GED vs High School Diploma: Differences and Similarities

Earning a high school diploma or GED are great alternatives if you’re looking forward to formal education. 

Going to college, looking out for a new job, or seeking promotion needs a high school certificate or its equivalent. But you need to know the difference and similarities that lie between these two certificates to decide on which is best for your future and career. 

In this article, we’ll explore the differences and similarities between a GED and a high school diploma. Carefully read through.

What is GED (General Educational Development)

General educational development (GED) is an internationally recognized program that tests the proficiency of students in standard high school subjects. It is specifically made for people that are 16 years or above and not yet enrolled in high school or are high school drop-outs. You can earn a degree that is equivalent to a high school diploma by enrolling in a GED program to test for your applied knowledge and skills to specific situations.

What is High School Diploma?

A high school diploma is also called a secondary school degree that is earned after the completion and graduation from High School. To be certified with a diploma in high school, you must have met the individual requirements of your state and school, and earned credits in different courses including general subjects such as mathematics, science, and English.

GED and high school diplomas hold a variety of similarities and differences. In this article, we will enlighten you on the similarities and differences between GED and a high school diploma.

Differences Between GED and High School Diploma

Although GED can be used to apply for a college or to obtain a job just like a high school diploma, there are still some differences between these two. Having an understanding of the differences between them will help you make the right decision on which to go for. 

We have highlighted five (5) differences that will help you gain adequate knowledge on GED and a high school diploma:

  • Educational requirements.
  • College acceptance
  • Test requirements
  • Experience
  • Employment opportunities

1. Educational Requirements

There are notable differences in the educational requirements of the GED program and high school diploma

GED vs High School Diploma

GED program certificate High School diploma
GED students have no specific requirements to complete a specific course. But many GED students may choose to take a test prep course before their exams. GED exams are set from the topics that are taught in high school. So you need to be adequately prepared for the exams especially if you have been away from school for a very long time. There is specific coursework that high school students are to complete before they will be eligible for graduation. This course work varies from individual schools and states. This coursework is to be completed in crucial topics like mathematics, history, language arts, social studies, and science. There are also elective courses that will earn you credits when you begin to develop your professional skills.

2. College acceptance

There are important differences in the acceptance into different colleges for students who undergo GED program and high school diploma students

GED vs high school diploma

GED program certificate High School diploma
College acceptance into a 4-year university or college for a candidate with a GED certificate is not as easy. But technical schools and almost all community colleges do not disregard candidates with GED certificates. College acceptance into a four-year college or university is made easy for students with a high school diploma.

3. Test requirements

The test requirement and mode of carrying out exams for traditional high school students differ  from students wanting to write a GED exam

GED vs high school diploma

GED program certificate High School diploma
The exams or tests of GED candidates mimic the questions of the traditional High School. GED candidates are to complete exams in subjects such as language arts, mathematical reasoning, social studies, and science. The test is made up of long-form multiple-choice, and extended essay questions which require students to have a minimum of 60% in these exams. However, if you fail you can take the exam up to three times in a year. High school students are required to complete exams in each of their classes to earn the required grades to qualify for graduation. Your exams and tests are set in line with your course syllabus, and you are required to study for a minimum of four years before you will be granted a high school certificate.

Although, the completion of GED takes less time it does not make it easier.

4. Experience

There is a difference in the experience gained by high school students and a GED program candidate

GED vs high school diploma

GED program certificate High School diploma
GED coursework is exclusively away from academic activities because the objective is to prepare for the GED exam. So, they don’t have the privilege to enjoy extracurricular activities in School. There is an exciting experience that is attached to completing a high school diploma. You will have a fun experience aside from academic activities such as creating friendships, enjoying school events, engaging in organizations, and social clubs.

5. Employment opportunities

There are differences in how employers esteem candidates with a high school diploma and candidates with a GED program certificate.

GED vs high school diploma

GED program certificate High school diploma
There is a hitch in the employment opportunities of candidates with a GED program certificate. Some employers do not employ prospective employees without a high school certificate.  So, ensure to check the company policy before sending a job application letter. There are many employment opportunities for prospective employees with a high school certificate, employers show a preference for this category of people.
Despite the differences between a certificate in the GED and a high school diploma certificate. There are some significant similarities between these two. Some of which are stated below.
GED is equivalent to a high school diploma. You can be admitted into college using either of these certificates.
You can gain employment opportunities using either of these certificates.
Although GED candidates are either high school drop-outs or candidates above 18 years, the standard of the exams is often in line with the high school syllabus.

Pros and Cons of a GED and Diploma

Candidates or students without a high school diploma can now have educational and employment opportunities using the general education development (GED) credential. Although the GED program certificate was thought to be equivalent to a High School certificate not all organizations accord them the same. The Pros and Cons of GED are stated below:


  • Opportunity to get ahead, and make do something great without a high school diploma
  • Alternative for having a certificate for people who had trouble with traditional schooling.
  • GED certificate holders are one step ahead of High School dropouts
  • It can contribute to promotion at work.
  • Admission can be gained into technical schools and career-oriented programs that are available in colleges.


  • There may be drop backs experience by GED certificate holders
  • Some employers do not accept GED program certificate holders
  • Job recruiters view GED certificate holders as undetermined with no drive towards long-term goals, while viewing a high school diploma as someone who has a positive drive and can work for a long time (which could be wrong).
  • In some organizations, GED graduates earn lower than high school diploma graduates.

How Does GED Compare to High School Diploma?

Because the GED is a high school equivalency diploma, you can use it to apply to college or for a job resume in the same way that you would a high school diploma. And if you’re wondering which schools and jobs accept the GED, we have good news for you! The GED is accepted by more than 98 percent of schools in the United States, including community colleges, universities, and private schools. If you combine your GED with a good SAT or ACT score, you’ll have a good chance of getting into any school you want.

If you’re looking to enter the workforce right away, the GED is a great option. Employers consider the GED to be equivalent to a high school diploma, so you should have no trouble applying for jobs—as long as you have the necessary skills and experience. Furthermore, earning a GED has the potential to significantly increase your earnings. Many GED graduates earn $9,000 more per year than those who do not have a high school diploma.


A high school diploma and GED shows prospective employers and colleges that you can apply academic skills following High School standard. Although preference is shown over a High school diploma over a GED certificate, this should not prevent you from taking the exams. You can confidently move forward with determination and perseverance to the next stage of your life.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How many courses/subjects are to be taken for a GED program?

Four subjects are to be taken in the GED program. The four subjects are; history, language arts, social studies, and science.

How much does it cost to write a GED test?

The GED test is charged per subject and it costs $80 for each

Can GED exams be taken online?

GED exams cannot be taken online. This is to prevent exam malpractice and to expand exam security. Hence you must write your exams in person.

Do I need to tender any form of identification before writing the GED exam?

Yes, you must verify your identity by showing either a passport, driver’s license, learner’s permit, or any other form of official ID.

Can I retake GED exams if I don’t pass the first time?


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