Graduate Student Compensation Overview 

This page is intended to summarize the various categories of graduate student employment and related compensation in APS.

The academic year 2022-2023 annual salary for APS students is no less than $40,937 (pre-comps) to $43,110 (post-comps). The monthly gross compensation values presented below are approximate; actual pay is determined by dividing the semester salary (e.g., $12,281 for TAs) by the number of work days in that semester, then apportioning by the number of workdays in a given month. The monthly salary rates presented below are valid from January 1, 2022 to August 15, 2022 (AY21-22), and are predicated on a 20 hour per week workload. Summer pay, when a student can work 40 hours per week, will be twice as much per month, assuming full-time status. Paychecks arrive on the last working day of the month. 

Fall semester runs from August 22 through December 8. The spring semester begins January 17 and ends May 4. Summer extends from May 15 to August 24. 

All university-employed grad students (TAs and RAs, but usually not including fellowship awardees) receive tuition waivers every academic semester. 20 hours per week supports up to 18 credits waived while a half-TA position grants a 5-credit waiver. The university also pays 91% of the premium for the CU Gold health plan for all student employees at the 10 hours per week level or above. Fellowships will often pay tuition for recipients in a different fashion. 

Below, we outline the different types of graduate student employment. Key APS contact for graduate student compensation is Lindsay Nelson (Graduate Program Coordinator). For students employed in Centers and Institutes, your contacts are: Jo Ann Vandel (CASA), Caroline Martinez (LASP), Jen Ditsler (NSO), Tiffany Mason (NIST), and Agnieszka Lynch (JILA). 

Research Assistants (RAs) 

The Grad School mandates all grad students make no less than $2607/month during the academic year. Physical sciences departments like APS set pre-comps RA pay to be, on average, $2729/month. RAs in most institutes (JILA, NSO) make 4.5 times this amount ($12,281) over a semester, with each month’s pay varying slightly by the number of work days. LASP’s pay scale is typically different. In AY22-23, LASP pre-comps graduate students receive $2816/month ($12672.09 for a 4.5-month semester). 

Physical sciences departments agreed to raise post-comps RAs to, on average, $2874/month. This comes to $12,931.65 per semester; LASP pays $3022/month for their post-comps RAs. 

Summer RAs are eligible to work 40 hours per week, and their monthly salaries are twice those quoted above for the nine-month academic year. See the table below for a summary of student compensation amounts. 

Most summer RA contracts cover the entire summer (i.e., they assume full-time employment between May and August), and the usual expectation is that if you take a week or two of vacation, the time-averaged work-load remains approximately 40 hours per week.  However, please check with your advisor to make sure this is the case.

Teaching Assistants (TAs) 

TAs in APS receive compensation equal to that of their (pre-comps) RA peers for the 9-month academic year. Most students work during the summers as RAs at the same pre/post-comps levels discussed above and shown in the table below. Post-comps students are also eligible to teach APS summer courses as instructors of record and while compensation varies from year to year, it is typically the equivalent of 4 - 6 weeks of TA compensation. 

Physical Sciences Grad Student Pay Scale 


Monthly Pay (approx) 


Academic Year (= 2 semesters) 

Summer Semester 

Total Annual Salary 

Undergraduate TA $2,169 $8,679 $17,358 N/A $17,358

TA/ Pre-Comps RA 






Post-Comps RA 






LASP Pre-Comps 






LASP Post-Comps 








Most fellowship awards are for a set dollar amount per month or per year. If that amount is less than our RA pay (and most are), APS recommends that the student’s research advisor supports the equalization of student compensation with other RAs. It is up to the student and research advisor to discuss supplementing fellowship pay out of grant funds to match the appropriate pre-comps or post-comps rate. Students planning to propose for a fellowship should coordinate with their advisor and local student hiring coordinator prior to submission. 

Important notes related to student dental insurance and taxes related to fellowship compensation: 

  • Previously, graduate students must have been employed by the university at ≥ 0.2 FTE (i.e., more than 20% yearly effort) in order to access the full dental insurance through Anthem. Recent changes have allowe dthe university to cover dental for NSF GRFP students as well as some others. Ask for details.  For those who do not have access to full dental insurance, benefits are limited to a once-yearly Perfect Teeth cleaning. 

  • Some fellowships are not paid as W-2 taxable income, which means taxes are not automatically withheld. Student fellows should find out whether their fellowship will be paid as W-2 income by consulting the fellowship organization, the relevant contacts listed below, and their institute’s payroll office. If it is not, students should consult the IRS website for information on making quarterly estimated tax payments. Personal Finance for PhDs is another website that provides some advice on this. 

Below we describe some of the more common fellowships held by APS students. Resources for additional details about how the individual fellowships “work” are included as a helpful point of contact. 

Hale: The George Ellery Hale Fellowship gives three years of support. Hale fellows are employed as RAs and have the same pre-comps or post-comps pay and benefits as the RAs described above, including medical and dental, but also have their student fees and the remaining 9% of their health insurance paid for. This includes summer employment at the 40 hours per week rate. Typically, two new Hale fellows are selected each year. (faculty resources: Mark Rast

NASA FINESST: One can propose for 1, 2, or 3 years of funding.  The advisor is the official Principal Investigator (PI) and the student is the Future Investigator (FI). In 2022, the annual funding provided was $50,000, which the LASP budget analysts recommend to be split as: $40,000 for stipend, $7,500 for tuition remission, and $2,500 for student travel allowance. This balance is negotiable for individual students, depending on the research advisor's ability to augment the award with grant funding. There is also the opportunity to be awarded NASA high-end computing resources. (faculty resources: Steve Cranmer, Kevin France, Brian Fleming

NSF: The NSF Fellowship is typically awarded for 3 years of support, not necessarily consecutive. The annual gross pay is $34,000 per year ($2833.33/month, no change in summer). The fellowship supports $12k toward the cost of education, but the way NSF works is that tuition and fees are just not assessed to the fellows. The NSF does not support travel without additional research advisor augmentation. NSF funds are disbursed to the student and not the institution, therefore students should work with their institute to determine eligibility for the full range of student benefits. NSF GRFs have normal access to the CU Gold plan insurance and dental at no charge to the student. (faculty resource: Jeremy Darling, grad school resource: Patty Stanfield

NSTRF/NSTGRO: The NASA Space Technology Graduate Research Opportunity is a 2 - 4 year fellowship to develop hardware and build professional connections between academia and NASA Centers/FFRCs. The award supports up to $74,000 per year (in 2018), which is broken out as $36,000 for student stipend, $17,000 for tuition and fees, $1,000 for health insurance, $10,000 for ‘visiting technologist experience (4-10 weeks of onsite work at NASA Center/FFRC), and $10,000 for ‘faculty advisor allowance’ which includes student conference travel and hardware purchases. The research advisor is allowed/encouraged to augment the stipend and insurance to equalize support relative to RA peers. (faculty resources: Kevin France

Revised: 2022-23 Academic Year