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GED vs. Online High School: Which is Better?

Sep 6, 2010 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

What is a better choice—earning your degree or earning a high school diploma online? Here’s a look at your options—and which one is better, both for the workplace and for higher education. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of the GED

The GED (or “General Education Diploma”) is awarded after you pass a series of five tests in writing, reading, science, history, and math. To take the test, you must be over the age of sixteen—but there’s no upper age limit, so if you’ve passed the age of eligibility for a four-year high school. Most employers and post-secondary schools view a GED the same way they view a high school degree—you can get into college or trade school with one, qualify to apply to government jobs with one, and can go into the military with one.

The big advantage to taking the GED instead of going to high school is that you get the tests done in a single day instead of having to spend years earning a high school diploma. However, the test’s standards are high—and for some students, especially those who have been out of school for a long time, the test can be extremely difficult to pass. Many students need advanced tutoring, especially in math, to pass the tests. It’s possible to spend a year or more preparing for the GED—and if you struggle with reading or math in particular, it may take you as long to earn your GED as it does to earn a traditional diploma.

Another disadvantage is that it’s usually not free. Depending on your state, you may have to pay up to $60 to take the battery of tests—as opposed to earning a high school degree at your local school, which is free. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Online High School

While regulations vary depending on your state, most states allow you to go back to school to earn your diploma anywhere from one to three years after your eighteenth birthday. This is a disadvantage if you’re older, but there are often other community programs that will help students past the age limit earn a high school diploma without a minimum age requirement.

Not every district has online high school options. But if your state allows high school diplomas for those who study entirely online, you may be able to do this while working full-time or taking care of a family. Be sure to check with your area’s laws and regulations to determine if an online high school diploma is valid in your state—and if there are any programs open to you that fulfill your state’s graduation requirements. One downside to online high school programs is that you often have to rely on your local school district or a state-specific program to provide them—because each state has different graduation requirements for high school.

Another disadvantage of an online degree program is that it usually takes four years—the same amount of time it takes to earn a traditional high school degree. However, if you have existing high school credits earned before you left school for the first time, you may be able to use those credits in earning your degree. If you have enough credits, you may only have to take a semester or two of school online before earning a high school degree.

Another advantage is that an online high school diploma often looks just like a traditional diploma from the school district that administers the online program. Most employers do not discriminate against those with GED’s, but if you want to minimize that possibility, an online high school degree may be your best bet.

Most colleges accept both GED’s and high school diplomas—whether online or traditional. But having either of these qualifications doesn’t guarantee your acceptance. Your grade point average or test score will also make a difference, as well as your extracurricular activities, financial and ethnic background, and other factors. Do your research and you’re much more likely to decide on a program that suits what you need—both in postsecondary education and in the job market.

 Is an Online High School Diploma the same as a GED Credential? -



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