HiWis - Research Assistants
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HiWis - Research assistants

At colleges and universities, research assistants, often referred to as "HiWis" for short, are an indispensable support in academic operations. They take on a variety of tasks, ranging from administrative activities to support in research and teaching. For students, working as a student assistant not only offers the opportunity to supplement their income, but also to gain valuable practical experience in an academic environment. In this article, we take a detailed look at the role of research assistants, their duties and the opportunities they offer.

What is a HiWi?

The term "Hiwi" stands for "research assistant" and refers to students or graduates who work in various areas at their university. They support teaching and research staff in their academic and administrative tasks. Hiwis can be found in almost all departments and institutes and make an important contribution to the smooth running of everyday university life.

Differences between research assistants with and without a degree

  • Hiwis without a degree: As a rule, these are students who are still studying for a Bachelor's or Master's degree. Their activities often include supporting tasks such as preparing teaching materials, supervising tutorials or working on research projects.
  • Graduate assistants: This group usually comprises graduates who have already obtained a Bachelor's or Master's degree. They are allowed to take on more complex tasks, such as independently running courses under supervision or working more intensively on research projects.

Tasks and fields of activity

Research assistants work in a variety of fields, depending on the type of employment and their area of specialization:

Support in research and teaching

  • Research support: Research assistants help with data collection, literature research, preparing and conducting experiments and evaluating research results.
  • Teaching support: They assist with the preparation and implementation of lectures, seminars and exercises, correct exercise sheets and are available to students as a contact person.

Administrative and organizational tasks

  • Administrative tasks: This includes helping to organize conferences and workshops, managing teaching materials and maintaining departmental websites.
  • Project work: Hiwis can also be deployed in specific projects, where they take on project-related tasks and help with the coordination and implementation of project tasks.

Collaboration in projects and at events

  • Event management: Student assistants support the planning and implementation of department-specific events, such as conferences, guest lectures or information events for students.
  • Project support: Student assistants contribute to research and development projects by participating in various project phases and contributing their subject-specific knowledge.

Requirements and application

Working as a research assistant offers students an excellent opportunity to gain practical experience in the academic field. But before you can take up a student assistant position, there are a few requirements and steps in the application process that you should consider.

Qualifications and required skills

  • Professional competence: Depending on the area of responsibility, solid knowledge in your field of study is required. Special skills or previous knowledge may be an advantage depending on the position.
  • Reliability and independence: Important qualities that employers expect from research assistants are reliability, the ability to work independently and a high sense of responsibility.
  • Communication skills: Good communication skills are particularly important for research assistants who work in teaching or in direct contact with students.

How and where to apply

  • Job advertisements: Universities and departments publish job advertisements for Hiwi jobs on their websites, in online job exchanges or on notice boards.
  • Speculative application: If you are interested in working on a specific project or with a specific lecturer, a speculative application can also be promising. It is important to clearly state your motivation and professional suitability.

Selection process and criteria


  • Application documents: As a rule, a CV, a letter of motivation and, if applicable, proof of previous achievements (e.g. overview of grades) must be submitted.
  • Interview: The application is often followed by a personal discussion or interview in which you can explain your skills and motivation. Sometimes you will also be asked about your technical knowledge or given small tasks to check your suitability for the position.
  • Selection criteria: In addition to professional aptitude, the fit with the team, motivation and previous academic achievements often play a role in the selection of Hiwis.

Advantages and possibilities

Working as a research assistant is not just a job, but offers you numerous advantages and opportunities for your personal and professional development:

Practical experience in an academic environment

As a student assistant, you will gain an insight into scientific work and can gain valuable practical experience that may be important for your future career. You will learn how to work scientifically, manage projects and work in a team.

Network building and career prospects

Working as a student assistant allows you to build up a professional network and have direct contact with lecturers and researchers. This can be invaluable for your later choice of profession and career.

Earning potential and flexible working hours

In addition to professional development, working as a student assistant also offers financial benefits. The pay is often attractive and the working hours can usually be arranged flexibly so that they are easily compatible with your studies.

Challenges and tips

Working as a research assistant is rewarding, but it can also present certain challenges. However, with the right strategies and a conscious approach, these can be overcome.

Time management between studies and Hiwi job

  • Challenge: Balancing your studies and work as a student assistant requires good time management in order to meet both academic and work commitments.
  • Tip: Prioritize your tasks and set realistic goals. Use time management tools or apps to plan your time effectively and create enough space for both your studies and your Hiwi job.

Dealing with responsibility and workload

  • Challenge: Hiwi positions can come with a certain amount of responsibility, be it in supervising tutorials, working on research projects or assisting with organizational tasks. Dealing with this responsibility and a potentially heavier workload at times can be challenging.
    Tip: Communicate openly with your supervisors about your capacities and limitations. It is important to find a balance and avoid overworking. Don't be afraid to ask for support or delegate tasks when possible.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ) about the module handbook

The module handbook is a central part of everyday student life, but questions often arise about its use, specific content or updates. In this section, we have compiled and answered some of the most frequently asked questions about the module handbook to provide you with quicker orientation and clarity.

Where can I find the module handbook for my degree program?

Module handbooks can usually be found on the websites of the respective departments or degree programs. Many universities and colleges have a central area where all module handbooks are accessible. If you have difficulties finding the module handbook, please contact the student advisory service or the secretariat of your department.

What can I do if the contents of the module handbook are unclear?

If you have any uncertainties or questions about the content described in the module handbook, it is advisable to contact the relevant lecturers or the Student Advisory Service directly. They can clarify specific questions about modules, examination requirements or other aspects.

What can I do if the contents of the module handbook are unclear?

If you have any uncertainties or questions about the content described in the module handbook, it is advisable to contact the relevant lecturers or the Student Advisory Service directly. They can clarify specific questions about modules, examination requirements or other aspects.

How can I use the module handbook effectively to plan my studies?

Use the module handbook to get a comprehensive overview of the modules, course content and examination requirements of your degree program. Plan your semester based on the information on modules, ECTS credits and courses. Also consider the long-term planning of your studies, especially with regard to possible majors and specializations.

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