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Teaching is a formal requirement for the degree in many academic programs and strongly encouraged in others. Students should review their departmental requirements for details. For information about teaching evaluation and recognition, as well as additional teaching opportunities, visit the teaching section of the GSAS website. Please note:

  • The workload for teaching fellows (TFs) 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.
  • TF appointments are made first to students who are invoking their guarantee of teaching offered at the time of admission or who are in their G4 year or less (for students in the humanities and social sciences, see Financial Support for Teaching for more information). Departments and course heads are expected to consider and prioritize all other qualified applicants from within GSAS, paying special attention to qualified G3 and G4 applicants from related departments and disciplines.
  • Graduate students shall normally be given the opportunity to teach at least 16 “term fifths” during their degree programs, but may teach more.


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, not to exceed a 4/5 time appointment in any one term. 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. Please note:

  • Ordinarily, 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.
  • Ordinarily, first-year students receiving stipends are not eligible to teach. With the exception of certain natural science departments, students who receive a stipend in their second year are also not permitted to teach. 

In order to teach, TFs must:

Students may NOT teach if they:

  • are receiving a PhD dissertation completion fellowship.
  • are first-year graduate students. Exceptions may be granted to students who are certified as proficient in English and registered in certain natural science programs that traditionally use G1 students as TFs.​


  • Immigration regulations limit international student employment to slightly less than 3/5 time per term, i.e. no more than 20 hours per week (.57 time per term). International students with questions regarding this regulation should consult with their financial aid officer.
  • Certain awards from GSAS, the US government, and other outside sources impose more stringent limits on TF commitments. Students are responsible for observing the terms of such awards and should consult with their financial aid officer for more information.
  • Students awarded terminal degrees in November and March are normally appointed teaching assistants for the term in which the degree is awarded, rather than teaching fellows.

Exceptions to the Policies

Students may petition GSAS for an exception to the policies if they:

  • are teaching more than the term limit of 4/5ths or the academic year limit of 6/5ths
  • are not making satisfactory academic progress
  • Students with other extenuating circumstances should contact their financial aid officer to determine if petitioning for a special exception may be appropriate.

To request an exception, students must complete and email an Exception Request Form for TF Appointments to Laura Pascale, GSAS teaching fellows coordinator.

Teaching Fellow Disbursements

TF disbursements 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 Registrar’s Office 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 (access more information and current rates on the Instructional Support website). 

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

  • Harvard Summer School appointments are not included in an academic year commitment.
  • TF disbursals are taxable at the federal and state level. Harvard University Student Financial Services provides information about state and federal tax policies.

Pay Schedule

TF appointments are made for the fall term, spring term, or academic year, with one-term appointments receiving five paychecks. Pay is 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.

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 email the GSAS dean of students at studaff@fas.harvard.edu. The dean can help advise you on further steps, which might include a written appeal to the GSAS Administrative Board.


Laura Pascale
Laura Pascale
Teaching Fellows Coordinator

Policy Forms

Exception Request Form