Weighing your options: Diploma vs. GED


KQED posed the question: What is the value of a high school diploma vs. a GED and students weighed in on the issue.

Mae Mastin, staff writer

When it comes to the topic of high school education, most of us will readily agree that earning a degree is extremely important for future success. Where this agreement ends, however, is on the question of whether it is better to earn a high school diploma or a GED (the equivalent of a diploma). Where some are convinced that earning a diploma is the best choice for education, others insist that choosing to pursue a GED is acceptable, and, in many cases, a better option.

The issue requires consideration and examination of the positives and negatives of diplomas and equivalents. A recent Do Now question by KQED, public media for Northern California, asked, “Would you consider earning a high school equivalency certification instead of a high school diploma? What, if anything, does the high school experience offers versus the potential “shortcut” of a GED? How well does high school fit your learning needs?” Several commenters responded to the question and the accompanying article.

These comments, while varied, often stated that the benefits of earning a diploma and the experience of going to high school outweighed the possible advantages of gaining a GED. One writer, Preston Chu, remarked, “Personally I wouldn’t consider a GED. A high school diploma and education has prepared me a lot for my later life in college and I wouldn’t think a GED would offer the same type of experience.”

Many responders spoke similarly, mentioning that graduating high school shows resolve, that high school offers other experiences besides just education, and that earning a diploma gives better options for careers and better preparation for the future.

In addition, the KQED article that accompanied the Do Now question stated, “According to the US Census Bureau, which looked at long-term employment and earning outcomes for GED holders versus high school graduates, those with a GED earned an average of $1600 less per month later in life than those who had a high school diploma.” This statement clearly shows the benefits of earning a diploma over a GED.

On the other hand, pursuing a GED has certain advantages that a high school education doesn’t offer. Another commenter on the post, Erica Liang, offered, “I would consider earning a high school equivalency certification rather than a high school diploma because many students, including myself, feel as though the high school education system requires unnecessary and excessive mandates in order to earn your diploma.”

Others mentioned students who don’t learn well in school settings or students who already feel that they know how to function in the “real world.” Some also considered that getting a GED requires just as much effort as a diploma, contrary to the opinion that it is a “shortcut” or “easy way out.”

Supporting these opinions, the accompanying KQED article discussed a man named Desmond Meagley, who dropped out of high school and earned his GED instead. It explained, “He says his school’s large class sizes, constant assessments and busywork assignments left him feeling exhausted at the end of the day.” The article went on to quote him saying that reading on his own “engaged” him more than learning in a classroom.

Both those who believe that earning a GED is the best option for receiving education and those who believe that choosing to pursue a diploma present equally convincing arguments for their cases. While a diploma allows for opportunities in high school that a GED cannot give, a GED can offer a better learning system for certain individuals. The choice of whether to earn a diploma or a GED is a personal decision and should be carefully considered to determine which form of the degree is the best option on an individual basis.