Categories of Doctoral Funding

Students admitted to an Arts and Sciences doctoral program may receive their guaranteed multiyear support either as fellowships (when not on appointment), or as salary (while on teaching or research appointments). Fellowships are awarded without a service component. Students providing teaching or research services as part of their academic requirements and training are appointed as student officers of instruction or research.

Dean's Fellow (Year One)

Dean’s Fellowships are awarded to entering students. In the Humanities and Social Sciences, this award is contingent on satisfactory academic progress in coursework and entails no service obligation in the first year. Students are not permitted to hold any of the student officer appointments described below, nor to work at other paid pursuits. (However, those who enter with advanced standing may be expected to teach in their first year at Columbia. Such students will be appointed student officers of instruction as described below.) Although the primary focus for students in the Natural Sciences is also satisfactory academic progress in coursework, in certain Natural Science departments, a Dean’s Fellowship may include teaching or, in rare circumstances, research obligations in the first year. Students with teaching obligations will be appointed as Teaching Assistants. Those with research obligations will be appointed as Graduate Research Assistants. 

Dissertation Fellow (Year Four or Five)

Dissertation Fellowships are awarded only to Humanities and Social Science students who have successfully defended their prospectus and have had the MPhil degree conferred by May 31 of their fourth year (see Satisfactory Academic Progress) or of the year before which they wish to receive their Dissertation Fellowship. The fellowship supports such students as they research or write their dissertation. Dissertation Fellows must use this fellowship year to make significant progress by focusing exclusively on the dissertation, and are not permitted to hold student officer appointments (see below) or register for classes. However, students on the Dissertation Fellowship may spend up to ten hours a week on limited additional work, such as those of a research assistant or tutor on campus.

Students may postpone a Dissertation Fellowship only if they receive an outside award or a GSAS International Travel Fellowship in the year when they were to receive the Dissertation Fellowship (and "bank" that funding for future use). Students entering in fall 2023 and beyond may no longer use a GSAS International Travel Fellowship to “bank” GSAS funding for future use.

Teaching Assistant (Years Two, Three, Four, and Six)

Students are appointed to the title of Teaching Assistant to perform duties ranging from reading and grading assignments to running discussion sections or labs. The expected time commitment for these duties may vary, but per university policy, may not exceed twenty hours per week.

Teaching Fellow (Years Two, Three, Four, and Six)

Students are appointed to the title of Teaching Fellow to teach sections of undergraduate courses as instructors of record. (This does not include Literature Humanities and Contemporary Civilization, described below.) The expected time commitment for these duties may vary, but per university policy may not exceed twenty hours per week.

Preceptor

Students selected by a competitive application process are appointed to the title of Preceptor to teach a section of Literature Humanities or Contemporary Civilization, full-year courses in the Columbia College Core Curriculum. This appointment is renewable for one year, but appointment to teach for a second year is contingent on satisfactory performance in the first year and on their year of registration. Students may apply to be a preceptor only if they have or expect to have the MPhil by the May prior to being appointed as a preceptor, and if they will be in no later than their sixth year of registration during the first year of the preceptorship.  For additional information concerning the Core Curriculum, please see its website here. The expected time commitment for these duties may vary, but per university policy may not exceed twenty hours per week.

Graduate Research Assistant

Students appointed as student officers of research provide research services. Those who are fully funded are appointed to the title of Graduate Research Assistants. A PhD student appointed as a GRA spends significant time engaged in research activity. Such time includes both educational activity and work. These two components are often inextricably intermingled. Because a GRA’s time engaged in research activity comprises both an educational and a work component, the overall time spent is expected to be significantly higher than the work component that is subject to hours limitations under various policies and regulations.

PhD students in Arts and Sciences programs who are appointed as salaried student officers may not spend more than twenty hours per week in the discharge of the responsibilities associated with their appointment and those associated with any other activity within or outside Columbia for which they are compensated. 

A PhD student appointed as a GRA spends significant time engaged in research activity. Such time includes both educational activity and work. These two components are often inextricably intermingled. Because a GRA’s time engaged in research activity comprises both an educational and a work component, the overall time spent is expected to be significantly higher than the work component that is subject to hours limitations under various policies and regulations. For all salaried student officer appointments, work toward the student’s PhD/dissertation and time spent as students in their own classes or on their own coursework are not included in the work that is part of the appointment.  

Schools may determine that their PhD students may engage in limited additional work that is separate and distinct from the full load of their GRA responsibilities, and will evaluate and approve such additional work on a case-by-case basis.  This additional work may not exceed eight (8) hours per week and, in combination with the GRA position, may not exceed a maximum of 20 hours of work per week.  The additional compensation for such work may not be funded by a sponsored project.

Students holding fellowships without service responsibilities (typically Dissertation Fellowships as described above) may spend up to ten hours per week on such non-fellowship activities during the academic year. While first-year students as described above generally may not work at paid pursuits during the academic year, they may work up to 20 hours per week during the summer.  Furthermore, federal regulations prevent international students on F-1 visas from working more than twenty hours per week during the school term. University and academic holidays must be observed; reasonable requests for time off made with sufficient notice should be generally granted.