How to start a career in automotive design with a low GPA


Academic achievement is just one aspect of an engineer's line of career path. It is imperative to know your industry well enough to determine what may help you in getting a design engineering job. 

Employers want proof of your accomplishment, but some companies put more thought into your ability to put your knowledge into practice. If you believe a low GPA is a hurdle that is keeping you away from your dream job, continue reading this; you will find your answer.

Overcoming a Low GPA

Field of Work for Low GPA

The companies that offer mechanical engineering design jobs include OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturer), tier 1, 2, and 3. Instead of grades, you should consider adding points for specific projects and accomplishments in your resume. Advanced certifications, real-world experience, internships, and externships will outweigh university grades. 

To strengthen your resume while applying for these job descriptions, you can focus on two areas of design in mechanical engineering: plastics design and sheet metal design. Your college project and internships should largely center around these sectors.

For example, if your goal is to obtain employment as an aerospace engineer, your project descriptions should demonstrate your proficiency with concepts such as propulsion and the mechanics of aircraft and aerodynamics.

If you want a job among these profiles, you should have the qualities that a design engineer possesses:

  • You must have strong knowledge of sheet metal part design for structural components as well as plastic part design.
  • You should have expertise in 3D modeling and drafting in Unigraphics NX.
  • You must be proficient in the design and manufacturing process.
  • You should be able to make a concept design in casting/forging sheet metal parts.
  • You also must know kinematics or vehicle movements and vehicle/system-related BOM preparation.


CATIA-V5 and NX are the two most widely used tools in the industry. These tools have a student edition version as well. Here's a brief description to get you acquainted with them:

  • CATIA -V5: CATIA software is a multi-platform software suite for computer-aided design. It is used to design, simulate, analyze, and manufacture products in a variety of industries, including aerospace, automotive, and industrial machinery.
  • NX: NX is an advanced computer-aided design, engineering, and manufacturing (CAD/CAE/CAM) solution. It provides power, control, and performance to improve automotive design and manufacturing processes.

While initiating any domain-specific project, you should put emphasis on using these two tools in your project. Putting in the hours to familiarize yourself with these tools will demonstrate your work experience in the field and prepare you for the real-world application of theoretical concepts. 

While preparing for the interview, you should figure out the questions that can be thrown at you regarding these tools. Your explanation of the work should be crystal clear to the interviewer.

During the job interview for the design engineer position, there is a specific stage for the tool test. In this test, the candidate is given a piece to draft with the help of a designing tool. 

If the applicant is aware of the tool, then it's a piece of cake to get it done right in the given time and get the job. On the other hand, if the candidate does not know their way around the designing tools, then it's difficult to crack that portion of the interview. Hence, it's of utmost importance that the aspirant has prior knowledge and hands-on experience with these tools. 

The Choice of Your Design Company: Tier 1 Vs. Tier 2 and 3

When applying for job interviews, your main focus should be on tier 2 and 3 companies rather than tier 1 companies and OEMs. Here's a breakdown of the company classification:

  • Tier 1 Companies: System/Module supplier
  • Tier 2 Companies: Component supplier
  • Tier 3 Companies: Parts suppliers

OEMs and tier 1 companies have an intense screening process because they supply components directly to the automakers. For these companies, a high GPA has the same worth as a hands-on experience. They go for potential profiles where the applicant has in-depth knowledge about the concepts.

Tier 2 and tier 3 companies are small manufacturing companies with a limited range of projects. They offer jobs to freshers as well as experienced individuals. The hiring team does not only look at a candidate's grades; instead, they give more priority to the practical and hands-on experiences. 

When you start working for tier 2 and 3 companies, look for challenging projects where you can showcase your individual skills. You must plan to stay in these companies for an extended period so that you gain the necessary experience to advance your skillset.


The pay offered by these companies might be less, but, don't let that demotivate you. Initially, the salary will be lower than your expectation. But, you will be trusted with rather important responsibilities in these companies. After working and gaining experience for 2-3 years, you can change your job and apply for tier 1 companies or OEMs. Now, when you go for tier 1 companies and OEMs, your work experience will act as the catalyst that helps recruiters look past your low GPA.

Final Take

Overcoming a low GPA is possible by adding valuable assets to your resume. These can be internships, an industry-based project that highlights your skills, or relevant work experience. Taking a few certified courses can make up for the low GPA setback. 

Do you still have questions about how to get a design job with a low GPA? Join our Design Master's program today.


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