Graduate Student Instructors (GSIs)

Graduate students will typically serve as GSIs several times during the course of their degree. The appointment is typically 25% or 50%, rarely 75%. All GSI’s have their tuition, which includes the Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP), covered by the department, as well as receive a salary of about $1500 per month for 50%; 25% appointments pay about half of this. This salary is subject to state and federal taxes. The minimum requirement for PhD students is to be a 50% GSI for 2 regular semesters, GSI-ing in the summer . Students are encouraged by the head graduate advisor to GSI more often because of high undergraduate demand for statistics courses, given the rising popularity of statistics. First year students are generally provided funding by the department, so they don’t have to worry about GSI-ing while making the transition into graduate school.

Duties and opportunities

The duties are assigned by the professor, and are designed to require an average of 20 hours per week for a 50% appointment. Some examples are preparing for and meeting a “discussion/lab” section of students each week, attending meetings called by the instructor, holding office hours, preparing homework questions and solutions, making up computer labs, etc. and/or quizzes. While this partial list of duties may seem considerable, note a grader may be hired, in which case grading duties may be split or delegated. Also, the professor will rarely assign all these duties and professors are generally very receptive to make adjustments should you find your workload heavy.

Office hours

50% GSIs are recommended to hold 4 office hours a week, which is a time for students to drop by and ask questions they may have. This is also at the discretion of the professor and is just a guideline. The department requests that office hours not be held in the GSIs office. Instead, they provide rooms especially designed for office hours: the usual ones are 444 and 446 Evans, in the middle corridor of the 4th floor. The computer lab 342 is available for office hours for computing classes, typically Stat 133. At the beginning of the semester, GSIs make their office hours selection on a first come, first serve basis. The department will send out a google spreadsheet to facilitate this process.

First-time GSIs

First-time GSIs must attend a day-long GSI orientation hosted by the university. First-time hires also need to fill out paperwork with Campus Shared Services (CSS), which typically takes place in 457 Evans. Finally, first-time GSIs are required to enroll in Stat 375, which is a pedagogical course titled “Professional Preparation: Teaching of Probability and Statistics” The course asks students to share experiences with each other, such as visiting each other’s discussion/lab sections, and to create a teaching statement at the end.

Teaching evaluations

At the end of the semester, students are asked to complete a teaching evaluation of the GSI and professor. This is optional and anonymous on the student’s part. GSIs do not see their evaluations until after the final is graded. If you would like some suggestions on how to improve your teaching, you may provide students for anonymous feedback, a typical and appropriate time to do this is midsemester if the GSI so desires, though the GSI may choose to do so more often.

English tests

All first-time GSIs from countries where English is not an official language must demonstrate a level of English proficiency sufficient to carry out their teaching duties. If you completed your undergraduate degree in the United States or another country in which the language of instruction is English, then you are exempt from this requirement. All other international students applying for first-time GSI positions have to take either the Test of Spoken English (TSE) or the Speaking Proficiency English Assessment Kit (SPEAK). The TSE is administered by the Educational Testing Service, a private, nationwide organization, while the SPEAK test is administered by Subject A for Non-native Speakers of English (SANSE) at the Berkeley campus.

Unsatisfactory scores will prevent you from teaching, and you will be required to complete the semester-long English Workshop for international GSIs, and to pass the Oral Proficiency Test (OPT) before being allowed to teach. Intermediate scores require either the course or the oral test. SANSE administers both the Workshop and the OPT.

Computer use

Many courses involve computers. GSIs for these courses will need to become familiar with the department’s computers and the software used in the course.

Union membership

The GSI union is part of UAW. Membership is voluntary.

Choosing your GSI Position

Each semester La Shana and Denise assign the GSI appointments. There are no fixed rules for assigning GSIs to classes. If you want to be the GSI for a specific course, see the professor who is to teach that course; they can request your services, though it’s not guaranteed the request will be met. This should be done before the end of the preceding semester, before GSI assignments for the semester have been completed.

Lower division courses

These include Stat 2, 20, and 21; there are only minor differences between them. GSIs meet with sections of 20 to 40 students. The section meeting supplements the lectures in the course: the GSI may answer student questions, work examples, help solve problems, give quizzes, and perform other such duties. Grading responsibilities might include quizzes, midterms, the final and some homework, though often these courses have no graded homework. There are usually between five and ten GSIs for each class. Each section usually meets for one hour twice a week.

It is to your advantage to be assigned, early in your career at Berkeley, to a lower division course using FPP (as the text by Freedman, Pisani and Purvesis commonly known). You will become familiar with the text and its treatment of elementary statistics questions.

Upper division courses

These have course numbers Stat 1xx. For most of these courses, GSI positions revolve around teaching sections, which meet for one hour twice a week or two hours once a week. In these courses, GSIs usually assign and grade labs, while often readers are assigned to grade homeworks. For other courses, such as STAT 134 or 150, there are no sections, and the GSI holds office hours, writes solutions and helps grade exams.

There is usually only one GSI for each 100-level course, so the GSI’s duties may not be as structured as in lower level courses.

Graduate courses

The courses at the 200-level are advanced courses often taken by other graduate students within the department. GSIs are therefore expected to be advanced beyond the material. Otherwise, these courses are similar to 100-level courses as far as GSI duties are concerned. However, some courses (e.g., 205, 210) are exceptions: there are no discussion section meetings and the GSI grades the homework.


Several GSI positions are available in the biostatistics program. In general they are reserved for students in the biostatistics program. GSIs teach sessions, attend lecture, hold office hours, and attend GSI meetings. Public Health 142 is a large service courses involving elementary statistical methods. GSIs may also be appointed for graduate courses.

Summer session

During the summer session, the department usually offers several undergraduate courses (2, 20, 21, 134, and sometimes others). A limited number of GSI positions are offered. Their duties are similar to the duties during the regular year. Assignments for summer GSIs and instructors are usually made early in the year.