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Guidelines for graduate student employment

The following information pertains to full-time graduate students (Graduate Studies Academic Calendar) and their employment status at the University of Waterloo (employment activities outside the University are not monitored). This does not apply to students who are on a full-time external placement (e.g., coop/internship) with the University as their employer, unless a student is requesting additional employment activities at the University that are separate from this external placement.

As a full-time student, you are expected to be pursuing your studies on a full-time basis and making satisfactory progression towards your program requirements. Appointments as TAs and RAs are typically structured such that you allocate on average 10 hours per week to those responsibilities; this ensures that there is sufficient time for you to work towards program completion in a timely manner.

There are students who also engage in other, non-academic employment on campus (e.g., food services, retail services).  Typically, students would not take on on-campus employment that in total exceeds 10 hours per week on average in a given term.

However, the University acknowledges students’ capacity for making good decisions and thus, students are able to pursue additional on-campus employment beyond the average of 10 hours per week (but not exceeding 20 hours per week, on average, in each term), having followed a process and met certain conditions. The rationale for this flexibility is to remove barriers that may prevent students from accruing meaningful experiences at UW that are pertinent to students’ professional goals or addressing financial need (e.g., research opportunities, student governance/leadership, or other employment on campus).  

With respect to process, Faculties and Departments may articulate specific procedures. At a minimum, decisions regarding additional employment, beyond an average of 10 hours/week, require an open conversation between you and your supervisor (or Program Director/Graduate Officer, in the case of course-based students) where factors such as academic progression, upcoming milestones, career goals, and other commitments are discussed in a transparent manner. Such conversations are helpful for clarifying expectations and engaging in collaborative decision-making. In this regard, supervisor’s (or Program Director/Graduate Officer in the case of course-based students) approval is required.

In terms of conditions, students who are progressing well academically may request additional hours of employment (beyond 10 hours/week). It is important to note that expectations for academic progress / program timelines are not modified with the additional activity, nor is additional employment activity typically viewed as extenuating circumstances for which exceptions to academic rules are made. Thus, you should only take on additional employment at the University if you are able to maintain good progress in your studies. You should never feel obliged to take on additional hours of employment beyond that which make up your funding package.

To request additional hours of employment (beyond 10 hours/week), you should connect with your department/program Graduate Coordinator to request the appropriate form.

If you are an international student, it is your responsibility to ensure that any work hours are within the limits of your student permit. If you are unsure of the limits to your hours of employment, you can discuss this with UW Immigration Consulting.

Frequently asked questions:

Am I required to have my supervisor’s (program director’s or graduate officer’s) approval before committing to additional employment (i.e., beyond the TAship I have as part of my funding package)?

  • Yes – the University does not wish to create conditions whereby students are not able to progress academically because of employment demands. Thus, seeking approval provides some assurance that your progress will not be hindered despite the increased time commitment for employment. Moreover, it is important for the expectations of your academic work to be discussed so that you can make an informed decision about the additional work. Specifically, how the approval process takes place is determined by your individual Faculty/department. If you do not have a supervisor, the approval would come through the program director/graduate officer.

If I take on additional employment at the University (beyond the 10 hours/week), will this still be part of my funding package?

  • The funding package that is offered to students is often comprised of scholarships, TA/RAships. The hours/week that the TA/RAship that comprises your funding package remains at a maximum of an average of 10 hours per week. Thus, if you are approved to have additional work hours, the payment will be in addition to your funding package.

If I have already received employment that makes up the funding package indicated in my offer letter, what obligation does my department/faculty have to provide additional employment?

  • If your funding package for a term has been provided (e.g., through a TAship or RAship) additional employment beyond the 10 hours for that term is not guaranteed, and there is no obligation to provide you with this employment. Departments and faculties have a responsibility in ensuring that all students receive their guaranteed amounts, thus, employment opportunities funded through the department and faculties (e.g., TAships) typically will first be provided to those students who require this employment to make up their funding package.

Can I do two TAships* in the same term?

  • While the flexibility noted above would technically allow for this, it would only be possible (and/or approved) in rare circumstances - and would require input from those responsible for the administration of teaching assistantships. That is, TA administrators need to ensure that all eligible students are provided with a TAship before students can take on additional TAships (i.e., those that are in addition to the TAships that comprise their funding package) or before students who already received their funding package through other sources are offered a TAships.

*Each TAship is typically 10 hours per week. Note that in some units, students are provided with two 5 hr/week TA placements concurrently. This scenario does not require additional approval is it would not add to >10 hours/week.  

Can I work more than 10 hours/week if I am holding an external scholarship?

  • The purpose of external scholarships is to allow student to fully concentrate on their studies. Thus, students are not encouraged to take on UW employment beyond the 10 hours/week. However, in rare cases, these appointments may be approved by your supervisor or program director. It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that they are also in compliance with the external scholarship regulations.

Does this process apply to service contracts with industry or community partners as well?

  • If your work with an industry or community partner is being paid to you through a Graduate Research Assistantship (GRA) through the University of Waterloo (e.g., as part of a research partnership) – then yes, this process would apply. This process would not apply if you are employed outside the University and there is no formal partnership between the company and University.  

With the additional hours, I am not able to keep up with my academic work… what should I do?

  • It would be good to have a discussion with your supervisor/program director to review commitments and generate a plan. Progressing in academic work is your responsibility; moreover, having good academic standing in the program is a condition of your funding package. If there are financial constraints, financial needs funding is available.

Am I obliged to take on additional employment (beyond that which makes up my funding package) if it is offered to me?

  • No, students are under no obligation to take on the extra hours (beyond those that make up the funding package). Should you feel pressured to do so (e.g., from an instructor or supervisor), you could discuss this with the Graduate Officer / Program Director.

What happens if my supervisor does not approve additional hours of employment?

  • If, after an open conversation about expectations and commitments, there is disagreement between you and your supervisor regarding additional hours of employment, you may wish to connect with the Graduate Officer in your department who may be able to facilitate a resolution. Students have the right to grieve decisions made by University representatives under Policy 70.