GED vs High School Diploma

By Jordan Fabel •  Updated: November 14, 2022  •  6 min read  •  Education
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It’s necessary to complete a GED or high school diploma if you want to move on to college. Often, you will need one of these two in order to land a job. While there are some jobs that don’t require any type of high school education, these are few and far between.

Both a GED and a high school diploma offer proof that you have basic academic knowledge. While they are similar in what they provide, a GED and a high school diploma are still rather different. Let’s look at what both of these are and the differences.

What is a GED?

A GED or General Educational Development program is an alternative option to getting your high school diploma. This option is commonly used by people that leave high school early. It can also work well for those that have other responsibilities causing them to not be able to finish high school, such as a family to raise or a full-time job.

The requirements to earn a GED include:

You can pursue a GED at any point in your life. Once you turn 16, you can pursue a GED even if you left high school decades ago.

What is a High School Diploma?

A high school diploma is a traditional diploma you get when you complete your high school program. The requirements to earn your high school diploma will depend on your state. you will need to earn the correct number of credits in English, Math, and Science, along with other subjects.

Typically, students are expected to attend high school full-time for four years. you will need to pass your classes to receive a diploma. These are the only requirements and it’s possible to earn your high school diploma faster than in four years.

GED vs High School Diploma: The Differences

Getting a GED or a high school diploma gives you what you need to apply for a job or for college. However, they are different. Before you choose which one you prefer, make sure you understand the differences found in the educational requirements, the experience, and the testing requirements.

Educational Requirements

A huge difference between a GED and a high school diploma is the educational requirements. With a high school diploma, you will need to complete specific coursework to graduate and get your diploma. However, with a GED, you don’t have to go through the same coursework.

The requirements for a high school diploma will vary from one state to another. You will likely need to take courses in science, math, history, language arts, and social studies. Most states also require a specific number of credits in physical education.

With a GED, you don’t have to take any of the courses you would have to take in high school. However, you will likely need a GED test prep course to get you prepared for your GED exam. This course will cover many topics that will be covered on the exam. These are the same topics that high school students study.

If you choose to get your GED, preparing is very important. Since you won’t have four years of classroom experience, you will need to prepare for the exam very well. This is especially true if it has been a long time since you were in a classroom.


Of course, one of the biggest differences between the GED and a high school diploma is the experience. If you get a GED, you won’t attend courses for four years and you’ll miss out on the social part of high school. Going to high school also makes you eligible for extracurricular activities, such as sports, clubs, and organizations.

However, if you choose to get your GED, you can skip the social experience, if you prefer. The experience will be exclusively academic.

Testing Requirements

You won’t need as much time to complete a GED compared to a high school diploma. It will also not be necessary to take multiple exams, on different subjects, like in high school. However, this doesn’t mean the GED exam is easy or even easier than high school.

While a high school student will take many exams for each class, they will also gain access to tutoring and classroom work to prepare. A GED candidate will need to seek out exam prep to get ready for the exam.

If you want to get your GED, you will need to pass four exams. These exams will include the following subjects:

All of these subjects are covered in a traditional high school program. The exams for your GED will include essay, long-form, and multiple-choice questions.

It’s possible to improve your test-taking skills by using practice tests and a GED exam prep course. However, you won’t have that many opportunities to fix a lower test score. If you don’t get a 60% or higher on the GED exam, you won’t be eligible to retake it. Even if you can retake it, you only get three opportunities each year.

Choosing Between the GED and a High School Diploma

Before you make your final decision, consider a few things:

If you’re over the age of 18, it probably makes sense to get your GED. Even if you’re 16 or 17, this might be the better option for you.

Those looking to get a college education can get either a GED or a high school diploma. However, if you’re under 18 years of age, it’s likely a better option to complete high school. While many colleges will consider a GED for admittance, a high school diploma is often a better option.

If you do choose to get a GED, you will likely need higher ACT or SAT scores to get into a good college. Letters of recommendation may also be necessary.

Making the final decision between a GED and a high school diploma depends on your goals and your current situation. Take the time to do your research before you decide.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path.