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Sarah Bradstreet

High School Equivalency Diploma vs. High School Diploma vs. GED Diploma

When you’re talking about getting a high school diploma in a non-traditional way, there are a lot of terms thrown around. Here’s a quick guide to the basics of high school equivalency.

High School Diploma vs. High School Equivalency Diploma

A true high school diploma is what you earn when you complete traditional high school (whether public, private, or homeschooled) by completing four years of coursework, typically as a teenager.

A high school equivalency diploma, on the other hand, can be earned by adult or other non-traditional students without completing four years of high school. A high school equivalency diploma can be used in the same way as a high school diploma to apply to college or to put on a resume for a job that requires a high school education. The path to getting there is different, however.

Each state has its own requirements for who can earn a high school equivalency diploma and what you need to do to get one. To find out what those requirements are in your state, check with your state’s department of education. You can find a directory of each state’s education website here.

In most states, you can earn a high school equivalency diploma by passing a high school equivalency exam. The three major exams are:

Every state accepts at least one of these, and some accept more than one. Check with your state to see which tests are accepted there for high school equivalency.

What About a GED Diploma?

The term “GED diploma” gets thrown around, but it’s not entirely accurate. The GED is NOT actually a diploma. It’s a series of exams designed to test your mastery of high school-level knowledge and skills in the four core content areas (language arts, math, social studies, and science). States that accept the GED use your passing score on the GED exams as the basis for awarding you their state high school equivalency diploma.

The GED is just one of several options for earning a high school equivalency diploma. Most, but not all, states offer it. The following states accept the GED:

AlabamaDelawareKentuckyNevadaOregonUtah
Alaska FloridaMarylandNew JerseyPennsylvaniaVermont
ArizonaGeorgiaMassachusettsNew MexicoRhode Island Virginia
ArkansasHawaiiMichiganNorth Carolina South CarolinaWashington
CaliforniaIdahoMinnesotaNorth DakotaSouth DakotaWest Virginia
ColoradoIllinoisMississippiOhioTennesseeWyoming
Connecticut KansasNebraskaOklahomaTexas

If your state is not on this list, check with your state’s department of education to find out which tests ARE accepted. Another option is to take the GED in a state that does accept it. Some states allow out-of-state testing and others do not. Check each state’s GED testing policies here.

If you are planning to take the GED, be sure to check out Magoosh’s great GED resources to help you prepare.

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About Sarah Bradstreet

Sarah is an educator and writer with a Master’s degree in education from Syracuse University who has helped students succeed on standardized tests since 2008. She loves reading, theater, and chasing around her two kids.


2 Responses to “High School Equivalency Diploma vs. High School Diploma vs. GED Diploma”

  1. Lola says:

    Yes I took my GED in 2004 in Michigan but when I moved to Texas in 2004 I decided to go to college in 2007 I was told that my GED was not sufficient for Texas and that I needed to retest. Wow was my thought. So I did and I’m 2008 I earned my Texas High School Equivalency diploma.

    • David Recine David Recine says:

      Yes, that is one thing to be aware of– different states have different GED requirements. Meaning you might need to retake your GED to get your HSED of you move to another state. That does sound frustrating, Lola, but way to rice tot he challenge. 🙂

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