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High School Diploma: Requirements & Coursework

If you didn't finish high school, you can still earn a diploma through a number of different programs. Many states have adult high schools that allow you to start where you left off and finish earning the credits needed to graduate. All states also offer exams you can take to earn a high school equivalency diploma.

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Adult High School Diploma

Adult High Schools are generally offered through community colleges, public school systems and technical schools. In Adult High Schools, you typically earn a diploma from the school or college that is hosting the program. Although admissions requirements vary, usually you submit a copy of your high school transcript and work with a counselor to determine which credits you need for a diploma.

Each state has its own graduation requirements, but many require around 22 credits, including core requirements such as 4 credits in language arts, 3 credits in math and 3 credits in both science and social studies. Students usually work at their own pace and complete coursework through classes, supervised study and online work. Some Adult High Schools also require you to pass state assessment tests.

Online High Schools

A growing number of accredited online high schools are now available for and adult learners. Some online high schools are distance-learning programs available to adults living anywhere in the United States. For example, Brigham Young University is one of several well-known colleges and universities that offer online diploma opportunities. In addition to core academic requirements, students in the BYU Adult Diploma Program must also earn credits in physical education, fine arts, computer technology, financial literacy and five elective courses.

The University of Texas also offers an online diploma program available to adult learners. Like other online high schools, graduation requirements are based on requirements set by the state department of education. Official transcripts can be used to transfer credits already earned.

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Career Online High School

Other online diploma programs are geared toward local adult learners. The Career Online High School Program is a relatively new online adult diploma program offered through public libraries. Adults who are accepted into these programs complete 18 credits and earn both a high school diploma and a career certificate in areas such as childcare, homeland security, transportation services and retail customer service. You can transfer credits you earned while in high school by submitting an official transcript.

Career Online High School students must complete four credits in English and three in math, including general math, consumer math and algebra. Social Studies requirements include credits for coursework in American History, world history, American government and health, while science credits are earned by completing courses in biology, physical science and astronomy.

In the Career Online High School program, you work with an academic coach and complete your coursework online, at your own pace. This programs are free to residents 19 and older in the cities where they are offered.

High School Equivalency Diplomas

All states offer a high school equivalency diploma, which is earned by passing a comprehensive exam. In the past, the General Education Development (or GED) high school equivalency exam was the national test used for equivalency diplomas. However, since 2014, a number of states have replaced the GED with the HiSET exam or the TASC Test. Some states offer a choice between two or three of these tests.

Although the GED, HiSET and TASC tests have different formats and testing options, all three exams cover the same content. To pass, you need to be able to read and analyze information in reading passages. You also need to interpret information presented on maps and through charts, tables and diagrams. All of the exams require you to write at least one essay. To pass the math sections of any of the three tests, you will need to solve problems involving arithmetic, algebra and geometry.

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