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In my unofficial transcript, all that's listed is my cumulative GPA, semester GPA, transfer GPA, etc. I often see the recommendation that your resume should contain your in-major or technical GPA, especially if it's better than your cumulative GPA. I know that my in-major GPA is quite a bit better than my overall GPA, but I'm not entirely sure what classes I should include to calculate it.

I'm a Computer Science major. Every class in the major is a CS class aside from Calc I, Calc II, and a Logic class. Should I include these three non-CS (but required) classes when calculating my in-major GPA? I would like to only include CS classes, but I obviously do not want my calculations to be unethical.

Is there a standard way of calculating this? Also, what should it be called on my resume? Should I just label it as my GPA, or should I call it my "technical GPA" or "in-major GPA"?

As always, I greatly appreciate your insight.

closed as off topic by IDrinkandIKnowThings, jcmeloni, CincinnatiProgrammer, gnat, Kate Gregory Jun 4 '13 at 16:36

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    If you are asking whether something is unethical, it probably is and you should not do it. – Deer Hunter May 28 '13 at 12:14
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The Purpose of the "In-Major GPA"

If you are a CS major applying for a programming job, chances are the employer wants to use your GPA within CS as an indicator of whether or not you'll be able to do the job. If you nailed the pure CS portions, but failed at statistics, that is probably important information to the employer (since a lot of programming requires math). If I'm applying for a job as an economist, and leave off the fact that I can't do simple arithmetic, it has a large impact on my ability to be an effective economist.

So the employer is (probably) expecting that while you'll try to make yourself look good, you will be giving them a good representation of your ability to do that type of work.

Think About the Consequences

So let's say I have the following grades:

  • CS 101: 3.5
  • CS 201: 3.5
  • CS 301: 3.5
  • CS 401: 3.5
  • Math 101: 2.0
  • Math 201: 2.0

They are all requirements for my major (they are assumed by the school to be important in having a well-rounded CS education). I have two choices:

  • List my in-major GPA as 3.5 (leaving out the math)
  • List my in-major GPA as 3.0 (including the math)

Obviously listing the 3.5 will make me look better, but is it worth the risk?

Let's say my overall GPA is even worse (2.7, let's say) on my transcript. Any employer is going to notice there's probably something fishy going on. How did I get a 3.5 in my major (which is the bulk of my classes) while only managing a 2.7 overall?

If you'd be embarrassed to answer a reasonable question about the disparity, then you're better off not listing it in a 'creatively positive' manner.

Your Resume Shouldn't Focus on Your GPA

Your resume is supposed to sell you as an individual. If the difference between success and failure is a few tenths of a point in GPA within your major, then your chances are likely bleak. List your GPA in a way that makes you comfortable (that you can explain when asked by someone with access to your full transcript), and then focus on making the resume and cover letter bang-on for the job you're applying to.

  • How many courses in major you take depends on your school. My undergraduate school limited students to roughly 1/3 of their classes from any one department, even their majors. Other schools allow - or even require a lot more for majors. Also, it's not that hard to imagine getting a 3.5 in major and a 2.7 overall; if classes are roughly split evenly, a 3.5 in major and a 2.0 out would be around 2.7. I knew people in college whose performance was about this. Mostly agree on the last part, but for some recent grads it is about all they have. – GreenMatt May 28 '13 at 10:33
  • Thanks for such a thorough and in-depth response. I don't have an egregiously large or embarrassing gap between GPAs, but I'll take any advantage I can get if I can remain honest while doing it. I'm not done with school yet, but my cumulative GPA it a hair under 3.1, my CS-only GPA is 3.5, and I'm guessing my math+CS GPA is somewhere in between. I definitely agree that a resume shouldn't focus on the GPA (and I don't want it to--I think it's a poor reflection of my ability), but the consensus seems to be that leaving it off is bad. I'd rather focus on internships, projects, etc. Thanks! – Billy Pilgrim May 28 '13 at 14:10
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Is there a standard way of calculating this? Also, what should it be called on my resume? Should I just label it as my GPA, or should I call it my "technical GPA" or "in-major GPA"?

This is simple. Is it a required class for your major? Yes? Then it's part of your major. Your degree program requires you to take those specific classes. How are they not part of your major?

If you have something different you could use, such as a "CS Core" or something like this (my degree had a "core" which included mostly just classes directly related to my major, electives were outside this core), that might be different.

You are asking for problems if you say your overall GPA is 3.5 when anyone looking at a transcript is going to see 3.3 or 3.2 or whatever it is.

Now, if you had taken classes outside your actual degree program, then you might put something like

Major GPA: 3.5

Cumulative GPA: 3.2

You could probably put something similar in your case and do

ComSci GPA: 3.5

Cumulative GPA: 3.2

but I would definitely not use "in-major GPA" to exclude classes which are part of your major.

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If your school has a placement office for helping soon-to-be graduates and recent alumni find work, they may have more insight into this than people on a Q&A site such as this. OTOH, they may just tell you to do it in the manner which makes you look best. That latter comment is probably the real answer, since resumes are supposed to make you look the best. It seems to me that for something like this as long as whatever method you use can be reasonably justified, is acceptable.

That said, to my knowledge, your "in major" GPA applies to those classes in the department of your major field of study. So, if Mathematics and Computer Science are different departments, you would only use your computer science courses when calculating your in major GPA.

In fact, this may depend on your college/university. My Bachelor's is also in CS. My undergraduate school had a department of Mathematics and Computer Science. There were several math courses required to get a CS degree. However, these math courses did not count as C.S. classes when you calculated how many CS credits you had toward your degree in CS As such, whenever I computed my CS GPA, I only counted the CS classes. However, if your math credits are rolled into your CS credits, you may need to include them.

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Unless your GPA is stellar, it is better to leave it off your resume altogether.

If it is great or you don't have a lot of experience, then any classes that were specifically required for your degree should be part of the degree GPA. 4 credits of humanities may be required but are not specific, but the required Statistics 205 class (for instance) is specific and is part of the core GPA.

Better is just to include the cumlulative GPA: the writing classes were also important, and you'll use the education you got in non-core classes too. If you can code but you can't write or communicate, you're not as good of a choice as the person who can. Plus, if the potential employer requests transcripts, that is what they'll see, so there will be less confusion.

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