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Finding and evaluating openings

When should I look for openings?

Application cycles for RA openings vary from place to place, but for positions that start over the summer, the earliest postings start popping up the previous fall and the latest could appear in mid- to late-spring. Many positions get filled on a rolling basis, so if you’re definitely interested in working as an RA, it’s a good idea to start looking in early fall for positions starting the following summer (e.g. search beginning September 2020 if you want to start in summer 2021). However, don’t lose hope if your fall applications are unsuccessful! Plenty of positions are posted throughout the year.

Month of application

Where can I find openings?

Below, we list some useful sites for finding RAships by category of RA job.

In addition to checking websites, word-of-mouth is also a great way to find out about vacancies. Consider asking your professors and peers if they know of past students who have worked as RAs, and reach out to them to learn more about their work and whether their employer may be hiring. Professors and others in your professional network may also know of colleagues who are hiring and could help pass your name on directly.



Non-government organizations (NGOs) and think tanks

What factors vary across positions that I may want to look out for?

No two RA positions are the same! Before you invest time in applying to a position, you may want to consider some of the pros and cons we mention here. You may also want to look into the following factors:

  1. Interest in the research projects: read some abstracts by the professors or organization you’re considering working for. Are you interested in them?
  2. Visa sponsoring: will your employer sponsor your visa? See our section on visas for more information on this.
  3. Travel: will you be expected to travel a lot for work? This is more relevant for development research or if your PI is temporarily located away from their “home” institution.
  4. Benefits: what are the health insurance and dental coverage options like?

Some positions may provide this information directly on their website. For instance, the Chicago Federal Reserve clearly states that they offer RAs “health, dental and vision insurance, commuter and health club benefits, and a 401(k) savings plan.” If there is a factor that is particularly important to you and this information is not readily available online, you may want to inquire before applying.