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GED vs. High School Diploma: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on February 11, 2024
A GED is a test-based certification equivalent to a high school education, while a high school diploma is awarded after completing coursework at a high school.

Key Differences

A General Educational Development (GED) test is a series of exams that, when passed, certify the taker has high school-level academic skills. Unlike the GED, a high school diploma is awarded to students who complete the requisite coursework and credits at a high school over several years.
The GED consists of four subject tests covering language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies. In contrast, earning a high school diploma involves attending classes, completing assignments, and passing exams in a variety of subjects over the course of four years.
Eligibility for the GED typically requires the test taker to be of a certain age and not enrolled in high school. Conversely, a high school diploma is earned by attending and successfully completing high school, usually beginning in the ninth grade and concluding in the twelfth.
The GED test is often taken by individuals who have not completed high school for various reasons and seek an equivalent certification. A high school diploma, however, is obtained through a traditional school experience, including participation in extracurricular activities and social events.
In terms of recognition, the GED is widely accepted as equivalent to a high school diploma for employment and admission to educational programs. However, some employers and colleges may prefer a high school diploma over a GED due to the broader educational experience it represents.

Comparison Chart

Educational Approach

Test-based certification.
Completion of a curriculum over several years.

Subject Focus

Four core subjects: Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies.
Broad range of subjects including electives.


Can be completed in a few months.
Typically takes four years.

Eligibility Criteria

Age requirement, not currently enrolled in high school.
Enrollment and attendance in a high school.


Often seen as equivalent, but some prefer a diploma.
Broadly recognized and sometimes preferred for its breadth.

GED and High School Diploma Definitions


GED tests are a pathway to higher education for non-traditional students.
Obtaining her GED opened the door to college admissions for her.

High School Diploma

A high school diploma represents the completion of a broad range of subjects.
His high school diploma reflected years of study in various academic fields.


GED is a set of tests certifying high school-level academic skills.
She passed her GED with flying colors, proving her academic abilities.

High School Diploma

A high school diploma is earned after successfully passing all required courses.
After four years of hard work, she proudly earned her high school diploma.


GED is a credential recognized by employers as equivalent to a high school diploma.
His GED helped him secure a job that required secondary education.

High School Diploma

A high school diploma is often a prerequisite for higher education and employment.
Most colleges require a high school diploma for admission.


GED serves as an alternative to a high school diploma.
After dropping out, he decided to pursue a GED to advance his career.

High School Diploma

A high school diploma includes both academic and extracurricular achievements.
Along with academics, his high school diploma showcased his involvement in sports.


GED stands for General Educational Development.
The GED program offers a chance for adults to complete their formal education.

High School Diploma

A high school diploma is awarded upon completion of secondary education.
She received her high school diploma, marking the end of her secondary schooling.


The pike or luce.


(Scotland) A greedy person


The European pike.


Can a GED be considered equivalent to a high school diploma?

Yes, for many purposes, a GED is equivalent to a high school diploma.

How is a GED different from a high school diploma?

A GED is test-based, while a diploma is earned through coursework over several years.

Can you go to college with a GED?

Yes, many colleges accept GED holders.

What are the requirements for earning a high school diploma?

Completing required coursework and credits in high school.

How long does it take to get a GED?

It can vary, but often it can be completed in a few months.

Are there different types of high school diplomas?

Yes, including standard, advanced, and vocational diplomas.

Can adults earn a high school diploma?

Yes, through adult education programs or online high schools.

Is a high school diploma valued more than a GED?

Some employers and colleges might prefer a diploma for its broader educational experience.

Who typically pursues a GED?

Individuals who haven't completed high school and seek equivalent certification.

What is a GED?

It's a series of tests for certifying high school-level academic skills.

What subjects are covered in the GED?

Language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies.

Is it possible to get a high school diploma online?

Yes, there are accredited online high school programs.

Do colleges differentiate between GED and high school diploma applicants?

Some might, considering the overall academic and extracurricular background.

Is there an age limit for earning a high school diploma?

Generally, no, especially with adult education programs available.

Does the GED include practical skills testing?

It focuses on academic skills, not practical or technical skills.

Can you participate in extracurricular activities with a GED?

GED itself doesn't include such activities, unlike high school programs.

What is the success rate for GED test-takers?

It varies, but preparation significantly improves chances of passing.

What is the age requirement for a GED?

It varies by state, but typically 16 or 18 if not enrolled in high school.

Can you earn college credits with a GED?

Not directly, but it allows entry into programs where you can earn credits.

Can you retake the GED if you fail?

Yes, but there may be waiting periods and retake limits.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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