Dawn M. Geiger

Which is better, a high school diploma or the completion of the General Educational Development (GED) test? Can you get a job or into college with either one? Does it matter where your high school diploma or GED comes from? Either one will certainly help you to get a job, as well as into college; however, it certainly depends on which job or college you are seeking.


A high school diploma from a regionally or nationally accredited school recognized by the U.S. Department of Education may be more sought after from potential employers and colleges. However, most colleges and employers will accept a GED that is also recognized by the Department of Education.


The Department of Education recognition is very important with both the high school diploma and the GED. However, there are many online schools that offer both high school diplomas and GEDs that are not recognized by the Department of Education. These online schools, or diploma mills as some would call them, are focused on making a profit from their students. Once the student pays for and passes their exam(s), the diploma mill will then send the student a beautifully decorated diploma, some even with a transcript, which is not recognized by the Department of Education. These diploma mills will also convince potential students that they are accredited, and may even show proof of it, knowing that many students do not understand what having an accreditation means for a school, or the process of obtaining it. Most of these schools have created (made up) their own accreditation, some even with a fancy accrediting board name. However, neither their diplomas nor their transcripts will be accepted by colleges or schools that are recognized by the Department of Education, meaning that the diploma and transcript are not worth the paper it’s on.


Accreditation is based on the quality of education provided by individual schools and colleges. Each regionally or nationally accredited school or college goes through a lengthy accrediting process to ensure that the quality of education rendered meets specific requirements from their accrediting board(s). Regionally accredited schools have the highest prestige in accreditation and a broader transfer from one school to another with their credits and degrees. They are also organized and limited by regions within the U.S. Nationally accredited schools are generally designed for vocational, career, and trade schools and may offer fewer liberal arts classes, if any.


The GED is a nationwide computerized exam that is broken up into four different subject areas – Social Studies, Literacy, Science, and Mathematics. It is not an online exam; therefore, each student must complete the exam at a GED Testing Center. The exam has also recently been updated and is now more focused on critical thinking and college and career preparation. It also requires a strong academic foundation.


If you are an adult learner seeking to earn your high school diploma or GED, I encourage you to seek out a testing site in your community (i.e. high school, adult educational center, and/or a community or junior college), and then make certain that the site is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

​​​High School Diploma VS. GED