High School Diplomas vs. GEDs: Do Employers Care?


As anyone knows, life often has its own idea about how your plans should go. Some students leave school because they need to help with the bills, they start a family or school doesn't seem like the right option for them at the time. Whatever the case, they can always return to high school or they can earn their GED®, which stands for General Educational Development.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 12,841,000 people over the age of 15 have a GED, which proves that a significant amount of people are opting to take a different path. This large number of people with GEDs also means that more employers are faced with job seekers with backgrounds that don't fit the traditional model. Still, plenty of people are left wondering whether or not their decision to opt for GED will come back to haunt them.

How can a GED impact your career?

Brett Yardley, a marketing and communications specialist for MAU Workforce Solutions, has helped recruit many job seekers, many who have GEDs. In his experience, many employers focus on whether or not you made the effort to complete your education at all.

"The biggest difference is degree -- GED or high school diploma -- versus no degree," Yardley explains. Employers want to know they're hiring someone who can complete a goal they've set for themselves. "In our experience with trade skills and labor positions, GEDs are typically considered an equivalent of a high school diploma and rarely have any impact on job seekers. Years of relevant experience or technical skills usually become the deciding factor. Proof of the degree is all that's required. It's when a job seeker doesn't have a GED or a high school diploma that employers move on to the next applicant."

The case isn't quite the same when you move from the labor positions into specialty areas.

"Job seekers for professional [or] specialty positions rarely, if ever show GEDs. A GED may raise questions in the mind of hiring managers for this type of work due to the perceived stigma that GEDs are somehow less than high school diplomas," Yardley explains. "In our experience, if individuals with GEDs are applying for professional type work, they leave any references to their GED off their résumé. At this level, bachelor degrees and above are typically the deciding factors with high school diplomas and GEDs as more of an afterthought."

The good and bad of a GED

A GED can mean two different things to employers, depending on the context, says Maya Frost, author of "The New Global Student: Skip the SAT, Save Thousands on Tuition, and Get a Truly International Education."

"What matters most is not whether you earn a GED or high school diploma but whether you use the GED as a way to advance or to catch up," Frost says. "The GED can be a very powerful tool as part of a strategy to begin college early. For those who want to blast forward, veering off the SAT/AP/GPA path and taking the GED at 16 may be the smartest move they can make."

That doesn't necessarily bode poorly for anyone who earns a GED for any reason other than to jumpstart college. It does mean, however, that employers are always looking for job candidates with ambition and commitment.

"[Workers] who earn a GED after the age of 18 are viewed far less favorably by employers. Unless you have a few college courses or exceptionally relevant experience under your belt, a GED may be seen as an indication of a lack of ability or follow-through," Frost warns.

Therein lies the trick for anyone with a GED. If you can continue your education in any capacity, you'll have the ability to frame your educational narrative and not let employers make their own assumptions.

Career adviser Megan Pittsley decided to forego the usual four years of high school in order to start her college career early. Now, she not only has an associate degree, but she also has a successful career and is nearly done completing her bachelor's degree.

"In my experience as a job seeker, recruiter and career adviser, I would say that as long as you continue to further your education beyond high school, it doesn't matter whether you formally graduated or received a GED," she says.

You don't have to earn a bachelor's or even an associate degree to show that you're serious about your education. You can take relevant courses that will help your work or get an appropriate certification. Whether it's a foreign language course or a public speaking seminar, you can show that you possess a serious commitment to education, and therefore a future employer.

GED® and the GED Testing Service® are registered trademarks of the American Council on Education® and may not be used or reproduced without the express written permission of the American Council on Education.

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What really matters, is whether High school diploma or Ged
did you get what you needed out of it. Some want satisfaction of completion,others a job, others want to move forward. I commend you all for your success.

March 17 2010 at 7:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Back in the '80s, when I went to high school, students were not required to take Algebra. Fast forward to 2010: In the state of Florida, high school students are now required to take Algebra to graduate.

I have a friend, who went to school with me, that never graduated and now he wants to get his GED. However, he cannot pass the math portion of the test. I took algebra in high school, but I don't remember it. Of course, I graduated high school, yet I can't help him with the math portion, and when I went to college, I took business math. I never had to take algebra in college. I feel so bad for him that I'm going to take online Algebra courses in order to teach him math. I can't believe how hard the math portion of the GED test is. Seriously! I taught him the English portion, which was very easy; however, the math portion was very challenging, even to a woman with an IQ that is much higher than average. It's much more difficult to pass your GED now. Trust me. I am quite intelligent. I work in the media, and I don't need to know math. Nowadays, without a GED, it's almost impossible to get a job. For this reason, I really want to help my friend as well as encourage others to stay in school. In fact, I was homeless when I was in 11-12th grade, but I still managed to graduate. It was a goal of mine. Nobody ever encouraged me to get a high school diploma when I was growing up, but I beat the odds. Please stay in school and never stop learning! A fine mind is a terrible thing to waste. Your special and you deserve a good education. Never give up and learn something new every day!

March 17 2010 at 3:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Douglas Chapman

High school is not for everyone just like college is not for everyone.

March 06 2010 at 6:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Poster #73 - How DARE you make a judgement on someone you don't even know and based on one post!

I was a highschool drop out! dropped out in the following1991 as a matter of fact. Got married and had a baby year, gave birth to a second 22 months later. A year after that went and wrote the GED exam, but because I literally FREEZE when it comes to exams I failed one battery, costing me a PIECE of paper. Interviewed for a job, they didn't hire me at first because I didn't have a HS diploma let alone a diploma in the field... BUT they called me back about a month later and OFFERED me the job because they liked my attitude and enthusiasm. Worked there for 2 years before my family relocated... this gave me the boost I needed to tell myself I can go far in life!
2000 I wrote a the Provincial English 30 Diploma exam CHALLENGED it without so much as READING the required novel (had two kids and worked fulltime) walked away with 5 credits in English 30 because I was DETERMINED (btw I passed that exam/essay based on a book I skimmed with a 61%). I also took some random HS credit courses to get myself closer to the required 100 madetory credits for a piece of paper.
2002 completed the real estate program in less then a month and passed the exam the first time with a 70% when most of the people who write that exam write it 2, 3 and 4 times!!
My family moved again in 2005 I got out of the Real Estate business because this city was too cut throat. Got hired as a receptionist for a land company, was moved to a senior position in 6 months and did very well, and have taken FIVE college/technical & One university program through that time. I am now furthering this and taking engineering courses, and plan to challenge 2 diploma exams in the spring (as a formality to get into the program I want full time) oh and as a 'formality' am writing the GED exam after Christmas. I am 37!!!
My HIGH SCHOOL children, look up to and are proud of me.... and have no intention of dropping out. I have made my way in this world and made good money by hardwork, determination, and street smarts not because of a HS diploma. My motivation came from WILL to succeed not the will to make as much money so mommy and daddy willl be proud of me or becuase I have thousands of dollars in student loans!
I am NO WHERE near expecting society to pity me... I want to be hired because I have EXPERIENCE, attitude and aptitude not because I should have got a piece of paper nearly 20 years ago!
Street smarts go further then booksmarts sometimes!! I have worked with ALOT of people with university education and they work by the textbook not by common sense or practical experience.
My intentions 20 years ago don't dictate my intentions now! you High School Heros need to stop judging and above all stop bragging. I have kids in the school system, I think the education system now a days is a joke. My kids hate school and I can't blame them, but they are street smart, and I know that they will both be successful and it will have NOTHING todo with that little rolled up piece of paper they will get on grad day!
Your High School Diploma and your 4 year Arts degree will get you far at McDonalds, Congratulations,you'll go far kid, maybe you can use that paper to perfect the big mac!!
*sheesh* never judge a book by it's cover! and don't pretend to know a situation without walking a mile in someones shoes. Each of us who dropped out, while it wasn't the best choice we made, did what was necessary at the time. I learnt more out of school then the teachers ever taught me!

November 26 2009 at 4:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Douglas Chapman

I was not lazy or taking drugs,there wasn't any help in my time.

November 21 2009 at 6:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dr Moon

Darn, It's always somebody else's fault. If Dad hadn't made you go to high school you might be president instead of unemployed.

November 06 2009 at 8:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dr Moon

Doug, you didn't fall through the cracks, you didn't fail, you worked and eventually overcame you disability and got your GED. You didn't graduate for being lazy, or for taking drugs. Besides twenty nine or fifty doesn't matter, what matters is you didn't just quit, you succeeded. But you are right, there are some circumstances beyond our control that can prevent us from graduating at 18 or 19. Thanks for reminding me of this.

November 06 2009 at 8:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Douglas Chapman

I had a learning disability and was not learning anythin in special ed classses.Never taught how to read well and do math.I learned more in my GED classes than I
did in school.What does that tell you.There was no help in my time.I passed my GED on the first try despite my LD.I am sick of people telling me GEDs are worthless.
It was a second chance for me.Where would a lot of people be without this second chance.

November 04 2009 at 10:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I was a loner, quit high school, married in 1969 (does that take you back) did not think about school again till 1981 when I was informed if I wanted to futher myself I needed a GED, I thought no way now I know that was the greatest decision I ever made.

September 24 2009 at 12:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I tooo dropped out of HS, and went for my GED. Scored very well, but as a child of the 70's my HS was a joke. I was never seen by a guidance counselor, or talked to about dropping out. I know these were my decisions, but at that age huge decisions shouldn't be left up to the studant.

September 24 2009 at 11:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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