Does Grade Point Average matter for engineers?

Does Grade Point Average matter for engineers? That is a question oft debated – or perhaps obsessed over – by students as they get closer to graduation. Like all questions of philosophy, there is no one-size-fits all answer.  It depends on many factors including the unique abilities and experiences of the individual asking the question.

My answer is obviously based on my personal experiences as a student, a new hire, and ultimately as a seasoned engineer who interviews new graduates and young engineers for his department.  While the your proverbial mileage may vary, I believe you’ll find the following flowchart to be an accurate overview.

gpa_flow_chart

There is also another very important factor to consider, and it’s a question only the individual can answer.  Is the extra time, pressure, and stress required to turn that B into an A worth it to you.  Is it worth the toll it takes on your mental and physical well-being? By no means am I saying settle for mediocrity.  You should always try to excel.  But life is about trade-offs, and as engineers, we’re well versed in tradestudies.  So please don’t give yourself an ulcer trying to raise your GPA by a couple of decimal points.

Now for a bit of disclosure: undergrad GPA did not matter for me. As a senior, the resume I floated to companies did not include it. I omitted it because it wasn’t the greatest, and I didn’t want it to overshadow my hands-on design experiences – again, it’s all about trade-offs.

I know many companies automatically threw my resume in the trash (though chances are I wouldn’t have been a good fit with them anyway), but those companies and managers that knew of my school’s reputation did not dismiss me. In fact the manager that ended up hiring me said during my interview, “I already know you’ll work out just because you’re graduating from [redacted], so what questions do you have for me?”  I very well may have gotten lucky, but in the end it worked out as I’ve been with that group for over a decade.

As a final note, during the recent interviews in which I’ve participated, no one looked at or even commented on the applicants’ GPAs.  Therefore I say treat is a selling point if it’s good one, but don’t sweat it if it isn’t.

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