Does GPA and major matter?

The working industry (I speak of LA and NYC film and television where I've worked) really doesn't much care what people studied in college. What you majored in during college often becomes a joking conversation at Hollywood parties. The studies people have done vary tremendously. I was in the writer’s room for Castle, and no one there had studied film. One majored in French Literature. I have an MA in Shakespearean Studies, which becomes a novelty discussion point at parties. But if anyone is there who loves Shakespeare, I know we can bond.

There are certainly technical areas where specific knowledge is critical, such as editing and camera work, and certain majors and classes can certainly testify to that knowledge. But more and more people in those fields are self-taught.

Even with the astounding technical leaps happening, there is still a tremendous need for basic reading and writing skills — agency and management work, PR, marketing, casting, development, company office work etc. All majors may apply. These positions are often more stable than production jobs.

One thing that has changed since I started in the industry is the importance placed on prior work experience even for internships. Good internships often require previous internships. There is also a trend where large companies prize experience and accomplishments outside the media world in their interns. Savvy and determined students today build careers by doing multiple internships before and even after graduation.

So does school matter? It certainly can. Many large corporations have a cut off GPA number for applicants. One important media company requires a 3.0, but they told me that in practice it’s usually 3.5 or even higher. After that first job, will that matter? Likely not. But a high GPA can make you stand out when applying anywhere. It’s not so much a measure of intelligence as it is of effort. Employers often regard high GPA students as simply working harder and caring more. It does raise a legitimate question — If you didn't work for a teacher, would you for a boss?

Does a low GPA rule you out for a career? No, but a high one opens up more doors. And a low one never helped anyone. When you are starting off, there is very little to distinguish yourself from dozens to hundreds of other applicants. A strong GPA can. If you were faced with two identical applicants, would you choose the 2.5 or the 3.5?

How many doors will you need to start a career?