A GED (General Educational Development) or High School Diploma?
By Dr. Heidi Gough
Director of Marketing and Communications
PA Leadership Charter School
The educational world is ever changing, but one question that has remained consistent is “What’s the difference between a GED and a High School Diploma?”
The major difference is the amount of time a student has put into getting a GED versus a diploma. Traditionally, a high school student will complete courses over a four year period and earn the credits needed to graduate (this can be anywhere from 21 credits to 25 credits in PA), where as a GED is a 7 hour test on four subject areas. Granted, both tracks will require good studying habits and time for research, and some GED programs may require classes to be taken that are similar to a high school course. The GED test may require less time commitment, but it is not academically easier.
Sadly, there is more of a stigma connected with GED students when it comes to the workplace, and can portray students as being dropouts, having a lack of perseverance to complete things and not being a motivated learner. However, this can be off-set by continuing on to college, where how you gained your high school credentials become less of an issue. The National Bureau of Economic Research has stated that the number of students choosing to leave school and get a GED is rising, because students are unaware of how that decision may affect them in the future. They also stated that “while it had been demonstrated through much research that GED holders and graduates had equivalent abilities to learn–scholastic aptitude–those with the GED were found to be deficient in non-cognitive skills, such as persistence, motivation, and reliability…”
However, according to the American Council on Education (ACE), the national organization that oversees the GED exam, about 95% of U.S. colleges and universities accept the GED credential in place of a high school diploma as of 2011. If a university or a four-year college requires a High School Diploma, spending a year at a community college can demonstrate your commitment to learning and perhaps even earn your entry credits for that school.
In today’s competitive environment, employers naturally look for people who exert effort towards completing their education – be it through the GED route or through earning a high school diploma. If given a choice, employers will choose someone who has the credentials needed for the position, over someone who doesn’t as this shows ambition, determination and self-motivation. Whether you decide to go with a GED or a high school diploma, it is important that you use this credential as another stepping stone to further your education. This will show potential employers that you have your eyes on the goal and that you are willing to do the required follow-through.