Pennsylvania High School Diploma Program Requirements

In order to graduate from high school, students in Pennsylvania must accumulate a set number of credits in subjects like English, math, science and physical education. Additionally, they must complete a state-required project and take a series of keystone examinations. Read on for more information about Pennsylvania high school diploma requirements.

High School Diploma Requirements in Pennsylvania

To earn a high school diploma in Pennsylvania, students must complete 120 credits in specific subjects, as well as undertake a final project and pass keystone exams. Detailed requirements as set by the Pennsylvania Department of Education are outlined below.

Credit Hours

Students in Pennsylvania must accumulate at least 120 credit hours in the following subjects to earn a high school diploma:

  • English
  • Science
  • Social studies
  • Mathematics
  • Health and physical education
  • Arts and humanities

Individuals also must choose at least five approved courses in subjects like music, art, business education, computer science, home economics, consumer education, industrial arts, foreign language or vocational education.

Culminating Project

Pennsylvania secondary students must complete a state-required culminating or senior project by the end of their final year. Students can usually begin working on the project in their sophomore year and typically collaborate with a mentor from the project's initial development to its completion.

Before work on the project can begin, students must submit a written proposal to their faculty mentor, who must approve the project before the student can move on. The project serves as an opportunity for students to showcase their talents and interests. It also tests their abilities to go beyond what is taught in a conventional high school curriculum.

Keystone Exams

In addition to fulfilling proper coursework, Pennsylvania high school students are also required to pass a series of keystone examinations. These exams aim to ensure that students are prepared for life beyond high school, including entering the job market or pursuing postsecondary education. The initial tests cover literature, biology and Algebra I. Other subject areas that will be phased in for students starting school in 2016 and later are:

  • Algebra II
  • Geometry
  • Chemistry
  • English composition
  • Civics and government
  • U.S. history
  • World history

Keystone exams may count for 33% of a student's final course grade, or they may be used as a stand-alone graduation option. Those who fail will have the opportunity to retake an exam twice. Those who fail the second retake will be able to seek alternative options, such as taking AP exams or completing a project that meets the approval of district officials. Some students with disabilities are exempt from taking keystone examinations.

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