GED vs High School Diploma: Differences and Similarities 

Earning a high school diploma or GED is a great alternative if you look forward to formal education. 

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

This article will 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 students’ proficiency in standard high school subjects. It is specifically made for people 16 years or above who are not yet enrolled in high school or are high school drop-outs. You can earn a degree 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. This article will enlighten you on the similarities and differences between GED and a high school diploma.

Differences Between GED and High School Diplomas

Although GED can be used to apply for college or to obtain a job, just like a high school diploma, there are still some differences between these two. Understanding 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 the high school diploma.

GED vs High School Diploma

GED program certificateHigh School diploma
GED students have no specific requirements to complete a specific course. But many GED students may take a test prep course before their exams. GED exams are set on the topics that are taught in high school. So you must be adequately prepared for the exams, especially if you have been away from school for a long time.There is specific coursework that high school students are to complete before they will be eligible for graduation. This coursework varies from individual schools and state. This coursework will cover 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 programs and high school diploma students.

GED vs high school diploma

GED program certificateHigh 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 certificateHigh 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 comprises long-form multiple-choice and extended essay questions, which require students to have a minimum of 60% in these exams. However, you can take the exam thrice a year if you fail.High school students must complete exams in each class to earn the required grades to qualify for graduation. Your exams and tests are in line with your course syllabus, and you must study for at least four years before being granted a high school certificate.

Although completing 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 GED program candidates.

GED vs high school diploma

GED program certificateHigh 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.An exciting experience is attached to completing a high school diploma. Aside from academic activities, you will have a fun experience, such as creating friendships, enjoying school events, and engaging in organizations and social clubs.

5. Employment opportunities

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

GED vs high school diploma

GED program certificateHigh 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, 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 these 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 considered 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.


  • GED certificate holders may experience dropbacks
  • 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 like 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. Combining your GED with a good SAT or ACT score will give you a good chance of getting into any school you want.

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The GED is a great option if you’re looking to enter the workforce immediately. Employers consider the GED 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 increase your earnings significantly. 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 your next life stage.

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?

You must verify your identity by showing 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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