Nearly all of our graduate students receive financial support, either from us or from their own governments.

Teaching Assistantships

Teaching Assistant positions are awarded by the department. This is the most common support for first-year students who have not yet chosen a research advisor.

Most TAs have a half-time (50%) appointment. The most common assignment is for TAs to teach three sections of a physics laboratory, each with three hours of contact with students, or four sections of an astronomy lab, each with two hours. These TAs work under the supervision of the laboratory coordinator and the professor in charge of the course. Other TAs serve as tutors, proctors, or graders. A half-time appointment requires up to 20 hours per week of service to the department. At the same time you can take a full load of courses, up to 12 semester hours.

Some TAs also receive support as an RA. It is common for a student to be supported as a half-time TA during the academic year and as an RA for up to three months during the summer. Some students are supported during the academic year partly as a TA and partly as an RA. For example a student supported with a one-quarter-time TA position and a one-quarter RA position would serve up to 10 hours per week as a TA and serve as an RA in the remaining time.

Research Assistantships

Research Assistant positions are usually awarded by individual professors. Usually, the work you do as an RA is the same as the research you do for your thesis. Most commonly, students take an RA position after their first year, when they have learned about the opportunities for research with various faculty members. If you already know which faculty member has a research program that is best for you, you may contact that professor to inquire about RA support during your first year.


All graduate students who have been offered either a 50% RA or TA graduate assistantship receive a tuition scholarship that pays all of their tuition as well as 50% of mandatory fees.

Andrew Nelson Summer Research Grant

This grant provides all first year graduate students one month's summer support in order to explore research opportunities and research advisors. At the end of the summer, the recipient is required to submit a report on the proposed research project.

Goertz/Nicholson Memorial Scholarship
Award amount varies (one award).

The award will be presented to a post-qualifier graduate student in the Department of Physics and Astronomy who demonstrates the promise of achieving excellence in the field, preferably space plasma theory. No application is required; qualified students are automatically considered.

Nicholson Fellowship
One award of $1,000.

This award is for an entering graduate student in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. The choice of the individual to receive the award will be based on financial need and promise of academic achievement. No application is required; qualified students are automatically considered.

Swift Scholarship
Award amount varies (number varies).

This scholarship is for an entering graduate student in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. All entering graduate students are eligible for the award, which is given at the discretion of the DEO. No application is required, qualified students are automatically considered.

John and Stacey Wahl Scholarship
Two awards of $2,000.

Scholarship is for graduate or undergraduate students studying physics. Recipients should be married, with preference given to those students with children. May be renewed. No application is required; qualified students are automatically considered.

Our graduate students are valuable to us

We make every effort to pay our graduate students an attractive stipend. Most students have what is called a 50% appointment, with the following stipends:

The stipend levels for year 2021-2022 per the contract negotiated between the University of Iowa and the graduate employee union, United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, Local 896 (COGS) are:

  • Academic year salary: One-half time (20 hours/week) $20,328; One-quarter time (10 hours/week) $10,164 (2021-2022)
  • FY18 Fringe rate: 23%

Students holding a 25% or greater teaching or research assistantship appointment will be assured a tuition scholarship and 50% of mandatory fees paid.

The Graduate College

The Graduate College offers a wealth of information about funding for graduate students. For more information, visit Funding your UI Education in the Graduate College at the University of Iowa.