How to approach faculty members about Research Assistant (RA) positions

Faculty profiles and contact information

Speak to individual faculty members about the opportunities (volunteer or paid) that are available in their labs. Also ask for referrals.

Offer information regarding your background and interests. For example:

  • reasons for wanting to gain research experience
  • the program that you are enrolled in (e.g., General versus Honours, BA versus BSc, Coop versus Regular, etc.)
  • year of study
  • cumulative overall and psychology average (highlight improvement if applicable)
  • grades for research methods and statistics courses
  • educational and career goals
  • volunteer/work experience
  • why you are interested in working in that particular individual's lab e.g.,
    • did you take a course with him/her previously?
    • have you read articles that he/she wrote?
    • does his/her interests relate to your interests for studies at the graduate level and/or future employment?
    • were you referred by someone and why?
  • what type of position are you seeking e.g., volunteer for academic credit, volunteer for no academic credit, part-time or full-time paid research assistant (RA) position. If requesting a paid RA position but would accept a volunteer position if necessary, include that information.
  • etc. 

The method of contact is up to you. If you have already established rapport with a faculty member, you might feel comfortable having causal conversations with him/her regarding the prospect of a RA position (volunteer or paid). If you are making first contact with a particular faculty member, you could do this by:

  • stopping by his/her office for a chat (ask - Is now is a good time?) and/or to request an appointment to discuss your request at a later time
  • call to book an appointment to discuss your request
  • send an email message to the individual about your interest in an RA position.

Because faculty members are very busy and typically receive a high volume of requests for volunteer/paid RA positions, we can’t guarantee that response time to these inquiries will be within 5 working days, or that all requests for RA positions will be acknowledged.

If you are keen on working with a particular individual and you haven't received a response to an email message after 2 to 3 weeks, email again or call the faculty member to ask if he/she had time to review your message and whether or not he/she would be interested in meeting with you to discuss your interest in an RA position.

If the response is that no positions are currently available, feel free to ask for referrals. Also ask graduate students (e.g,. your teaching assistants for courses) if they are aware of any RA positions.

See Advertisements for Research Assistant (RA) positions for available research opportunities. Not all positions will be advertised so networking is important.


Last updated Dec 18, 2013