Students drop out of high school for a wide variety of reasons, ranging from family problems to academic difficulties, but the cost of the decision to drop out is high. The U.S. Census Bureau reported in 2010 that a high school dropout earns about $10,000 less per year than a high school graduate. Reinvesting in your education after dropping out can be a savvy decision for your financial well-being, your self-esteem and your future educational possibilities, and there are many ways to continue your education after dropping out.

GED Test

The General Educational Development diploma is an alternative to a high school diploma that is accepted internationally. Depending upon the state in which you reside, passing the GED test will result in either a GED diploma or a GED certificate. According to GED Testing Service, 95 percent of colleges accept the GED credential. If you're busy and strapped for cash, the GED test charges a nominal testing fee and has no prerequisites. You'll simply have to study to learn the material you didn't master in high school, including social studies, reading, writing, math and science.

Adult Diploma Programs

While the GED test provides a fast alternative to completing high school, taking the test also means you'll miss out on the classroom-based learning that goes along with high school. If you want feedback from a teacher and the opportunity to get back into the swing of academic life, an adult diploma may be the way to go. Many states offer these programs, which provide adults with classes teaching basic high school skills at an accelerated pace. Some programs require students to take the GED test at the end of the program, while others award a diploma based upon grades and completion of work.

Vocational Training

Vocational training at a tech school might be the right choice if there's a particular field you're hoping to enter. While some tech schools require a GED credential or high school diploma, others train students who have dropped out. Contact your state department of education to learn about vocational training opportunities in your area. If you're interested in or involved with a particular trade, the trade union or a local trade organization can direct you to training and apprenticeship programs. Review the terms of the contract and ensure your school is accredited before signing up for vocational school.

Independent Study

Formal education isn't the only path to an educated, well-rounded mind. If you don't need a diploma for your career or are hoping to supplement a GED diploma or GED certificate, self-study can be an option. Some universities and community colleges offer free online classes that teach you basic skills but don't offer college or high school credit. You can also start reading up on topics that interest you. While this sort of knowledge won't necessarily get you a job, it can help you develop skills for your current job and help you continue the path of lifelong education.