What is a Graduate Research Assistant + Why You Should do it!

I’m just shy of working a year as a GRA (Graduate Research Assistant) and I absolutely love the job. Keep reading to hear about what I do and if you’re given the opportunity, why you should too!

What is a GRA?

A GRA, or Graduate Research Assistant, is a graduate student, Masters/Doctoral, assigned to a college or department to assist in research projects. Several tasks include (but not limited to): organizing & collecting data, completing various paperwork, analysis, and updating databases. Often, universities offer pay in the form of a stipend to help students pay for graduate school. GRAs’ role is to take some of the burden off the researcher by completing tedious behind-the-scenes tasks.

What do I do as a GRA?

As a GRA, I work for our College of Nursing and Professional Disciplines which includes nursing, social work, and nutrition/dietetics. In my years time, I began with updating faculties’ CVs, organizing and filing papers, and collecting data. After Christmas break, I began collecting contact information for a study done by a nursing PI, and most recently, working with social work in drafting a survey and now organizing the results in SPSS (statistical processing software).

Why do I love being a GRA?

I have never been involved in research – clinical or social or beyond – and enjoyed getting a taste of the behind the scenes of it. The entire process is tedious and requires a lot of background work for anything to get published.

I particularly enjoyed this job as I had been used to working in a fast-paced hospital job that was physically and emotionally demanding for 8-12 hours at at time. My mother would often mention that not having a break is illegal, and yes, Mother, you’re right. But that’s healthcare. ANYWAY, this job has been a wonderful change of pace for me. I can mindlessly enter data while listening to my favorite podcasts and taking time at the end to check my work. Being a GRA has helped me build strong relationships with our faculty and learn more about the research process. It has allowed me to work from home during a pandemic and expand my experience as a graduate student.

Why YOU should take this opportunity if you can:

  • Pay. This job can offer excellent supplemental income for a budget-conscious graduate student.
  • Flexible hours. I could choose between 10 and 20 hours per week when I was hired. At the time, I had another job and consequently chose 10. I choose to work two hours/weekday, but a person could work 5 + 5, 4 + 3, or when busy, work more hours one day, and less the next. It is for project completion rather than working “just to work.”
  • Enhancing your graduate student experience. As mentioned above, I love working with faculty & staff and getting to know them through this experience. It has been enriching to become a reliable and trusted member of the research team.
  • Easy resume-builder. This exposure no doubt makes a person more employable – regardless of your field. It shows you can follow instructions, work both independently and collaboratively, and timely.
Pre-pandemic office setup: the best almond milk latte from Archives coffeehouse, dual computers, and a podcast playing while entering data.

With that, I hope you have learned about the role of a GRA and why it is an invaluable experience to add to your professional endeavors if offered. 🙂



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