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I'm half way through a bachelor of software engineering, and my GPA is currently quite high. However, I also work as a full-time software developer, and have had one previous job as a network engineer. By the time I graduate I will likely have over 5 years experience in the IT industry.

The issue is, maintaining high grades whilst working full time is a challenge. So my question is, are there any advantages of me maintaining my high GPA when I already have significant industry experience? Or is it a waste of effort?

My main consideration is improving my recruitability, but the general consensus seems to be that after your first job, GPA becomes irrelevant. Is this true? And if it is, are there other advantages outside of recruitability and "bragging-rights?"

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    One thing to consider, is there a chance you may want to continue in further education, now or in the future? If so, you should also ask how much GPA matters to universities in Australia? – user86764 May 21 '18 at 3:21
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    Thoughts for you to consider: Why do you want to drop your effort on your studies? Are you planning to pursue further education after graduating? – DarkCygnus May 21 '18 at 4:33
  • @DarkCygnus I haven't weighed up the value of post-grad study, but at this point I probably wouldn't pursue it since I'm still quite early in my career. As I mentioned in my post, working and studying full time is hard! And I'd like to maintain a high standard at my job too - as my degree gets harder keeping both at a high standard is becoming unsustainable. – protango May 21 '18 at 4:57
  • How many courses are you taking each semester, concurrently with your full-time job? – Ben Voigt May 21 '18 at 5:55
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    Even though you have work experience they will likely look at it as your first job out of college and will look at your grades. Grades the last two years more important to them. Grades do not become irrelevant after the first job but less important. – paparazzo May 21 '18 at 13:14
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What are the advantages of a high GPA after a few years of experience?

I'm half way through a bachelor of software engineering, and my GPA is currently quite high.

The issue is, maintaining high grades whilst working full time is a challenge. So my question is, are there any advantages of me maintaining my high GPA when I already have significant industry experience? Or is it a waste of effort?

My main consideration is improving my recruitability, but the general consensus seems to be that after your first job, GPA becomes irrelevant. Is this true? And if it is, are there other advantages outside of recruitability and "bragging-rights?"

  • The question "Is the B.S. and M.S. in computer science useless for getting a programmer job?" was asked at Quora, here are two answers:

    "In the tech industry, unless you went to one of the top C.S. schools, such as Carnegie Mellon, M.I.T., Stanford, or Berkeley... it doesn't really matter if you have a degree or not. What really matters is your ability to code, and your ability to work on a team.".

    Another opinion is:

    "Not at all. Do a query for computer programmers and see how many positions require degrees.".

  • Wikipedia's take on B.SE is:

    Employers generally seek applicants with strong programming, systems analysis and business skills.

    Then the webpage goes on to quote from: "Teaching Software Engineering through Simulation" by Emily Oh and André van der Hoek, at the Institute for Software Research University of California, Irvine which says:

    "A large difference exists between the software engineering skills taught at a typical university or college and the skills that are desired of a software engineer by a typical software development organization. At the heart of this difference seems to be the way software engineering is typically introduced to students: general theory is presented in a series of lectures and put into (limited) practice in an associated class project. While at first this seems to be a reasonable approach, practical, didactic, and timing reasons necessarily lead to the fact that such lectures and class projects often lack an in-depth treatment of the following five issues critical to any real-world software engineering project:

    • Software engineering is non-linear.

    • Software engineering often has multiple, conflicting goals.

    • Software engineering continuously involves choosing among multiple viable alternatives.

    • Software engineering involves multiple stakeholders.

    • Software engineering may exhibit dramatic consequences.

    In essence, all of these issues relate to the overall process of software engineering. In lectures, this process is difficult to teach because the ideas presented remain abstract and students participate only passively (simply sitting and listening to the instructor). Although class projects involve active participation by the students, time and scope constraints and the dominating focus on deliverables prevent the above issues from being highlighted and communicated to the students. Nonetheless, educating students in these process issues is essential to creating a full understanding of the depth and complicated nature of software engineering—preparing them for the future that lies ahead in industry.".

A high GPA will get you:

  • Into better schools or back into your own school ahead of others.

  • Into interviews ahead of others, unless the company has sticker shock from prior candidates.

  • Labeled as "Educated" (would you prefer the alternative?).

A high GPA will not get you:

  • Work experience (unless there's a Co-op / Internship).

  • Into interviews where minimum abilities (and pay) is favored.

  • Recent education, 10 years from now (unless you get a Doctorate and are hired by the school).

School will follow you throughout your life, and get you in the door both at school and employers whom have requirements and many applicants to whittle down.

The job you have now won't matter 10 years from now IF you get a couple of better jobs in the next ten years, each lasting a few years - of course getting higher and higher pay also becomes a challenge.

School is a recognized foundation, even by the naysayers (do they claim to have no education at all?). School is not everything, not the other skills you need nor the ever preached real life experience (touted most loudly by those with the least education, but important nonetheless).

Thus my answer is:

Q: School or Work ?

A: School or both.

If you didn't need school you wouldn't have had to have gone to school and wouldn't be able to use a computer or ask your question.

There can almost be such a thing as "too much school", there can be such a thing as "too much work" - school is not "too much work", work is (obviously) not "too much school".

See also:

Delay Graduation For Work Experience

How can I determine a reasonable salary to ask for?

Is dropping out advantageous, because job experience has more market value than education? (closed, but: 5 answers, high Rep)

How will having multiple undergraduate degree majors affect job prospects?

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    Gotta love your description of the 5 points of what software engineering really is. And no, GPA won't give any clue about any of those 5. GPA will just give a clue about the willingness to do hard, boring things instead of partying, which is still nice to have. But not as important as those 5 points. Brilliant answer. – gazzz0x2z May 21 '18 at 13:54
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    This is perhaps one of the best, most thoroughly written, documented, and reasoned answers I have seen in some time. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica May 21 '18 at 16:31
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The strongest and most capable professionals are the ones who can blend mastery of theory with practical experience. The problem with not putting in the hard work in class is not so much the drop in GPA, it is that you aren't mastering the material.

Why are you pursuing this degree in the first place? Spending the time in class and money on tuition, and ending up with nothing but your work experience, is just a big waste.

Perhaps you should be speaking to the professor and seeing if you could be allowed to focus your effort on the theory and not get mired in spending hours on practice, which may be a great thing for the other students but you already have in spades.

  • It's usually the inverse that's the issue. Students work on material that has a definitive answer based on the class work material. In the real world, the answer has to be gathered and applied based on knowledge and experience. That's something that is hard to find, even with a high gpa person. – Dan May 21 '18 at 14:06
  • @Dan: Did you even read my first sentence? I'm not saying the practical approach is less important -- it's just not the reason for the academic investment. – Ben Voigt May 21 '18 at 14:20
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My main consideration is improving my recruitability, but the general consensus seems to be that after your first job, GPA becomes irrelevant. Is this true?

I think your right in that the GPA becomes a whole lot less relevant once you get some practical real world experience under your belt. (Note: An exception does come to mind in that this may not be true in the Academic or Medical professions.)

I do think it could have an impact if two closely matched candidates are vying for the same opportunity an no other differentiators can be established by the hiring manager.

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the general consensus seems to be that after your first job, GPA becomes irrelevant. Is this true?

I wouldn't use the term "irrelevant". And I'm not sure that's actually the consensus opinion.

Once you have an established professional track record, whatever you did prior to working isn't as significant. That includes your GPA.

That said, a high GPA is always better than a low GPA, even if it only matters a little.

And there is always going to be the occasional interviewer who likes to see a high GPA for whatever their personal reasons might be.

are there any advantages of me maintaining my high GPA when I already have significant industry experience? Or is it a waste of effort?

In my opinion, knowledge and achievement are never a bad thing. Only you can decide how much you value your efforts versus your achievement. I suspect "well, I let my grades slide because I concluded that my significant industry experience made it a waste of my time" isn't exactly a wonderful story to tell.

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On your CV, you don't write "I received XYZ degree with ABC marks", where ABC is not particularly outstanding. You write "I received XYZ degree with ABC marks, while working full time at XXX company doing YYY job". Getting a mediocre degree while working full time is impressive.

In your CV, you don't just state the facts. You state the true facts in a way that puts you in the best possible light.

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As others note, a high GPA is essential for further education (you would want to get into the best school you could) and for your first job.

On School

Saying now that you don't want further education because you're fed up of school is like saying "I will never eat again" after a really large meal. If all you have gained from school is "i don't like learning" then I'm afraid you're going to have some rough years ahead - life is a learning exercise. Granted, some of it won't come from schooling - but schooling makes learning easier, so you typically want to learn that way (as opposed to from life, which fails you very hard).

On That First Job

Your first job post school can really accelerate (or stymie) your career - this isn't to say a bad first job ruins you, or a good first job makes you. But, generally speaking, a good first job will help you, and a good GPA helps you get a good first job.

Wait, What?

I'm confused why you would say that working full time makes it hard for you to achieve high grades. Surely you can respect the usefulness of what you learn, and if you are doing good work, you'll swiftly find the uni coursework quite simple. I don't understand how doing more programming makes it harder to maintain your grades?

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