Should I Get My High School Diploma or GED?

Aug 06, 2018

Although passing the General Educational Development (GED) exam results in a high school equivalency credential, it doesn't always offer the same opportunities as a high school diploma. Exploring some of the differences between the GED and a traditional high school diploma will help you decide which option is best for you. View article »

View Popular Schools

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

94% college-bound high school students
…said it was important to communicate with colleges during the search process. (Source: Noel-Levitz 2012 trend study)

Select a school or program

View More Schools
Show Me Schools
  • 0:04 Time Commitments
  • 1:05 GED Preparation
  • 1:56 Post-Secondary Options
  • 2:36 Professional Opportunities
  • 3:28 GED Eligibility

Find the perfect school

Video Transcript

Time Commitments

There are several important factors to consider when deciding if you should pursue a GED test credential instead of a high school diploma, including time commitment, academic preparation, postsecondary options, and professional opportunities. Let's discuss each of these factors in more detail.

Time is a big consideration. On average, students complete their high school diplomas in four years. This is a much longer time commitment than the GED exam, which can typically be prepared for and completed within a few months. However, individuals who qualify to take the GED exam are likely to have already completed two to three years of high school. If you are struggling to complete your high school obligations or have a pressing need to enter the workforce, the GED exam does offer a faster way to earn your high school equivalency credential.

GED Preparation

Is taking the GED exam easier than earning a high school diploma? No - and significant preparation is required. According to GED Testing Service, the national organization that oversees the exam, test takers must have a level of knowledge and skill in math, science, social studies, and language arts that represents high school equivalency.

Many adult basic education centers around the country offer preparation courses for the GED exam. Students can also find free practice tests online or purchase official GED study books through GED Testing Service. Individuals considering dropping out of high school to take the GED exam should be prepared to spend a couple of months studying for the test.

Post-Secondary Options

Are you planning to go to college? Many U.S. colleges and universities accept the GED test credential in place of a high school diploma. However, you will still have to take college entrance exams and meet other admissions requirements, many of which are difficult to complete outside of high school. In addition, many international schools do not accept the GED credential in place of a traditional diploma. If you're considering post-secondary study, check with your prospective schools to ensure that they do accept the GED test credential and that you can meet their other admissions requirements.

Professional Opportunities

A major concern for many students regards their career. Most American employers accept the GED test credential in place of a high school diploma, which can make the GED exam a particularly good option for students who are eager to move quickly into the workforce. However, many career paths do require some postsecondary study for advancement, whether it's vocational training or a college degree.

If you're interested in a particular profession, do some research into your prospective field's requirements before you make your final decision. You may choose to earn your GED credential and accelerate through a workforce training program, or finish your high school diploma and put off working for a few more years so you can earn a necessary college degree.

GED Eligibility

The GED exam offers a useful alternative for adults who have already left high school, but younger students and individuals who are very close to graduating may find it easier to finish their diplomas. The minimum requirements for GED test-takers, according to the GED Testing Service, are as follows:

  • Being at least 16 years old
  • Not being enrolled in high school
  • Not having a high school diploma

However, your home state may also have additional requirements for taking the test, which may relate to your age, residency status, and the length of the time period since you left school. For example, 43 states and Washington, DC mandate that GED test-takers be at least 18 years old, though additional documentation may waive this requirement. Visit the American Council on Education's affiliated site, GED Testing Service, for more information about qualifying to take the GED in your state.

If you are thinking about taking the GED exam instead of earning a high school diploma, consider what it takes to earn a GED credential and whether or not it is conducive to your personal lifestyle and professional goals. If you decide it's for you, you must also determine your eligibility.

Need help preparing for the GED? Check out's GED Test Prep study guides, complete with bite-size video lessons, practice tests, informational resources, and more to make sure you ace the exam!

Next: View Schools

Popular Schools

The listings below may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users.

Find your perfect school

What is your highest level of education?