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Earning Your Virginia High School Diploma!

Many employers and postsecondary education institutions require a high school diploma. Virginia offers a number of alternatives to traditional high school for those adults who didn't earn their diplomas.

Virginia High School Diploma Options

In Virginia, adult students who would like to earn traditional diplomas rather than high school equivalency certificates can enroll in the Adult High School Diploma Program, the National External Diploma Program or the General Achievement Diploma Program. These three programs, which are offered through school districts throughout the state, have different age, study and exam requirements. Students in these programs earn traditional state of Virginia diplomas from the high schools where the programs were completed.

Virginia's Adult High School Diploma

Virginia residents 18 and older who did not finish high school can enroll in an Adult High School Diploma program to earn the credits needed for a diploma, which requires students to complete all of the requirements that were in place at the time they entered the ninth grade. Course requirements are based on transcripts from a student's original high school. Students in this program typically work at their own pace under the supervision of teachers who award credits once coursework is complete. Correspondence and independent study options are available, and some programs allow individuals to receive both high school and college credits. School districts charge different fees for classes and participation in the program.

National External Diploma Program

Virginia is one of a growing number of states that offers the National External Diploma Program (NEDP). The NEDP is based on 70 competencies that cover several different content areas, such as reading, math, science, history, health, financial literacy and workplace skills. Available to students 18 or older who did not complete high school, the NEDP allows students to use their work and life experiences to demonstrate their knowledge and abilities.

Rather than earning credits or passing standardized tests, students may be asked to fulfill one of several required language arts competencies by reading and discussing a newspaper article with a teacher or by writing a business letter. A math competency might be fulfilled by comparing interest rates on loans or mortgages. Other competency requirements might be satisfied by demonstrating job tasks and responsibilities. Teachers tailor the NEDP to each student's experience and needs, and individual work skills and goals are a significant part of the program.

General Achievement Diploma Program

Virginia's General Achievement Diploma program is designed for individuals 18 years or older who did not graduate and are not enrolled in high school. Students who choose this option have fewer credit requirements and more flexibility. Credits can be earned through online or correspondence courses, adult high school programs or community colleges. However, in addition to earning the 20 required credits, students in the program must also pass the General Education Development (GED) high school equivalency test, a comprehensive exam that covers language arts, math, science and social studies, as well as complete a board-approved career or technical education program.

Why Get a High School Diploma in Virginia?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the 2018 unemployment rate for those in the workforce who didn't have a high school diploma was almost 2% higher than those with a diploma (but no college education). In addition to giving you more opportunity in the job market, a high school diploma also qualifies you to enroll in a college degree program, which can increase your job prospects and earning potential.


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