Family issues, learning problems and social anxiety can all cause high school students to abandon their studies. However, without a high school diploma, many people will struggle to find good job opportunities. Fortunately, even those who drop out of high school have a chance to get their diploma so they can continue their post-secondary studies or qualify for better job opportunities. Two of the most common options include the GED and the adult high school diploma.

GED vs. Adult Diploma

The GED, or General Education Development exam, measures five basic areas of knowledge: reading, writing, math, social studies, and science. The GED tests students on the knowledge that they should have learned by completing their high school education. An adult diploma, also known as an adult high school diploma, is awarded to students who complete the classes they did not take while in high school. For students who only had a few credits to go before they were supposed to graduate high school, the adult diploma may be a good option. For students who had a lot of credits left to complete, the GED might be the better choice.


Students do not need to take classes to take the GED. However, many choose to take a class so they can refresh their knowledge of the basic subjects and can perform better on the test. GED courses can be taken online, in the evenings and on the weekends, depending on what program students choose. GED programs can also be completed as an independent study at home. Adult diplomas are typically offered through local community colleges, and the classes are usually offered at nights and on the weekends. Some online programs are available.

Time Commitment

The time to complete either a GED or an adult diploma are both entirely dependent on the student. However, it often takes less time to prepare for the GED test than it does to complete an adult diploma. For example, at Heartland Community College, GED prep classes meet three to four times per week, and each class is three hours. Some students may only need a short refresher and may be ready to take the test in just a couple of weeks. Other students may need a year or more to prepare for the test. Adult diploma courses typically meet for a full semester. The length of time to complete the program depends on how many credits a student was short of completing his high-school diploma. Whatever time was left to graduate from high school will likely be how long it takes to get the adult diploma.


Some studies have shown that a GED may not always be viewed as favorably as a high-school diploma by employers or college admissions officials. NPR reported that those with a GED are often no better than high-school dropouts in terms of their opportunities, and the U.S. Census Bureau found that GED recipients have less earning power and are less likely to go on to college. However, Career Builder reported that having a GED is better than not having completed your education at all, and that employers give credit for having met that goal. Since adult diplomas are the equivalent of completing a high school education, they are treated the same as a high school diploma.