Graduate Funding

AeroAstro graduate students generally identify funding through one of the following, but they may also assemble a combination of sources (such as a partial fellowship with an RA supplement) to fund their graduate program :

Research assistantship

  • Pays full tuition, health insurance, and monthly stipend. Most AeroAstro grad students are funded with a research assistantship. An RA works in a lab assisting a faculty member with research. Ideally, but not always, the research is the basis for the student's thesis. Generally, a research assistantship will fund a student through the duration of the academic degree program.

Teaching assistantship

  • Pays full tuition, health insurance, and a monthly stipend. Teaching asistants support a faculty member in a classroom situation. These positions are usually offered on a course by course basis and last one semester. There are generally 20 of these positions in our department each year. Students can also do teaching assistantships on a volunteer basis for credit only, under course number 16.999, Teaching in AeroAstro. Please discuss this with your advisor, if you're interested.

MIT-sponsored fellowship

  • Pays full tuition, health insurance, and monthly stipend. Internal fellowships (i.e., those offered by MIT) are generally for one academic year and do not require a student to also work as an RA or TA. Internal fellowships generally recognize prior superior academic achievement. Because they typically last only one year, it's important that students who are awarded a fellowship secure funding for the following year. For more information please visit the Grad Student Office Internal Fellowships website.

External fellowship

  • External fellowships are funding opportunities students must apply for and receive either before being admitted to, or after enrolling in, graduate school. They vary in coverage. Some cover all costs of the graduate program, others cover less. If a fellowship does not cover all expenses, the student may supplement the fellowship with an RA. For more information please visit the Grad Student Office External Fellowships website.


A Little Bit of Info About Research Assistantships

As a student who is probably being admitted to various top-level graduate programs, it’s likely that many of your funding offers have come in the form of fellowships. While we in AeroAstro do offer some fellowships, most of our funding for SM and PhD students comes in the form of Research Assistantships. You may have even been offered one already and if so, congratulations!

In AeroAstro, we believe that having a Research Assistantship has many important advantages. For one, when you have a Research Assistantship, you’re on a project tied to a specific advisor and you’ll jump right into that project from the start. Many students find this very helpful, as they’re not looking to create a project the way they may have to with an internal or external fellowship, and can make great use of that first semester – they’re connected from the start. This is especially helpful for students who are planning to take our Doctoral Qualifying Exam, as there is a research component to that, and the more semesters of steady research you have under your belt when you take the exam, the better. Additionally, RA-supported research is nearly always what your thesis will be based on – so students with Research Assistantships generally find their way to a thesis topic rather quickly!

Another benefit of a Research Assistantship that many students value is the connection it provides to industry and government. Most of the funding our faculty receive to support Research Assistantships comes from industry or government sponsors (such as NASA, Boeing, Air Force, NSF and many more). A Research Assistantship on a sponsored project can be a great way to help you make contact with people in industry or government labs.

In terms of the amount of money they provide, Research Assistantships provide exactly the same funding as most fellowships offered by MIT. They are also both subject to tax, though in different ways, which will be discussed during our Graduate Orientation before classes begin. Both are great opportunities in different ways!

Identifying Funding

Graduate students are expected to be proactive in the search for funding; don't wait for funding to be offered to you. You should research and apply for external (non-MIT) funding opportunities. Some U.S. fellowships have application deadlines as early as October for the following academic year.

Once you've been accepted into the AeroAstro graduate program, you should contact faculty with matching research interests about possible RA opportunities in their labs. Faculty contact information is located on the faculty listings page and clicking in the "view profile" link beneath professor's names will help you determine their research interests. Faculty begin making RA offers in March and continue right through August. RA positions may become available when students graduate, when new projects are funded, or when continuing projects receive additional funding.

Check with AeroAstro Student Services aagradinfo@mit.edu about courses that have historically used teaching assistants. If you have any background in a course, you should approach faculty members to let them know of your interest. Students may also seek out opportunities as a TA or RA in another academic department in which they have a background.

Finally, keep your file in the Student Services Office updated as to your status. When faculty want to identify students for additional funding, they ask Student Services for the latest information on which students are interested. And, when you've confirmed funding, please inform Student Services by contacting Graduate Program Administrator Beth Marois.

2017-2018 funding resources

Sampling of outside fellowships commonly awarded to engineering graduate students, with application deadlines:

Sampling of other fellowships, not necessarily geared toward engineering

For info on other more specialized or smaller money fellowships please visit the MIT ODGE Fellowships page.

A Web search will reveal many sites devoted to graduate student funding opportunities. Be aware that some financial aid search companies/organizations may charge you a fee for their services.

Questions? Email aagradinfo@mit.edu.