The traditional high school diploma is almost universally accepted by colleges, military recruiters and employers while the General Equivalency Diploma (GED) may come with some stigma attached to it. One document attests to the completion of all educational requirements while the second certifies that the holder has completed all state-required high school credits upon taking a series of examinations.

High School Diploma

The high school diploma is solid evidence that the holder completed a state-mandated course of study from an accredited high school and has demonstrated a competence and knowledge of the subject matter. When a student walks at graduation, the diploma he will receive can be presented as proof of his accomplishment for potential employers and college admissions personnel. When the graduate applies to a university or college, the school administration office will send a sealed copy of his transcripts as proof of the courses he took and completed toward graduation. The transcript will also show the grades he received for each class. This will be further evidence of his completion of high school credits.

Advantages of a Diploma

Because a high school diploma shows that a student has completed 12 years of schooling, it demonstrates her ability to persevere, set and meet goals. Colleges, universities and military personnel consider the high school diploma to be "Tier 1" document and will make a decision to accept or hire based on that status.

Perception of a Diploma

Even though holders of diplomas and GEDs both have the same advantages, diplomas are perceived as better credentials than GEDs. Some institutions will not accept a GED that was awarded from a correspondence course or an online program. If a student is considering enrolling in an online high school program, investigate those he is considering because diplomas issued by these programs may not be considered valid documents or accepted by universities, the military or business. If the military does accept an online high school diploma, the recruit will be placed into a Tier 2 category rather than the Tier 1 category.


The GED is awarded to non-high school graduates. Students who have dropped out of school may complete state education requirements by studying in a GED program and taking a battery of tests that cover five areas: math, science, writing, social studies and interpreting literature. If a child left school before completing all credits, she will study for the tests and take them. Upon passing them, she will receive a state certificate stating she has passed all of the state high school graduation requirements.

Perception of the GED

The person who holds a GED certificate may be perceived as understanding what the "real world" is like because he has probably tried to find a job without having a high school diploma. The fact that he realized his opportunities were limited and decided to return and complete his education could speak well for him with universities, community colleges and employers. Regardless of what he has accomplished in earning his GED, some institutions might view him as having failed in earning his diploma in the traditional manner. They may perceive his GED as evidence of this failure in spite of what he has now accomplished. Military recruiters will classify him as a Tier 2 recruit.

Related Articles