Is a GED the same as a High School Diploma?

The GED® (General Educational Development) diploma is the equivalent of a high school diploma. So technically yes, a GED and a High School Diploma are the same.

But keep reading, there is more to the story.

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A high school diploma is not only a document that proves you have attended a high school and passed all required classes and tests.

It also means that during the four years at high school, students acquired a set of “soft skills” such as working in groups or managing their time.

A GED diploma is awarded to students who passed four GED subject tests.

It’s not required to attend school for any specific period of time in most states. GED diploma holders might or might not have developed soft skills.

What is the GED diploma exactly?

If individuals didn’t finish their high school education, they might take the GED exam, and upon successful completion, obtain a GED diploma.

So, a GED program offers a second chance for students who didn’t finish their secondary education.

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Students that left high school without a diploma can earn a high school equivalency (HSE) diploma.

In the U.S., there are three HSE test options, the TASC (Test Assessing Secondary Completion), the HiSET (High School Equivalency Test), and the GED (General Education Development).

The most widely used is the GED exam, and when we use GED in this post, we refer to either of the available options.

Usually, states have their own specific GED age and other prerequisite criteria before applicants can enroll in a GED program and take the GED exam. You can check here which of the options is/are used in your state.

The GED is a core subjects exam that measures your knowledge and skills level in four subject fields: math, language arts, science, and social studies at a level that may also be expected of students after four years in high school.

GED test requisites

Only people who are not attending a high school can take the GED test and be awarded a GED Diploma. This is the main eligibility requirement.

The other requirement is age, and you need to be at least 16 years old to be eligible for the GED test in most states.

In the period 2006-13, the Army offered the GED Plus Program, available to students 17-35 years of age, but this was halted in 2013

Why a GED is important

Most post-secondary schools require that applicants have a high school or GED diploma/certificate. Holding a GED qualifies a student also to apply for and receive financial aid at institutions of higher education.

Many technical colleges that provide GED prep classes may as well offer special incentives for GED graduates. So the GED gives people that left high school prematurely an alternative pathway to secure a secondary education degree.

But what are the differences between a GED and a  high school diploma? Is a GED bad? Is a high school diploma better than a GED?

The main differences between a GED and a high school diploma

  • While you usually need four years of education and must earn credits in 6 to 8 subjects and electives to earn your high school diploma, you only are required to pass four GED subtests.
  • Whereas following a prep class is not required before taking the GED test in most states, attending classes to get credit is needed to earn a high school diploma.
  • Often, it is more difficult to qualify for military service with a GED than with a high school degree. All sectors of the U.S. armed forces, also the Coast Guard, limit the number of GED holders.
  • Another difference is the low cost of the GED test, In most states, passing the entire GED battery will set you back around $120 (for your state click here) and compared to four years in high school. Pretty affordable, wouldn’t you agree?
  • So the time factor also plays a role. Students can get ready for all four GED subtests in around 3 to 6 months if they study thoroughly.
  • In comparison to the time required to earn a high school degree, that is a limited time frame.

Both the HS Diploma and the GED are vital credentials for applying to college or for a job, but they’re still are some unfair stigmas associated with the GED diploma. Since the introduction of the latest, computer-based version of the GED, however, these negative sentiments seem to disappear rather quickly.

Is a GED bad?

So is getting a GED bad? No way! How could earning your GED be a bad thing? You have demonstrated resilience, and you are determined. You have shown you’ve got what it takes to move forward and that you don’t leave things unfinished.

But still, there are circumstances, especially in the armed forces, that a GED is not considered equal to grade 12. Please keep that in mind.

Just because you quit high school prematurely doesn’t mean you’re done with learning yet. You’ve earned your GED, and that speaks volumes!

Herein lies the reason that practically all North American institutions of higher education and employers accept the GED in place of a high school diploma. Wear your GED proudly as a badge of honor and simply move forward!

The GED score is measured on a scale that goes from 100 to 200. To pass, you will need to score at least 145 points on each subtest, so to pass the GED exam, so you cannot have less than 580 points in total. For more detailed information on GED scoring, check out this page.

Do employers and schools care if I have a GED?

Usually not, but this a tricky one as there are schools and employers that still discriminate between a high school degree and a GED. Some still think a GED is bad. So there’s both a yes and a no answer possible to this question. Let’s take a closer look.

Colleges, Universities, and Trade Schools – The fact of the matter is that 6 out of 10 GED graduates go onto college. Practically all schools accept the GED just like a common HS degree mainly if students attend a community college before transferring to a 4-year college or university.

Additionally, an increasing number of colleges accept GED College-Ready and College-Ready Plus Credit scores, meaning incoming students will have required college-entrance exams waived (e.g. the SAT or ACT). Click here to learn more about how your GED scores may give you SAT/ACT exempt status.

The U.S. Military – All branches of the U.S. military only allow a limited number of GED graduates to enlist every year, and high school graduates are preferred. So for GED holders, this a highly competitive process. What GED grads can do is go and earn 15 college credits or more before enrolling in the armed forces.

The army uses the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test for placement purposes. This is the army’s entry-level aptitude test that is designed to identify what army jobs (Military Occupational Specialties) you are best suited for. Joining the Marines may even be harder, but not impossible. Generally, you’ll have to obtain your secondary education credential before you’ll be able to join these ranks in the first place.

Employers and the job market – Today, most entry-level job positions require at least basic computing and keyboarding knowledge. The GED is a fully computer-based exam, so this makes sense in relation to the contemporary job market, wouldn’t you agree? To be able to take the GED exam successfully, getting optimally prepared is key. The GED test has become a challenging exam!

Most employee application forms have a little box where you must indicate that you hold a high school diploma or GED. Usually, they don’t ask to differentiate.

And for more advanced positions, employers usually don’t care so much anymore about your earlier education. What they do care about is your college degree. This also applies to the diploma that will be awarded upon completion of the TASC exam or the HiSET.

Keep in mind that after your first job, it will matter even less whether you hold a GED diploma or a conventional high school degree. So you see, whatever it was that kept you from completing high school, that never has to be a roadblock for continuing your education and getting the life you deserve.

With perseverance, determination, and a GED diploma, you will be able to move forward toward a fulfilling and rewarding career and a better life in general.

The GED test history

The GED test was developed in the early 1940s for military service members that returned from the war. Many hadn’t finished high school when they enrolled in the military service, and the GED program allowed them to get into college if they passed the test.

Also, in those days, holding a high school diploma was required for finding a well-paying job. Later on, more and more non-military people took the GED. In the almost 80 years of its existence, more than 20 million Americans received their GED diplomas, including some very successful people and celebrities.


Last Updated on July 28, 2021.