Deciding to stay in school or obtain a GED diploma can be a difficult choice to make. Pursuing a traditional diploma can offer a student the chance to study a varied academic curriculum and make strong social connections. However, some students have to leave school early for pressing financial reasons or family problems. Understanding what the alternatives are to earn an educational credential can help a student make wise choices.

The Basics

Started in 1942, the GED, or General Educational Development, tests individuals on basic academic skills such as math, language arts, reading, writing, social studies and science. The GED credential is equivalent to the high school diploma, thus leaving a student with a variety of options. Opting for a GED diploma is not easier; applicants must score on the same level as 60 percent of all graduating high school seniors. The American Council of Education, the writer of the GED exam, authorizes each state to administer the test for interested applicants.

Job Opportunities

As with a regular high school diploma, an individual with a GED credential can find a range of career opportunities. Most employers, at least 96 percent, accept the GED as a valid educational credential for employment, according to the the GED Testing Service. However, some have a different opinion about the usefulness of a GED diploma. In a 2012 article on NPR, “In Today's Economy, How Far Can a GED Take You,” Russell Rumberger, author of “Dropping Out,” states that employers value “perseverance and tenacity” and that these qualities can't be realistically measured by the GED. Although, in the same article, it's noted that more than 700,000 individuals obtain the GED credential each year, making it a popular alternative to the traditional diploma route.

Higher Education

High school graduates and individuals with GED credentials enjoy the same access to grants, loans and scholarships for colleges and trade schools. According to an article on Education Portal “High School Diploma vs The GED,” about 95 percent of colleges and universities accept the GED. Students who plan to study overseas, however, should verify whether the school takes the GED credential, as some international school have different standards.


Whether a person decides on a regular diploma or a GED, she will benefit from increased earnings. Without a GED or diploma, a person can expect to make $375,000 less over the course of a lifetime, reports a 2012 article on Educational Testing Services, “Dropping Out of High School: Prevalence, Risk Factors, and Remediation Strategies.” Additionally, Kankakee Community College online reports that a GED graduate can earn $2,040 more per year than a high school dropout. A high school diploma or a GED can afford a student opportunities for economic advancement.

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