early November. Students are encouraged to apply for any fellowships that they are eligible for. We pursue such support with vigor for all entering students.
In addition, the Theodor Jacobsen Fund, named after a department Chair and member of the department from 1928 to 1971, was set up to support the research activities of UW graduate students. Applicants can request small grants from the Jacobsen Fund in order to subsidize professional travel, training, or publication costs. The departmental front office will accept completed applications until the first Friday of every quarter. Applications are available in pdf format.
Financial support cannot be guaranteed, since the funding is partially based on research grants. However, support has been continuously available to all students making satisfactory progress toward their degrees during the normal academic calendar for as long as we can remember. Summer support is even more limited, but has been available as needed in the recent past. Historically, the department has not had any problems finding support for graduate students who choose to stay with the Department during the summer. Regardless, graduate students in the early years of the program are encouraged to take summer positions at other institutions, in order to round out their education and make outside research contacts.