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Life in Champaign

In addition to the vital information about the academic makeup of the department, there also are many important factors that contribute to the graduate experience. How much money does a grad student make? How expensive is the area? Who will my fellow grad students be? The purpose of this section is to provide insight into these and other questions that will help provide a well-rounded picture of the entomology graduate program environment. More information regarding the Urbana-Champaign community can be found here.

Current Entomology Graduate Students

The graduate students in the department are a group with diverse backgrounds and interests. Yet despite differing goals and experiences, the students are a cohesive group with a common voice (the EGSA - Entomology Graduate Students Association), engaging in group activities of both a scientific and social nature. Bug O' Lunch is an informal weekly lunch hour seminar given by a different graduate student each week, and attended by students and faculty alike. On the flip side, the annual Halloween party is not to be missed. As of 2014, the makeup of the students looks like this:

# of students males females international M.S. candidates Ph.D. candidates
43 26 17 7 14 29

Graduate Student Financial Support

Almost all students are funded by the department for the entirety of their graduate career. Financial support varies on a case by case basis, but in general, students in the Master's program are supported for 2 years, and those going on to the PhD program receive an additional 3 years of support. Those coming in with a Master's receive four years of support towards their Ph.D. If these time periods are exceeded, the department will then determine support on an individual basis, but it is very rare for a student to lose funding during his or her graduate education.

The majority of students are supported on teaching assistantships. However, many other sources of funding are also available, including research assistantships, University fellowships, and national awards (NSF, NIH, USDA, etc.). Students holding teaching or research assistantships are exempt from tuition and service fees.

That's all fine and good, but how much can a students expect to be paid for their assistantship? As of the 2014/2015 Salary Rate Schedule, teaching/research assistants are paid $20,664 ($2296/mo.) for a 9 month appointment. An additional 2 months of support can be available from alternate sources, to be determined by the department and the student's advisor. Each year, as a student accumulates experience, a salary increase of roughly 3% can be expected, depending on the status of the state budget.

As far as teaching goes, the majority of TAs teach lab sections of either Animal Biology for non-biology majors or Introductory Biology for biology majors (genetics and biodiversity). The more experienced TAs in the department assist in higher level courses like entomology, ecology, and animal behavior.

Average Duration of Graduate Careers

A master's degree program will normally take at least 1.5 years, which includes one summer of research. But more typically, especially since a bulk of course work is completed during this time, the master's degree takes about 2 years to complete. A Ph.D. program will normally take an additional 4-5 years beyond the master's degree. However, the time to complete a Ph.D. program is highly variable depending on the research involved, coursework, advisor, and any number of other factors. The typical graduate student probably requires 2 years for a M.S. and another 4-5 years for a Ph.D., for a total of 6-7 years.

Cost of Living in Champaign-Urbana

Of course the cost of living will vary depending on where in the C-U area you choose to live, and to what comfort level you are accustomed. But generally, C-U is a pretty affordable area. Here are some general prices you can expect to pay for the various living necessities (updated 2014):

Rent, 1BR apartment .......................... $475-$575/mo.
1BR condo, housing co-op..................... $40,000
movie................................................... $8.00 (student discount)
mixed drink.......................................... $4.50-7.50
symphony tickets................................. $5-$10 (student discount)
student health insurance........................ $376/semester

Leisure Activities in the C-U Area

There are many beautiful places to go to school in this country: the Rockies, the Pacific Northwest, the deserts of the southwest...central Illinois? While many may consider Illinois "topographically challenged," the Champaign-Urbana area is not devoid of culture or activity. The University of Illinois campus is one of the nicest in the country. But the University also has extensive land holdings, including the beautiful Allerton Park, featuring sculpture gardens and scenic walks. State parks are also accessible - within 30 minutes drive is Kickapoo State Park, a haven for hikes, mountain biking and canoeing, and many other state parks are within a two hour's drive. For a bit longer travel, the Shawnee National Forest awaits in southern Illinois.

But you need not leave Champaign-Urbana to have a good time. The Krannert Center for the Performing Arts has a fantastic program every year, from the University Opera Program to the impressive Marquee series, which has featured among others Wynton Marsalis, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Itzhak Perlman. Or if the fine arts aren't your taste, the local music scene boasts multiple venues from small smoky clubs to the University Assembly Hall for huge touring acts.

However, the times do occur when you just need to go somewhere more "exotic." If the big city is more your taste, Champaign-Urbana is located centrally to Chicago, St. Louis, and Indianapolis. Chicago is a two hour drive...but buses, trains, and air flights will take you there any day of the week if you don't want to hit the road.

The bottom line is that no one goes to the University of Illinois for the scenery. But the combination of an academic program of this quality, resources only a large research university can offer, and a surprisingly diverse night life are more than enough to make anyone happy here.

What should international students do before they arrive in Illinois?

International students have concerns beyond that of our local colleagues. The university has a web site at the Office of International Student and Scholar Services that can provide a wealth of information for both incoming and current international graduate students. We highly recommend reading this page if you have any questions regarding international student status.

Have a Specific Question?

If you have a specific question for a graduate student to address, just send us an email. Rather talk to a faculty member? No problem, drop them a line directly from their faculty page.