how bad is it to misrepresent your major and your GPA?

A reader writes:

I’m a long-time reader and have learned so much from your site! However, I am now dealing with a situation for which I’m not sure where the ethical lines lie.

I recently noticed that a friend of mine has been misrepresenting the major with which she graduated on her LinkedIn profile and on her company’s website. Her actual major, which I’ll call “A”, has many of the same requirements for her misrepresented major, which I’ll call “B”, but major B includes some additional requirements that are somewhat fundamental and definitely in demand for the industry to which she has pivoted. She is also reporting her major GPA as her overall GPA (by not including any indication that this is her major GPA), which is substantially higher than the latter.

I confronted her about this, but she blew me off, telling me that they are essentially the same and that it doesn’t matter.

Am I making too big of a deal about this? It does not seem right to me that she is claiming credit for classes that she has not taken and material she has not learned, but she has already been at this job (her first after graduation) for over a year, and it does not seem to have affected her performance significantly. It’s possible that I take academic credentials more seriously, as I am planning a career in academia myself, whereas she, on the other hand, will most likely remain in the private sector.

What are your thoughts on this? Should I push back, or should I let it be? Would you consider this a fireable offense if she had misrepresented her major in this manner at the time of application?

I think you are right in your stance, but also that you should probably back off with your friend.

Yes, you are definitely right that she shouldn’t be listing a major that’s different than the one she actually graduated with. There are some exceptions to this — for example, if your school calls your major something that no one else in the world calls it or will understand, it can make sense to use clearer wording. Although even then, you’d still generally want to include their wording too, and just put the clearer explanation in parentheses like this:
B.A., Media, Technology and Culture (Communications)

And what she’s doing with her GPA is pretty much just a lie. It’s also totally unnecessary, because she could just specify that it’s her major GPA rather than her overall GPA or — the better choice — she could just leave it off altogether. It’s generally pretty weird to list a GPA on LinkedIn or in a company bio.

That said, I’d leave it alone since you don’t work with her and it doesn’t impact you. I think you were right to bring it up initially, in a “hey, you might not realize that this could come back to bite you” kind of way. But now you’ve told her that and she apparently doesn’t care, so I think you’ve done all you should reasonably do here.

As for whether I’d consider it fireable … I wouldn’t fire someone over this (but I also don’t have GPA requirements to begin with). But I’d definitely take it as evidence that the person played fast and loose with the truth, and I’d be watching them more closely on the assumption that they might do that with other things too. A sloppy relationship with the truth tends to show up in multiple places.

{ 240 comments… read them below }

  1. enough*

    I agree very much with Alison’s last paragraph. And this goes not just for her professional life but her personal life, too. You now know more about this friend. This may be a one and done but this could be an indication that she doesn’t have a problem in “exaggerating” to make herself look good.

    1. LBK*

      I’m always hesitant to draw parallels between someone’s work behavior and their social behavior. I think the factors a person weighs are so different in those two contexts that you can’t always argue that a liar in one area will lie in every area. I think people tend to be more pragmatic about their work choices and more emotional about their personal life choices, so depending on whether a person is more pragmatic or more emotional in general, they may be more comfortable lying at work than at home or vice versa.

      1. Mike C.*

        Yeah, I agree with this. There’s always separation between how we act at home and how we act at work.

      2. Laurel Gray*

        +1. There are “levels” to being dishonest.

        Dishonesty can have a variety of consequences for the liar and those around him/her. I don’t necessarily think a friend who would lie to get access to a career would lie about sleeping with my spouse or stealing money from me. My issue with resume/career related lying is how do you rectify it? If people in your professional network believe you graduated with an MBA from Hogwarts School of Business in 2010 and you’ve used that to launch your career, when and how can you actually go back to Hogwarts or somewhere else and actually get the degree? These kinds of lies do catch up to a person one way or another.

          1. AMT*

            My first thought is that the Hogwarts School of Business is in no way affiliated with the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, but they use the name to trade off the prestigious school’s reputation. The Hogwarts School of Business is actually a run-down office next to the Leaky Cauldron above a storefront that sells slightly irregular wands.

      3. neverjaunty*

        But isn’t that a bit of a strawman? enough didn’t say ‘OP’s friend will lie in every area’, only that this could be an indication that this friend has no qualms about exaggerating to paint herself in a better light.

        Of course people’s behavior varies by situation, but I find it a little weird that people are drawing bright lines between ‘work life’ and ‘personal life’ as if there were no overlap. This is information about the friend’s character and personality. How that may come up may certainly change with context, but it’s not in a tiny box, either.

        And what raises my eyebrows, frankly, is less the lying than the “it doesn’t matter”. Well, if it doesn’t matter that you are doing Y instead of X, then why don’t you go ahead and do X? If the friend’s rationalization were that she were desperate for a job because she was drowning in debt, or if she were acting on terrible career advice from her parents, I would find that a lot less worrisome than a flimy and self-serving excuse.

        1. LBK*

          I don’t think it’s a bright line, but I also don’t think it’s a direct equivalence either, which is how I usually see it positioned. For example, it’s almost guaranteed that if someone writes in about their significant other doing something questionable at work, there will be comments saying that either the OP should be on high alert for their relationship or even saying that they should just straight up dump the person.

          For the record, I also don’t think that just because it’s work-related and doesn’t directly affect the OP, that means she shouldn’t care. Someone doing shady things in their work life is a perfectly valid reason to be uncomfortable with your relationship with that person, whether or not it correlates to how they act in their personal life. I think you can separately be concerned with a friend’s career choices while not worrying that those choices will affect how they treat you, and I say this from experience based on a few of my friends who make questionable decisions about their jobs.

          1. neverjaunty*

            Well, sure, sometimes people do say things like “once a liar always a liar,” but enough’s comment was not that.

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              Yep, I agree with neverjaunty. Enough wasn’t saying “well clearly your friend is a terrible person and it’s only a matter of time before she’s arrested for embezzlement!” She said this may be the only area she lies in, but now you know this much about her, and you didn’t before, so be aware of it. I just don’t think it’s a ridiculous idea to think that if she doesn’t think it matters to lie in this context that there may be other circumstances where she says the same thing, and those circumstances may be ones that the OP cares about.

        2. hbc*

          Yeah, that response doesn’t give me a lot of confidence that she’ll confine her lying to work. If you take pens from work because you’re sticking it to The Man, I’m rolling my eyes, but whatever. If you take pens from work because “it doesn’t matter,” I’m wondering what else you think doesn’t matter but conveniently benefits yourself.

          And guaranteed, if someone gets promoted ahead of her on a phony credential or fudged accomplishment, she won’t be nearly so zen about the matter.

          1. Snork Maiden*

            What if you take pens from work because you put them in your pocket and forget? Asking for a friend, definitely not me, no way.

            1. neverjaunty*

              I’ve only read about people who do that, but it’s probably totally understandable.

        3. Christopher Tracy*

          + 1. I know many people who lie at work and lie in their personal lives – they just lie because they have lips.

      4. Barney Stinson*

        How you do anything is how you do everything. <–I really believe this is true.

    2. MK*

      I can’t agree with this on principle. Yes, some people are just generally dishonest, but with many others it’s more complicated (they cheat on their spouse, but wouldn’t dream of commiting fraud; they are very loyal to their friends, but have no work ethic, etc.).

      1. Tex*

        I wonder how much of that disconnect is because they know they can’t get away with unethical behavior in other spheres of life. If it’s “complicated” when it doesn’t need to be…I suspect compartmentalization and low-level manipulation is a way of life for some people.

  2. CC*

    If this is a “Engineering Technology” vs “Engineering” major change that is significant and can easily be fireable since the two majors lead to different requirements for some professional licensing tests, and this sort of misrepresentation is not particularly uncommon and is regarded very poorly. I’d regard that as more significant than the GPA situation, though I realize that this is likely very industry specific.

    1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

      My alma mater offers two biology tracks. One is a BA and managed by Liberal Arts, the other is a B.S. and managed by natural sciences. Though they are both biology degrees, the BS has more lab and math requirements.

      There was a big to do because BA grades were listing BS degrees to get around company requirements.

      1. Elle the new Fed*

        I have a BS in Communications because of some weird rules my school had about BAs. I always list it as a BS on my resume, but if it’s an application I change it to a BA since that is essentially what it is (and I have only the bare minimum in anything science related).

        1. Amy G. Golly*

          I have a BS in Social Work, for similarly strange reasons. The standard for that industry is a BSW: Bachelor of Social Work. When I worked in Social Work, I never hesitated to call my BSSW a BSW, because there’s no material difference. But aside from Biology for Non-Majors and passing out of a Chemistry requirement with AP scores, there was nothing to make mine a “science” degree.

      2. AMT*

        That’s weird. Why would a company require a B.S. in the first place? My college has always issued B.A. degrees to every major, including sciences, solely out of tradition.

        1. Jinx*

          I have a Computer Science B.A. for logistical reasons, and I list it as a BA on my resume. I started in the Arts School, and switching to the CS degree in the Arts School was way less hassle than applying to a different school. The degrees only had a few differences: BAs take two years of foreign languages in place of additional year of math, and BS degrees have to declare a “specialization” (basically take a cluster of specific classes instead of picking anything). It comes up in interviews as a “how did you manage that” way, not “oh, you have a BA so you clearly can’t code”. Haven’t run into any issues so far.

        2. Doreen*

          Probably because at colleges and in fields where there is an option,the requirements are different. For example , a B.A. in psychology at my college required about 30 credits in the major in addition to the college-wide requirements. A B.S. required an additional 30 credits in the sciences.

      3. BananaPants*

        For some inexplicable reason my husband’s alma mater – a state university – gives only B.S. degrees for their school of business. So he has a B.S. in Marketing, which he found pretty poetic. ;-)

        1. Ad Astra*

          Yep, the journalism degrees at my state school were only a B.S., despite the foreign language and Western Civ requirements that typically go with a BA (and not a BS) at my school. In general, a BS from my university means you didn’t have to take language or western civ, but my degree is the exception.

      4. Anxa*

        I feel so awkward, bc I “majored in biology” but my degree is a B.S. in Biological Sciences. There is a Biology B.A. (often earned by double majors, teacher-track students). I feel pretentious writing Biological Sciences, but a Biology degree from my institution has much looser requirements.

        If an application asks if I have a “Bachelor’s degree in Biology, Chemistry, or Physics” I always answer yes.

        1. LabTech*

          Same here, only with chemistry. In practice, though, employers don’t care since both degrees award a B.S. I make a point of writing out my full degree title on my resume, but I think it just comes off as out-of-touch or pedantic.

          1. Anxa*

            I do tend to list the full name in cover letters, resumes, or applications, but if it comes up again I mention studying/majoring in “biology” anywhere where it’s a little less formal

    2. BananaPants*

      I agree. Engineering Technology is not the same as Engineering, no matter how much one might try to claim. I see this with some frequency in reviewing resumes. People with Engineering Technology degrees make great technicians, but they aren’t engineers.

    3. AnotherAlison*

      I guess I’m surprised-not-surprised to hear that you think it’s common to see this with the Eng Tech vs Eng degrees. I can’t say that I’ve ever seen it, but I’m sure our HR people would screen out those resumes. We do hire eng tech folks, but for eng tech positions, not engineering roles.

      Although, back when we were all much younger, my husband had a friend with a 2-year eng tech degree who called himself an engineer when I wasn’t there and a drafter when I was. Socially, I don’t really care, but I’d be peeved to see someone lying on their resume about it.

  3. Megs*

    I would think really poorly of a friend who did this, but I’m with Alison – you said your peace, now (try to) let it go.

    Admittedly lawyers are sticklers for that kind of thing and many early jobs actually do care about your law school GPA, but I could see getting fired over misrepresenting undergrad major and GPA. That said, most places don’t give a rat’s ass about anything before law school, but they certainly give all the rats’ asses over honesty.

    1. Florida*

      Agree that many employers care way more about honesty than credentials. What I can see happening is that Company wants to get rid of Employee for some random reason. Let’s say Boss wants to hire his friend’s son to replace her. Rather than firing her for that, because that would decrease morale across the board, Boss pulls out her application to see if she lied anywhere on it.

      I agree with you, though, that this is not OP’s problem. If Friend wants to dig her own grave, there isn’t much OP can do about it.

      1. some1*

        But we don’t know if the friend is misrepresenting her degree or GPA on her actual resume, though.

        1. sam*

          I would agree with this – Linkedin is definitely not the be all/end all of employment representations. Plus, any employer that actually cares about GPAs/major requirements does have the option of requesting college/grad school transcripts – I know it’s something that most of my legal employers have requested of me, if for no other reason than to confirm that I actually have a JD (they also have other mechanisms of proving that I’m admitted to the bar).

          Certainly not every employer jumps through these hoops, but that then becomes a question of how important these factors are, no? is the major an actual requirement or just a ‘nice to have’?

          1. Megs*

            I guess I didn’t think about if they were being accurate on their resume/application materials and inaccurate on LinkedIn. In the OP’s friend’s case, the fact that they’re being inaccurate on the company’s website as well as LinkedIn makes me think they were probably inaccurate on their resume/application materials too. If it were just LinkedIn, then *shrug*.

        2. designbot*

          If she isn’t, she’d be even more likely to be called out on the LinkedIn errors, just from a recruiter or anyone really being like “I just want to clarify, I noticed on LinkedIn you say you have a degree in A, which is what we’re really looking for, but your resume says you have a degree in B. Which is correct?” If she was inconsistent she’d be caught by now.

          1. some1*

            But if the degree she is claiming to have isn’t a prerequisite for the job, who’s to say that a recruiter would have caught it, though?

            1. designbot*

              Any individual recruiter, maybe/maybe not. Over time, at least one certainly would.

      2. Graciosa*

        I have to say that I have never seen this (although I work for large companies that are a little more professional about certain employment issues than a really small company would have to be).

        But I really can’t even imagine bothering with this kind of work in an environment of at-will employment.

        I don’t *need* an excuse to fire you and hire someone else. I can just do it.

        I don’t need to justify the decision to the team either – in fact, the less I say about it, the better. My refusal to discuss it would likely be interpreted as the sign of a good manager refusing to reveal confidential disciplinary information. As an employee, I’d be more suspicious of a firing if the manager attempted to explain it.

        Basically, searching for misstatements in an application seems like a lot of unnecessary work if all I want to do is fire you.

        In my experience, I have seen misstatements in applications come out in background checks (pre-hire or upon promotion to significant public roles), security investigations (either for security clearances or as part of some other issue that caused the individual to be involved in an investigation), litigation, or because someone with information complained.

        We have to have a reason to spend time on this, and firing someone just doesn’t require it.

        1. MK*

          “My refusal to discuss it would likely be interpreted as the sign of a good manager refusing to reveal confidential disciplinary information.”

          Frankly, no. A refusal to say why someone (assuming there was not some obvious issue with them in the first place) was fired out of the blue would most likely make people feel insecure about their jobs and the manager look unreasonable. Sadly, most people don’t have the kind of faith in their managers that they would accept without question that there must have been a good reason for the firing. I agree a good manager wouldn’t reveal confidential disciplinary information, but there is a middle ground between completely refusing to discuss it and giving a full report to your employees about it.

          1. neverjaunty*

            That middle ground is having the kind of good relationship with your employees and reliable work environment where they trust you don’t fire people for no reason. (Which I freely admit is not always possible for an individual manager to achieve.)

          2. KG*

            Agreed. I could absolutely see this being the case if the manager were quietly dealing with the dismissed employee’s issues for a while, or if the person left due to a single very serious serious impropriety. I think it’s important for other employees to hear that they don’t need to fear being blindsided by a performance-related dismissal.

          3. SusanIvanova*

            When Coffeecup got fired, my manager started out the one-on-one with me by assuring me that this wasn’t a sign that other people might get fired. He didn’t actually say why, but I’d assumed it was because of Coffeecup’s utter lack of productivity (turns out it was actually for gaslighting and bullying another employee, but the productivity issues did not help).

        2. NK*

          It’s interesting that you say this about large companies, because I think large companies are far less likely to fire someone on a whim than smaller companies since they are more concerned with CYA. I’ve seen something similar to what Florida describes at large companies, where they fire someone on some weird small objective item rather than go through the hassle of documenting legitimate poor performance that occurs over time and is more subjective.

          Also, Alison has addressed this issue a few times before. Even though you don’t want to give specific details on a particular employee’s situation that led to the firing, as a manager you do need to explain to your staff how firings are handled in general so they aren’t living in fear that they could be let go any day for any reason. Not doing that is a good way to lose good employees, particularly if the firing was of an employee generally regarded as good and the reason for firing was not apparent.

  4. Lillie Lane*

    “A sloppy relationship with the truth tends to show up in multiple places.”

    Well said. This is good to keep in mind.

  5. Rat Racer*

    I will file this away under “I don’t understand why anyone would care”

    a) Why companies care about GPA (although lying about GPA is something totally different)
    b) Why a friend would care about another friend fabricating her resume, unless you’re genuinely concerned that your friend is going to be outed and take a hit for it

    This reads to me like more of a “Hey! That’s cheating!” kind of objection, and really, if it’s no skin off your nose, why do you care?

    1. Roscoe*

      That is exactly where I land on this. While I think its kind of pointless to list this stuff, I could really never see myself caring that my friend did it. I’ll be honest, if you asked me what half of my friend’s majors in college were, I couldn’t tell you. So if they fudged it a bit, whatever. But really, why wouldn’t this friend let it go? It’s just like morality policing someone for something that has nothing at all to do with you. I mean if I found this out about a co-worker, I still wouldn’t care.

    2. Anna*

      Because it was probably a bit of a let down to find out a friend was okay with being dishonest, along with 100 other reasons why a person might care.

      1. Roscoe*

        But it has literally nothing to do with you. If something this small is enough to make you end a friendship over it, you probably weren’t that close to begin with, so no big loss. But its not like they were the person who recommended you, you basically were looking at their linkedin (which isn’t exactly 100% accurate anyway) and looking them up at work. And again, it doesn’t affect you at all.

        1. neverjaunty*

          But the “it” is not the specific lie she’s telling about her GPA and major. The “it” is her willingness to shade the truth and double down on her reasons for doing so. Unless you’re not that close to begin with, dishonesty and denial are absolutely things that can cause problems in a friendship for all sorts of reasons.

        2. Quiet Type*

          The trustworthiness of my friends is absolutely to do with me. And it may be small to you, but honesty is a pretty important thing to me.

      2. Daisy Steiner*

        I agree, Anna. This isn’t a ‘friendship-ending offence’, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to be aware of this and have it factor into my future thinking. It’s like if I saw a friend littering, or being rude to a server – I’m not going to start telling them off for it, but it goes to the illustration of their character. Just like a thousand and one other things do too, I hasten to add. If I see a friend tipping generously or parking considerately, those are also individual data points that help me put together the constellation of their character.

        1. Rat Racer*

          I tend to delineate between cheating systems and cheating people. The first I have more tolerance for than the other, but there are grey areas and of course there are limits on both sides.

          1. hbc*

            The person who has the right qualifications for the job and was beat out by a good liar might disagree that this is entirely about cheating systems.

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              I was going to say this. I don’t think there’s any indication that it applies in this particular instance, but as a general rule, “cheating the system” often leads to cheating a person, albeit indirectly.

      3. Rabbit*

        I worked with someone who I didn’t exactly get along with, but we were able to keep a civil work relationship. She was let go and got a new job, good for her. When I went to check her LinkedIn to congratulate her on her new position, she had listed her previous position where we were both at the same level (“designer” title) as the “Director” who “managed a team of three.” In reality, I was coaching her assistant more than she was, and she most definitely was NOT managing me at all.

        While we weren’t friends, it irked me that she would lie so blatantly about her title, responsibilities, etc. I think of myself as a pretty honest person and I would never lie on my resume, but seeing how it worked out for her (just dandy!) makes me feel like everyone is “embellishing” their resume and I’m just an idiot who is honest and languishing. :/ I would definitely be let down if a close friend pulled something like this, and yes, I would think a little less of them.

        I have another acquaintance who makes $100k+ a year as a contractor, but is receiving unemployment because she’s not reporting her income. I don’t know the details of how she’s getting away with this so far, and while I’m sure she won’t be able to float this scam for long, but I definitely see her a liar and a cheater. Her employment situation has nothing to do with me, true, but it says a lot about what kind of person she is.

        1. Foxtrot*

          I’m wondering if the letter writer and the friend had the same major and now OP isn’t getting the great jobs that her friend is. It would irk me too if that was the case! But the only reason I wonder that is because I have solid friends who aren’t in my major and I have no idea what their GPA is or degree nuances. I *do* know the difference between an engineering and technology degree and would be miffed if someone said they’re basically the same.

          1. LW*

            Interestingly, my major is more similar to my friend’s misrepresented major. I’m very familiar with what she studied because we lived together throughout undergrad. Moreover, when she expressed last-minute interest in switching to the industry for which my major is well-suited, I was one of her biggest cheerleaders and helped her with that process.

        2. mazzy*

          My predecessor did this and it was vindication to find out he left that job after six months with nothing lined up.

          I’m not getting the other commenters who say this is none of your/the OP’s business. Many pages have been filled with comments on AAM about calling out racism and sexism and other isms that contribute to inequality. Why would we not also call out someone lying to gain an economic advantage? Especially since it’s hurting other innocent people that were turned down for the position but may have better credentials? The OP’s freind is definitely contributing to inequality in the world.

          1. Roscoe*

            Well here it is for me. They apparently hired her because they thought she could do the job. Would her GPA or other degree name have changed that? Who knows. But they met her and thought she was the best option. Its a lot different than not hiring someone based on their race or gender.

            1. Tex*

              So where do you draw the line? Physician’s assistant masquerading as a neurosurgeon? Structural designer pretending to be an engineer?

              If she’s stretching the truth about her degree, you think she’s being scrupulously honest about her experience as well? She’s probably the kind of candidate that gets let go at 6 months because it’s “not a good fit”, wasting everybody’s time and training.

              At my previous job, a candidate had an offer rescinded because he claimed to have a degree. When the background check revealed he did not, my boss was miffed because a degree was not necessary for the job and he would have made an offer anyways. The guy could do the job regardless of possessing a degree or not, but he missed out on it because of his dishonesty.

              1. Roscoe*

                My line is drawn at whether the impact is big (life or death) or small. We don’t know the job here, so I’m guessing its not the life or death kind here ie PA vs. neurosurgeon. But a lot of jobs want a certain degree, but that degree doesn’t really impact your knowledge or ability to do the job. I literally finished my MBA and could choose whether I wanted it to be management or marketing, but they wouldn’t give me both. I never lied about it, but I can definitely tell you that the degree it was wouldn’t have made a bit of difference in my jobs I’ve gotten since then.

            2. neverjaunty*

              This comment baffles me. If a candidate lies about their qualifications, how can the company’s decision about ‘who can do the best job’ be rooted in fact?

              1. Roscoe*

                To me it depends on what exactly the job is. Like is the degree a requirement to accurately perform the job, or is it one that could be performed by someone with any degree. The degree may have gotten her the interview, and maybe she landed the job with her presence.

        3. Christopher Tracy*

          I think of myself as a pretty honest person and I would never lie on my resume, but seeing how it worked out for her (just dandy!) makes me feel like everyone is “embellishing” their resume and I’m just an idiot who is honest and languishing. :/

          Take heart – everyone is not doing this. I’m doing pretty well myself right now career-wise, but I languished for years before landing in a good position. And I (finally) advanced without lying. You’ll get where you need to go eventually, I promise.

    3. Florida*

      This is the person’s first job. Companies use GPA when hiring for entry-level positions because the applicants don’t have any work experience. When you are getting your first job, a high GPA is an accomplishment. Beyond the first or second job, I don’t think anyone cares about GPA because you have work-related accomplishments by then.

      1. F.*

        I was just applying on the website of a major corporation, and they wanted my GPA for my Math degree. I graduated 33 years ago. This was for a senior office administrator position. I made an educated guess at the GPA and let it go. I did, however, decline to provide my year of graduation. I am all too familiar with that trick to weed out older applicants.

    4. BRR*

      For B, there are a few people I would have genuine concern for in the sense of seeing them doing something that could harm them and wanting to prevent it.

    5. Macedon*

      Because it’s dishonest. Dishonesty does not become more palatable because it’s committed by a friend. Frequently the reverse.

    6. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

      I think a “Hey! That’s cheating” objection is still fair and something you can decide whether or not you want to be friends with someone over.

      It’s like finding out your friend deducts their work clothes dry cleaning when it’s not a business uniform. You can disagree with it because it’s not something you would do…you just have to decide whether or not it’s worth ending a friendship over.

      1. Rat Racer*

        I think this is a personality thing. Some people are rule followers and care deeply about others doing the same. Others (and I would put myself in this category) are rule “cherry-pickers” and perhaps in consequence, are less likely to care if a friend picks different cherries. And we all have our moral coding around what we will/won’t tolerate in ourselves and our beloveds.

        I’m still filing this one under “I don’t give rat’s patootie,” but that’s for my own personal filing cabinet – others may wish to file elsewhere.

        1. Roscoe*

          I think thats a great way to put it. I’m like you. And its just hard for me to understand why people care so much, when its something that wouldn’t bother me the slightest. but I think you articulating it this way makes a lot of sense.

          1. Chalupa Batman*

            I agree, this way of putting it was helpful. I’d say I’m more of a rule follower than most people, so I was a little surprised at the volume of MYOB opinions in the comments. Rat Racer’s explanation clarified that: for people who are less hung up on rules for the sake of rules, there isn’t that layer of “but you’re not supposed to do that!” over the situation, making the shades of grey more relevant. For me, the fact that the rule is being broken is an issue in itself, while that’s not how everyone sees things.

        2. Daisy Steiner*

          Perhaps this is just one of those population divides, kind of like the “I love pranks” / “I hate pranks” split.

        3. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

          It totally is a personality thing, and I think most of us pick the “sins” we are bothered by.

          The tax example I gave is true, and though something I wouldn’t do, the person in question is still a close friend.

          Now, the person who asked me to lie to their spouse so they could go away for the weekend with their boyfriend? Not my friend anymore.

        4. neverjaunty*

          Eh, it’s less about rule-following than about what inferences you draw from that person’s behavior – and, I suspect, how close the friendship is.

          One person may see a friend belittle waiters and say ‘who cares, he’s always polite to me’. Another person might decide anyone who behaves that way is a jerk who abuses social power and therefore backs away from the friendship. A third person might put up with that behavior from Wakeen who they only see at a LARP once a month, but find it intolerable when their close buddy Fergus starts doing it.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            I don’t know; some people really are very rules-y and draw their inferences from a place of caring deeply that other people are, too. Rule-following people will draw different inferences than rule cherry-pickers about another person’s rule-breaking behavior. For me, rules-following for the sake of rules is more stringent than I actually am, while rules cherry-picking is more fast-and-loose than I actually am. I suppose I lean more toward cherry-picking than to strict following, though.

            1. Mallory Janis Ian*

              That being said, I am far, far from being fast-and-loose enough with the truth to ever falsify a degree on my resume or anywhere else.

              1. LW*

                Completely agree with this. I also see myself as in between “rule-following” and “rule-cherry-picking”, falling closer to cherry-picking, but for me, falsifying my academic credentials seems to be over the line.

              2. Rat Racer*

                Oh I’m totally with you there. I can’t imagine lying or fabricating my resume.

                A former employee actually had on his resume “served in a Chief of Staff role for Department of Teapot Design,” when in reality, I am the chief of staff, and this guy reported to me. I’ll be honest, that did annoy me a little Hey, I’m the Chief of Staff!” — but then I thought to myself, “well, he’s showing me his resume so he obviously doesn’t think he’s fabricating; and since it takes a team of 3 people to run operations in this department, one could argue that he was doing chief of staff type work, even if it wasn’t his title. Also, he was a fantastic employee who had out-grown his job, so I was fully supportive of helping him find his next role in the company.

                I keep saying this throughout this thread, but I can’t get past the idea that this is totally about individual preferences, personalities and context.

            2. neverjaunty*

              Sure, for some people it’s going to be a matter of rule-following; it just strikes me as pretty reductionist to say that disagreement about this is a binary personality division between “rules followers” and “cherry pickers”, which is what Rat Packer was talking about. For some people, it’s less about following the rules than whether they think the friend is dishonest, or whether they think her dishonesty is driven by particular motives, such that she has poor character. For others, it may be purely self-interest; they don’t really care about Friend’s career or whether she breaks rules, but they sure as heck care if Friend will lie to them. Or a combination of things.

          2. LBK*

            It works in reverse, too – you might not care about cutting off someone you only see a few times a year for being a jerk every time, whereas you might give more leeway to someone who’s been your friend for ages because you’re giving up more if you stop accepting their behavior.

            1. neverjaunty*

              Also very true! Or because you might see this friend as an overall good person who is having a single bad lapse of judgment. Random LARP Dude, who doesn’t have a long history of building up goodwill, doesn’t get that slack.

        5. Jinx*

          This is a great explanation, although I don’t think it’s as simple as rule-sticklers and non-rule-sticklers. I think it’s like what you said – “moral coding”, because everyone has things that bother them and things that don’t. I think we tend to gravitate to people with similar filing systems as us.

          For me, the OP’s friends actions aren’t really about rules as much as about lying to gain an advantage, which I just don’t care for. If that doesn’t bother my friend, that’s fine because it’s her choice. But I may decide not to be friends with that person precisely because it bugs me.

        6. Desdemona*

          I think “you’re just a rules follower” is pretty much a cop out. Lying about your credentials and then justifying it because it “doesn’t really matter” isn’t like using the express lane when you have 50 items, or running a red light at 2:00 in the morning. It speaks to a fundamental lack of integrity. People with integrity don’t need rules to tell them what’s right to do, and we don’t need the offense to be “bad enough” to understand when someone’s behavior demonstrates that lack. It’s not the specific lie, it’s what the lie tells the viewer about her character: this isn’t the kind of person who’ll do the right thing for its own sake.

        7. Marvel*

          Mm, I don’t really think that’s it (the rule-following vs. not thing). I am most definitely of the cherry-picking type, but this would bother me greatly.

    7. LW*

      Rat Racer,

      I’ve decided not to mention it to her again, but it has definitely affected my perspective of her. She has always been one to exaggerate slightly, but while exaggerating the occasional story is of no concern to me (although this can also be annoying), exaggerating in the professional world seems a bit more serious. I don’t consider this to be a friendship-ending offense, but as many other commenters have noted, it is another data point in how I choose to perceive her.

      I actually came across these discrepancies when I was trying to show someone else that he could major in “A” and get a job in this industry, but then we both saw that my friend had misrepresented her major as “B” in several locations online. Obviously, it was a somewhat awkward situation, and I wanted to make sure that she didn’t get into trouble for this in the future.

      1. Laurel Gray*

        “exaggerating in the professional world seems a bit more serious”

        Strongly agree. There is something more flagrant about professional life lies vs personal life ones. If you gained 20 lbs in the last year and have a vacation photo of yourself from two svelte summers ago,it’s a lie but harmless for the most part. But lying about education credentials, or years experience, or knowledge of certain software or processes and given gainful employment based off of said lies? Bad, bad, bad.

    8. LBK*

      In general people don’t like it when their friends do things they consider unscrupulous, and I’d argue that being a good friend almost necessitates telling them when you think their moral judgment is questionable. It’s not about whether it’s “skin off your nose,” it’s that friendships are generally based around trust, common values and openness; doing something like this compromises the first two and the third is what obligates you to say something. I sure hope you’d say something to a friend that were, for instance, stealing from their company, even if it doesn’t directly affect you.

    9. Manders*

      How much I’d care about this particular lie would have a lot to do with the nature of the friend’s job. If not having this knowledge might put someone’s health or life in danger, it’s a huge deal and should be reported. If it’s going to result in some projects being botched, that may be a big problem for the company, but not something the OP should get involved in.

      On the personal level, LW, the people I’ve known who told these kinds of lies to employers had a larger problem with trustworthiness. In some cases they had a habit of lying deliberately to manipulate people, in others they just had a weird relationship with facts and a habit of exaggerating stories to make them sound more exciting.

    10. Christopher Tracy*

      I joined my current company two and a half years ago in a training program that required a minimum GPA of 3.0 to be eligible for hire. Never mind the fact that most people who join this trainee program have been out of school for years (and I’d been out for four years at that point and had worked at two other companies previously post-undergrad) and are technically mid-career. The reason they care about GPA is because our program requires a ton of self-study modules and book learning, and in the eight month program, you are required to take eight exams for a professional designation and complete 12 online courses. You also need to begin the process of becoming licensed, and several states want to know where you went to school, what your GPA was, and every job you’ve held.

      No other company I’ve ever applied to cared about a GPA. But this one did, and it made sense to me given the fact that it was very much like being in college again for eight months – if you weren’t successful the first time around, you probably wouldn’t be successful in this program. At least, I’m pretty sure that’s the thought behind it. (And oddly enough, my GPA was not high enough for me to have entered this company in another training program I was briefly interested in that lasts 24 months.)

    11. Roscoe*

      Let me also be clear on one thing. I wouldn’t ever do this myself. However if I found out a friend did it, and no one’s life was being put in danger, I just couldn’t see myself really caring about that. If someone is an awful worker, a great worker, or does some questionable things like skips out early when they aren’t supposed to or embellishes their resume, it just wouldn’t affect my opinion of them as my friend at all. We are made up of more than we do in any one aspect of our lives. Similarly, I couldn’t imagine finding out that someone cheated on their spouse and then deciding that they are now an untrustworthy co-worker.

      1. Christopher Tracy*

        I couldn’t imagine finding out that someone cheated on their spouse and then deciding that they are now an untrustworthy co-worker.

        Hmm…this is interesting, and I agree to a point. If I found out a coworker was having an affair, I would know this person was dishonest, but as long as I didn’t rely on their work to do my own (and in my field, I usually don’t), I don’t think I’d care. On the other hand, if I had to work closely with this person and they missed a deadline and then came to me to explain why it happened, I’d probably think this person was lying since I know she has no problem doing so in other areas of her life. So it would color my view a bit, but only if I was personally affected in some way.

    12. Honeybee*

      In the vein of others upthread, I would care about a friend fabricating their resume because to me that says something about their level of integrity. But I agree that companies caring about GPA is silly.

  6. Dawn*

    “…if your school calls your major something that no one else in the world calls it or will understand, it can make sense to use clearer wording. Although even then, you’d still generally want to include their wording too, and just put the clearer explanation in parentheses like this:
    B.A., Media, Technology and Culture (Communications)”

    Thank you so much for clarifying how to handle this!


    BA, Multimedia Arts and Sciences with a Concentration in Interactive Design (Web Design & Development)

    1. Not Karen*

      Haha ditto

      BA, Biology and Quantitative Studies double major (major Biology, minor Statistics)

    2. AFT123*

      B.A., Organizational Leadership and Management here. I never know what to call it. I mean I feel like the terminology is pretty self explanatory, but it isn’t a common degree major as far as I can tell, and to just sum it up for people when they ask about it, I tell them Business or Business Management. Thoughts?

      1. PeachTea*

        It depends on what that entailed. I’m getting my MBA now and while, yes, there are Organizational Leadership and Management courses, there’s also Finance, Econ, Statistics, Quantitative Analysis, Buisness Law, and a little Human Resources. I wouldn’t feel comfortable describing just OL as Business.

        1. AFT123*

          Good point, I should take a look at what the two degree programs entail and see how much they overlap.

      2. Dorothy Mantooth*

        It may help to note which college (if your university grouped majors/programs by colleges or schools) the degree is through. My university has an Organization Leadership B.S. program but is not through the College of Business.

      3. Christopher Tracy*

        I knew someone who got that degree, but her school grouped it under the Communications umbrella.

    3. SusanIvanova*

      I’m amused that Multimedia Arts means Web Design now, because way back when Compuserve was the online state of the art, I signed up for a “multimedia” elective assuming it was using the term in the way computer people did. Turned out it was a mixed-media art class with no computers involved. Oops, off to add-drop!

  7. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

    I graduated with a Masters of Professional Writing, which most people assume is a technical writing or PR degree, so I often have to use “(Creative Writing)” after my degree, so people understand it better.

    I feel like this is one of those white lies that gets flagged by HR or a background check and ends up becoming a much bigger deal. My boss checks social media on all finalists so this is a discrepancy he would flag…and again it would be a big deal because of the lie, not because of the degree,

    1. Laura*

      In this case, I wouldn’t be surprised if OP’s friend misrepresents her degree on ALL social media sites. It would be pretty dumb to use a different one for LinkedIn that doesn’t correspond with what’s listed on, say, Facebook.

        1. Bowserkitty*

          Doesn’t it say “Studied Underwater Basket Weaving at Atlantica University”?

            1. Bowserkitty*

              Oooh, I didn’t realize that! I joined early on about 10 years ago so maybe my settings still reflect the information I initially put in. (They haven’t changed, I guess.)

    2. CeeCee*

      I’m glad to find someone else with a Professional Writing degree because I always thought it was something that my college made up.

      I also have a degree in Professional Writing and constantly have to clarify it with “(Journalism/Communications)” as Creative Writing was a separate degree at my college that I am far less talented at.

      1. KellyK*

        My master’s is “English with a concentration in professional and technical communications.” Even weirder, it’s an MS, not because of the technical content, but because English degrees at that university are S’s by default, and to get the MA, you need to also take a foreign language. I have it spelled out in full on my resume, but in casual conversation, I tell people my master’s is in tech writing.

        1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

          In casual conversation, I often just tell people I have an MFA as it’s the easiest way to describe my degree. My thesis was a novel…it’s definitely not a technical degree!

      2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

        There are a handful of Professional Writing programs out there, but of course, they are all different. I know someone else who has the degree, and it’s a technical writing program!

        1. Paris Geller*

          I’ve been a long-time Ask a Manager lurker & commenting for the first time just because finally, I see other people with Professional Writing degrees! Though my Professional Writing program was not creative writing OR journalism(journalism was an entirely different department), but leaned more towards a combo business writing/technical writing. I always have the hardest time explaining it.

  8. Terra*

    It’s hard to say without knowing how close the majors in question are and how the field would take it but there may be an argument to be made that since it’s her LinkedIn she gets to make the choice about whether to use her major GPA vs overall GPA. The major change is more sketchy but there may be valid reasons for doing it such as clarity or application buzzwords which some companies rely on more than others. For example, computer information systems vs computer systems vs computer science degrees which (depending on the school) can all have the same requirements or vastly different ones but the default term most people tend to use seems to be “computer science” for some reason.

    All in all you’ve told her your opinion and I’d let it go since if it does end up reflecting badly it will be on her and not on you.

  9. BRR*

    I can easily see employers firing someone over this. I can also see this come up during a background check and an offer getting pulled (something like this happened to my friend where the company messed up her GPA and major GPA numbers which didn’t line up with the school and she almost lost an offer due to the company’s error).

    At this point in your friend’s career it seems dumb for them to lie about either of these things. It’s possible but I can’t imagine the difference between the two majors is that important since she is now in a professional position. And just seconding everything about GPA that Alison said. I can understand (but don’t agree with) company’s that ask for it for a first job after graduation but now that your friend has been at a job for over a year after graduating, it seems odd to have a GPA. To me it hurts someone’s professional image (I know there are a few exceptions for certain careers).

    I really don’t want to be the person who nitpicks language so I hope this isn’t breaking commenting guidelines too much and that this won’t spiral but when you say “confront,” the word feels like there was an aggressiveness to the conversation (this has been bugging me with multiple letters). I think that approaching it with concern might be the best way (“I know some employers who would consider this a fireable offense”) and then let it go. That might have been how you did bring it up for all I know.

    1. LW*

      BRR, thank you for your response!

      I think “confront” was a bad word choice on my part. If anything, I am quite a non-confrontational person, so it took me a while to mention gingerly to her that I had noticed these things. I’ll be sure to be more careful with my diction from now on.

        1. BRR*

          That’s what I thought but it’s been sticking out to me more as of late (possibility also due to watching more reality TV where an entire series is about confronting others). I really didn’t want to be that person but I guess I have poor impassivity control today.

      1. BRR*

        Thanks for clarifying. I really didn’t want to read into it too much and just wanted to reply with the tone that I think is most appropriate for this situation. It is very kind of you to try and help since your friend is only hurting herself but it sounds like trying to light water on fire.

  10. Anon For This*

    I used to work with a woman who said she had a degree in Public Health. As we got to know each other better, she casually revealed she hadn’t completed her degree and she just needed to finish her practicum to finish. She had all sorts of reasons for not completing the practicum, but the thing is:
    a. I knew instinctively she had listed that she completed her degree on her resume. I just knew it.
    b. Because my “knowing” wasn’t based on anything other than being familiar with her and the way she operated and not on having actually seen her resume, there was nothing I could do.
    c. Not that I would have necessarily done anything anyway. Where she worked at the time had absolutely nothing to do with public health and nobody was put at risk by her misrepresentation.
    d. However, it did completely alter my perception of her (and I admit it was always a bit shaky to start). This just verified what I suspected.

    1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

      There have been so many high-profile cases of people being fired for lying about finishing their degree and it coming out years after the fact. It seems so crazy to me that people would misrepresent their education.

      1. Anon For This*

        Agreed. This particular person had done so many things that would have got anyone else working for a non-codependent manager fired (at one point a friend just flat out asked our manager why this person wasn’t fired and the manager said she had thought about it, but what would happen to the coworker if she did fire her), I also suspected it wouldn’t matter if I mentioned it to HR. Seriously, this woman should have legitimately lost her job several times over and didn’t. It got to the point where some of us joked she must have something on the manager to keep her employed.

      2. TootsNYC*

        All these stories of people not quite finishing their degrees are scaring me! My kid has one class to go; she can’t graduate this May because of it. And I’m terrified she’s not going to sign up to take it over the summer, and that she never will.

    2. Mona Lisa*

      I have a former friend who did this with her master’s degree. She had one final, minor testing component that she didn’t pass after a couple of times of trying, but she still listed that she had completed the degree on her resume even though she never graduated. I remember expressing my doubts about that, but she was adamant that, since she’d finished the rest of the coursework, she should be allowed to say that she’d finished.

      We’re no longer friends for a variety of reasons, none of which have to do with this conversation, but the fact that she was willing to lie about something this small should have been an indicator to me of other deficiencies in her character.

    3. shep*

      A former supervisor used to brag about her dual degree. I found out a few years later she never finished, and was at least a full semester short. By this time, I knew her well enough to not be surprised. I’d suspected as much for a while anyway. Not that I knocked her for it, but when actively selling her dual degree as part of her authority to clients…eh, kind of squicky.

    4. AFT123*

      I feel like a lot of people don’t realize how big of a deal this kind of omission is. I have helped a lot of friends and extended networks of friends with resumes, and it has come up more than a few times where someone has listed a degree but casually tells me they “just have one paper they didn’t due but it’s basically completed” or whatever. If the company/job requires a degree, and you tell them you have one and don’t “technically” have one, you’re lying, and with many companies you will fail a basic background test and be barred from applying there again in the future. That is a big stinkin’ deal! Especially when the companies you’re looking at working for are huge corporations that keep buying other companies – even if you get hired at a smaller company, if your company is purchased by a larger corp that black barred you, you could find yourself out of a job for that degree fib you told 10 years ago. It’s a big darn deal.

      1. pieces of flair*

        Yes, this is sadly common and sometimes people don’t even seem to realize it’s a misrepresentation. I remember during my grad school orientation (so, before we’d even started the program), one of the other students proudly showed me her business cards. She was listed as Cordelia Pliffington, MBA. I said something like “um…but you don’t have your MBA yet?” and she told me it was “accepted practice” to list the degree after your name if you were enrolled in the program. Uh, no.

        1. neverjaunty*

          I find that when you ask people like this “accepted by whom?” they never have an answer.

        2. valc2323*

          I see it listed as “MS (c)” or “PhD (c)” sometimes, signifying that the person is a candidate for the degree and actively working on it, which is okay. But typically students wouldn’t do it before they are in the last year of their program and actively working on their thesis / dissertation with a defense date scheduled.

          1. blackcat*

            I have always been taught to list it as

            PhD anticipated Month Year
            Dissertation Title, Defense Date (if scheduled)
            Advisor Name

            if close to finishing (<1 year left), or

            PhD in progress
            Advisor Name

            if further away.

            The advisor name is only there for an academic CV. I was told it servers the purpose of a default reference–someone can get in touch with the advisor and ask, "Will so-and-so be done by Date?"

      2. SophieChotek*

        And especially when that “one paper they didn’t do but it’s basically completed” is one’s MA thesis or dissertation…to all those who did finish and defend–that’s a huge difference…

        1. AFT123*

          This is a good point!! It can be offensive to people who actually finished their programs to lump yourself in with them if you haven’t completed the work.

      3. Honeybee*

        This was my thought as well. In addition to being an integrity issue, I also now can’t pass around your resume or do an employee referral for you. A lot of my current friends are former coworkers, people I would feel qualified to comment on their work style, but if they did this then there’d be no networking help.

        And yes, background checks turn this stuff up all the time. My humongous company did a background check that included checking on my educational credentials.

    5. Spotlight*

      My cousin didn’t finish her degree. Her mother was diagnosed with and died of cancer in my cousin’s final semester. She’s never once lied and said she completed her degree. She lists her college on her resume as one she attended, but does not list a degree. She’s been in her industry at a director level for about six years now. She applied for a director level position with one organization, got through several rounds of interviews, was offered the position, went in to see her office and as she was filling out paperwork, someone in HR (she’d been interviewed by people in what would be her department) finally noticed that she didn’t have a degree and the offer got pulled. Her lack of degree had never once come up during the interview, and she’s had years of experience doing this type of work successfully. I was furious for her, especially because I know that organization does not require degrees just as a matter of fact (someone else I know worked there with even LESS education than my cousin had).

      1. MK*

        Well, I don’t know. If someone lists a university, but not a degree, a lot of people would assume that they did have a degree; I rather think one should note that they attended for 2,5 years or have completed X credits or something.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          That’s a pretty normal way to list it though, when you attended but didn’t graduate. It would be odd to have a degree and not list it.

          1. Christopher Tracy*

            Yup, this is how my mom has always listed it on her résumé, and no one has ever been under the impression that she completed her degree (especially since she listed her trade school completion after).

        2. Francie*

          I tend to assume the opposite. If a resume is missing either BA/BS or the year the person graduated, I assume the person attended the college/university and didn’t graduate. Or sometimes if it’s just the year missing, I assume it means the person is worried about revealing their age.

    6. themmases*

      Yeah, there is no “just” about not completing your practicum in public health. For many people it’s their first experience doing the work that a public health professional would do, and you very often get the data for your capstone project from the work you did during your practicum. That’s basically saying you didn’t do the two major work and research experiences you needed to earn the degree, other than show up to class.

      I have known people who don’t have their degree because they are just one course or a few credits shy, and I can sympathize with that. Saying you have a public health degree without the practicum is similar in kind (thought obviously not magnitude) to claiming you have everything for a PhD except the dissertation. It really doesn’t work that way.

      1. Honeybee*

        Haha, I was thinking the same thing! “Just” not completing your practicum in public health is kind of like “just” not doing the student teaching to be a teacher or “just” not doing your clinicals to be a nurse. It’s a multi-month commitment that ties together all of your public health coursework and gives you the experience necessary to function in the field.

  11. Fabulous*

    What about when the major title you graduated with is no longer what the school calls the program? For example:

    Minored in “Liberal Arts Business” which they now call “Business Administration”
    Got the M.A. in “Arts Administration” which they now call ” Theatre Arts with a Concentration in Arts Administration”

    1. Laura*

      When it comes to program name changes, you’re expected to stick with your original degree name, since it most closely aligns with your actual academic experience.

    2. TotesMaGoats*

      In my case my BS is actually in “Family Studies” but now the degree is called “Human Services”. The degree hasn’t changed enough, I would know as I’m on the advisory board, to list it by the old name. I use the new name on my resume. Our program changed names twice while I was in it. You can always do what AAM says.

    3. R Adkins*

      Original names is what would come up with a background/educational verification. So I always recommend putting the original name with the new name as a reference.

      Example – Liberals Arts Business (Business Administration)

    4. AFT123*

      I would probably err on listing it as whatever the school currently lists your transcript/degree completion if someone were to call for a background check. Call them and see what they’d tell an backgorund checker and go with that, unless your experience is more clearly aligned with the former degree name, in which case maybe put the former name in parentheses or something.

      B.A. Business Administration (Liberal Arts Business)

    5. BananaPants*

      Go with whatever it says on your paper diploma (if you have one) or your official transcript.

  12. Laura*

    Oooooh that’s not good. I work in higher ed and the registrar’s office is called EVERY DAY by employers who want to verify a student’s major and/or GPA. It is so, so not a good idea to misrepresent yourself.

    1. Anon Moose*

      And do you verify? (I agree, don’t lie, but isn’t that not allowed per FERPA?)

      1. PeachTea*

        Usually employers will have you sign a form giving them permission. I’m not 100% sure, but I think as long as the release is signed, the school can verify the information.

      2. Judy*

        I’m fairly sure that enrolled dates, degree and major are considered “directory information” and are opt-out information, it can be released unless you fill out a form. I’d doubt that GPA is on that list.

        1. Lia*

          This is correct — enrollment dates, degree (if earned) and major are directory information. Incidentally, so is participation in officially recognized activities — so don’t lie about being on the NCAA championship team.

          Verification may also be done through third-party agencies, most commonly the National Student Clearinghouse. An awful, awful lot of companies now use this to verify degree information.

          I personally know of two cases where lying about a degree resulted in an offer being pulled at the last minutes, and another where lying about completing a degree resulted in the person losing their job.

        2. Laura*

          This is correct. You have to actually opt-out to keep your information private– otherwise, anyone can get information. But I don’t believe GPA is part of that info, no.

  13. Cam*

    I’ve always heard that major GPA is more important than total GPA. It’s easy to get an A in intro level gen-ed classes, so that boosts your GPA, but much harder to get an A in senior level quantum mechanics and thermodynamics and all that (just as an example). It doesn’t even seem worth lying about if your major GPA is higher and you’re working in your major field anyway.

    1. KittenMittens*

      My major GPA is actually higher than my general GPA. I double majored and did not do as well in one major (think 3.56 vs 3.99).

      1. Anna*

        Same here. While it did cross my mind to put my higher GPA on my resume when I was just starting out, I did it honestly and put the average GPA on it. When I applied to grad school, though, I only used my GPA for the major I was continuing study in.

      2. Anxa*

        Mine is oddly the opposite.

        My chemistry and physics requirements are my worst grades and they are all in my major. Also, I found gen eds much more tedious than upper levels, and less more difficult to do well in.

      3. Jinx*

        This is true for me, too. I spent more time on my major classes and got A’s, but slacked on a couple non-major classes and ended up with low C’s. I listed both GPA’s on the resume I used for graduation.

      4. Honeybee*

        My undergrad major GPA was quite a bit higher than my general GPA (I think like 3.42 vs. 3.67). I took my major classes a lot more seriously than the gen eds.

    2. themmases*

      I’ve always had the impression that your major GPA should be higher, but it is also more relevant than your overall GPA. I would find it weird if someone did worse in their own major than they did overall, although I can think of majors at my undergrad that had harsh curves and weed-out courses where it could be possible.

      My major GPA was higher due to a combination of a) trying non-major courses that turned out to not be my thing, and b) giving way more effort to courses in my major regardless of aptitude.

    3. ScarletInTheLibrary*

      My thought is that it’s difficult to be jazzed about every core curriculum class (cough British literature). Or even every required course in ones major (cough early American history). I had a friend get screwed because she started as a biology major and switched to chemistry. Those classes that made her realize biology was not for her drove down her overall GPA. Essentially a lot of grad school committees denied her application because her overall GPA was lower than the other applicants. It took some professors advocating for her so she could get into the grad program where she did her undergrad. And I’ve seen plenty of people cruise through their courses and struggle in the workplace and vice versa. Some pick easy electives to improve their overall and others pick what interests them. GPAs (both overall and major) should be a data point, but not the only data point.

  14. Allison*

    Don’t lie. Employers who care about your exact degree and GPA will check to make sure what you list is accurate. Employers who simply have a preference but are willing to look at other majors and low GPAs as long as they have some redeeming quality, like a highly relevant internship or senior project, will probably consider you. And honestly, not everyone needs to list their GPA, it’s not as important as you think, so if it was under 3.0, I’d consider leaving it off and letting them give you the benefit of the doubt.

    1. BananaPants*

      We don’t give people the benefit of the doubt. If a candidate doesn’t indicate their GPA, we have to ask per HR’s requirements, and under a 3.0 is likely going in the circular file. A 3.0 is a hard requirement for our new grad/entry level engineering positions; we might round up a 2.98 or something like that for a really outstanding candidate, but that’s really rare. We can find equally-good candidates with a 3.2 or 3.5 or 3.8, so we’ll hire them instead.

      In my field (engineering), after someone has been working for a year or two no one cares anymore what their GPA was.

      1. SusanIvanova*

        Do you distinguish between major and overall GPAs? I had a rough time adjusting to college – I did my calculus homework during roll call in high school, and had no idea that those office hours listed on the syllabus meant “go talk to the prof if you’re in over your head!” My major GPA would’ve been close to 4, but overall? Cringe.

  15. Anon Moose*

    I was always told you should leave your GPA off your resume (never mind your Linkedin) after a year or two out of undergrad. That your professional experience should speak more for itself by then and only summa, magna or cum laude are appropriate in your degree listing.
    I also don’t really understand why the OP is trying to police the friend’s resume or job stuff in the first place. It might make OP feel weird but that’s really between OP’s friend and her employer. Not seeing how this affects you at all (other than, of course, making you more skeptical of her truthfulness in general). I would not serve as a reference for this person, for example. But otherwise, so what?
    Its not as though they are going into the same field- OP says that friend is in the private sector and OP is going into academia. I think you accept that the exactitude of the major field likely matters less (unless its something specifically in the job requirements like Engineering or Nursing). But a BA in Communications vs. a BA in English, for example, or even a BS in Biology vs. a BS in Neuroscience is not going to matter a whole lot to many companies. (Its also possible the friend didn’t even write her own company bio.)

    1. Aurion*

      Considering the friend has the wrong degree designation on both her company bio and her personal LinkedIn, I think we can safely say the misrepresentation was deliberate.

      But your line of thinking baffles me. Sometimes similar sounding degrees are very different (see: Engineering vs Engineering Technology mentioned above), but if you are truly applying at a company where they don’t care if you have a Biology vs Neuroscience degree, why wouldn’t you say the correct one? That’s what would show up on transcripts or other verification methods, and a mismatch would raise some eyebrows at the very least.

    2. LW*

      Anon Moose,

      I suppose I should have explained how I came across these discrepancies. I was trying to show someone else that he could major in “A” and get a job in this industry, but then we both saw that my friend had misrepresented her major as “B” in several locations online. Obviously, it was a somewhat awkward situation.

      Also, I noted the differences in industry to speculate as to why I may be seeing this as “more not okay” than my friend. Obviously in academia, academic credentials are quite important.

  16. ElectricTeapots*

    I’m an engineer, so I immediately thought the misrepresented major could be a BA vs. BS thing, where the former is a degree but only the latter is ABET accredited. In that case, it would be a big deal– if it came out during the hiring process, that person would definitely not be hired, and if it came out once they were on board, I’d say that firing would be likely, if not a foregone conclusion.

    The GPA thing doesn’t strike me as so big a deal, with some caveats. Honesty is still the best policy, but I understand the temptation to reach some arbitrary “cutoff,” whether imposed by the company or oneself– maybe getting above 3.5 with the major but not with the overall. However, in conjunction with the degree misrepresentation, it does become a bigger deal– different degrees have different expected GPAs based on their perceived difficulty, and companies do take that into account. Fudging both amplifies the lie.

  17. WhiskeyTango*

    I had a friend in college who asked me to proof one of her papers. One major issue popped up, namely her thesis was that John Stuart Mill helped the Founding Fathers establish the US Constitution. This would have been difficult since he was born in 1806. When I pointed this out to her, she snapped at me, “It doesn’t matter. It’s philosophy!” (As a philosophy major, I was fairly certain that it did matter.) She turned in the paper as is, got a D- and had to repeat the class to graduate.

    I’m not sure what she took away from the incident, but I certainly learned a valuable lesson – that if someone isn’t willing to listen when you’re trying to help them, then you should mind your own business. I declined to help her proof papers in the future. Also, I never got an answer as to what she thought “Philosophy” is, but to this day, I am exceedingly curious.

    1. RVA Cat*

      I can only think she confused John Stuart Mill and John Locke, but when confronted with facts she doubled down?! SMH.

      1. WhiskeyTango*

        It was definitely Mill. She had picked him on purpose because everyone said he was one of the “easier” philosophers to read.

    2. Manders*

      Hah! One of my history professors told me a story about cringing through a presenter’s talk at a conference in which she was claiming that one work influenced another–but she got the publication dates of the two stories flipped, so the “influenced” work was actually published first. And this wasn’t an undergraduate, but someone who really ought to have known better.

    3. Retiree57*

      Mill’s influential “On Liberty” was published a decade or two before the American Revolution so the thesis is not far-fetched…unless she meant that he was physically present?

      1. KellyK*

        On Liberty was published in the 1850s, not the 1750s. The American revolution had long since happened.

      2. WhiskeyTango*

        Exactly — Mill wasn’t born until after the revolution. I actually suggested she change her thesis and suggest that “one might think” On Liberty influenced Jefferson. But she would have none of it. As someone suggested above, she doubled down. But the OP’s comment that her friend said it didn’t matter made me think of my classmate. If someone thinks facts don’t matter, there’s not much you can do to help them.

        I should point out that my classmate literally did the reading and wrote the paper the night before it was due. I was proofing it 20 minutes before the deadline.

      3. Caddy*

        On Liberty was published in 1859, about 80 years after the American Revolution, so I think you might be confusing titles with something else?

  18. Bowserkitty*

    Ah, t’were I able to state my major GPA as my actual GPA…that would have been fantastic and I would have made Dean’s List so many times.

    My actual GPA was average but it was good enough to get me into the job market. I haven’t read comments yet but is it common to list GPA after you’ve been in the workforce long enough?

    1. Kriss*

      The only place I’ve had an employer request my GPA years after being out of school was when I filled out an application for substitute teacher.

      my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer between my Jr & Sr years & my grades tanked that last semester as she got worse. They were still high enough to graduate. my major dropped from a 3.9 to a 3.2 but my overall GPA dropped to a 2.79. on hindsight, I really should have taken a leave of absense & gone back after she died but she insisted that I stay in because she was worried that I would lose my scholarships & wouldn’t go back if I took time off.

  19. OriginalYup*

    I love everything about this story.

    “I never got an answer as to what she thought “Philosophy” is.” My vote? “Fan fic.”

    1. neverjaunty*

      See, if only she’d done that as alternate-history fiction, she might have done all right!

  20. Christian Troy*

    I was in this situation a few years ago. I had a friend with a B.A in liberal arts and said she had a B.S in computer engineering, so it was a pretty major misrepresentation.She didn’t think it was a big deal because she took some computer programming classes and thought it was essentially the same thing.

    I guess to explain to the poster above, no, I don’t care in the sense that it’s not my career. I care in the sense I don’t want to be professionally associated with someone who misrepresents herself like that. I brought it up once and never again. The friendship faded out for various but I felt like there was a pattern of stretching the truth going on that made me uncomfortable.

  21. Izzie*

    Now I’m paranoid. I graduated with a Music Business degree, which at my school was identical to the Business degree program plus an additional Music Business minor, so I never had any qualms about just saying that I have a Bachelor of Business Administration on my resume (I do). Since I’ve pivoted out of the music industry, I omit the Music Business part of my degree on my resume and had never thought of that as unethical – I’m actually underrepresenting myself because I took extra classes to get the Music Business degree on top of the BBA! However, hiring managers see Music Business and they don’t realize I have the same qualifications as any candidate with a normal business degree because most other schools’ Music Business programs are a BA, BFA or BS. This has literally never occurred to me as an unethical practice. Am I doing it wrong??

    1. BRR*

      I don’t think you’re doing anything wrong. You’re not misrepresenting, it sounds like you’re just leaving out a minor on your resume. If a company is asking for information in an ATS or for a background check, then I would make sure to include it.

    2. M from NY*

      Yes you are. People don’t expect your resume to reflect what your credits could have qualified for they want to know what you have. You have a Music Business degree with a strong business background. Craft a cover letter or let your experience bolster the specifics. What you think is a simple omission really is not.

      1. Izzie*

        My degree is a Bachelor of Business Administration. I’m not just saying that I did the same coursework as students enrolled in the business program, although I did – I literally have the exact same degree with additional words after it due to the additional coursework.

      2. Noah*

        It could be like my degree. I have a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a focus track in Aviation Safety Management. I had to meet all the same requirements as any other BSBA graduate and then had additional requirements for the focus track. My diploma literally says Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. My transcript lists the program as Bus Admin – Av Safety Mgmt.

        1. Izzie*

          Yes, this is pretty much exactly the situation! I should go back and see what my transcript calls the program. Thanks for chiming in!

      3. automotive engineer*

        I think you’re being a little harsh here. If Izzie is worried about misrepresentation (which is a valid concern) I would advocate for doing something like what Alison suggested for when your major has an atypical name. Any possible misrepresentation could be avoided with a parenthetical following the name of the degree.

    3. Meg Murry*

      I think if you put Bachelor of Business Administration (Music Business Minor) that would be the truth if you really did a BBA + extra classes, and if the time comes for a reference/background check you could let HR know “my degree title was Music Business, which is a BBA+ extra classes, so that is what will show up on my background check”.

      I have a friend that is in a similar situation – his business degree is technically in Accounting, with a concentration in Business Computer Systems (because they concentrated on computing systems for the financial sector, and just added it to the accounting program rather that make a separate major – again, it’s like a regular degree + a minor). However, he has no desire to do actual accounting, so he typically just includes the Business Computer Systems part.

  22. Chocolate lover*

    I can see rewording the majors in cases where the major’s name is somewhat obscure or confusing, it does seem helpful. And the original and renamed major are related enough to make the connection.

    Years ago a roommate’s friend was bragging about his experience and how easy it would be for him to get another job. He felt the need to pull out his resume and show it to me (I don’t know if he thought I’d hire him for sitting in my living room?) and I noticed that his major was a lie. I know this, because we all went to the same school, and our school didn’t even offer the major he listed on his resume. When I asked him why he did that, he said that no one understood what his real major was when he told them and it was too difficult to explain. We were in the same major. It was actually quite easy to explain: ” a combination of literature, history and sociology.” and it certainly wasn’t a communications major. (and really, his major would have been irrelevant at that point anyway, he already had communications work experience.)

    I thought it was dishonest, not to mention unnecessary, and told him so. But I didn’t especially like him anyway, so it was just one more thing to add to the list.

  23. Sophia in the DMV*

    This is tangentially related, but what comes to mind is the Mike LaCour scandal of last summer who faked huge grants on his CV, faked data for papers – one of which was published, then retracted in Science – etc. His job offer at Princeton got rescinded, did not receive his UCLA PhD and is basically pushed out of the discipline, rightly so imo

  24. Kristy*

    I’m baffled. I have never heard of distinguishing between one’s major GPA and overall GPA. I just double checked my transcript (5 years out, recently requested in case I pursue a masters) and they don’t break that out, either. Huh.

    1. Chocolate lover*

      It’s not automatically done on the transcript, but there is a formula for it. I work in the same office as our academic advisors, and they’ve calculated it for students before.

      1. Bowserkitty*

        My understanding is that the major GPA is all classes geared solely toward your major, and the overall GPA is everything rolled up together.

        1. Meg Murry*

          Even that gets goofy depending on how you calculate it. For instance, for a degree in Teapot Engineering you need to take 3 sememsters of calculus. So do you count those, or only the ones that were Teapot Engineering 101 -499?

          1. Bowserkitty*

            Oh yikes, good point. My major was so simplistic (a foreign language) that I didn’t really have any potential overlapping classes.

            1. Kyrielle*

              *grins* Depends on the school. My major in Spanish (part of a double major) included courses on the Mexican revolution, religions of Mesoamerica, and…something else as well as the actual Spanish courses. (My Spanish major was very nearly accidental, actually – I realized that I had all but two courses worth of credits by accident because I took courses ‘for fun’, and decided I’d be a fool not to finish it and add it on.)

    2. Rebecca in Dallas*

      Yeah, I’ve never heard of that either. But I’ve also never been asked to provide my GPA and honestly I’m not sure what it was.

    3. Elsajeni*

      Yeah, it’s not often visible to students. It is usually being calculated somewhere internally, though — a lot of programs have a minimum GPA AND a minimum major GPA to graduate, so you can’t, say, graduate with a degree in math if you got D’s in all your math courses but took extra classes in music listening and underwater basket-weaving to drag your overall GPA back above the line.

    4. LW*

      I believe that at my school although the major GPA is not listed on the transcript, some individual departments do use it to determine which students should graduate with departmental honors.

  25. Ad Astra*

    Most of the companies who really care about your major and GPA are the companies that will request transcripts. So she’s either being dishonest for no good reason, or she’s going to get caught pretty quickly.

  26. Pam Adams*

    As a university academic advisor, I work with the former students who were either discovered for lying, or just realized upon trying to change jobs that their degrees had never been completed. Especially when times are tight, that lack of an actual degree can mean that you not only don’t get the job, you may not even get the interview.

  27. Mimmy*

    This post has me wondering about how I’m listing my soon-to-be-earned certificate. Two things:

    1. Right now, it’s on my resume as a “graduate certificate” but the school also calls it an “advanced certificate”. I’ll probably change it once I get the degree (June 6, yippee!!), but I would assume “graduate” and “advanced” are interchangeable?

    2. My certificate is in a somewhat obscure field, Disability Studies. Whenever I tell people about it, they often think it’s similar to special education or rehabilitation, i.e. working directly with people with disabilities. While many students do have direct contact jobs, others don’t, myself included, and is not my long-term goal.

    I guess this question, especially #2, is more related to people misunderstanding the degree, so Alison, if you want me to hold onto this question until Friday’s open thread, I can :)

    1. Tex*

      1) No, the name of the certificate should stay the same regardless of what your status is and it’s probably best to choose the school’s terminology. Right now you can list it as “Disability Studies – Advanced Certificate (expected June 2016)” and once you graduate, “Disability Studies – Advanced Certificate, 2016”.

  28. Mimmy*

    Regarding the GPA: I’m surprised people still include that on their resume. I was taught years ago to take it off. Maybe new college graduates are being encouraged to include it, but I personally don’t think it’s necessary unless you were specially recognized for a high GPA in your particular major.

    I’m with Alison, I wouldn’t get involved in this one.

    1. neverjaunty*

      There are some large companies that do, or at least until quite recently did, insist on GPA (one of these companies rhymes with Zoogle). One reason is to brag about the high GPA of their employees. Another is that it’s a fig leaf for age discrimination.

  29. Anxa*

    Is there a specific formula for calculating GPA across institutions.

    I have a 3.9 for my post-bac A.S., but I had a lot of transfer credits come from my B.S. But my B.S. itself had a few transfer from summer classes at the local community college. I have a 97 average for a post – bac certificate (I couldn’t afford the credit option), and my B.S. GPA is probably around 2.4

    Do I average all of the credits together? For professional/graduate school, if a class has expired, does the letter grade, too? Let’s say you’re applying to a program and all classes must be taken in the past 10, 7, or 5 years to count towards the pre-reqs. That means you’re spending money on retaking a huge part of your degree. Does that mean you can drop the old grades from your GPA? Even if you can, if they don’t realize that’s how you did it, doesn’t it look like a gross inflation/adjustment? I don’t see how a class can expire but not a grade.

    Sometimes I think about taking off my B.S. (low gpa) and just putting on my A.S., but that seems iffy. Sometimes I wish I could cancel those credits, take out a few more student loans, and just start over…but I know that know even if I had good grades, I’d already messed up my life so much. I just wish it weren’t so hard to leave your mistakes and misfortunes behind if they happened while in college. It’s funny, because you can tank high school or grad school, but it’s the undergraduate transcript that will haunt you forever.

    1. Foxtrot*

      Go with what the degree-granting institution reports. If you got a BS from State U but took some community college classes over the summer, go with what State U says your GPA is. Some transfer grades, some only transfer credits.

      1. The IT Manager*

        Yes. Your transcript should show both your total GPA and degree GPA. If you list your GPA on your resume (and that’s a big IF), use what your transcript shows not anything else. Anything else will look like lying since someone would verify your GPA by looking at your transcript not performing calculations themselves.

  30. steeped in anonymtea*

    My friend got a “doctorate” ,—Ph.D–from Ashwood University. This is a bogus diploma mill. There was an expose by a reporter who got an MD for his dog specializing in proctology because the dog had so much experience “sniffing other dog’s butts.”. He actually wrote that on his application!!!!!! As long as he paid about $350, the dog got the doctorate. My friend got 2 very high paying prestigious jobs and no one checked on her credential. All you have to do is Wikipedia it!!!! It makes me ill.

  31. Ella*

    I don’t know if getting fired is the concern as much as not getting a job at all. A coworker of mine put in his two weeks’ notice last month, only to have to email us all again before his last day to tell us that the job offer had been rescinded due to a “discrepancy” on his academic record. I have no idea what the discrepancy was, but if a company is calling around to double check OP’s friend’s history and realizes that her major is different than what she says, they may just move to the next candidate, especially if they think that the change was misrepresentative, rather than trying to make her degree more clear.

  32. Talvi*

    I always feel a bit weird when I have to include my GPA because of how it rounds – I am never sure whether I should round my 3.897 to 3.9 or truncate it at 3.89. This is, of course, only relevant for academic things like grad school applications (and they get a copy of my final transcripts anyway).

    1. stevenz*

      Put 3.9. If someone makes an issue of one-hundredth of a point I wouldn’t want to work for them.

  33. stevenz*

    I really don’t understand why anyone would do this. It’s a high risk strategy with little upside. A little white lie may not perceived as so little (Alison is very understanding in this regard but don’t count on any other manager being so) by someone who is putting a lot of trust in an employee. I really really don’t understand why anyone would seriously falsify their credentials by making stuff up, like a degree they don’t have. That’s just reckless and when it’s caught, as it almost certainly will be, the heat will be nuclear.

  34. Meep*

    This is really frustrating to me, I feel the same as OP.

    I know I’m extremely biased and jealous, but this sort of thing drives me insane — I had a grad school classmate and eventual coworker do this. We were in a program where the degree was a Master of Hot Drink & Iced Drink Sciences, and we were in the Teapot Studies specialization track (of 3 available tracks). Our degree clearly says it’s an MHIS (you get the idea), and it’s one of the two most common acronyms/degree names in our overarching profession.

    However, she has decided that since we work in the Teapot subfield, she writes on her resume and tells everyone that she has a Masters of Teapot Management. WHICH DOES NOT EXIST. And especially considering it comes from one of the two most well-known of these programs in our entire state, and many many professionals in our area have gone through the program with the same degree…. it drives me bonkers that nobody has called her out on it!

    When we both started at our new jobs and were introduced together at a staff meeting as both having Masters of Teapot Management degrees, and I was like ?!?!?! Nobody even asked me about my degree, they just assumed and used hers. Ugh. I know I’m just hideously jealous that she’s gotten far because she’s a confident speaker, and I’m failing at life because I can’t project confidence in interviews. Mumble.

  35. Vicki*

    Does anyone else remember the Scott Thompson scandal?
    Thompson was hired as the CEO of Yahoo! in January 2012, replacing Carol Bartz. Within weeks of his hiring, an “activist shareholder group” dug up information that alleged Thompson lied about details of his college degree.

    It may not be a fireable offense, but it can lead to being fired (or resigning under a cloud).

Comments are closed.