Professional Resume Writer, Career Writer and Career Coach
As a career coach, I’m often asked,
“How important is your GPA when finding a job?”
My answer: It depends. For some, a GPA is just three random numbers, but for others, it might be their golden ticket to interview street. If you’re preparing to launch a job search, you should decide how you’ll leverage your GPA throughout the process. Keep reading to learn when you should and should not use your GPA to help you find a job.
What Is a GPA?
Your GPA, or Grade Point Average, is the standardized metric most U.S. institutions use to measure your academic achievement. As a student, this number indicates your school “status,” which determines continued enrollment, scholarship eligibility, and even future employment opportunities.
Estimating your GPA is easy. Basically, each educational course you take is given a certain number of “units” or “credits,” as designated by your school. Each grade—A, B, C, D, and F—is assigned a number of grade points. An A grade receives 4 points, a B=3, a C=2, a D=1, and an F=0. As you move through your educational career, your GPA will grow or adjust, depending on your average academic performance.
Soon-to-be college graduates looking for their first job usually put their GPA on their resume without knowing how important gpa is when finding a job. A high GPA can indicate a strong work ethic and dedication and set you apart from other candidates. That said, whether every job seeker should include their GPA on their resume differs—we’ll talk about that more below.
What is Considered a Good GPA?
A “good” GPA varies based on your major, institution, and many other things. For example, Ivy League schools require near-perfect 4.0s for admission, while most nursing programs warrant 3.7 or higher. Generally speaking, GPAs 3.0 and higher are considered “good.” A 2017 study found the average college GPA was 3.15, or a B-average.
You can also define a good college GPA in terms of the most common honors designations.
- Cum laude (Latin for “with praise”) requires a 3.5 to 3.7 GPA
- Magna cum laude (“with great praise”) requires a 3.7 to 3.9 GPA
- Summa cum laude (“with highest praise”) requires a 3.9 GPA or higher
Does GPA Matter in Finding a Job?
In general, a higher GPA holds more weight if:
- You’re a recent college graduate: When you can leverage prior experience as proof of competence, a high GPA can indicate a strong work ethic, dedication, and mental aptitude.
- You’ve earned a GPA of 3.5 or higher: Potential employers are less likely to view anything below a 3.5 positively, unless you’re enrolled in a notoriously difficult major.
- You’re targeting a competitive industry: More competitive or technical industries, such as education, finance, health, law, and tech, care about GPA more than other non-technical fields.
It’s worth noting, however, that more and more companies are removing educational requirements from their hiring process. This is good news for motivated job seekers with low GPAs. Companies like Tesla, Apple, Google, and Netflix consider candidates without college degrees, suggesting that GPA really doesn’t matter as much as it used to. And although workers with more education generally earn more, it’s not guaranteed. A Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce report found that 16% of high school graduates make more than college graduates.
All this to say: If you have a low GPA, don’t panic. Other factors beyond grade point average can signal a strong candidate with potential. This is especially true in less technical industries. But if you’re targeting a more competitive role, you’ll need to learn why this metric will matter more.
Importance of GPA In Competitive Entry-level Roles
Here are a few reasons gpa is important when finding a job:
- Helps communicate ability. Listing your Grade Point Average can help you transition into discussing real-world examples of competence during interviews. As the interviewer reviews your academic performance, you can leverage the metric to bring up notable achievements, like being chosen as a research assistant after a strong performance in a specific class or pivoting a major from science to math after discovering strengths in calculus. These anecdotes can help prove reasoning skills, attention to detail, work ethic, and stress management among other things.
- Helps differentiate. When several noteworthy candidates apply for the same role, your GPA can help strengthen your case over another. High grades in technical or progressive classes can help recruiters identify interview candidates for a software engineer position or computer science role.
- Helps lower the hiring risk. Hiring managers are under pressure to hire the perfect candidate. Recent grads with high GPAs can be less risky. While this is hardly a guaranteed fact, it’s true that hiring managers prefer spending more time on “safer bets” than those requiring additional context before moving forward.
How to Include Your GPA in Job Applications
If your employer asks for your GPA, include it in the education section of your resume. Standard practice is to include one decimal, rounding up when necessary. For example, a 3.27 GPA should round up to 3.3, and a 3.89 GPA should round up to 3.9.
As with most information you list on your resume, offer helpful context surrounding your academic performance in addition to your grade point average. For example, you could add your major GPA—often higher than your overall GPA—and other indicators of academic success like honors designations, awards, and societial memberships.
Unless specifically requested, there is no need to repeat metrics like GPA in your cover letter or LinkedIn profile summary. Instead, you can use the space to underscore an achievement that shows your work ethic or success, such as an invitation to present a thesis project at a conference or a scholarship you were awarded based on academic performance.
When Should You Exclude Your GPA on Your Resume?
Leave the GPA off your resume if it’s lower than a 3.5 on a 4.0 scale. And here’s why: it’s not that a 3.1 GPA is bad, it’s that it’s not exceptional. Resumes are meant to showcase unique traits that will give you a competitive edge.
So, if your GPA is average or low, allocate space on your resume for other more noteworthy metrics, like extracurricular involvement, relevant courses completed, and study abroad programs. Honor societies, like Dean’s List, can also be a great indicator of leadership.
Again, it’s worth reiterating that GPA metrics below 4.0 are only relevant for entry-level applicants. As your career progresses, focus on professional achievements, experiences, and advancements. Three to five years of experience is usually enough time to snag demonstrable success performing in your field.
How to Handle Interviews with a Low GPA
A low college GPA is not an automatic disqualier, but it may still come up during a job interview. If your GPA is on the lower side, you’ll have to find other ways to prove you’re the strongest candidate for the position.
- Be honest. Instead of peppering the interviewer with excuses, own your grade point average. Perhaps you had difficulty focusing in general classes before diving into major-related ones. Maybe you struggled with test-taking and worked with the accommodations office to adjust your process. Perhaps extenuating family circumstances took most of your time and attention. Whatever the reasons, clue them in and explain why you’re the right candidate for the job now.
- Emphasize improvements. A low GPA is hard to explain if the average doesn’t improve over time. If you lacked focus or struggled to adjust during the first semester, but got back on track in year two, talk about that. Discuss what you did to improve and why.
- Address it and move on. Answer the question honestly and then move on. Pivot to areas where you excelled and the skills you leveraged to succeed. Before the interview, brainstorm examples of how you’ve demonstrated leadership and creativity, such as describing a project you initiated, events or fundraisers you organized, and classes you excelled in.
Frequently Asked Questions on GPA Importance When Finding a Job
Can I get a job with a low GPA?
Students with low GPAs can still get a job if they can successfully demonstrate key qualities employers look for. Higher GPAs signal a strong work ethic and motivation, so if your GPA doesn’t indicate these qualities, find other ways to prove these skills. Remember, you’re not required to put your GPA on a resume. This metric matters less and less as you advance in your career and gain more experience. You’ll have a much better success rate if you focus on non-specialized fields that place less weight on academic performance.
How do you write your GPA on an application?
If a job application requests your GPA, include it in the education section of your resume. If your major GPA is higher than your overall GPA, list it as well. Round the metric to the tenth decimal point (one number after the period). Also consider including other academic accomplishments related to your GPA, such as Latin honors or other recognitions like Dean’s List, scholarships, or advanced courses.
Do employers ask for GPA?
Employers care most about your GPA when you are applying for your first job after graduation. Also, employers in more competitive or technical industries will often ask for it. Because GPA can indicate your ability to perform the job, they might request the metric when hiring for an entry-level job.
Should I put my GPA on my resume?
If your employer requests it, always write your GPA in your resume. If you have little work experience in the field you’re targeting, but have a traditional education in a related subject, consider including a GPA on your resume (this often applies to recent graduates). Once you’ve amassed some experience under your belt, remove your GPA to leave room for professional achievements instead. Finally, higher GPAs are usually regarded more positively than lower scores.
Whether you’ve determined it best to promote or demote your GPA, it’s important to know why the metric matters when finding a job. Take stock of your academic achievement and then brainstorm a strategy for leveraging that history during your job search. Rest assured, you’ll land where you’re meant to be no matter your GPA.