I am a math grad student who has completed the qualifying exams within my first two years. Lately, I have been taking a few non-core courses, which allows me to put most of my time on my own research. In one of these non-core courses, I received a low grade: B-. I certainly have the a good Cumulative Grade Point Average: 3.9 -- well above what is required for "normal progress".

Question: How important/serious is getting a grade below 3.0 in this one course at this point in a PhD program? Any feedback is much appreciated.

  • Do non-core courses have a minimum grade that you must get? The impact will probably be only on if or not you could use a "low" grade towards your degree. So here is an example from my univ in the USA. I take a non-core course and get a B-. Suppose the minimum I need to achieve is a B. Although the B- will be used to calculate my overall gpa, this course may not be used towards completion of my degree (in case my PhD has course requirements).
    – dearN
    Commented Mar 25, 2015 at 11:08
  • Yes, they do. Anything less than 3.0 cannot be used towards your degree.
    – Trom
    Commented Mar 25, 2015 at 15:58

2 Answers 2


I'm an advanced graduate student in Physics, and I've gotten a B- in a class. I have also gone through rigorous job application processes, and generally, nobody will care about your GPA.

In Academia, papers, references, and networking will determine your postdoc or faculty position, grades won't even be considered.

If you plan on going into industry, a completed PhD and the brand name of your institution might be very important to get an interview, and depending on the job your comfort with problem solving and advanced technical concepts might matter. Companies will generally only look at your transcript after they've hired you to confirm your enrollment and completion of the program.

One B- is nothing to worry about, especially for a PhD student!

  • A C, however, would be worrisome for other reasons.
    – Kimball
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 8:32

I had a B in a class not directly related to my Ph.D. work. I took the class because I wanted to expand my horizons, and sure enough it did. I don't think the B ultimately hurt me at all. I will say that one curious job interviewer asked me about my less than 4.0 GPA, and I told him I earned a B precisely because I was pushing my boundaries. He appreciated that!

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