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Does graduate school GPA matter?

Published April 16, 2024| minute read
Dhara Singh

Senior Associate, JPMorgan Chase

    As a former college student, you may remember the long nights, stress, and anticipation you had in your undergraduate days when it came to maintaining your grade point average (GPA). If you’re a graduate student or considering that path, you may be wondering, will your GPA matter as much?

    Like in your undergraduate days, your GPA matters to pass and ultimately obtain a graduate degree, but depending on your situation, getting a high GPA may or may not be impactful.

    In this article, we’ll cover what’s considered a “good” GPA, and the circumstances when your GPA may matter during grad school and when it may not matter as much.

    What does GPA mean?

    First, let’s go over what GPA means. GPA, an acronym for grade point average, is a metric high school, colleges, and graduate schools use to measure academic performance.

    To find your GPA for a school term, you multiply each grade you received by its corresponding credit hours to find the “grade points” for that course. Then, add up all the grade points from all the courses you took in a term to find your total grade points for that term. Next, add up all the credit hours you completed in a term. Finally, divide the total grade points by the total credit hours for a term.

    If you want to look at your cumulative GPA — your GPA for all the terms you’ve completed — you multiply each grade you’ve received to its corresponding credit hours to find the “grade points” for that course. Next, add up all the grade points from all the courses you've taken to find your total grade points. Then, add up all the credit hours you completed. Finally, divide the total grade points by the total credit hours to look at your cumulative GPA.

    The basic formula for GPA is as follows:

    (Grade Points × Credits) ÷ Credits = GPA

    What’s considered a good GPA in grad school?

    There’s no one right answer to what’s considered a good GPA in grad school. There are a few ways you can assess what a good GPA may be to you, though.

    One way is to find out what GPA you need to receive to remain in good academic standing in your graduate degree program. Another way is to find out the average GPA in your graduate program to benchmark yourself against.

    Lastly, what a “good GPA” in grad school means to you may depend on your goals after graduation. For instance, if you’re in a master’s degree program and are looking to apply to Ph.D programs, finding out what GPA you need to maintain to be a competitive applicant may be helpful.

    When your GPA matters in grad school (and when it may not)

    In some cases, your grad school GPA will impact your ability to get a job

    The National Association of Colleges and Employers' 2024 Job Outlook Report found that 38.3% of employers screen candidates by GPA.

    In some cases, employers will require that job applicants have maintained a specific GPA in both their undergraduate and graduate careers. In other instances, job applications will ask for your undergraduate and graduate school GPAs, or prospective employers will ask for these numbers in job interviews.

    Even if you’re required to supply your GPA to prospective employers, how much it’s ultimately weighed in the application process may vary quite a bit. Some employers may look highly on a high grad school GPA, while others may value work experience and other factors more strongly.

    Your grad school GPA may impact your ability to be accepted into other grad school programs, including Ph.D programs

    If you’re pursuing a graduate degree with your eyes set on entering another graduate degree program after, know that maintaining a strong GPA in your current program may matter to admissions committees.

    As an example, the University of Washington recommends at least a 3.0 cumulative GPA and 3.5 GPA specific to your area of study to be a competitive applicant to the school’s Ph.D programs. Again, this is just one example, but many universities will provide these recommendations.

    If you visit the admission page of the graduate school program you have in mind, typically, you’ll find a list of requirements, including GPA requirements.

    Your grad school GPA may matter in terms of retaining financial aid

    Maintaining a certain GPA does matter for retaining financial aid. The office of Federal Student Aid states that “you need satisfactory academic progress” to keep your federal student aid package.

    Exact satisfactory academic progress requirements will vary from school to school, so you may need to check with your graduate program to determine the GPA requirement. At many schools, students need to maintain a 2.0, if not a 3.0 GPA, to maintain eligibility.

    Your grad school GPA may matter in terms of retaining employer tuition assistance

    If you’re paying your grad school tuition with help from an employer tuition assistance program — MBA tuition assistance programs as an example — you may need to maintain a certain GPA to continue receiving this assistance. This expectation, if there’s one, is usually laid out when you sign up with your employer for this assistance. If you’re unsure of whether there is a requirement, contact your employer.

    Grad school GPA may be less significant to some students

    Some students may find that they don’t necessarily need to receive a high GPA in grad school to achieve their post grad school objectives. Many employers don’t factor students’ grad school GPAs into hiring decisions. Students who feel confident that they won’t be seeking another advanced degree won’t have to worry about their grad school GPA impacting future grad school applications.

    Final thoughts

    The importance of receiving a high GPA in graduate school is going to matter to different students at varying degrees. All that said, the personal satisfaction that comes from mastering the material and receiving a high GPA (especially if you’re making the commitment to go to grad school) shouldn’t be ignored.