Over 18 million adults have taken the GED, a four-subject high school equivalency test that measures skills required by high schools and requested by colleges and employers in all 50 states. Created in 1942 as a second chance for returning war veterans, the GED can improve job prospects and educational opportunities for those who did not receive a high school diploma.

Higher Earnings Over a Lifetime

Adults who earn GED credentials can achieve the same level of weekly wages as high school graduates. This can translate into an average of $558,000 dollars more over an average lifetime. Equipping adults with the skills sought by employers and providing pathways to training programs is the goal of the GED, according to Randy Trask, head of GED testing services.

Better Chances of Finding Employment

The unemployment rate in August 2014 for those without a high school diploma was 12 percent, compared with 8.8 percent for those with a high school diploma or GED credential. The GED is also a steppingstone to higher education or a path to many job training programs.

Moving Toward a College Degree

Twenty-eight percent of U.S. employees in 1973 worked at jobs that required a college degree. By 2018, that number is expected to more than double, reaching 63 percent. Some 95 percent of U.S. colleges and universities accept the GED credential in place of a high school diploma, making the possibility of employment requiring higher skills and knowledge more likely for those who have taken the steps to pass the GED and graduate from a four-year college or university.

Lower Chances of Incarceration

Lack of education is directly tied to higher rates of incarceration, according to Trask. Each adult lacking a high school credential costs about $260,000 in taxpayer support over that person's lifetime, placing a drain on social services and the American economy. Forty million Americans lack a high school diploma or GED equivalency.