Earning Your Iowa High School Diploma!

Adults who didn't earn their high school diplomas may find many work and educational opportunities closed to them. Luckily, Iowa offers several alternatives to traditional high school education that can help students achieve their academic goals.

How to Earn an Iowa High School Diploma

The state of Iowa offers several high school diploma completion programs for adults who never earned their diplomas through traditional means. Additionally, some community colleges in the state offer helpful alternative learning options, such as the ability to take distance-learning courses for credit or to take transfer courses for college.

High School Graduation Requirements

Graduation requirements vary by each school district in Iowa. However, all students in the state must complete four credits of English, three credits of mathematics, three credits of social studies and three credits of science. Additionally, students are required to take U.S. government, American history and participate in physical education. For additional requirements, contact a local school board or the Iowa Department of Education's website (

Adult High School Options

Adult High School Diploma Programs

Adult high school diploma completion programs are offered at all of Iowa's 15 community colleges. Students who complete the requirements earn a high school diploma through the community college. Exact requirements and needed credit numbers vary from college to college, but students may have to earn up to 36 semester credits. Some programs have an age requirement for admission, while others merely require that the student's high school class has already graduated. Credit may be applied towards a student's diploma for any classes completed while he or she was in high school. Generally, Iowa community colleges require that students complete at least some of their credits at college facilities before they award a diploma. Additional information can be found on each community college's website.

Adult Basic Education and Literacy Programs

All of Iowa's community colleges include adult basic education instruction. These programs are designed to help students raise their skill levels so they can complete the High School Equivalency Test (HiSET) exam (replacing the GED).

The eligibility requirements for this exam are as follows: be 17 years of age or older (or be granted an exception), be enrolled in an Adult Education and Literacy program, have a preCASAS (Comprehensive Adult Student Assessment System) in math and reading, and have passed the OPT (Official Practice Test). On testing day, you must also have a valid ID, be able to verify SSN (if applicable), and present a Verification for Testing Form.

Students who pass the HiSET exam receive a High School Equivalency Diploma (HSED), which is issued through the state of Iowa. To pass this exam, you must score at least an 8 on each of five sections with a total score of 45. You must also score 2 out of 6 on the writing test. Many colleges also offer English as a second language (ESL) programs.

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