Becoming a TA

TA Applications for Spring 2014 are now being accepted. See below for details.

The soft deadline for the first round applications for Undergrad/MS/PhD grader applications is Jan 9, 2014.


  • What is a TA?
    In the CS department, the term "TA" refers to a Teaching Assistant. Basically, this means a student who assists an instructor in teaching a course. The duties of a TA vary, as described below. A TA is not enrolled in the course that they are TA-ing for.
  • Who can be a TA?
    Any qualified student, either graduate or undergraduate, can apply to be a TA.
  • What does a TA do?
    TA's are assigned to a particular course and are supervised directly by the instructor of that course. Instructors are typically regular, full-time faculty members in the CS department. There are also some adjunct faculty who are invited to teach special topics courses in their area(s) of expertise. Some advanced PhD students also serve as instructors.

Courses are categorized as either:

    • 1000-level: introductory courses, predominantly taken by beginning undergraduate students
    • 3000-level: intermediate courses, predominantly taken by undergraduate CS majors; most of these courses are core or track required courses
    • 4000-level: advanced courses, taken by advanced undergraduate CS majors as well as graduate students; most of these are undergraduate track requirements or graduate core or track requirements
    • 6000-level: graduate courses, taken primarily by advanced masters and PhD students

Please note that the different sections of undergraduate thesis (3902) and tutorial in computer science (6900) do not get assigned a TA, so please do not apply to those.

TA duties vary depending on the course level and the instructor. Duties typically consist of one or more of the following tasks:

    • grading homework assignments
    • proctoring exams
    • grading exams
    • offering one-on-one help in office hours
    • xeroxing materials for the class
    • maintaining the course grade book
    • acting as a substitute lecturer in case the instructor is ill or on travel
    • holding recitations
    • running labs
    • attending lectures

A TA is expected to hold a total of 2-3 hours per week of combined office, lab and/or recitation time. In addition, the TA may perform any of the other duties, as listed above. Generally, a TA is expected to work the equivalent of one day (8-10 hours) on average per week for each TA unit . A unit is loosely described as being a TA for 20-25 students (depending on the course).

A TA is not expected to teach regular lectures, except in the case where the instructor is ill or is traveling. In this case, the instructor should provide the necessary curricular materials (e.g., handouts, slides, etc.) to the TA. Under normal circumstances, this shouldn't happen more than twice in a term.

  • How are TAs assigned?
    All students interested in being a TA must fill out an application. TAs are then assigned based on the preferences of the instructor. If the instructor does not specify any preference, then several factors such as past TA experience at Columbia University and other schools and letter grades in the course are considered. Assignments are made by the TA czar. Although many classes have TAs assigned to them before the start of the semester, some courses (especially introductory level) will have additional TAs assigned during the first two weeks of classes.

  • What kinds of TA's are there?
    There are several categories of TA's, depending on the standing of the student acting as a TA and on the amount of compensation the student receives. The categories are listed in the table below:






$2500 per semester per unit



$2500 per semester per unit


12 credits of tuition + $3000



$2500 per semester per unit


See TAing for PhD Students for more information


See TAing for PhD Students for more information

  • Special NOTE for PhD students

For details regarding the PhD-TA requirement, see the PhD program documentation .

Inorder to fulfill your PhD-TA requirements, you can either teach or TA. The options are below:

    • Teaching (not TA-ing) a 1-credit section of coms-w3101 counts as 1 unit.
    • Teaching (not TA-ing) a 3-credit course counts as 2 units (typically coms-w1001, coms-w1003 or coms-w3133).
    • TAing a large 4k or 6k 3-credit course counts as 1 unit. Please contact the PhD Czar (phdczar@cs) to find out which courses are acceptable.

If you would like to be considered for one of these options, please contact Prof. Tal Malkin by email (tal [at] ).


Applying to be a TA (undergrad/MS/PhD and grader/fellowship/requirements) is done through the CS department's mice system.

  • STEP 0: Open a mice account
    Go to to open a mice account if you don't already have one.
    If you encounter problems opening an account, send an email to Janine Maslov jnmaslov [at]
  • STEP 1: Fill out TA application
    Log into mice. From the ‘TA’ drop down menu, select ‘TA Application’
    If you encounter problems filling out an application, send an email to:
    • Janine Maslov, jnmaslov [at] and cc to tacoord [at]

Be aware that most TA assignments are made on the basis of faculty requests, because faculty prefers to work with students they know and who have already successfully completed their course. In addition to you specifying a preference for a particular course, if the instructor wants you, they must also enter their request in the on-line system (they should know how to do this).

You may change your class preferences at any time (including after the deadline), but that risks removing a class where an instructor had already ranked you, or not being seen by instructors of new classes you added (if those already ranked their applicants). Since most assignments are based on instructor requests, it is recommended that you complete the application by the soft deadline, and not change it until the first round of assignments is done. When classes start a second round of assignments will begin. On the TA webpage we will maintain information including advertising classes that are missing qualified TA applicants.

If you are assigned a position you will be notified by email. Otherwise, there will be no notification. Assignments usually are completed until 2-3 weeks into classes (as enrollments fluctuate), though the bulk is completed by the first week of classes.

Questions? Problems?

For all other questions and problems, contact:

  • the student TA Coordinator: tacoord [at]
  • the faculty TA czar: Prof. Dan Rubenstein, danr [at]




TA Room Information
Map to TA-Room

TA Complaints
Anonymous Feedback

Becoming a TA
TA Info for PhD Students

When you are a TA
TA Employment Process
Important Links for TAs

Private CS Tutors

Useful Tools