Graduating from high school is an exciting milestone in a young adult’s life. After years of studying, taking tests, and participating in school activities, students look forward to receiving their high school diploma at graduation.

But some students may be unclear on what exactly that diploma means and whether they also receive a GED. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk through everything you need to know about high school graduation credentials.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Students who successfully complete all their high school graduation requirements receive a high school diploma, not a GED. The GED is an alternative credential for those who did not complete high school.

What is a High School Diploma?

A high school diploma is a certificate awarded to students upon successful completion of their secondary education. It serves as proof that an individual has met the necessary academic requirements and has acquired the knowledge and skills necessary to move on to higher education or enter the workforce.

Obtaining a high school diploma is an important milestone in a person’s educational journey and is typically considered a basic requirement for many jobs and further educational opportunities.

Definition and Purpose

A high school diploma is an official document that signifies the completion of a specific course of study at the secondary level. It is awarded by the educational institution, such as a public or private high school, upon the fulfillment of certain criteria.

The purpose of a high school diploma is to demonstrate that the recipient has obtained a certain level of academic proficiency and is prepared for the next phase of their education or career.

Requirements to Earn a High School Diploma

The specific requirements to earn a high school diploma can vary depending on the educational institution and the region in which it is located. However, there are some common requirements that are typically necessary to obtain a high school diploma. These may include:

  • Completion of a certain number of credits in various subjects, such as English, math, science, social studies, and electives.
  • Passing grades in all required courses.
  • Meeting attendance requirements.
  • Participation in extracurricular activities or community service.
  • Successful completion of any standardized tests or examinations.

It is important for students to familiarize themselves with the specific graduation requirements of their high school and ensure that they are on track to meet these requirements. Guidance counselors and school administrators can provide valuable guidance and support throughout the process.

For more information about high school diplomas and graduation requirements, you can visit or

What is the GED?

The GED, or General Educational Development, is a high school equivalency test that is designed for individuals who did not complete their high school education. It provides an opportunity for these individuals to earn a credential that is equivalent to a high school diploma.

Definition and Purpose

The GED is a comprehensive test that assesses the knowledge and skills typically acquired by high school graduates. It is administered by the American Council on Education (ACE) and is recognized by colleges, universities, and employers across the United States.

The purpose of the GED is to provide individuals who did not graduate from high school with a second chance to demonstrate their academic abilities. It allows them to pursue higher education, access better job opportunities, and improve their overall quality of life.

Subject Areas Covered on the GED Test

The GED test covers four main subject areas: Language Arts (Reading and Writing), Math, Science, and Social Studies. Each subject area consists of multiple sections that assess different skills and knowledge.

For example, the Language Arts section assesses reading comprehension, grammar, and essay writing skills. The Math section covers topics such as algebra, geometry, and data analysis.

It is important to note that the content of the GED test is aligned with the Common Core State Standards, which are educational standards adopted by most states in the U.S. This ensures that the test measures the same knowledge and skills that high school graduates are expected to have.

Requirements to Earn a GED

To earn a GED, individuals must pass all four sections of the test. The passing score for each section varies, but it is generally set at a level that is equivalent to what a high school graduate would achieve.

The test is typically administered at designated testing centers, and individuals must meet certain eligibility requirements to take the test.

In addition to passing the GED test, some states may have additional requirements for earning a GED. For example, they may require individuals to complete a certain number of hours of adult education classes or to meet certain age requirements.

It is important to check with the GED testing center or the state’s department of education for specific requirements in your area.

Key Differences Between a High School Diploma and GED

Academic Requirements

Obtaining a high school diploma involves completing a specific set of academic requirements over a period of four years. Students must earn a certain number of credits in various subjects, such as English, math, science, and social studies.

Additionally, they may need to pass standardized tests or fulfill specific graduation requirements set by their state or school district.

On the other hand, earning a GED (General Educational Development) certificate requires passing a series of tests that assess knowledge and skills in subjects covered during high school. These tests cover areas such as language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies.

While the GED tests cover similar content to what is taught in high school, the format and structure may be different.

Perception and Acceptance

The perception and acceptance of a high school diploma and a GED can vary among individuals and institutions. In general, a high school diploma is widely recognized and accepted as the standard credential for completing secondary education.

It is typically seen as a symbol of academic achievement and can open doors to various opportunities, including higher education and employment.

On the other hand, a GED certificate is considered an alternative pathway for individuals who did not complete high school but still want to demonstrate their knowledge and skills. While it is recognized by many employers and educational institutions, there may be some instances where a high school diploma is preferred or required.

It is important for individuals with a GED to highlight their skills, experiences, and achievements to showcase their qualifications.

Eligibility for Postsecondary Education

Both a high school diploma and a GED can serve as a pathway to postsecondary education. Many colleges and universities accept both credentials for admission, although some institutions may have specific requirements or additional criteria for GED holders.

It is important for individuals considering further education to research the admission policies of the institutions they are interested in.

Furthermore, some financial aid programs and scholarships may have specific eligibility criteria related to high school diplomas or GEDs. It is essential for individuals to explore their options and understand the requirements to access financial support for their education.

For more information on the differences between high school diplomas and GEDs, you can visit the U.S. Department of Education website or consult your state’s education department.

Do You Get a GED When You Graduate High School?

Many people wonder if they receive a GED when they graduate high school. The answer to this question can be a bit confusing, so let’s break it down.

The Short Answer

No, you do not receive a GED when you graduate high school. When you successfully complete all of the necessary coursework and meet the requirements set forth by your school, you will receive a high school diploma.

A high school diploma is the traditional credential that is awarded to students who have completed their secondary education. It signifies that you have met the academic requirements necessary to graduate from high school.

Misconceptions About the GED and High School Graduation

There is a common misconception that getting a GED is an alternative to earning a high school diploma. This is not entirely accurate. While a GED can be obtained as an alternative to a traditional high school diploma, it is typically pursued by individuals who did not complete high school or who want to obtain their diploma at a later stage in life.

It’s important to note that a GED is not equivalent to a high school diploma in terms of the level of education achieved. While a GED demonstrates that an individual has acquired a certain level of knowledge and skills, it is not considered to be on the same level as a high school diploma.

What Graduates Do Receive Along with Their Diploma

When you graduate high school, along with your diploma, you may also receive other recognitions or awards. These can include honors such as valedictorian or salutatorian, certificates of achievement in specific subjects, or special awards for extracurricular activities or community service.

Additionally, some schools may also provide transcripts that detail your academic performance throughout high school. These transcripts can be useful for college applications or for potential employers who may want to verify your educational background.

It’s important to understand the distinction between a high school diploma and a GED. While both represent achievements in education, they are not the same thing. Graduating high school and earning a diploma is a significant accomplishment that demonstrates your commitment to your education and sets the foundation for future success.

Options for Obtaining a GED

Who Pursues a GED?

While most high school students graduate with a diploma, there are some who choose to pursue a General Educational Development (GED) credential instead. These individuals may include:

  • Adults who did not complete high school
  • Individuals who faced challenges in a traditional high school setting
  • Individuals seeking to improve their career prospects

GED programs provide an alternative path for those who, for various reasons, were unable to obtain a high school diploma. It is important to note that pursuing a GED does not mean that a person is any less capable or intelligent than someone who graduated with a diploma.

It simply offers a different route to demonstrate a similar level of academic achievement.

Steps to Earn a GED

Earning a GED involves several steps, including:

  1. Researching and identifying GED programs in your area
  2. Registering for the GED test
  3. Studying and preparing for the GED test
  4. Taking the GED test, which typically covers subjects such as math, science, social studies, and language arts
  5. Achieving a passing score on each of the test’s sections

It is important to note that the specific requirements and process may vary depending on your location. It is advisable to consult official GED websites, such as, for accurate and up-to-date information.

Benefits of Having Both a Diploma and GED

Having both a high school diploma and a GED can offer individuals a range of benefits. Some of these include:

Diploma GED
Proof of completing a traditional high school education Proof of meeting academic standards equivalent to high school graduation
Accepted by most colleges and universities Accepted by many colleges and universities
May provide better job prospects in certain industries May provide alternative job opportunities
May qualify for higher starting salaries May demonstrate commitment to personal growth and education

By having both a diploma and a GED, individuals can showcase their academic achievements in different contexts, opening up more opportunities for personal and professional growth.


Earning a traditional high school diploma and a GED demonstrate different educational paths, but both indicate commitment to academics and readiness for college or a career. While graduating high school students receive only a diploma, some return later in life to also obtain a GED for personal or professional reasons.

Understanding the key differences between these credentials provides helpful context around your own educational journey.

With this comprehensive overview of high school diplomas versus the GED, you now have the information you need to answer the question, do you get a GED when you graduate high school? The short answer is no – only students who complete GED testing requirements receive the credential.

We hope this guide provided helpful context around these important milestones in your education.

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