Here’s a question that I get asked a lot: What do graduate students do for work (or money) while attending the Photography MFA program?
Well, here are some answers:
Firstly, the Photography MFA program is far too intense for a student to be able to hold a full-time (40 hours) or even a part-time job (20 hours) while attending the program. There is so much work to do, especially during the first year of the program, that trying to work more than about 10 hours is undoable. That being said, most of the grad students in the program do hold some sort of work, often through the college, although some do also work off-campus.
A common job for students in my program is that of TA. For those that don’t know, a TA is a Teaching Assistant. The job duties for this particular position vary depending on what type of class is being TAed. There are two types of photo classes, either a studio class or history class. I personally enjoy TAing a studio class much more than the history classes.
One thing to keep in mind about being a TA is that it is not usual for first-year students to be offered TA positions. There is usually not enough money to go around for all three years to TA, so the positions are reserved for second- and third-year students. Rarely, however, there may be a spot for a first-year student if there aren’t enough second- and third-year students that want the positions.
Another good job for the Photography MFAs is at the museum. The MoCP has four positions available for graduate students. The positions involve giving tours, helping research artists, writing text panels, and pulling work from the collection to show to classes that come into the museum. These positions are usually good for students that might be wanting to go into the museum field, possibly curatorial.
Then there are print tutors, grad students that work in the color and b&w darkroom that help undergrad students with their printing. This is outside of their classes, so they are usually working on their assignments at the time.
There are also several other positions, like mine as Graduate Student Ambassador in the Graduate Admissions & Services Office, as well as positions in the archives at the library, in the Graduate Student Center, and in the Photography Department’s Graduate Lounge.
None of these positions will nab you more than about $1500/semester, so some grad students have two positions. Even with that, it is not really enough money to survive on, so student loans become necessary unless you have some outside means. But it is enough that you can cut back a little on how much you have to borrow. Plus, some of the opportunities, especially the TA and museum positions, are great ways to get ready for real-world positions.