A Grade Point Average or a GPA is the accumulation of your average grades for your entire degree, typically in college or university. It is calculated based on a 4 point grading scale, with 4 being the highest achievement and 0 being the lowest achievement.

For a student, his or her GPA is probably their most feared acronym. It seems like an easy and quick way for employers and graduate schools to form an impression about you.

You might also think it makes the difference between an employer considering your application versus just throwing it in the waste bin. Once you begin your first job, your GPA can be a factor in your starting salary.

However, it is quite confusing whether you GPA really does matter when you apply to a job. Every company and every industry treats your GPA differently. Some put extreme emphasis on your GPA, while others focus more on your work experience.

Does GPA Matter When Applying for a Job

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This article discusses why GPA is important and the careers wherein GPA typically matters. On the other hand, this article also highlights why GPA is not important and the careers where GPA usually does not matter.


Reasons Why GPA Matters

Career Changes. If you were thinking of making a career shift, like joining a different industry or field, you would have to have a high GPA. Decision-makers need to have some kind of proof or evidence that you can survive in their organization, even without the necessary and relevant experience as other applicants would have.

Impressive Credentials. Remember that in college or university, a good GPA indicates that you have been accepted to honor societies such as Phi Beta Kappa, are part of the dean’s list, or received other recognitions and awards. All these are impressive credentials when included in your curriculum vitae and can be very remarkable when you apply to particular jobs.

Limited Job Histories. If you are a fresh graduate or have limited internship experience or would like a career shift (as discussed previously), you would probably need a high GPA. Employers would want to see whether you take responsibility seriously and whether you can perform tasks well. Recruitment managers can peruse through your schoolwork results as evidence of this. Typically, a GPA of 3.0 or higher indicates that you had ownership over your studies and are committed to working hard.

Measurement of Non-Academic Matters. Many recruiting managers and decision-makers who did very well in their undergraduate degrees view GPAs an indicator that a job candidate can deal with stress and pressure, can learn very quickly, and can succeed. Moreover, by earning a college or university degree, a student has to exert 4 to 6 years of work prior to receiving their degree. Hence, those students who have high GPAs have shown that they are hardworking, conscientious, organized, and tenacious. Such a relationship between high GPAs and high performance have been proven by research, indicating that educational credentials, which include GPA, matters in the job market.

Lower perceived hiring risk. Moreover, businesses would like to minimize the risk in their organizations. Thus, when they hire a candidate who has a high GPA, it becomes less risky for them. They can safely assume that the candidate who has good grades is a better bet than one who has a low GPA. Moreover, in college or university, students have required classes that they are not familiar with or interested in.

Therefore, the GPA can indicate if the student can learn a lot of information in such a short period. Thus, if you have good grades, employers can assume also that you can learn quickly and apply concepts. A business would always want an employee who is in an unfamiliar environment to be able to get past the learning curve very fast.

Pursuance of Further Education. Although you might think you are already finished with academics once you graduate, it might be a different case in the future when you would want to pursue further studies or get a completely different degree. In addition, there are some companies, who would like you to get a master’s degree if you want to get a leadership or management position. Because schools would ask for your transcript of records from previous schools you have attended, a low GPA could be challenging when you want to advance your education.

According to a U.S. News and World Report, keeping a high GPA is crucial to those who want to attend top graduate schools such as Harvard medical school, Stanford business school, or Yale law, for example. The admissions of Yale law, in particular, will review your college courses and academic performance. It has been said that the median GPA to enter Yale Law for class 2017 was 3.91.

Recommendations from Professors. Keep in mind that other good things come along when you have a good GPA. If you do well in school, your professors would be more than willing to give you recommendations or references to the jobs you are applying to. References and recommendations, notably, are not the first things that recruiters see. They usually come in at the latter part of the job application process. However, these recommendations could mean your acceptance into or rejection from a post you applied to.

Careers Where GPA Matters

Education. If you would like to teach others, it would make sense that you would have had to perform well in school. How can a person who barely passed Physics be able to teach Physics (as an example)? At any rate, the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation recommends that teachers can only be certified if they have a 3.0 GPA or higher. Many states from the United States of America have actually adopted this recommendation.

Health. If you want to become a physical therapist or a medical doctor, your GPA is very significant. This is expected because taking care of people’s health always is a high-pressure situation. Organizations involved in health would want to know you are up to the task. This is particularly important when you are applying for medical school after undergraduate.

If you currently have a low GPA and would still want to pursue a career in the field of health, watch this video on how to overcome a low GPA:

Law. In law, GPA is important, but it can vary throughout a lawyer’s career. Highly ranked and large law firms depend heavily on GPAs from law school to see who is interviewed or not. As previously discussed, if you are coming in fresh from college or university and want to apply to law school and you want to apply to a big name university or an Ivy League school, you would perhaps need to have a very high GPA.


Reasons Why GPA Does Not Matter

Grade Inflation. Recruiters recognize that grade inflation could be a factor whenever a student has a high GPA. Grade inflation is the practice of giving high grades for outputs that would usually get lower grades. Hence, a higher GPA does not necessarily mean a student has done well in his or her school life. Actually, according to Teachers College Record, 43-percent of letter grades given are As. Recruiters would know from speaking with you whether or not you are an intelligent sort.

Importance of Networking. Even if you have a high GPA but if you have no connections in the field of your choice, getting a job could be difficult for you. However, if you have an unimpressive GPA but can demonstrate good networking skills (showing genuineness of course and no brownnosing), it can get you ahead. This is why it is crucial to network and to stay in touch with people who might support you in finding a job in the long run.

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Insufficient Measurement of Performance. It is a popular argument that the GPA is an insufficient measure of performance in a position. Hence, it is unfair to use them in hiring decisions. Most employers know the imperfectness of the GPA as a measurement. There are many people who had have had high GPAs that delivered average outputs, while many people with lackluster GPAs excelled in their careers.

Moreover, an applicant with a higher GPA does not always get the job. Case in point, a student with a 3.2 GPA can beat an applicant with a 3.9 GPA if the student who had a lower GPA were working 30 hours every week to get through school and at the same time was part of the student council. On the other hand, if the student with a 3.9 GPA had no life outside of school, that could be a red flag for the recruiter that he or she is not holistic. Recruiters are always searching for people who are multi-faceted and can handle many responsibilities.

Although it was mentioned previously that a high GPA matters if you are pursuing graduate studies, the case can be quite different if you want to pursue an MBA or a Master of Business Administration degree. Even though your GPA during undergraduate studies will form part of your application, they are not as significant as the skills that you can show. Case in point, the qualities that the Harvard Business School is looking for are analytical skills, leadership, and community engagement. Although good analytical skills imply a good GPA, the other qualities can be established through jobs, volunteer work, and personal accomplishments outside of school.

This is how you get into Harvard Business School.

Limited Access to Transcripts by Employers. If you are fretting over employers seeing your low GPA, you do not need to worry too much. Employers actually have limited access to your transcripts. For example, if you went to school in New York and moved to Washington D.C. for a job, your employer will not ask you to get your transcripts and then send it to them cross-country, just so that they can quickly look at it for a short 5 minutes.

Precedence of Other Factors. Your GPA cannot make or break your job application because employers would consider other factors, such as your work experience, your educational background, and your skills. It is the combination of these that a recruitment manager would be able to make an intelligent decision whether or not you are a good fit with their organization and with the position.

At the end of it all, employers would hire someone who can get the job done. No boss wants to micromanage you when they could be focusing on their own work. People say that time is money. So remember, employers would rather pick someone with experience rather than someone with a high GPA. Hence, if you are a new graduate, make sure to beef up your internships and volunteer work.

Careers Where GPA Does Not Matter

Business. Business can actually still be included in the heading of “Careers Where GPA Does Matter.” However, its emphasis is much less than the others included in that category. In the field of business, experience counts much more than your GPA. This is particularly relevant the further along you are in your career.

Communications, Journalism, and Media. Although your GPA is considered as an aspect on whether you can enter communications, journalism, or media, recruiting managers are mainly searching for persons who are self-starters, motivated, competent, and sharp. Moreover, just because you do well with the books does not mean you can do well in the field, where most communications, journalism, and media graduates go to first and foremost.

Engineering, Mathematics, Science, and Technology. Although it might be expected that these fields are looking for high GPA requirements, experience is also weighted heavily. However, recruiters note that while GPA can make a difference in a job application, they do consider that students in these fields would tend to have lower GPAs but good internships. Moreover, majors of these fields usually have lower GPAs across the board, so students in these courses need not fret. Actually, based on studies, the 5 majors who have the lowest GPAs in college are enrolled in biology, chemistry, economics, and math.

Start-Up Firms. For smaller companies and/or start-ups, they usually do not care about GPA. If it is good, great – if it not, they do not mind. The important thing with start-up firms are the ideas and innovations you can offer and whether or not you have the drive to push forward.


Overall, after all the discussions, does GPA really matter? Actually, it depends on the industry and the company you would like to join. Moreover, whatever status your GPA may be, the experts suggest to simply be passionate about your studies and your other involvements, as recruitment managers will look at the complete picture.

So, be strategic in how you spend your time. Do not take every opportunity that you see your way. If you find that your grades are being affected by your extracurricular activities, try to cut back or manage your time better. Ultimately, while a high GPA can open the door of opportunities for you, it is simply a foundation for other real-world experiences that you can use in the workplace.

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