Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are frequently asked questions about benefits for PhD students and student employees.

PhD Students at Columbia

PhD students engage in fully immersive academic programs that include their own scholarship as well as participation in teaching and research activities as student employees. PhD students are employed as appointed Student Officers of Instruction or Research during some or all of their funded years, depending on the design of their specific academic program. The endeavors of PhD students on research appointments are a blend of academic and employment pursuits, and clear separation of the two may be difficult.

Academic programs provide PhD students with either 12-month or 9-month support and a summer stipend in their funded years. Student officer appointments are also 12-month or 9-month terms. PhD students on 9-month appointments who are not on appointment during the summer receive a summer stipend and have no work obligation during this time. But they are expected to make progress in their academic pursuits. Program requirements limit funded doctoral students on appointment to an average of no more than 20 hours per week in discharge of their student officer responsibilities. 

Students pursuing PhDs in the humanities or social sciences in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) or in the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation (GSAPP); School of Social Work, School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), or Journalism, typically are appointed as student officers for 9-month terms. Students pursuing PhDs in the sciences in GSAS or in the School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS), Nursing, Business, or the Mailman School of Public Health are usually on year-round student officer appointments.

Students on appointment as student officers have teaching or research duties for their departments, in addition to their academic program requirements.

Students who are not on appointment are provided support so that they can focus entirely on their academic program as well as their own scholarly research. Students who are not on appointment have no teaching or other work obligations.

Student Employment at Columbia

Students at Columbia University have a wide range of options for employment, including work-study programs, part-time jobs in University departments, internships both on and off campus, and teaching or research assistant roles.

For more information, visit Careers at Columbia.


There are a number of types of campus jobs: appointed academic student officer positions and student casual jobs. Student officer appointments include Teaching Assistants, Teaching Fellows, Graduate Research Assistants, and Department Research Assistants. Student officers are appointed for at least one semester, whereas a student casual job may be shorter term.

Some student casual jobs are Federal Work-Study and are available to students as part of their financial aid package. The financial aid award determined by FAFSA will indicate whether a student is eligible for a Federal Work-Study job. For more information, visit Columbia Financial Aid and Education Financing's On-Campus Jobs page. 

Columbia's Student Employee Union

Students who are employed by the University may elect to be part of the Student Workers of Columbia-United Auto Workers union (SWC-UAW).

Any student who is included in the bargaining unit defined by the National Labor Relations Board is eligible to join the Student Workers of Columbia-United Auto Workers union (SWC-UAW).

The bargaining unit includes:

  • All students on teaching appointments, whether PhD, Master’s or undergraduates
  • All Departmental Research Assistants and Graduate Research Assistants
  • Certain student employees employed on a casual basis

Student employees in the unit may elect to join the Union. Students may pursue work and study at Columbia regardless of whether they choose to become members.

Yes. The provisions in the labor contract negotiated by the SWC-UAW will apply to all student employees in the certified unit.