If you’re in graduate school, there may have been a point in time when you wondered: do grades matter in grad school?
It’s pretty easy to assume that you’ll get further with a higher grade point average (GPA). In fact, many people, students and graduates alike, probably think that the higher your GPA is, the better off you’ll be — in just about any situation.
While this can certainly be true, it isn’t always the case. The truth is, the importance of your GPA and its role throughout your career changes over time. It all depends on where you are in your academic career and your goals for when you finish your studies.
But, how much does GPA matter in grad school, exactly? Do grades matter for grad school, and should you be worrying about getting a 4.0? Does grad school GPA matter at all?
Read on to learn the answer to the question, “how important is GPA for grad school?,” plus some bonus information that can guide you through your graduate school career.
Does GPA Matter in Grad School? How Much Does It Matter?
Your grade point average will matter — but it’s not the be-all and end-all. The importance of your GPA for grad school is a little bit more nuanced than you might think. The further you get into your academic career, the more your grades can lose priority.
Colleges will scrutinize your high school grades down to every minute detail. Admissions committees will look closely at your undergrad transcripts and grad school application to see whether they want to accept you into the program. But, depending on your plans post-grad, your grad school GPA may not be as important as you thought. In some cases, your GPA may even be closer to an afterthought.
Of course, grad students still need to meet the minimum GPA requirements to stay in their graduate programs.
Although the main goal of graduate school is to help you develop an expert-level understanding of your field, you still have to hit the minimum requirements at your school. Most graduate schools will require you to keep a 3.0 GPA (or equivalent) throughout your studies, up one whole point from the 2.0 requirement at undergrad schools. But, as long as you are hitting your minimums consistently, higher GPAs won’t always be the goal — as long as you’re attaining a master’s understanding of your chosen specialty.
Do grad schools care about GPA? Yes. But that doesn’t mean you need a constant 4.0. Not all programs will require you to have a master’s degree GPA of 4.0. Some will be completely satisfied with a passing master’s GPA as long as you’re able to prove your performance in other ways.
Even then, there are benefits to getting a high grad school GPA every grading period. For example, getting high GPAs can show a few things, such as your reasonable intelligence, work ethic, and interest in the subject matter. These are all attributes that make you a better candidate for the next step in your career.
Needless to say, higher GPAs can help make it easier for admissions committees, advisors, mentors, and potential employers to make a decision that involves you.
Let’s summarize. Does grad school GPA matter?
Your GPA matters, but it’s not the be-all and end-all. In many programs, you can get by with an average GPA as long as you meet the minimums required for you to stay in your program.
Do grades matter in graduate school? To a degree, yes. Depending on your program, you may be able to get by with average grades. Having high grades is only a requirement when your school specifically requires them.
How much does GPA matter for grad school? Beyond making sure you stay in the program, your GPA will matter as much as your school says it does. This can vary from school to school and from program to program.
When Does Your GPA Matter?
We’ve already answered the question, “does graduate school GPA matter?”. Now, we can take a look at how your GPA can affect your graduate studies.
Showing academic progress – Maintaining your GPA can help show your professors and mentors that you are learning the subject matter.
Meeting program requirements – In some programs, particularly in STEM, law school, and other academically intense fields, you may need to meet much higher minimum GPAs.
Satisfies many requirements, such as for scholarships and financial assistance – If you’re trying to secure scholarships or financial aid one way or another, you’ll find that many of them will ask for your GPA as part of their requirements. Some scholarships have a minimum GPA requirement before you can even apply.
Qualifying for fellowships – Often, there is a minimum GPA requirement to apply for a fellowship. So in this case, the answer to the question, “do grades in grad school matter?,” is yes. Graduate and post-graduate students compete for fellowships, which can help cover the cost of tuition, fund other school-related activities and projects, and give students vital real-world experience in their specialty.
For many schools and programs, GPA isn’t always the first indicator of academic performance. For master’s programs, many schools will want you to stay above a 3.0 just to avoid academic probation. For PhD programs, GPAs practically don’t matter as long as they meet all the other requirements (unless you went to the PhD program right after undergrad, in which case you’ll need to maintain a 3.0 or higher).
What Can You Do Outside of Getting a High GPA?
Although your grade point average will play a pretty big role in your academic career, there are other ways in which you can show your work ethic and your aptitude. If you’d like to increase your chances of getting into graduate programs or getting hired at your dream company, here are a few things you can do.
Polish up your resume or curriculum vitae, and start drafting cover letters.As you get closer to graduating, you may want to put together your CV or your resume. Polish it up as best you can, and make sure you include relevant details and experience. You can even start writing drafts of your cover letters to make it easier to adapt them to your needed purpose later on. Your resume/CV and cover letters are important, regardless of whether you plan to look for work or get into post-grad after grad school.
Finalize your research and gather all the evidence you’ve found. Aside from your GPA, any research work you did will also play a large part in your future career. The research you’ve done can help you become a professor, get into a doctorate program, or get hired for your dream job. As you’re going through grad school, it may be a good idea to keep an organized record of any publications, research collaborations, and presentations you’ve done, as this can help show your body of work.
Practice your interview skills. One thing is for certain: once you’re done with grad school, you’ll need to go through interviews to either get hired or admitted into post-grad. It’s because of this that you’ll probably want to hone your interview skills ahead of time.
Get relevant experience. Experience is something that all admissions committees and hiring managers look for in a candidate. If you can get relevant experience during your academic career, you may be better off in the future. Besides relevant experience, getting other certifications through short courses and seminars may also help.
How Your Grad School GPA Can Affect Your Job Search
Now that we’ve answered the question, “does graduate GPA matter?,” let’s talk about how your GPA can impact your job search later on.
Once you’re out of grad school and looking for a new job, your GPA may play a part in helping you get hired. Some companies and organizations look at your GPA to determine whether you’re skilled and knowledgeable enough to hire. But, just dropping all your GPAs won’t always work. In fact, mentioning your GPA in your interview or your cover letter might backfire on you.
Here are a few things that might help you when handling your GPA during your job search.
In Your Resume
Do grad school grades matter in your resume? As you apply for a job, including your GPA is not always a bad idea. However, if the below apply, you may want to avoid mentioning your average (unless it is specifically requested).
Your GPA is less than 3.5. Represent your GPA with one decimal point, rounded properly. For example, if you have a 3.54, you can say it’s 3.5, while a 3.55 can be presented as a 3.6.
You have been out of school for over three years. After this amount of time, your GPA may no longer be viewed as relevant by your potential employer.
You generally don’t need to include your GPA for your undergrad degree.
You may want to offer a bit of context or additional information regarding your GPA. For example, you can share your GPA in your major or after your first year. You can also explain a dip in your GPA, such as being affected by an illness or a loss in the family.
In your resume, you can also mention any other honors and academic achievements.
In Your Cover Letter and Interview
It’s not always necessary to repeat your GPA in your interview or your cover letter. In fact, saying it outright may not be received well by your interviewer or the person reading your cover letter. A better way to handle it is by wording your letters or responses in a certain way, such as: “During my studies at ABC university, I’ve learned many qualities that have helped me become a strong student capable of XYZ. These are the qualities I can bring to your company.”
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a good GPA in grad school?
The best GPA for grad school would always be a 4.0 on a 4.0 scale, but this isn’t always achievable (or in some cases, feasible). Although grad school GPA usually does matter, the further you get into your career, the lower priority your GPA becomes. At a certain point, you may not even need to worry much about it beyond meeting the minimum required graduate GPA to stay in your program. However, the general consensus does seem to be that 3.0 is a good GPA.
Should I put a 3.0 GPA on my resume?
Whether you should put your 3.0 graduate school GPA on your resume is your decision. Some say that you should only list your GPA if it is 3.5 or above. However, it may be a good idea to list your GPA anyway if the employer asks for it in your resume. Additionally, you should list your GPA if the employer states a minimum and yours meets the requirement.
So, does GPA matter in grad school? We’ve established that in many ways, it is. You’ll have to worry enough about your GPA to at least meet your school’s minimum requirements for you to stay in the program. Your grade point average is also very important if you want to apply for scholarships and fellowships that can help you not only pay for (part or all of) your grad school.
At the same time, you may want to keep your field in mind. If you’re in the arts and humanities, your GPA may not be under as much scrutiny as someone studying law or business.
It’s a good idea to remember that your GPA will play a role in your future, whether it’s for your admission to postgraduate studies or your future employment. But, in the end, a number is a number, and many other things you do during your academic career will also matter.