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High School Diploma vs GED: What's the Difference and Do Employers Care?

A bright future starts with the right education, but can a certain piece of paper prove more profitable than another? The great high school diploma vs GED debate may have you believe so.

On the one side, a high school education has been touted as being the foundation for your entire life. The choices you make as a teenager can ultimately determine your job eligibility and future worth.

But on the other side, many folks are arguing that a "Good Enough Diploma" is, in fact, good enough to do whatever a high school diploma does.

Let's settle the argument once and for all.

The Great High School Diploma vs GED Debate

High school diploma and GED are often used interchangeably. However, the two are far from being identical.

The High School Diploma

A high school diploma is a certificate you receive after completing a traditional education. That is, you progress from elementary school through high school and complete all educational requirements to graduate.

For most young children, the idea of traditional education is instilled early. Starting in elementary school, students expect to progress from one grade to the next until they graduate.

In fact, recent data shows that over 90% of Americans over the age of 25 have earned their high school diploma. For comparison, less than half the US population over 25 years of age had finished high school in 1940.

However, the path to success isn't always a straight one, which is why there's an alternative to formal education.

The GED

A General Education Degree, or GED, focuses on most of the same information you'd learn in a high school classroom.

However, classes don't follow the traditional school schedule. Your classmates could vary in age, from teenagers to those in their 60's. And some courses like gym or foreign languages aren't required.

In essence, the GED test is a condensed version of the things you're supposed to learn in traditional high school classes. Consider it the abridged version of high school without the drama, school dances, and football games.

The Two Aren't Exactly Equal

The GED test lasts for about seven hours, compared to four whole years of high school courses for a traditional diploma. But does this shortened course of study automatically mean a GED isn't as good as a high school diploma?

If the two were truly equal, why wouldn't everyone favor the shorter version and save themselves some time and trouble?

The answer isn't a simple one.

Not every student wants to go to college. Not every student needs to work during high school. Some students may love high school sports and extracurriculars while others loathe these things.

Each program offers unique advantages and disadvantages. The only thing that makes one more desirable than the other is the needs of the person pursuing it.

What Are The Advantages of a High School Diploma vs. GED?

It's not hard to understand why most students pursue a traditional high school diploma.

Formal classroom education provides structure, chances to ask questions, and receive feedback on their work. These things simply aren't possible with self-study GED programs.

High school offers a larger variety of classes and activities than a GED program. It balances both academic and social worlds. Students are exposed to other cultures and more knowledge than they would gain from a basic GED.

In addition, students can take advantage of guidance, career counseling, college preparation, and other services that can help them reach the next step. If you plan on attending higher education, a diploma may entitle you to financial aid not offered to students with a GED.

Most notably, a high school diploma signals to potential employers that a student has the persistence to finish high school. Graduating high school isn't an accomplishment to take lightly, especially since it's optional.

Are There Advantages of a GED?

Students pursue a GED over a traditional diploma for myriad reasons, most of which point to the program's flexibility.

For starters, the GED is a test, not a class. This gives students the flexibility of learning on their own around their schedule. For extra help, students can opt to take GED prep classes with an instructor.

Because of this self-guided pace, students now have the freedom to work during the hours traditional school would have consumed. Many students pursue the GED if they need to pay bills, take care of a loved one, or have other responsibilities most high schoolers do not.

Data shows that over 8.5 million people over the age of 25 have a GED. This proves the alternative to traditional education isn't as uncommon as it might seem.

How Your Degree Impacts Your Career

In most cases, the personal choice of a high school diploma vs GED won't have a major impact on your future.

Most employers that require at least a high school diploma will also accept a GED. Colleges, universities, and branches of the US military accept either one.

However, if you're looking forward to a military career, your best bet lies with a high school diploma. Applicants with a GED are considered Tier 2 candidates. The military limits the number of Tier 2 candidates it accepts.

For example, less than 1% of the applicants the air force accepts are Tier 2 candidates. The Army may accept as many as 10%, while the Marines typically allow about 5%.

In addition, there are some colleges that won't accept a GED in order for you to enroll. Most of them will, but you need to think carefully about your future career before you opt for a GED.

Bottom Line: Is One More Powerful Than the Other?

The differences between a high school diploma vs GED are minor. However, it's impossible to say they're completely equal.

Most employers only care that you have one or other as opposed to nothing. It's up to you to decide if the advantages of one will outweigh the disadvantages of the other.

If you really want to stand out to an employer, let us help! Contact us today to learn how a realistic diploma can give you the credentials you need to land the job you deserve.


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