Not having a high school diploma can have lifelong consequences. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people without a high school diploma earn over $10,000 less per year on average than high school graduates. They are also more likely to be unemployed and live in poverty.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Dropping out of high school limits future education and job opportunities, leads to lower lifetime earnings, and increases the likelihood of poverty and health problems.

In this article, we’ll look at the short and long term effects of not finishing high school, including impacts on employment, income, access to higher education, health outcomes, social mobility, and more.

We’ll also discuss options for high school equivalency credentials like the GED and their benefits. By understanding the significant disadvantages of leaving high school early, you can make an informed decision about your education and future.

Education and Employment Opportunities Are Limited

Not graduating high school can have a significant impact on a person’s future prospects. One of the most noticeable effects is the limitation it places on employment opportunities. Without a high school diploma, individuals may find it challenging to secure stable and well-paying jobs.

Fewer Jobs Available Without a Diploma

Statistics show that the job market offers limited options for those who haven’t completed high school. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, individuals without a high school diploma have higher unemployment rates compared to those who have graduated.

Additionally, the jobs that are available to them tend to be low-paying and offer little job security.

Many employers require a high school diploma as a minimum educational requirement, even for entry-level positions. This is because a diploma demonstrates a certain level of knowledge and skills that are essential in today’s competitive job market.

Without this credential, individuals may struggle to find employment, leaving them at a significant disadvantage.

Continuing Education Is More Difficult

Another consequence of not graduating high school is the difficulty in pursuing further education. Many colleges and universities require a high school diploma or its equivalent, such as a General Educational Development (GED) certificate, for admission.

Continuing education is crucial for personal and professional growth. It opens doors to higher-paying jobs, increased job security, and more fulfilling careers. Without a high school diploma, individuals may find it challenging to access higher education opportunities, limiting their potential for advancement.

Fortunately, there are alternative pathways for those who haven’t graduated high school, such as adult education programs and online courses. These options can help individuals earn their high school equivalency and gain the necessary skills and knowledge to pursue further education or career opportunities.

For more information on the importance of a high school diploma and the impact it has on employment and education opportunities, visit or

Lifetime Earnings Are Reduced

One of the most significant consequences of not graduating high school is the impact it has on an individual’s lifetime earnings. Numerous studies have shown that high school graduates earn significantly more money over their lifetime compared to those who do not complete high school.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median weekly earnings for someone with a high school diploma is about $746, while for someone without a diploma, it drops to approximately $591.

High School Graduates Earn More

High school graduates have access to a wider range of job opportunities compared to those without a diploma. Many well-paying jobs require at least a high school education as a minimum qualification. With a diploma, individuals are more likely to be considered for higher-paying positions and have the chance to climb the career ladder.

Graduating high school opens doors to better-paying jobs and increased earning potential.

Poverty Rates Are Higher

Not graduating high school has a direct correlation with higher poverty rates. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the poverty rate for individuals without a high school diploma is significantly higher compared to those with a diploma.

In fact, the poverty rate for high school dropouts is more than twice as high as the rate for high school graduates. This highlights the importance of completing high school as a means to break the cycle of poverty and improve one’s overall financial well-being.

While there are exceptions and success stories of individuals who have achieved financial success without a high school diploma, the statistics consistently show that graduating high school greatly improves an individual’s lifetime earnings and reduces the likelihood of living in poverty.

Health and Social Outcomes Decline

Not graduating high school can have significant negative consequences on an individual’s health and social outcomes. Research has shown that those who do not complete their high school education are at a higher risk for various health issues and are more likely to face challenges in their social lives.

Increased Health Risks

One of the most notable effects of not graduating high school is the increased risk of experiencing various health problems. Studies have found that individuals without a high school diploma are more likely to suffer from chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

These health issues can have a significant impact on their overall well-being and quality of life.

Moreover, individuals who do not graduate high school also tend to have limited access to healthcare services, which further exacerbates their health risks. This lack of access to medical care can prevent early detection and timely treatment of illnesses, leading to more severe health complications in the long run.

It is important to note that the relationship between education and health is complex and influenced by various factors such as socioeconomic status and lifestyle choices. However, completing high school plays a crucial role in providing individuals with the knowledge and skills necessary to make informed decisions about their health and adopt healthier behaviors.

Higher Rates of Incarceration

Another concerning outcome of not graduating high school is the increased likelihood of ending up in the criminal justice system. Research has consistently shown a strong correlation between educational attainment and incarceration rates.

Individuals without a high school diploma are more likely to engage in criminal activities and have higher rates of involvement with the legal system.

Without a high school diploma, individuals often face limited job opportunities and are more likely to experience financial instability. This can lead to desperation and an increased likelihood of engaging in illegal activities as a means of survival.

Additionally, the lack of educational qualifications can also make it more difficult for individuals to reintegrate into society after serving time in prison.

It is important to recognize that education serves as a protective factor against involvement in the criminal justice system. By providing individuals with the necessary skills and knowledge, completing high school increases their chances of finding stable employment and avoiding a life of crime.

Options for Earning a High School Equivalency

If you find yourself in a situation where you haven’t graduated high school, don’t worry – there are still options available to earn a high school equivalency. Whether you didn’t complete high school due to personal reasons, financial constraints, or simply because it wasn’t the right fit for you, it’s never too late to pursue your education.

GED Basics

One common option for earning a high school equivalency is through the General Educational Development (GED) test. The GED test is designed to measure the knowledge and skills equivalent to those of a high school graduate.

It consists of four subjects: Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies. The test can be taken at official GED testing centers and is recognized by colleges, employers, and the military.

The GED test is a comprehensive exam that requires preparation. There are various resources available to help you study, including online courses, practice tests, and study guides. By dedicating time and effort to studying, you can increase your chances of passing the GED test and earning your high school equivalency.

Other High School Equivalency Exams

In addition to the GED, there are other high school equivalency exams that you can consider. One example is the High School Equivalency Test (HiSET), which is accepted in several states. The HiSET exam covers five subjects: Language Arts – Reading, Language Arts – Writing, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies.

Similar to the GED, the HiSET exam can be taken at designated testing centers and is recognized by colleges, employers, and the military.

Another option is the Test Assessing Secondary Completion (TASC), which is available in select states. The TASC exam assesses knowledge in five subjects: Reading, Writing, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies.

Like the GED and HiSET, passing the TASC exam can provide you with a high school equivalency credential.

Benefits of Earning an Equivalency

Obtaining a high school equivalency can open up numerous opportunities for individuals who did not graduate high school. It can serve as a stepping stone towards higher education, as many colleges and universities accept high school equivalency credentials for admission.

Additionally, having a high school equivalency can increase your chances of securing employment, as it demonstrates your commitment to education and shows employers that you possess the necessary knowledge and skills.

According to recent statistics, individuals with a high school equivalency earn an average of 30% more than those without a high school diploma or equivalency. This increase in earning potential can significantly impact your quality of life and financial stability.

Remember, not graduating high school doesn’t mean the end of your educational journey. With options like the GED, HiSET, and TASC exams, you can still earn a high school equivalency and pave the way for a brighter future.


Leaving high school without a diploma can negatively impact your life in many ways. It’s much harder to find a stable, well-paying job without a high school education. Opportunities for continuing education and training are also limited.

Over your lifetime, you can expect to earn significantly less than high school graduates. There are also links between not graduating and poorer health, as well as higher incarceration rates. If you are considering dropping out, understand these disadvantages and explore alternative options like high school equivalency exams.

Earning a credential like the GED can open doors to more education and better job prospects.

Similar Posts