Major GPA vs. Overall GPA: Differences and Which Matters More

Paper background with words Major GPA on it
Note: This post may contain affiliate links. Purchases made through my affiliate links provide a small commission for me at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products that I know/use.

Major GPA is one of the simpler GPA terms to understand since the meaning is in the name. However, there is still some variance in what colleges include in major GPA.

Learn what a major GPA is and how to calculate it. Plus, learn the difference between major GPA and overall (cumulative) GPA, which matters more, and which you should list on your resume.

Click hereOpens in a new tab. to check out the most popular products for college students. 

What is a major GPA?

A major GPA is the average of a student’s final grades from the courses related to their major. It is a singular number that represents how students perform in their degree program since only the courses needed for their major are included in a student’s major GPA.

Major GPA can sometimes be referred to as department GPA, program GPA, or degree GPA.

Check out all the benefits of Prime StudentOpens in a new tab.. Click hereOpens in a new tab. to sign up for Prime Student.

Do general education requirements count towards major GPA?

Colleges can vary with their policies on whether to include general education requirements in the calculation of major GPA. Most colleges only count the courses in your major, but some colleges include all courses that meet a degree requirement (such as the math and physical science requirements).

How to calculate major GPA

To calculate major GPA:

  1. Understand your school’s policy regarding electives.
  2. List all classes included in your major GPA.
  3. Convert grade to grade point value using your school’s GPA scale (a common scale is below).
  4. Multiply the grade point value by how many credits the class is worth to find your grade point.
  5. Add the grade points for each class.
  6. Add up all the credit hours for each class.
  7. Divide the total grade points by the total number of credit hours.

Common GPA scale:

Letter GradePercentage GradeGPA
A+98.00 – 100.004.00
A92.00 – 97.994.00
A-90.00 – 91.993.67
B+88.00 – 89.993.33
B82.00 – 87.993.00
B-80.00 – 81.992.67
C+78.00 – 79.992.33
C72.00 – 77.992.00
C-70.00 – 71.991.67
D+68.00 – 69.991.33
D62.00 – 67.991.00
D-60.00 – 61.990.67
Fbelow 600.00
Sources: University of Illinois GPAOpens in a new tab. and Numerical GradesOpens in a new tab.

Example of major GPA for a Communication major:

Class Letter GradeGrade Point ValueCredit HoursGrade Point x Credit Hours
Com 100C2.032 x 3= 6
Com 316A4.034 x 3= 12
Com 207A4.034 x 3= 12
Com 319B3.043 x 4= 12
Com 400B3.033 x 3= 9
Total grade points for classes in major/ total credit hours for classes in major= major GPA
51/ 16 = 3.19

What is the difference between cumulative GPA and major GPA?

Cumulative GPA is the average of the student’s final grades from all the college courses they have taken. Major GPA is the average of the student’s final grades from only the college courses they have taken related to their major.

For example, if the student is an engineering major, then a major GPA only includes engineering courses.

Another big difference is that major GPA often only includes the most recent attempt for a course that a student retakes, while cumulative GPA often includes the grades from each attempt in the GPA calculation.

Learn more about retaking college courses and how they are included in GPA and transcriptsOpens in a new tab..

Is cumulative or major GPA more important?

Both cumulative GPA and major GPA are important. Colleges have both major GPA and cumulative GPA minimum requirements and graduation requirements.

Cumulative GPA is often considered more important since it is listed on transcripts and is the student’s “graduating” GPA. However, some employers and grad schools are more concerned with major GPAs since they show how the student did in their field.

Cumulative GPA gives a more comprehensive look at academic performance, and major GPA is more specific to the student’s field of study.

Reasons cumulative GPA is important:

  • More frequently talked about and listed on things, such as transcripts, scholarship applications, and graduate school applications.
  • Shows the ability to succeed in a variety of subjects, which is important for a well-rounded education

Reasons major GPA is important:

  • Used to be eligible for honors thesis work
  • While the general minimum GPA requirement is 2.0, some majors have higher GPA requirements—in that case, the major GPA would matter more.
  • Show how you did in your field, which is important to employers or graduate schools

Cumulative GPA vs. major GPA for grad school

Different grad schools may care more about cumulative or major GPA or care about both.

Cumulative GPA is important for grad school because many grad schools only ask for a student’s cumulative GPA during admissions. However, some ask for their major GPA and may have specific major GPA requirements (typically higher than minimum GPA requirements).

Major GPA may be a better indicator for grad school since, in grad school, students only take courses related to their major.

Should you put your major GPA or cumulative GPA on your resume?

It is customary for people to put their cumulative GPA (the GPA they graduated with) on their resume. However, if their major GPA is significantly higher or closely related to the position, they can list their major GPA as long as they specify that it is their major GPA.

It is fine to list their major GPA since that shows their performance in their field of study.

Now that you know about major GPA, learn more about the other types of GPAsOpens in a new tab..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Posts