I am doing an 5-year Integrated Master's degree (3-year Bachelor + 2-year Master) on Physics in Europe. Aiming for a thesis in Quantum Computation/Information. I am currently on the 4th year and have a "good" overall grade (84%).

However, due to health issues, I failed to perform well on my 6th semester (the last of the Bachelor), almost failing half of the courses. I got 50%-60% on 4 of them.

So I am faced with a dilemma:

  • Should I focus on finishing my degree on time, potentially having to either manage doing a thesis and improving some grades at the same time, or settle for those low grades and just move on?


  • Should I focus on improving my grades and achieving the ones I know I am capable of, potentially getting to ~88%, with the disadvantage of having to delay/prolong my thesis to a 11th semester?

This might be a very close call and depend on a lot of factors, but I am interested in knowing, in general, which option gives me the highest chance of success in going for a top-tier job in industry, either related or not to research (like IBM's or Google's Quantum Lab, or some other not focusing on research).

I am aware that usually these require a PhD, which I also intend on pursuing.

closed as off-topic by JazzmanJim, gnat, sf02, IDrinkandIKnowThings, Sandra K Jun 20 at 15:59

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "Questions asking for advice on a specific choice, such as what job to take or what skills to learn, are difficult to answer objectively and are rarely useful for anyone else. Instead of asking which decision to make, try asking how to make the decision, or for more specific details about one element of the decision. (More information)" – JazzmanJim, gnat, sf02, IDrinkandIKnowThings, Sandra K
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • I posted this here since I am particularly interested in hearing what this community has to say about the best option for an industry career. – João Bravo Jun 20 at 13:38
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    I would also appreciate constructive criticism, instead of plain downvotes. – João Bravo Jun 20 at 13:41
  • @JoeStrazzere That is very true. Thank you for the input. What if I decide on an industry career, in a specific area, but I am not really sure about which company to choose? There seem to be so many possibilities and different approaches to hiring – João Bravo Jun 20 at 13:50
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    In your field, here in the US at a least, your grade will matter. – Mister Positive Jun 20 at 13:56
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    On the academic side, the academia stack exchange can probably help you better. Might be better to change this question to be about the "high-end industry" side, and post the "getting a PhD" side of the question over there. Honestly, truly top-tier jobs in research (especially in a field like Physics, rather than one like Computing) are likely to require a PhD anyway. – Ben Barden Jun 20 at 14:07

When it comes to industry, I would be surprised if anyone would pay too much attention to your grades rather than your skills and maybe your degree. Much more so when your grades are considerably lower in a certain semester and you have a valid explanation. My experience was that my company only asked for my detailed documents for my university, containing grades and everything, more than two months after I was already hired. And even then, I am pretty sure it was just a formality, not because they mattered in any way. They were also not very good grades. I am a software engineer in Eastern Europe, for context. I can't advise on the academical side. Usually this stuff is more important there, but again, having a bad semester for objective reasons should not be seen as such a big problem.

  • I see what you mean. I would expect companies like the ones I mentioned to have to be quite selective due to the number of proposals they receive. Sometimes, they will only interview out-of-uni candidates above a certain grade. – João Bravo Jun 20 at 13:45
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    I edited my response a little. Having only one bad semester is also an important factor. Most reviewers will probably presume it was just an exception. That, if the recruiting process is not too automated. – Sarbus Jun 20 at 13:51
  • So, overall, you would be on the side of finishing the degree on time? – João Bravo Jun 20 at 13:54
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    Well that depends. I would advise you to pick the option that develops your skills the best. Would you benefit from an extra semester, or would you rather finish early and gain experience with an internship or some specialized courses? – Sarbus Jun 20 at 14:37
  • I think that there is a timing element to this, too. When looking at a fresh graduate I care moderately about their GPA, since that's the best metric I have for their capabilities and they are far less likely to have professional experience I can use to differentiate them from other candidates. For someone with years of professional experience their grades are an old and incomplete indicator. I don't care at all about degrees being finished on time. The university awarded the degree, so the candidate meets their standard for competence - that they took more calendar time isn't info I can use. – Upper_Case Jun 20 at 16:03

Grades - Matters to future employers. High grades mean higher job offers, low grades can prevent you from getting offers in the first place.

Finishing on time - Only matters as far as how much debt you'll walk out of college with. And as Sarbus states it may be a secondary concern to your graduating from college in the first place

Good luck.

  • Thank you for the input. In Portugal, the fees are quite "low", at least compared to America/Great Britain. So one semester, for me, would not be a big monetary problem. There seems to be a slight contradiction between you and @Sarbus but I understand both points. – João Bravo Jun 20 at 13:57
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    High grades mean higher job offers, low grades can prevent you from getting offers in the first place. backing up this statement with a reference would greatly improve this answer. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Jun 20 at 15:08
  • I disagree (but I won't downvote). Some companies may be interested in your GPA. I work at a very large technology as my first job out of college and my GPA was pretty bad, 2.7 out of 4.0. Before I had this job, I did have some interviews where they asked me about my GPA. I asked my boss why he never asked for my GPA and he said, "I was more worried about your passion for technology rather than your GPA. The fact that you have an engineering degree makes you qualified to be an engineer and I won't doubt your professors' decisions on letting you graduate." – KingDuken Jun 20 at 22:05

When I interview people, my focus is completely on their skillset, and time to graduation is largely irrelevant.

Being "on time" will not earn you any points, highlighting the fact will get you a negative score because it suggests that your priorities might be misplaced: university is the time to acquire and hone skills, not an obstacle to be passed quickly with the minimum effort required to get the piece of paper.

Taking longer for health reasons is a positive in my book, because awareness of personal limits is a very important soft skill. You will be able to identify warning signs earlier than "straight shooter" peers who lack this experience, which gives me a longer planning horizon because I don't have to deal with sudden crises.

  • Anyone that judges an applicant on the fact it took somebody 5 years instead of 4 years to get a degree, isn't a company I want to work for. At the end of my degree it took me 9 years to graduate. I took me 3 and half years at Junior College before I went to a University for another 4 years. I ended up with 2 Bleachers degrees (Computer Science and Computer Engineering) with 160+ credits. I focused on understanding the material then finishing "on time". I later went on to finish a MBA in 12 months with a 4.0 GPA from a private college. – Donald Jun 20 at 17:33

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