How to Choose Between a High School Diploma and a GED

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There’s more than one way to prove your knowledge. While many students spend years earning their high school diplomas, others take a battery of tests in a single day and move on to college with a General Equivalency Diploma (GED). But is a GED as good as an actual diploma? And do colleges and employers really care which one you choose? Take a look at the facts before deciding how to complete your high school education.


Students who take the GED exam must not be enrolled in or graduated from high school and must be over the age of 16. Depending on the state where the test is taken, students may also have to meet other requirements.

Requirements: The GED is awarded after a student passes a series of tests in five academic subjects. In order to pass each test, the student must score higher than 60% of the sample set of graduating seniors. Generally, students need to spend a considerable amount of time studying for the exams.

Length of study: Students are not required to take traditional courses in order to earn their GED. The examinations take seven hours and five minutes to complete. Students may need to take preparation courses in order to get ready for the exams. However, these preparation courses are not mandatory.

How employers view a GED: The majority of employers hiring for entry-level positions will consider a GED score as comparable to an actual diploma. A small number of employers will consider the GED inferior to a diploma. If a student continues school and receives a college degree, his employer will probably not even consider how he completed his high school education.

How colleges view a GED: Most community colleges admit students who have received a GED. Individual universities have their own policies. Many will accept students with a GED, but some will not view the credential the same way as a diploma, especially if the school requires specialized courses of study for admittance. In many cases, a traditional diploma will be viewed as superior.

High School Diploma

Laws vary from state to state, but most schools will permit students to work on completing their high school diploma at a traditional public school for one to three years after they turn eighteen. Special community schools and other programs often provide older students the opportunity to complete their graduation requirements. School diplomas do not generally have minimum age requirements.

Requirements: In order to receive a diploma, students must complete coursework as dictated by their school district. Curriculum varies from district to district.

Length of study: Students generally take four years to complete their high school diploma.

How employers view a diploma: A high school diploma will allow students to meet the education requirements for many entry-level positions. Generally, employees with diplomas will earn significantly more than those without. Students who wish to advance in their careers may need to attend college for additional training.

How colleges view a diploma: Most students admitted to four-year colleges have earned a high school diploma. However, a diploma does not guarantee acceptance. Factors such as grade point average (GPA), coursework, and extracurricular activities also play a role in admissions decisions.

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Littlefield, Jamie. "How to Choose Between a High School Diploma and a GED." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Littlefield, Jamie. (2020, August 27). How to Choose Between a High School Diploma and a GED. Retrieved from Littlefield, Jamie. "How to Choose Between a High School Diploma and a GED." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 3, 2023).