Education Linked to Better Economic Outcomes
A high school diploma is likely to be the first prerequisite for many major opportunities in your adult life. College is, of course, the most obvious experience that requires a high school diploma. Earning a postsecondary degree could lead to a more interesting career path, higher earning power and skills that will benefit you throughout the rest of your life. Without completing high school, you can't even apply to college.
What if you aren't interested in higher education? While it's never a good idea to completely close off this option - you may change your mind later in life and want to go back to school - there are other reasons to earn a high school diploma. It's a common requirement for entry-level positions in many career fields. While some employers will hire you without a high school diploma, you're unlikely to be promoted very quickly and may never find yourself reaching the management level.
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Look at the Facts
Statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Education suggest that individuals who complete high school in four years are less likely to be unemployed. According to a 2006 study published on the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) website, people who never completed high school had a 16.3% unemployment rate eight years later. During the same time span, the unemployment rate among those who earned their diplomas within four years was 4.7% (www.nces.ed.gov). Taking longer than four years to earn your diploma can also have negative consequences. Individuals who spent more than six years pursuing a diploma experienced an 18.1% unemployment rate.
Average annual earnings were also significantly higher for people who completed high school within four years. Those individuals earned an annual wage of $29,700 eight years after starting high school. Students who took longer than six years to complete high school earned $22,500; those who never earned a diploma made $24,800 per year.
What About the GED Test?
It's worth noting that lots of adults do go back to earn their General Educational Development (GED) credential, which many schools and employers accept as an alternative to the high school diploma. However, the GED exam isn't easy, and time spent away from school can make it more challenging to get back into the student mindset. Furthermore, as the study above indicates, taking more time to earn your high school credential is as closely associated with high unemployment as never earning it at all.
Putting in the time now to finish your high school diploma is likely to have a positive effect on future educational opportunities, job options and earning potential. Think seriously before you consider dropping out.