If you’re a recent graduate entering the job market, you’re probably filled with questions about how to write an eye-catching resume.
How many sections should you include? What counts as relevant experience? And should you include your grade point average (GPA)?
Your education section could benefit from stating your overall GPA, especially if it’s an impressive number. A high GPA offers powerful insight into your work ethic and lets potential employers know that you were a high performer.
But including your GPA on a resume isn’t always necessary. And in some cases, it could even hurt your chances of getting a job. Let’s dive into when you should — or shouldn’t — include your GPA on a resume and how else to show off your skills.
When should you put your GPA on a resume?
If you’re a new grad from a competitive program, showing off your GPA could benefit your application, especially if you don’t have extensive work experience. But if you’re been working in the field for a few years, chances are that employers won’t look at your GPA. Concrete experience is more desirable.
A good rule of thumb is to adapt your resume to the skills, experiences, and know-how on individual job postings. Pay careful attention to the roles and responsibilities, and decide whether your GPA will make you stand out as a candidate.
Here are four factors to consider when you’re deciding whether to include your GPA:
College graduates likely don’t have much relevant work experience — yet — to show recruiters and hiring managers. Your education can replace professional experience and help your resume stand out, depending on your major and whether it’s relevant to the job posting.
If you studied economics and graduated with a high GPA, include that when applying for entry-level positions, like public policy or financial analysis. It shows that you did well in your program and have the potential to succeed at work in the same field.
But your GPA won’t be as relevant if you studied economics and are applying to an entry-level communications position. In this case, you’ll want to pay more attention to the transferable skills you can apply to the job.
2. Time from graduation
In 2021, education non-profit America Succeeds analyzed over 82 million job postings and found an overwhelming preference for job seekers with strong durable skills, also known as soft skills. Hiring managers want candidates with time-tested capabilities that help them excel in professional settings and fit in with company culture.
As you advance along your career path, your college experience is going to take a backseat to professional experience, even if your major included relevant coursework.
Eliminate the emphasis on your GPA after a few years of work experience, and focus more on the soft skills you’ve polished since you were a college student. Your resume has limited space, so use it wisely for more relevant information.
3. GPA score
Imagine your resume like a story. Does your GPA advance the plot, or can another achievement or detail paint a clearer picture?
Making the dean’s list, graduating magna cum laude, or having a 4.0 cumulative GPA are all accomplishments that will capture positive attention. If your GPA is on the lower side, instead include examples that express your value, like job-relevant certifications, industry-relevant test scores, or intern or apprentice experiences.
4. Cumulative GPA versus major GPA
You can calculate two different types of GPAs:
A cumulative GPA: The average from all of your coursework, including both degree-specific courses and general education requirements
A major GPA: The average from only the courses you needed to graduate with your degree major
The cumulative GPA is likely the one employers will want to see because it paints a more holistic picture of your academic achievements. If you include only your major GPA, they might think you’re trying to hide low elective grades.
What can I include in place of a GPA?
Your GPA can only tell a hiring manager so much about your value as a job candidate. While high grades show that you have the drive and resilience to provide strong results on the job, more specific college achievements can show off a more well-rounded character.
Here are other college highlights you may consider emphasizing instead:
Graduating with honors — cum laude, magna cum laude, and summa cum laude — can say more about your college performance than a decimal point. While every college has different standards, graduating with honors means that not only did you graduate with high marks, but you performed in the top percentiles of your class.
If you’ve graduated magna cum laude or summa cum laude, include the honor rather than the GPA to show how you stand out among your peers.
Here’s an example of how to format honors on your resume for a marketing degree job:
Don’t write: Bachelor of Arts in Marketing, 2018–2022. Graduated with a 3.9 GPA
Do write: Bachelor of Arts in Marketing, 2018–2022. Graduated summa cum laude
2. Certifications and professional licenses
Professional certifications tell a hiring manager a clearer story about your commitment and skills. Rather than including a GPA that represents a wide variety of coursework, emphasize certifications and their accompanying test scores to highlight an industry-specific skill set.
You can list your certifications in their own section, or as part of your education section. Here are some examples of different formatting:
Certification of Professional Achievement in Data Sciences (2022)
Online course, New York University
Google Career Certifications, Coursera
User Experience Design, 2021
Child Development Associate Certification, 2020
Rasmussen University, Bloomington, MN
3. Internships, externships, and apprenticeships
On-the-job training reflects curiosity, dedication, and proactivity toward your professional growth, which gives a hiring manager a clearer understanding of your passion and value. It can also help fill out your work experience section if there isn’t much there yet.
Where should I include my GPA?
Include your GPA in the education section of your resume, and attribute it to the program. There are several resume types and templates, but education sections are typically the shortest because you’ll only list your degree(s) and relevant certifications.
You may consider placing your education section at the bottom of your resume or in a side column so it doesn’t take away from your experience and skills sections.
Here are four examples of formatting your education:
Bachelor of Arts: Major in Political Science with a Minor in Spanish
University of California: Santa Barbara, 2018–2022
Boston College, 2019–2023
Bachelor of Science: Chemistry
Magna Cum Laude
University of Ohio
M.A. Information Systems, 2020–2022
University of Montana, Missoula, Montana
Graduated Summa Cum Laude
Deciding on the correct formatting will depend on the resume template and the type of resume you use. Regardless, it should follow a few basic rules. Keep it clean and concise with a visual design that directs the hiring manager’s eye to the most valuable information.
3 more tips for the job hunt
Navigating the job market and interview process is daunting no matter where you are in your career. If you’ve just graduated with a bachelor’s degree or are re-entering the market with new education under your belt, here are some tips and resources for landing a job:
Consult with a career coach: A career coach can ground you as you start applying for jobs. Together, you can analyze your college experience and personal values to find the right path and ensure your resume brings the opportunities you’re looking for.
Hire a professional resume writer: If you’re having trouble sorting through all the samples, a professional writer or online resume builder can help you find the right option.
Based on your skills and the jobs you’re applying for, a professional can show you different examples that attract the right attention to your education section.
Remember that you’re more than a resume: Your resume is only one piece of the job search. You might also craft a cover letter or letter of intent when initially contacting hiring managers and mention your GPA as part of your selling point. For example:
“Last spring, I graduated from the University of Iowa in the top 5% of my graduating class summa cum laude with a 3.9 GPA. I believe my work ethic, drive, and excitement to learn and grow will bring value to your team.”
To GPA or not to GPA
Now that you have the tools to decide whether to include your GPA on a resume or not, it’s time to get started. Carefully analyze each job posting and decide whether sharing your GPA will attract a hiring manager’s attention or take away from more relevant details. If it turns out to be the right choice, display it with pride. You worked hard for that number.
Craft your resume with intention to help a potential employer connect the right dots and get you one step closer to an interview.