People generally agree that grades don't matter in graduate school because they are reflective of your understanding of other people's work. What matters is the work you did and your research.

But could it be said they matter to the same extent as undergraduate grades when applying for a job? For example, if an employer was screening candidates for a data science or software engineering position and one candidate was a graduate student and another an undergraduate student and both had a similar GPA would the graduate student be considered a stronger candidate?

If employers consider the grades in courses relevant to their position for undergraduates, so on that basis if you do well in graduate courses related to that position shouldn't you be given preference or at least seen as an equally strong candidate?

Although it's true that the expectations for graduate students should be higher than for undergraduates, if two candidates are being considered then the graduate student will probably be more knowledgeable if they have a similar GPA and other experience.

  • 1
    Has the graduate student, well, graduated? Why are they competing for jobs with undergraduates?
    – Jon Custer
    Dec 10, 2022 at 14:46
  • 1
    U.S. based? Also, are you mainly interested in graduate work for a Masters degree or graduate work for a Ph.D. degree? In general, grades are probably more important for a Masters degree than for a Ph.D. degree. Dec 10, 2022 at 14:47
  • Related: Why is PhD GPA considered irrelevant?
    – cag51
    Dec 11, 2022 at 1:37

2 Answers 2


Academic employers typically do not have much flexibility in positions with respect to the education level attained.

Industry employers do not care that much about the marks. Doing well academically is an argument a person could leverage, but any kind of portfolio beats that, so it is only applicable for entry positions.

Where grades likely matter the most is the intersection of industry and academia, when companies like NVidia would approach universities to find people for R&D positions - and in this case more than just GPA goes into the decision. And we are back to square one - actual skills matter, and the grades are a pretty poor predictor of them.


Statements that "grades don't matter" in graduate school apply to academia and academic jobs as a general statement and refer to people pursuing PhD degrees. The reason is that research output is just vastly more important than almost anything else for research-based jobs (teaching-focused jobs may be a bit different, but are still likely to focus on evidence someone will be a good instructor).

People in industry may or may not have any idea what is and isn't important in academia, and can hire by whatever criteria they think are important. If they don't see any value in a PhD degree that's up to them.

Since there is no one person in charge of all industry hiring, those criteria will vary.

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