Do grades matter in graduate school

I know you need a B or higher to stay in graduate school but in high school people worry about grades because their grades can affect which college they get into. In college people worry about grades because grades affect which graduate school you get into. So it seems that one of the major reasons people obsess over grades is to determine how it’ll affect the next level of education they obtain (high school->college->grad school). Is graduate school the end and people stop obsessing over grades (as long as the grades are passing) or is it more of the same with everyone trying to get As in everything? Some graduate student mentioned something like this last night in study session about how ‘no matter how you study you get the same grade as everyone else’, something like that. Is graduate school different from undergrad and high school in the sense that just passing is enough? In undergrad and High school just passing (C- and D- respectively, at least around here) aren’t good enough, people want As. In grad school is just passing with a 3.0 good enough for most people or do they obsess over high grades too? Do high grades in graduate school matter? I assume in a way they would as they can affect your residency in some medical professions, or maybe which research position you get, but I don’t know if those are based on grades.

Your grades in business school do matter. Lots of companies - the ones where it’s highly competitive to get in - won’t even look at you if you don’t have a certain GPA.

It’s more of the same.

[blatant generalization] The people you get in graduate school (particularly something like law school) are, for the most part, driven to succeed. An easy way to validate their success is by making better grades than everyone else around them. [/blatant generalization]

Also to echo misbunny: High grades = Job. In an uncertain economy, graduate students want to maximize their ability to get a job.

Therefore - to sum it up: It’s more of the same. Most people want to get A’s. Most people try to get A’s. Most people do not get A’s. That’s grad school.

  • Peter Wiggen

I know for a fact, having been told by HR, that my grad school GPA not only helped land my first job out but also was used to determine the salary I was offered.

Yes the grades matter. They probably won’t secure a job for you but I can’t imagine trying to get your foot in a desirable door without them.

All of that being said, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone who didn’t maintain a B or higher average in graduate school. In order to go to graduate school, you really have to want to do it. That, and the fact that is more than likely your money you’re spending (vs. your parents’ money), tends to keep most people’s motivation level up to a sufficient degree to do good work.

Not in physics . . . probably not in any of the hard sciences. Well, they matter a little, but they aren’t going to get you a job. What matters is, in no particular order:
[li] What school you attended.[/li][li] Who your advisor was.[/li][li] What research you did.[/li][li] Who you know (It helps to have connections.)[/ul][/li]Grades really only matter for things like getting the professor of your choice to agree to be your advisor. Once you’re working on your thesis, you’re probably past the point where the grades you’ve earned make any difference . . . certainly once you’re out of school they don’t mean much of anything. No ones going to say “Wow, you’ve really published some revolutionary research . . . it’s too bad you only got a B in first year quantum mechanics.”

I’m talking about Ph.D. programs, where people generally take a lot of courses for the first couple years and then just focus on their dissertation. I don’t really know how it is for Masters students (who don’t spend as much time doing research.)

I’m also mostly thinking about getting jobs in academia. Maybe companies have different criteria for whom they’ll hire . . . but they’d be foolish to give grades as much consideration as research, simply because, as I said, most of the classes are front loaded to the start of grad school (at least for physics), and the last few years (once you actually know how to do something useful) are focused on research. So judging a physics grad student on the grades he was getting three or four years ago is practically akin to deciding whether or not to hire a college graduate based on what grades he got in high school. Plus, no one cares if a scientist is good at taking exams – they want to know if he’s good at doing science.

Also, I don’t know from first hand experience, but my impression of law school is that where you rank in your class really matters. Which probably contributes to the cut-throat atmosphere I hear about at some law schools. I’ve heard horror stories of people doing things like cutting the important cases out of the books in the library, so that there fellow students have nothing to study. Hopefully those stories are the exception and not the rule, but I don’t really know.

What Tim said, I agree with.

Grades aren’t really important, but you still get mostly As and the rest Bs. If you’re not doing the coursework fully and correctly then you shouldn’t be there.

I didn’t really know other students grades, but there were two kinds of student who I think got crappy grades. . .

–The couple of guys who dropped out after one semester.

–The kid who was “uber-brilliant” (I don’t say that lightly – he was invited to apply to the Institute for Advanced Study) and was doing his own personal research to the detriment of his classes. That’s going to be more forgiven in grad school where there’s an understanding of the “big picture”.

In my experience, it’s not the grades per se that matter, though without strong grades you’re unlikely to get the impressive letters of recommendation (which are partly based on your reputation, which is partly based on grades) from faculty that helps you nail down the really competitive jobs.

It’s those letters that are key, because faculty who want to support your job search will let it be known in these letters that
a) you’re dedicated
b) you did very well in his/her courses
c) his/her colleagues all speak well of you
d) you went beyond the mere requirements
e) you’re an unusually gifted student
f) you’re a personable, mature candidate

and so on. If you can’t get letters saying all this and more, well, there are people who can, and almost all of them have very good grades to go along witih the letters.

I’m currently finishing my doctorate in art history, and my experience mirrors tim314’s–grades in grad courses don’t carry as much weight as they do in undergrad courses. At least, not in my field. In most courses I’ve taken, you’d have to work really hard to fail a class (and get a “C”)–if you show any effort, you should get at least a B+, and you really should expect to get an A. Most of my grad courses have been seminar-type courses, and so most of my work consisted of discussing weekly readings, and writing/presenting a paper.

I’ve only had a few exam-based classes as a grad student, and even in those, the grade was based more substantially on the final paper than on the exams.

GPAs matter far less than other issues–like tim314 pointed out, what really matters is whom you’ve worked with and what kind of research you’ve done. These are things that aren’t revealed in a GPA. In fact, I’d say that an art history grad who has a couple of Bs on his transcript, but who’s produced some solid research under the guidance of good professors is in better standing than one with a perfect 4.0 GPA, but with fairly insignificant research under mediocre professors.

And connections/networking plays just as big a role–and if you’re a jerk, or your major professor is a jerk (or some other kind of polarizing figure in the academic community), it can make getting a job difficult, no matter how good your grades are.

In my program (linguistics), getting a B is the pits. I know it’s different in other programs, particularly hard sciences. But here, B’s are scarlet letters.

On the other hand, I’ve never known grades in Education graduate work to make a bit of difference, as long as you don’t flunk. I teach alongside people who took 4 tries to pass the CBEST, which is a California Basic Skills test for teachers. The thing is set at the 8th grade level, and some “teachers” still can’t pass it! :eek: Others of us breeze through the tests, were Dean’s List in grad school, and still make the same amount of money as the “others.” All that matters is **number of units ** post-grad, not what your grades were.

I’ll say that in professional Grad fields, such as Law and Business, class rank/GPA are highly valued in themselves, as the people hiring you will pay attention to that (and to the school itself, of course) at employment time. In academic fields, as mentioned, it’s internally important, early on, in order to get your choice of thesis advisor/research project, later on you’re judged more on your quality of research/publications. And in most Grad Schools you’re expected to perform at “B” or better as a matter of course.

In grad school (International Business Studies) I had a 4.0 GPA. Didn’t do sh*t for me afterwards.

Oh, and yes, of course, as in silenus’ case, there may be fields where the demand for warm bodies with the appropriate degree (or the legal requirement that you MUST have that degree by X years of service in order to get promoted) is such that all that matters is that you actually passed.

I feel like the people who actually attend non-professional grad school are only there because they care about their subject. So whether or not it’s about grades per se, there’s still drive to do the best work possible, which often correlates to good grades.

Another point to keep in mind is that within a few years, and definitely after 5 years, post-grad school, grades completely don’t matter. At that point, experience and the name of the grad school are all that are relevant. It’s only the first job right out of school where it may be an issue depending on your field.

And if you switch fields after grad school (as I did from industrial engineering to commercial real estate), no one really cares that you got a C in statistics. :stuck_out_tongue:

This is exactly what I was going to post. For a PhD, I don’t know of any field where grades matter after you graduate, simply because the degree is so focused on research. Advisors will look at grades (sometimes), just as a way to see if you’re bright and motivated before they hire you, but even then I wouldn’t stress about it. If you’re slacking to the point that you’re getting C’s in your first year classes, you’re never going to make it all the way through anyway.

Also, in my grad school, thesis research was counted as a “class” worth a full semester course load. And you automatically got an A in it. So your gpa was a year or two of classes in which most people got A’s and B’s, followed by several years of straight A’s. I think the average gpa is something like 3.95. So it wasn’t a useful measure even if someone had looked at it, which no one did.

Another vote for “grades only matter until you get your first job” mixed with a strong component of either your grades are good enough to keep you in grad school or you probably don’t belong there.

Also a vote for people are often concerned about grades on individual assignments, but I’ve had more than one professor who designed assignments in a way that the more effort you put into the assignemtn, the more you got out of it, and anyone willing to work his or her tail off and redo assignments if neccessary could get an A.

Of course, there are also significant differences in style between taking an engineering curriculum and an information science one.

(Voice of experience talking in part, my grades the first time around hovered right at the cut off point for being told I wasn’t cutting it academically. The proximate cause for my actual departure was failure to accomplish any research which was do to a conflict in managment styles with my advisor. At my school and in my program, one had to pair up with an advisor in the first two months. Not enough time to establish grades, and I didn’t know what I needed in a manager )

I’ve hired lots of people out of grad school, in engineering and computer science, and I don’t think I’ve ever looked at grad school grades. I certainly don’t remember mine. To get a PhD in all cases, and an MS in some, you must pass both written and oral quals, and these count a hell of a lot more than grades. If you pass you are in, if you fail you are out. People passing quals who get bad grades look bad for the department, unless there are some special circumstances. And, as mentioned, most of your later coursework is thesis and seminars, for which As are pretty standard. Really, the issue in grad school is who deserves a degree, and who doesn’t. Anyone who the faculty think deserves one is going to mostly get As. At a certain point you become more a colleague than a student.

Ever hear the joke about the graduate student bunny? I’ll post it if you hadn’t, since it has a good degree of truth. When I’m interested in hiring someone, I call their professors, and that counts a lot. When I was in Bell Labs all new PhDs did thesis reviews, presenting their work for the interviewers and others. That is the critical factor. I just spoke to the guy who hired me 24 years ago, and my thesis review got me my job offer. Having published in grad school helps also.