Employers, engineers. GPA - how much does it matter?

Discussion in 'Career Advising' started by bumclouds, Jun 16, 2009.

  1. bumclouds

    Thread Starter Active Member

    May 18, 2008
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    Hey guys,

    I'm nearing the end of my bachelor of electronics engineering and I graduate midway through next year.

    I'm a little worried though, because my academic performance hasn't been very good. During my first and second years I didn't study very hard and failed a lot of subjects or just passed them marginally. It was mainly because I was really depressed and had little self-faith I could do anything.

    During my third year, and throughout this year so far, I have tried really hard and achieved quite a few Distinctions and a couple of High Distinctions. However I think it may be too little too late, my grade point average (GPA) is still low. My last ditch effort wasn't good enough to make up for all the fail marks.

    How much to employers value the GPA score and how much will it impinge on my efforts to seek a graduate role?

    I have done quite a lot of part-time work while I have been at university (probably part of the problem). Some of that has been electronics related (nightclub lighting, stage lighting, web dev), and recently I have doing some volunteer work at uni to try and give myself a bit more credibility..

    But I'm still so worried about that low GPA. Could some experienced electronics/electrical engineers or anyone involved in any level in HR or Recruitment shed some light on what my position is like at the moment?

    Kind regards,
    Andrew
     
  2. Wendy

    Moderator

    Mar 24, 2008
    20,765
    2,536
    It will affect your career, but having that piece of paper will still improve your chances of employment dramatically. Check out the online job sites, engineers never lack for opertunities, unlike lesser degrees. So the big message is, geter done.
     
  3. bumclouds

    Thread Starter Active Member

    May 18, 2008
    82
    0
    I've worked (part-time) long hours the whole time I've been at uni. This has affected my grades quite a lot. I wish I could go back and get rid of all those extra hours.

    If any first or second year undergrads are reading this, please, I implore you -don't do it.

    Now I'm starting to look into ways I can help to alleviate this bad GPA. Trying super hard for the subjects that are left, doing volunteer work.. I've been networking a lot to see if I can get my foot in the door with someone for perhaps some vacation work or an internship..

    I don't know what to do.. I don't feel all that great..!! But I will try my best with the time I've got left.

    [/disaster music]
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2009
  4. Nanophotonics

    Active Member

    Apr 2, 2009
    365
    3
    Yes, doing engineering and engaging in part-time work can be detrimental to your studies - Something I avoided in my uni time.

    If you have enough fund for further studies and your GPA is fair (around 60-50% or possibly as low as 45% for some universities in some special circumstances), a master's degree could help you. It has also become a mandatory academic requirement for some accreditation bodies towards achieving chartered status. Also, an MEng degree might very well become a typical requirement in the near future in the employment sector.
     
  5. Papabravo

    Expert

    Feb 24, 2006
    10,138
    1,786
    Those of us who worked hard with predictable results have an easier time selling the results to prospective employers. You on the other hand will have to fall back on your people skills and salesmanship to make your case.

    Trouble is, most of the competant engineers I've ever known were lousy salesmen and worse corporate politicians. In the absence of additional information I'd need long odds to bet on your chances of success.
     
  6. bumclouds

    Thread Starter Active Member

    May 18, 2008
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    0
    ^ by 'chances of success' you mean finding a good first job, or my entire engineering career?

    by the way, I just thought i'd throw this in: Is there a possibility I could write my GPA overall, and then after that, write my GPA for my final two years? Because there's a big discrepancy between the two.

    Or is that idea just not on the cards..
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2009
  7. Nanophotonics

    Active Member

    Apr 2, 2009
    365
    3
    I'm not sure, but the way I do it is to simply write the class I obtained on my CV, e.g., 2:1 - Upper Second-Class honours (i.e. - Overall) - I do not write my GPA.

    I think employers would also want to know your achievements in terms of work experience, to what extent you have benefited and contributed to the companies you've worked for in the past. It's not entirely an academic matter but having a good academic result surely increases your chances of getting a job quicker. Communication skills are also very important.
     
  8. Papabravo

    Expert

    Feb 24, 2006
    10,138
    1,786
    I apologize for the ambiguity. I meant that first job. After that experience and recommendations will count for more than your GPA. Use any technique that will give you an edge.
     
  9. b.shahvir

    Active Member

    Jan 6, 2009
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    0
    Make an attractive Resume, once you are called for an interview explain the concerned person in an impressive way the reason for your grade slip was part-time work and way in which you contributed to society by doing it.

    Never disclose your acadamic performance in detail especially if it's not impressive untill forced to do so. Always highlight any kind of achievements or certifications..... it will give you that extra edge. Initially job is tough for the poor scorer as reputed companies refrain from recruiting them, but as soon as you gain a few years experience, you come in par with the good scorers and make up for the loss. Better late than never!

    At the outset, I would say do not worry, low scores are temporary impediments. Once the company realizes your talent and efficiency, it will and has to provide you benefits on par with the good scorers. Patience is a virtue! Good luck! :)

    Best regards,
    Shahvir
     
  10. Evil Rob

    New Member

    Jun 25, 2009
    2
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    I graduated just over a year ago from electronics engineering and I certainly understand the situation you're in. I put myself through college working for a security company doing two 12 hour long midnight shifts every weekend, and I was pretty depressed at times because of family politics and the financial difficulties/worries involved with going back to school.

    I suspect you might be worrying about your GPA more than you need to since you've clearly put a lot of effort in to raise your grades over the last two years of your degree and earned the Distinctions and High Distinctions you were awarded.

    If I was in your shoes right now writing that resume, what I would do is prominently mention those distinctions and the courses you earned them in as well as the electronics experience you've acquired through those part time jobs. I wouldn't put your overall GPA on your resume but if you have any semesters with particularly high GPAs, I'd mention something like, "attained a GPA of ___ in semester x" on your resume instead. Let the prospective employers ask about your overall GPA during the interviews. If they do ask about it, it'll be a perfect opportunity for you to explain why your GPA is on average low due to your early work in the program, that you had to work part time to put yourself through school, that you identified it as a problem and attempted to correct it by improving your grades and earning those distinctions, but that your overall average is still being weighed down by those earlier courses.

    Most employers will respect the fact that working part time is necessary for many students to be able to afford college and won't hold lower grades in early semesters against candidates when they've shown that their grades have gone up over time. I think if you tactically omit your GPA from your resume, highlight the strong points, and deal with the GPA question should it come up in interviews with a well thought out, reasonable response, you'll do fine.

    The only situation that I can think of where your GPA might be a problem is if an employer interested in you asks for a copy of your transcript. The company that hired me for a co-op work term during the summer between second and third year asked the college for a copy of my transcript but from what I heard, it was the only employer to do so and when I graduated, I didn't hear about anybody's employer asking for transcripts so that seems pretty rare. Again, I think you'll be fine if you quietly omit your GPA from your resume but highlight your experience and academic accomplishments and have a solid explanation for your GPA ready if it comes up during interviews.

    Hope this helps,
    Rob
     
  11. steveb

    Senior Member

    Jul 3, 2008
    2,433
    469
    The low GPA can hurt you in applying to grad school, but you should still be able to get into a masters program if you want to. The low GPA will also hurt a little at first in the job market. Really, an employer cares more about what you can do in practice, but when you first start out, a GPA is one of the few things to judge you on. Later, GPA will not matter at all if you excel in the work environment.

    A relevant question is; "How are you in the interview process?". If you are good at explaining yourself, you can overcome the low GPA in the interview. Try to convey the message that you have learned more than is reflected in your GPA, and point out that your poor grades were earlier and you have done well recently. Don't mention that you were depressed and had low confidence. You want to give all positive indications. Don't dwell on the low grades. Just say, you were working hard to pay for college and had many things to balance.
     
  12. count_volta

    Active Member

    Feb 4, 2009
    435
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    Hey man, I'm about to become a junior so I don't have as much experience as some of the people who have posted in this thread.

    All I know is that they keep telling us in seminars how important internships are. They stress that point so much its almost funny. "what do I do next in my career? Have you tried an intenship yet?" That is ALWAYS their reply. They say employers look at experience first and grades second.

    What you need to do is get an internship while in school, and then maybe you can even stay with the company after you graduate. If you have a lot of experience working in an electrical engineering related job they will value that higher than your grades.

    I remember the head of the EE department in my college said last semester,

    "I had a student who barely graduated, his grades sucked, he just sucked at tests, but now I read in an electronics magazine that he had great success and actually invented something and is now rich. So don't give up, grades arn't everything" he said this and it gave me encouragement that I badly needed. I hope it will for you as well.

    I also work part time. I rely mostly on loans. I only work 3 days a week and sometimes it affects my school. I hate it. I wish I could just dissappear somewhere for 4 years and have nobody bother me. ;)
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2009
  13. someonesdad

    Senior Member

    Jul 7, 2009
    1,585
    141
    In the 80's I was a manager at HP and had to do some hiring. I was inundated with resumes from personnel (hundreds of them) and the only way to sort through them was to cherry pick those with the higher GPAs. I hated to do this, though, because in my own case I screwed off in college for the first two or three years and got some crummy grades. As I felt I wasn't a total loss :), I knew that I might be weeding out some good candidates -- but I had no choice, as I didn't have the time to phone screen all those people. At that time, HP was a very desirable place to work (it no longer is IMO) and everyone wanted to work there -- hence the plethora of applications.

    The takeaway from that is that in a buyer's market (i.e., when competing for a job is tough), that low GPA may hurt you in your search for that first job -- you might not even make it to the starting gate. You'll need to do your homework on ways to market yourself to make you stand out from the crowd.

    Once you've been employed, that GPA becomes a fly speck on the wall -- only ignorant boobs will want to know it because it doesn't tell you what you want to know. For technical jobs, the good places will put you through some tough interviews and you simply can't hide in those interviews (and nobody will even ask you about your GPA except as small talk, as they are interested in what you know and what you can do). I found out later from some of the engineers and techs who had interviewed in our department that our interviews were somewhat notorious for being technically a bit tough. But I never looked at them that way -- they were always done by experienced engineers who had wide backgrounds and lots of creativity. They had good people skills and could talk to you about almost anything -- and, most importantly, get you to disclose the things you felt most comfortable about technically, then grill you well about those topics to understand your depth of knowledge, ability to apply your knowledge, think on your feet, use common sense, and then explain yourself clearly. When I did technical interviews, my most important questions were about a hypothetical engineering project or problem and how the person would indicate they would solve it -- and the questions they would ask would be most illuminating. After you've been through one of these, you'll understand why virtually no one except a bureaucrat cares about your GPA in the real world.

    A few hours after the interviews were finished (the norm was four technical interviews, and a more informal lunch talk with either a technical person or a personnel person), the people involved got together and each person gave a precis of his/her talk with the candidate and voted yes or no on the candidate and why. Probably the most important question asked by the manager leading the interview team was "Will this person make a good employee 10 years from now", which captured both the nature of the candidate's people skills and his/her ability to adapt to a variety of job assignments, which of course will change frequently during a career.
     
  14. b.shahvir

    Active Member

    Jan 6, 2009
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    Dear Count-volta,

    I really appreciate your signature quotes, especially the one by the great Nikola Tesla! I've very high regards for this guy and so also for the others you have quoted. Do keep up the good work and try to add more of such intelligent signature quotes in your posts in the future. :)

    Best regards,
    Shahvir
     
  15. ELECTRONERD

    Senior Member

    May 26, 2009
    1,146
    16
  16. count_volta

    Active Member

    Feb 4, 2009
    435
    24
    I am glad you like them. Both Tesla and Einstein are my heroes. Read the biography of Einstein, he was a fascinating individual. ;)
     
  17. b.shahvir

    Active Member

    Jan 6, 2009
    444
    0

    There seems to be some problem with the link, but I like your signature quotes too!! God bless all you good souls.

    Here is one signature quote which I relate to thru experience- " Never doubt the ingenuity of fools" Forgot name of guy who had quoted it, but is senior member on this forum.

    Best regards,
    Shahvir
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2009
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