Dropping out of high school is a major life decision that can have long-lasting impacts on your future. However, it does not mean your life is over or that you cannot still achieve your goals. With some strategic planning and effort, you can get your high school equivalency, pursue higher education, and build a satisfying career.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Get your high school equivalency through the GED or HiSET exam, consider vocational training or community college, and look into job corps or workforce development programs to gain skills and get on a career path.

In this comprehensive guide, we will walk through all your options in detail, including how to: obtain your high school equivalency credential through testing, attend vocational school or community college, enter the workforce through internships and apprenticeships, utilize local workforce development and training programs, consider the military as a career option, get help financing your education and training, and more.

With some targeted effort, you can still achieve your career goals and build a bright future despite not finishing high school.

Obtain Your High School Equivalency Credential

Dropping out of high school may feel like the end of the road, but it doesn’t have to be. There are still opportunities for you to obtain a high school equivalency credential, which can open doors to better career prospects and further educational opportunities.

Here are some steps you can take to achieve this:

Take the GED or HiSET exam

One of the most common ways to obtain a high school equivalency credential is by taking either the GED (General Educational Development) or HiSET (High School Equivalency Test) exam. These exams are designed to assess your knowledge and skills in subjects like math, science, social studies, and language arts.

They are widely recognized by employers and educational institutions as a valid substitute for a high school diploma.

Both the GED and HiSET exams are typically administered at designated testing centers. To register for the exams, you will need to provide some personal information and pay a registration fee. It’s important to check the official GED or HiSET website for specific details on registration and testing requirements.

Study for the exams with prep classes and materials

Preparing for the GED or HiSET exams is crucial to ensure your success. Fortunately, there are various resources available to help you study and review the necessary subjects. Many community colleges, adult education centers, and online platforms offer prep classes specifically tailored for these exams.

These classes can provide you with valuable instruction, practice tests, and study materials to help you feel more confident on exam day.

In addition to prep classes, there are also study guides, textbooks, and online resources that you can utilize to supplement your learning. These materials often cover the key topics and concepts tested on the exams, allowing you to focus your studying and maximize your chances of passing.

Learn about testing locations and costs in your state

The availability of testing locations and associated costs can vary from state to state. It’s important to familiarize yourself with the specific requirements and procedures in your state. The official GED and HiSET websites provide comprehensive information on testing centers, dates, and fees for each state.

Some states may even offer financial assistance or fee waivers for individuals who demonstrate financial need. Exploring these options can help alleviate the financial burden of taking the exams and make them more accessible to you.

Remember, obtaining a high school equivalency credential is a significant accomplishment that can open up new opportunities for your future. Take the necessary steps, seek out resources, and don’t be afraid to ask for help along the way.

With determination and hard work, you can achieve your goals and pave the way for a brighter future.

Attend Vocational or Trade School

If you have dropped out of high school and are wondering what to do next, attending a vocational or trade school can be a great option. These schools offer specialized training programs that can equip you with the skills and knowledge needed for a successful career.

Research career and tech education options in your area

The first step in pursuing vocational or trade education is to research the available options in your area. Look for career and technical education programs offered by local schools or community colleges.

These programs often provide hands-on training in specific fields such as healthcare, information technology, automotive, construction, and many more.

It’s important to consider your interests and strengths when choosing a program. Take the time to explore different career paths and see which ones align with your goals and aspirations. Look for industries that are in high demand and offer good job prospects.

Look into programs at community colleges or technical schools

Community colleges and technical schools are excellent options for vocational and trade education. These institutions offer a wide range of programs that can help you gain the necessary skills and certification in your chosen field.

They often have flexible schedules and affordable tuition rates, making it easier for you to pursue your education.

When considering community colleges or technical schools, look for institutions that have reputable programs and experienced instructors. Don’t hesitate to reach out to current or former students to get their feedback on the quality of the education and the support provided by the school.

Explore popular vocational careers like healthcare, IT, and skilled trades

There are several popular vocational careers that you can consider after dropping out of high school. These careers often have high demand and offer good earning potential. Some of the popular vocational career options include healthcare, information technology, and skilled trades.

In the healthcare field, there is a growing need for professionals such as medical assistants, dental hygienists, pharmacy technicians, and medical coding specialists. These careers offer stability and the opportunity to make a positive impact on people’s lives.

Information technology is another field that offers numerous career opportunities. From becoming a software developer to a network administrator or a cybersecurity analyst, there are various paths to explore in the IT industry.

With the increasing reliance on technology, skilled IT professionals are in high demand.

Skilled trades, such as plumbing, electrical work, carpentry, and welding, are also valuable career paths. These trades require specialized skills and offer the potential for self-employment and job stability.

Skilled tradespeople are always in demand, and their expertise is essential in maintaining and building our infrastructure.

Remember, dropping out of high school does not mean the end of your educational journey. By attending a vocational or trade school, you can gain the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in a rewarding career.

So, take the time to research your options, explore different programs, and choose a path that aligns with your interests and goals.

Go to Community College

Dropping out of high school can be a difficult and overwhelming experience, but it is important to remember that there are still plenty of opportunities for success. One of the best options to consider is enrolling in a community college.

Community colleges provide a supportive and accessible environment for students who may not have completed high school but are still eager to continue their education.

Take general education courses and explore interests

When starting at a community college, it is common for students to take general education courses. These courses cover a wide range of subjects such as math, English, science, and history. Taking these courses can help students build a solid foundation of knowledge and skills while also exploring different fields of study.

This is a great opportunity to discover new interests and passions that can guide future academic and career choices.

Did you know? Community colleges offer a variety of resources and support services to help students succeed, such as tutoring, counseling, and career guidance.

Work towards an Associate’s degree or certificate program

Community colleges offer various degree and certificate programs that can lead to lucrative career opportunities. Working towards an Associate’s degree allows students to gain specialized knowledge in a specific field, while certificate programs provide focused training for specific occupations.

These programs often have a shorter duration compared to traditional four-year degrees, making them a practical choice for individuals who want to enter the workforce quickly.

Did you know? According to the American Association of Community Colleges, graduates of Associate’s degree programs earn an average of $400,000 more over their lifetime compared to high school dropouts.

Transfer to a 4-year college/university after 1-2 years

Many community college students choose to transfer to a four-year college or university after completing their general education requirements and earning an Associate’s degree or credits. This is a cost-effective way to pursue a bachelor’s degree while still having the opportunity to explore different academic paths and career options.

Additionally, community college transfer students often have higher acceptance rates and access to scholarships at four-year institutions.

Did you know? According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, approximately 49% of all students who completed a bachelor’s degree in the United States started at a community college.

Enter the Workforce

After dropping out of high school, one of the options to consider is entering the workforce. While it may seem challenging without a high school diploma, there are still opportunities available to gain valuable work experience and build a successful career.

Look for entry-level jobs that provide training

One way to start your career is by looking for entry-level jobs that offer on-the-job training. These positions are designed for individuals who may not have a high school diploma but are willing to learn and work hard.

Companies often provide training programs to help employees develop the necessary skills for the job. This can be a great way to gain practical experience while earning a paycheck.

Apply for internships and apprenticeships in fields of interest

Another option is to apply for internships or apprenticeships in fields that interest you. These opportunities allow you to learn from professionals in the industry while gaining hands-on experience. Internships are often available for students or recent graduates, while apprenticeships are more commonly associated with trade industries.

Both can provide valuable experience and help you build a network of contacts in your desired field.

Gain work experience to build skills and resume

Regardless of the type of job you pursue, gaining work experience is crucial for building your skills and resume. While not having a high school diploma may limit some opportunities, employers often value practical experience and a strong work ethic.

Focus on developing transferable skills such as communication, problem-solving, and teamwork. Additionally, consider taking online courses or attending workshops to enhance your knowledge in specific areas.

It’s important to remember that success is possible even without a high school diploma. Many successful individuals have found their path in life by entering the workforce and gaining practical experience.

With determination and a strong work ethic, you can overcome the challenges and build a fulfilling career.

Utilize Local Programs

When it comes to finding opportunities after dropping out of high school, one of the best places to start is by utilizing the local programs available in your area. These programs are designed to provide support, guidance, and training to individuals who may not have completed their formal education.

By taking advantage of these programs, you can gain the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the workforce.

Find workforce development and job training programs

One option to consider is enrolling in workforce development and job training programs offered by your local community colleges or vocational schools. These programs offer a wide range of courses and certifications in various fields, such as healthcare, technology, construction, and more.

They provide hands-on training and equip you with the practical skills necessary to excel in your chosen career path.

Additionally, these programs often have partnerships with local businesses, which can increase your chances of finding employment upon completion. They may also offer job placement assistance and help you connect with potential employers in your area.

Look into American Job Centers for career guidance

Another valuable resource to explore is the American Job Centers. These centers, funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, offer a wide range of services to individuals seeking employment or career guidance.

They provide assistance with job searching, resume building, interview preparation, and even access to training programs.

By visiting your local American Job Center, you can receive personalized guidance from career counselors who can help you identify your strengths, interests, and potential career paths. They can also provide valuable information about local job markets, in-demand industries, and available job openings.

Consider Job Corps for hands-on career training

If you’re looking for a more comprehensive hands-on training experience, you may want to consider enrolling in Job Corps. Job Corps is a free education and training program that helps young people ages 16 to 24 acquire the skills needed to succeed in the workforce.

Job Corps offers a wide range of career training programs, including healthcare, construction, culinary arts, information technology, and more. Participants receive both classroom instruction and practical training, allowing them to gain real-world experience in their chosen field.

Furthermore, Job Corps provides additional support services, such as housing, meals, healthcare, and transportation assistance, making it an excellent option for those who may face barriers to accessing education and training.

It’s important to note that these local programs can vary in availability and offerings based on your location. Therefore, it’s recommended to visit their official websites or contact them directly for more detailed information on the programs they offer in your area.

Consider the Military

If you have dropped out of high school and are unsure of what to do next, one option to consider is joining the military. The military offers a variety of benefits and opportunities for individuals who are looking for structure, discipline, and a chance to serve their country.

Take the ASVAB to qualify for military service

The first step in pursuing a military career is to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test. This test assesses your knowledge and skills in areas such as math, science, and verbal communication.

It is used to determine your eligibility for different military jobs and branches.

By taking the ASVAB, you can discover which career paths you are best suited for based on your strengths and interests. This can help you make an informed decision about which branch of the military to join.

Research careers and training opportunities in the branches

Once you have qualified for military service, it’s important to research the different branches of the military and the career opportunities they offer. Each branch has its own unique culture, mission, and job specialties.

For example, if you are interested in technology and computers, you may want to consider the Air Force, which offers a wide range of IT and cybersecurity jobs. On the other hand, if you have a passion for the sea and maritime operations, the Navy might be a good fit for you.

It’s also important to research the training and educational opportunities available in each branch. The military provides excellent training programs that can equip you with valuable skills and certifications that are transferable to civilian careers.

Learn about education benefits like the GI Bill

One of the major benefits of joining the military is access to educational opportunities. The GI Bill is a program that provides financial assistance for veterans and active-duty service members to pursue higher education.

Through the GI Bill, you can receive funding for tuition, books, and housing while attending college or vocational school. This can be a great opportunity to further your education and increase your career prospects.

It’s important to research the specific education benefits offered by each branch of the military. Some branches may offer additional programs or incentives for educational advancement.

Get Financial Aid

One of the first things to do after dropping out of high school is to explore financial aid options. This will help make further education more accessible and affordable. Here are some steps to consider:

Fill out the FAFSA for federal student aid

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is an essential step in accessing financial aid for higher education. By completing the FAFSA, students may be eligible for grants, work-study programs, and low-interest loans.

It is important to gather the necessary documentation, such as tax returns, to accurately fill out the form. The FAFSA can be completed online at https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa.

Research state and local scholarships

In addition to federal aid, there are often various scholarships available at the state and local level. These scholarships can be based on a variety of factors such as academic achievement, financial need, or particular fields of study.

Researching and applying for these scholarships can help offset the cost of education. Websites like Fastweb.com and Scholarships.com provide searchable databases of scholarships that students can explore.

Look into private loans and financing options

If federal aid and scholarships do not cover the full cost of education, it may be necessary to consider private loans or other financing options. Private loans can come from banks, credit unions, or other lending institutions.

It is important to carefully research and compare interest rates, repayment terms, and any associated fees before committing to a private loan. Websites like Sallie Mae and Discover Student Loans offer information and resources on private loans for students.


While dropping out of high school presents challenges, by obtaining your equivalency credential, pursuing higher education or career training, and utilizing local workforce programs, you can still achieve your goals.

With focus and determination, you can build skills, experience, and qualifications to be successful in your chosen career path. Don’t let not finishing high school define you – take control of your future by following the guidance outlined here.

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