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I am in a top master's program for my field of study. I completed my first semester last month and got back my grades. When I was offered admission at my current school, I was offered a partial fellowship, most likely based on my GRE scores, which were much higher than the school profile average. The only condition that I needed in order to maintain that fellowship was to maintain at least a 3.0 GPA. As a new student last semester, not knowing which courses to take, I took only the courses that were mandatory for students in my program.

I honestly did not enjoy many of my course subjects, and the one course that was required of all first-semester students was my least favorite. It was a theory-based course for all students regardless of major (whether they majored in the same thing in undergrad or something else). My undergrad major was different from my current major. This course made me feel depressed because it was in the same format as an undergraduate course with one lecture and one discussion led by a PhD student. For most of my courses, when I would inquire about grades, I would get vague responses. In my program, C is the lowest grade that could be given. I am still in good standing, which in my program is a 3.0. My GPA is a little bit higher than this, so I am able to keep my fellowship. But, my GPA is what disappoints me.

What is considered a good GPA in a master's program? Are there wide variations depending on the program of what is considered a good GPA? How important are master's program GPAs? I don't plan to move on to a PhD program. I read different responses on other sites like how a B is similar to an F.

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    This varies around the world, but an extremely rough grade scale that's somewhat common in US grad programs is something like "A = good, B = okay, C = lousy." – Nate Eldredge Jan 18 '17 at 3:47
  • The grades are A, B, and C U Later. You don't say where you are, but, in the United States, I'd bet that grades of D and F are possible in your program. A grade of D or F could potentially mean immediate dismissal from the program; two such grades almost certainly would. – Bob Brown Jan 18 '17 at 4:39
  • @BobBrown D is not possible for graduate students in my school, which is in the United States. The lowest possible passing grade that can be assigned in a graduate course is a C (there is no C- and no D), the next grade after that is F. – ff524 Jan 18 '17 at 4:42
  • @ff524 So, no passing grade lower than C, but it is still possible to fail a course with an F. What happens to such students? – Bob Brown Jan 18 '17 at 4:46
  • @BobBrown Not sure what you mean by "such students"? You mean students who get an F? The usual stuff. There's a 3.0 cumulative GPA requirement for graduate students to remain in good academic standing, and 3.0 required to graduate. 2 semesters in which CGPA is below 3.0 (during entire graduate career, not necessarily consecutive) leads to expulsion. – ff524 Jan 18 '17 at 4:51
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If you do not plan on pursuing a PhD then a "good GPA" is one where you can complete your courses and graduate with your Masters. When you go into industry from academia, no hiring manager will care about your GPA - your experience matters more and your master's degree will be icing on the cake. Many graduate programs require at least a 3.0 GPA (B average) to maintain a good status and not be put on probation. So that might be your goal.

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"The one course that was required of all first-semester students was my least favorite. It was a theory-based course for all students regardless of major. This course made me feel depressed because it was in the same format as an undergraduate course with one lecture and one discussion led by a PhD student."

You ended your first semester of a master's after changing fields with a gpa slightly higher than 3.0, which is the threshold value to keep your fellowship. You were disappointed.

Part of your question is

How important are master's program GPAs? I don't plan to move on to a PhD program.

Your gpa is one indicator of fit -- fit between you and your new field and fit between you and the program you're enrolled in.

But it is not the sole indicator. Here are some other good questions:

  • Did the required class prepare me well for the courses to come in my new field?

  • Are the instructors in my program supportive of my learning?

  • Am I comfortable enough here to do satisfying work?

"For most of my courses, when I would inquire about grades, I would get vague responses."

You are entitled to clear, useful feedback about your own work in a course, and you are entitled to information about grade distribution in a course. If the instructor doesn't answer your questions, you may ask a department administrator.

Tip: ask in as neutral a tone as possible. There are students who come across as believing themselves entitled to an A at all times, and it wouldn't be helpful for you to give this impression. (I'm not saying your question here gave that impression -- just warning you about a possible pitfall.)

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