Over and over I hear that one of the biggest adjustments to grad school is decreased income and increased expenses. We know this when we commit to the program and we resolve to make the sacrifices we must to get the education we need and deserve! At least for me, I was determined to get everything I could out of this opportunity and accept the loans as more than fair payment for the key to unlock my career goals.
However, within the first few weeks, I quickly found there are a few opportunities to get a paycheck while investing in my resume and experiences: University Fellowships, Graduate Assistant Positions and Research Assistantships to name a few. I decided to apply and interview for a Research Assistantship and it has added so much more than a pay check to my time here at UNC School of Social Work!
I am a Research Assistant for Dr. Paul Lanier. His area of expertise is early childhood maltreatment prevention but knows a whole lot about pretty much anything related to early childhood, maltreatment, and prevention programs themselves. He has given me the opportunity to do everything from writing literature reviews for papers and editing full drafts to creating GIS maps and coding research study videos. I am now beginning my second year as his Research Assistant and have already learned more than I ever anticipated!
If this is something you think you might be interested in, here are some tips I’d suggest:
1. Be prepared to make a time commitment (mine is 10 hours a week) to the assistantship. This was a mistake I made by thinking I could just squeeze in 10 hours here and there during my week. I soon learned, I needed to carve out consistent time for at least most of those 10 hours to happen.
2. Do some research around which faculty at the School are experts in your interest areas.
3. Reach out to faculty whose research you find interesting. If they don’t have an available assistantship position for which you can apply, they may be able to point you in the direction of someone who does.
4. Be on the look out for emails announcing open research positions and take the initiative to contact those openings as soon as possible.
I truly could not be more thankful for the hands-on knowledge I have gained through my Research Assistantship. And while there just isn’t enough funding for every student to secure a formal position, many professors would gladly allow you to volunteer on their projects. It is an incredible opportunity offered here at UNC School of Social Work and I would highly recommend it!