Where? Salford University Linguistics Department
What? Graduate Teaching Assistant in Linguistics. I prepare and facilitate linguistics seminars in pragmatics and syntax for linguistics undergraduates. I do this while I study for my PhD in pragmatics. The university pays fees for GTAs doing a PhD, and pays – in some cases – a generous stipend for living costs to allow you to focus on teaching and on writing your thesis.
Why did you choose this place? I did my undergraduate degree at Salford University, and I had a very supportive and enriching experience there. I decided I’d like to stay on to pay some of that forward to the undergraduates. It’s a supportive and close-knit department that we have at Salford, and I thought it would be nice to learn to be an academic there – which is effectively what being a GTA allows you to do.
How did you find the application process? The application process was fairly straightforward. You just have to write a cover letter and do a PhD proposal, and fill out some forms, and go to an interview. I would say, though, that the point of these GTA positions is that you don’t have to work outside of academia in a fairly mundane and low-level job which is so you can focus on your PhD and learning how to teach in higher education. Therefore you have to have an excellent research proposal with good data and novel ideas because, these days, universities only give funding to original and interesting research. The interview was the hardest part of the process for me as I was very nervous but if you are just yourself and know your proposal inside out, you stand a chance!
What do you do here? I work with our undergraduate students in seminars. My department are very supportive and although they do give me preferred ‘work’ that the students should do in a seminar, I can often come up with my own work, and am always allowed to organise the seminars as I see fit. This means I can design lots of fun teaching interventions. I also do some marking and some exam invigilation and I enjoy helping out with open days so that we can attract even more students to our department. Sometimes, I meet with students for tutorials to discuss their work and offer tips and tricks about how they might improve. I feel that the GTA role is allowing me to train to be what I want to be one day – a lecturer and researcher in linguistics!
The good things? The students! I love working with undergraduates. They have great ideas and can often help you with your own research by talking to you about it from new angles. I also enjoy the ‘supported freedom’ I have in creating my own seminars and teaching materials. Plus, I get to ‘do’ linguistics all day long – what’s not to like?
The bad things? In term time, your teaching and preparation often has to come before your thesis. So excellent time management is essential. But this job is training you for what it’s like to work in academia, so this is realistic – sadly – for higher education these days. Know what you’re getting into.
Anything else we should know? If you think you would like to be a GTA to get money and experience while doing your linguistics PhD, you’ll need to see if your university has a scheme, or google other UK universities that do. For maximum chances of success, make sure your PhD proposal is convincing and well-written, and do be sure to evidence any teaching-related experience in your cover letter.