What's Best, a GED® or High School Diploma?

My best advice: If you are still in high school, stay and finish. You will make more money, get better jobs, and feel better about yourself with a high school diploma.

But if it's too late for that and you left high school without a diploma, what are your options?

Can I Still Get My High School Diploma?

Some states have adult high schools, where you can take classes and earn a high school diploma. Most often, though, adult education is a route to a high school equivalency diploma, earned by taking the GED test or HiSET exam, depending on your state.

Fake “Internet high schools” claim to offer high school diplomas or "GEDs," but these are actually worthless. A few schools offer high school diplomas, but they can be costly and take several years. Even then, some employers or colleges won't take the certificate if it's based on online testing.

Many websites offer an "online GED" in a few weeks (or even a few days!), based on a quick test or "life experience." Be very wary of these. They are fakes; all you receive is phony diploma that means nothing. These online "schools" are diploma mills. They're in the diploma printing business, not the education business.

Is a GED the Best Choice?

What many people commonly say is a "GED" is a state-issued high school equivalency (HSE) diploma. The GED test was created in 1942 for people who were not able to finish high school. Today, there is an additional HSE test, the HiSET exam. Which test or tests you can take depends on your state, but the tests are fairly similar.

An HSE diploma is considered equal to a high school diploma by 97% of colleges and universities and virtually all businesses. It's essentially a high school diploma and gives you the opportunity for better jobs, more training, college study, vocational school, promotions, military enlistment, and government jobs.

The HSE certificate is issued by your state when you complete the four or five subject tests in person at an official test center. You can usually take the subject tests separately, so that you can concentrate on studying one subject at a time.

What are the Advantages of a GED Certificate?

People with a high school diploma or equivalent make $480,000 more in their lifetime than people without one. That averages out to $12,000 a year more income for you. Not a bad raise!

A diploma will help you get a better job. Employers would rather hire someone who has the basic skills to pass the GED test or HiSET exam than someone who doesn't. The graduate has the fortitude to successfully finish a difficult exam. An HSE certificate is not a small thing (but it doesn't have to be hard)!

You can get an HSE diploma quickly and inexpensively. Most community colleges offer a low-cost or free class, and there are excellent GED classes online.

Passing the test will make you more valuable to your employer. You'll have demonstrated your writing, math, and critical thinking skills. You'll find it's easier to get a promotion or advance through job training programs.

Making the effort to get a diploma opens doors for advanced training. Most specialized training programs require a high school diploma or equivalent. And with an HSE diploma, you can look at higher education opportunities.

You'll feel better about yourself once you've passed the test because you've accomplished something that only 60% of high school graduates can do.

Finally, consider the impact of your educational achievement on your family. That alone goes a long way; it's priceless.

HSE certificate or high school? Really there’s only one choice for most people. Passing the GED test or HiSET exam is the quickest, easiest and simplest way to improve the opportunities in your life.


Eva Simon, Educator


Benefits of the GED | Workplace Success