15 GED vs Diploma Pros and Cons

The GED (General Educational Development/Diploma) is an alternative testing option for students who didn’t make it through high school. There are times when life gets in the way. Some teens don’t handle the K-12 classroom setting very well for a variety of reasons. Because there are many different forms of intelligence, this option gives an individual the opportunity to prove they have what it takes to be successful in college or at their chosen career.

Even if you stopped going to school before you went to high school, it is possible to study for and take the GED. There are numerous tutors, study classes, practice exams, and online resources available online that can help you to earn this designation.

Despite the negative stigma that sometimes surrounds the GED, it is essential to remember why it was created in the first place. During the early 1940s, military servicemen and women were coming back from World War II. Many of them hadn’t finished high school because they had turned 18 and joined the war effort. Since a high school diploma could get you more than an entry-level position then, the GED showed that these new veterans were capable of coming back home to start a career too.

Since the advent of the GED, more than 20 million people have earned it. About 8.5 million people over the age of 25 in the United States currently have one, which means this educational path is not as uncommon as some might think it is.

List of the Pros of a GED vs. a Diploma

1. A GED requires the same academic equivalency as a high school diploma.
You must meet the same requirements to earn your GED as you would a high school diploma. If someone doesn’t complete their K-12 education for any reason, then this series of tests can prove that you have the knowledge equivalent of someone who did manage to graduate. You must be well-versed in social studies, reading, writing, science, and math to earn a passing grade.

Nate Masterson, director of HR for Maple Holistics, told CareerBuilder that most employers don’t see much of a difference between the two options. “The distinction between a high school diploma and a GED in the eyes of an employer is very negligible,” he said. “Most employers do not, in fact, care whether a candidate has a high school diploma or a GED unless there is a relevant reason.”

2. You will earn more money with a GED than without it.
Although someone with a high school diploma will earn more, on average, than an individual with a GED in their lifetime, passing these tests will help you to have a higher salary than someone without either one. Students who dropout of high school for any reason have an average monthly salary of $2,400 per month in the United States. Holding a GED can help you to earn about $700 more each month. Although that doesn’t seem like much at first, that’s a difference of more than $80,000 after just ten years.

3. Taking the GED is more affordable than going to high school for some families.
Every state offers a different set of fees that are part of the GED process. The average cost per section is $30, which means the entire set of tests average about $120. If you need to retake one of them because you didn’t score a 145 or higher the first time, then there are significant discounts available in most areas to reduce any future financial burdens. Even if you consider the cost of a tutor and the online resources some students may need, the overall expense of earning this option compared to a high school diploma is a significant advantage.

4. Your scores on the GED can prove that you’re ready to attend college.
When you score a 145 or higher on each test segment while taking the GED, then you indicate that you’ve got the equivalent knowledge of someone who graduated from high school. Higher scores in the 165 range can show college recruiters that you are ready to start taking advanced classes if that is what you want to do. If you score 175 or above on the tests, then some institutions will provide you with a handful of college credits because the results prove that you’re already surpassing some post-graduate expectations.

If you earn a GED, then many colleges and universities will give you an opportunity to apply for higher learning opportunities.

5. It takes less time to earn a GED compared to a high school diploma.
If you decide to student about 2-3 times per week for an hour each session, then it is possible to earn your GED in as little as three months. Even if you only study once per week for about 90 minutes per session, you can be ready for the test in less than a year. Although every person is different and your preparation results will vary, there are far fewer time commitments to worry about when choosing this option over a high school diploma.

If you decide to take the traditional GED preparation classes, then most institutions will have you ready to take the tests in about 4-12 months. When you have a local adult learning center, library program, or non-profit resource that can get you into these programs, then they are often at no cost to you. There are more than 25,000 different prep locations available in the United States right now.

6. A GED can work with your overall interest level.
Did you know that 47% of high school dropouts make the choice to pursue an alternative path because they lack interest in their classes? This rate applies even to the students who dropped out with a GPA above 3.0. Some students come from a family environment where there is little support for education as well. If someone finds it to be an excruciating experience to sit through boring classes, then a GED offers an alternative that can help you to start taking the next steps forward in life.

7. Pursuing a GED can help to resolve social issues that happen in high school.
There are some students who struggle from a social standpoint in the high school environment, so dropping out feels like the preferable solution to them. You can cap the educational process right away while reducing the influence of teasing and bullying. Instead of suffering through these experiences every day, having a student take the GED to pursue something else in life is a positive alternative. Since there is no time limit on when you can take the tests, you can decide to pursue this option whenever it makes sense in your life.

8. A GED gives you more flexibility with your family schedule.
There are numerous reasons why a student may need to consider dropping out of high school. A severe illness, disease, or disability can keep some teens from the classroom because they must pursue treatments. If a close relative requires around-the-clock care, then there may not be enough time to chase after a high school diploma. Young couples may start a family and find it impossible to raise a child and attend school at the same time. There are various personal issues that can impact students as well. With the option for a GED, you can still prove that you have the knowledge to go to college or chase after a career while resolving the issues you face in life at the same time.

9. It shows that you might excel in situations where abstract thinking is necessary.
A GED is often seen in society as an option for those who thrive in roles or environments that are somewhat chaotic, unstructured, and require creative thinking to be successful. If you are pursuing an employment opportunity with a start-up, want a role that needs out-of-the-box thinking, or have a preference to work and think independently, then these are assets that can be useful when trying to find a job.

Just as a high school diploma shows that you know how to follow the rules and play on a team, a GED shows that you can be independent, creative, and equally reliable.

List of the Cons of a GED vs. a Diploma

1. A GED is not always viewed in the same regard as a high school diploma.
Anyone can take the GED if they didn’t complete high school for whatever reasons they have. Some teens pursue their career, others find jobs to help their family, and there are other concerns in life that can have someone drop out of their K-12 education. Because this series of tests is seen as an alternative option, it is not held in the same regard because it communicates a lack of follow-through from a societal standpoint.

Some employers see the GED as someone taking the easy way out of the educational process. Although if you plan to freelance or run your own business this disadvantage won’t matter that much, not having a high school diploma can impact your earnings by as much as $1,600 per month.

2. It is more challenging to get into college with a GED.
There are some colleges that accept a GED without hesitation at the junior and community levels, but someone without a high school diploma is statistics less likely to attend post-graduate classes compared to someone who completed their senior year.

73% of high school graduates have completed at least some college after receiving their diploma, but only 43% of those with a GED started taking college classes. When you look at the graduation rates with a bachelor’s degree, only 5% of those with a GED completed their major compared to 33% of those who finished high school.

3. Having a GED makes it harder to find a job in the United States.
If you are seeking employment in the trade and labor industries, then having a GED instead of a high school diploma will not hold you back from finding a decent paycheck. The employment rates of these two demographics are about equal. The problem that workers find when they only have a GED is when they start seeking a professional position.

The unemployment rate for those with a GED is about four percentage points higher each year than it is for those who finished high school to earn their diploma. That means in markets like Atlanta where the jobless rate hovers below 3% for everyone, those with only a GED are seeing something closer to 7%.

Roy Cohen, author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide, told CareerBuilder that a high school diploma shows that you can follow the rules. “For companies where rules and protocols are sacred, like banks and the military, then a completed diploma demonstrates that you follow the rules and will do the same as an employee.”

4. It is harder to qualify for military service with a GED.
The U.S. military limits the number of people that they accept each year as new recruits. All five branches of the armed forces have a specific aptitude requirement which applicants must meet to receive approval. There are physical and psychological tests that can help to push your score higher, but then holding a GED instead of a high school diploma will automatically give you a disadvantage from the start. The dropout rate for those with a GED is 45%, whereas those who graduated from high school leave after acceptance just 24% of the time.

5. You will miss the full high school experience if you pursue a GED.
Going to high school provides you with a once-in-a-lifetime experience. You might not always be able to control if or when you dropout, but then doing so can lead to some missed opportunities. There are fewer athletics options, scholarship chances, and extracurricular activities available to you with a GED when compared to the educational journey that your local school can provide. There is a sense of pride that comes with going to school for four years to earn that diploma, and it shows future employers or colleges that you have the determination to get stuff done.

6. You may need to go through a waiting period before you take the GED.
Every state follows its own set of processes when administering the GED program. Every person must be at least 16 years of age before they are allowed to sit for the exams, with several states requiring an examinee to be at least 18 unless there is an age waiver process available. That means you could face a couple years of limbo after dropping out from high school before you know what is possible for your future. Then you’ll need to budget about 8 hours to complete all four of the test sections and notify the administrator of any special accommodations that may be necessary for you to take the exam.

The pros and cons of a GED vs. a high school diploma should involve what is necessary in your life more than anything else. There will always be those who judge based on perception and assumption instead of reality. You need to take care of the business in your life first, and if that means high school isn’t part of the equation, then so be it. With a GED, you can still take the next steps forward in life without a significant expense.

Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.