Teaching Fellowships

Teaching is a formal requirement in many GSAS departments and strongly encouraged in others. Please examine the Departmental Requirements section of the handbook for specific information.

At admission as part of their funding packages, PhD candidates in many of the humanities and social sciences are guaranteed assignment of two sections of teaching per term by their departments for four semesters beginning in their G3 (third year) of residency. GSAS regards the meeting of teaching assignment guarantees as a cooperative endeavor between the student and the department, and students whose financial aid packages include teaching should consult their departments if assistance is needed in securing a TF position.

For information about teaching evaluation and recognition, as well as additional teaching opportunities, visit the teaching section of the GSAS website.

Petitions for exceptions to the GSAS policies on eligibility, workload, or duration of appointments can be found on the GSAS website. Forms should be addressed to:

Dean for Admissions and Financial Aid

Richard A. and Susan F. Smith Campus Center, Suite 350


(617) 495-5396

Teaching Fellowships Overview

  • Many departments require teaching as a part of the graduate degree program.

  • The workload for teaching fellows is calculated in “term fifths.” A “fifth” (1/5) is a unit of time that represents 20 percent of a full-time workload. Ordinarily, this is the equivalent of teaching one section in a lecture course.
  • As a general rule, TFs should expect to spend roughly 7-10 hours per week teaching, preparing, and correcting classwork and providing counseling for every 1/5 assigned.
  • Graduate students shall normally be given the opportunity to teach at least 16 “term fifths” during their degree programs, but may teach more.


Graduate students in the social sciences and humanities typically teach in the G3 and G4 years.

Ordinarily, first year students receiving stipends are not eligible to teach. With the exception of certain natural science departments, students receiving a stipend in their second year are also not permitted to teach. First and second year students are advised to contact their financial aid officers with any questions prior to accepting any teaching position. 

TFs must:

  • be proficient in English;
  • be registered as full-time resident students in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS);
  • demonstrate satisfactory progress toward their degrees;
  • register for a total of four half-courses (or the equivalent) in each term and are charged the appropriate resident tuition rate (full tuition, reduced tuition, or facilities fee).

Eligibility Restrictions

TFs may NOT:

  • be graduate students receiving PhD dissertation completion fellowships.
  • be first year graduate students. Exceptions may be granted to students who are certified as proficient in English and registered in certain natural science departments that have traditionally used TFs in the G1 year (first year).
  • be G1 or G2 social sciences or humanities graduate students, except when granted approval by the dean for admissions and financial aid.

G2 (Second Year) Students

PhD candidates in the humanities and social sciences typically do not teach in their G1 or G2 years, as they receive stipend support during their first two years.

G2 students in the humanities and social sciences interested in teaching should not commit to an appointment without first requesting approval from the dean for admissions and financial aid; requests must describe the academic basis for an exception and be accompanied by an advisor’s endorsement. If approved, second year students will be limited to 1/5 teaching per term or 2/5 in one term with no teaching in the other term of the academic year. For an explanation of term fifths, see Teaching Fellowships Overview.

Second-year students in the natural sciences should refer to their program’s teaching policy and consult their primary advisor to confirm if they are eligible to accept a teaching position.

Maximum Teaching Time

Students who have completed both their academic residence requirements and passed their departmental PhD qualifying examinations may hold up to a maximum of a 6/5 time teaching fellowship for the academic year. These students may not hold more than a 4/5 time appointment in any one term.

TFs cannot teach more than 6/5 during the academic year. Students teaching more than 6/5 are considered teaching assistants and must register as on leave of absence rather than in residence.

Students who have NOT completed their academic residence requirements and who have not passed their departmental PhD qualifying examinations may hold up to a maximum of a 2/5 time teaching fellowship in any given semester.

Restrictions for International Students

Immigration regulations limit international student employment to slightly less than 3/5 time per term, i.e. no more 20 hours per week (.57 time per term). International students with questions regarding this regulation should consult with their financial aid officer for further information.

Additional Restrictions

Certain awards from GSAS, the US government, and other outside sources impose more stringent limits on TFs’ commitments. Students are responsible for observing the terms of such awards and should consult with their financial aid officer for more information.

Duration of Appointments

Usually, no graduate student may hold a teaching fellowship for more than four academic years, regardless of whether the appointment is for one or two terms within the same year. Students who teach 3/5 each year for four years may accumulate as many as 24 “term fifths.” Students who have taught fewer than 16 “term fifths” in four years will be permitted to teach a fifth and sixth year up to the total of 16 “term fifths.”

In general, these time limits apply to any combination of teaching at Harvard and outside the University. Students are expected to use good judgment in accepting additional employment that might delay their academic progress.

Deferral of Appointments

For those students who have been guaranteed teaching by their programs as part of their financial aid package, it may be possible to defer this teaching to a semester later than the one originally designated in the financial aid notification.  For details, please refer to the GSAS PhD Funding Sources section of this handbook.

When students are assigned teaching sections after a deferral, they are given the same priority as other students with guaranteed teaching.

Mid-Year Graduates

Those awarded terminal degrees in November and March will normally become teaching assistants for the term in which the degree is awarded, rather than teaching fellows.

Teaching Assignments

Preference for TF appointments will be given to students utilizing a guarantee of teaching offered at the time of admission; teaching preference is also given to students prior to the G5 year.

After students who are expected to teach as part of their funding packages have been accommodated, departments and course heads are expected to consider and prioritize all other qualified applicants from within GSAS. Special attention will be paid to qualified G3 and G4 applicants from related departments and disciplines.

Stipend Rate

Teaching fellowship stipends are based on the annual salaries of full-time junior or senior lecturers. TFs in their first two years of study receive the junior rate; a TF will receive the senior rate of pay if:

  • The student has two years of Harvard resident academic credit or has credit for work done elsewhere which, when combined with Harvard academic credit, totals 16 half courses. This credit must be recorded with the FAS registrar and appear on the transcript, or
  • The student has passed generals by October of the fall term or by February of the spring term of the year they will be a TF.

A TF appointed to four sections a year is teaching two-fifths of a lecturer’s full-time appointment and paid two-fifths of that annual salary. For academic year 2017–2018, TFs qualified for the senior rate receive $21,400 (two-fifths of $53,500) and those at the junior rate receive $19,000 (two-fifths of $47,500).

Some departments offer teaching as part of students’ financial aid packages.

Pay Schedule

TF appointments are made for the fall term, spring term, or academic year, with one-term appointments receiving five paychecks. Stipends are disbursed on the 15th of each month; if the 15th falls on a weekend, pay is distributed on the Friday before.

If you would like to receive your pay by direct deposit, provide your bank information in the Benefits and Payroll section of PeopleSoft, the employee self-service website, accessed through the HARVie intranet, or download a direct deposit form.

Summer School appointments are not included in an academic year commitment.

Income Taxes

TF stipends are taxable at the federal and state level. Harvard University Student Financial Services provides information about state and federal tax policies.

Teaching Fellows and Course Credit

Graduate TFs may not receive course credit for the time they devote to teaching, however, at the discretion of departments, students may register for TIME-T while serving as TFs to indicate that appropriate independent work is replacing numbered courses.

TIME-T activities will appear on GSAS transcripts, but these entries are not graded.

Teaching Fellows Appeals Procedure

If, as a TF, you believe that you are spending more of your professional time on teaching than you are being compensated for, that the work required is unrelated to the course, or that you feel mistreated by the course administration in some fashion, you should discuss the matter with the head tutor, director of graduate studies, or other appropriate officer in the department where the appointment is held.

If the difficulty is not resolved after such conversations, you can contact the GSAS dean for student affairs at 617-495-1814. The dean can help advise you on further steps, which might include a written appeal to the Administrative Board of the Graduate School.