High School or GED: Which is Better for Your Employees?

Posted by Des Sinkevich on February 14, 2024

A high school diploma can mean the difference between opportunity and stagnation for many workers.


Online education could change that cycle while offering new positive opportunities to employers and organizations that sponsor adult learners. When considering offering education pathways to workers, however, there’s a choice: high school diploma or GED. Which path could be a better fit to meet the goals of your learners and your organization?


Read more: Education as a Benefit: The Best Way to Attract and Retain Low-Income Workers


Restaurant worker behind the counter with dishes.

The difference between a high school diploma and a GED

When debating offering a pathway to either high school diploma completion or earning a GED, you may be wondering which is “better.” However, both methods of signaling secondary school level proficiency are valid. Instead of focusing on which is better, it’s best to have a clear understanding of the benefits of each – their similarities and differences – in order to choose the offering that will best serve your needs and those of your learners or workers.


What is a GED?

GED stands for General Educational Development, though it may also be referred to as a General Education Diploma. It’s also a term used as a catch-all for secondary proficiency exams, though there are several different tests used across the nation. A GED and its equivalents are focused on testing rather than teaching, measuring the test taker's competency in a number of subjects to determine whether they meet the minimum education standards that one would need to have graduated high school. There are four subtests: Social Studies, Mathematical Reasoning, Science, and Reasoning through Language Arts, and a test taker must pass each one to earn their GED credential.


Those planning to take the test can choose to take prep classes before their exam date to increase their likelihood of passing, though it’s not required. The length of time to complete a GED or equivalent exam is usually a few hours for test-taking only, or a few weeks if learners enroll in test prep courses.


Taking the GED can be a good fit for learners who just want to demonstrate competency and move on. For those who haven’t been out of high school long, it can be a quick way to take the next step in their lives. However, for those who have been away from school for a longer period, earning a GED may require taking some classes to refresh their knowledge in the standard high school subjects.


Why a high school diploma

A high school education, on the other hand, involves more than test prep and test-taking. A strong high school curriculum is designed to take learners through levels of proficiency, from basic to intermediate, in several subjects. Learners are also encouraged to enroll in elective courses to build well-rounded skills and interests. In addition to learning mathematics, history, English, and science, learners will often build critical thinking, time management, and teamwork skills through their coursework and assignments.


Earning a high school diploma can take anywhere from several months to years to complete and requires learners to take classes, pass exams, and submit papers and projects.


Earning a high school diploma can be a good pathway for learners who don’t necessarily need to have a quick win, those who want to further advance their education after high school, and those who want a well-rounded education.


Read more: 7 Ways Education Benefits are a Win-Win for Companies and Employees


Diploma vs. GED for organizations

Each route has its pros and cons. Deciding which you should offer to your employees and learners involves considering a few factors, including organizational goals, the skills you’re hoping to develop, budget, and learner schedules.


While a GED can be a quicker path, passing the tests isn’t as easy as it seems. The tests can be difficult, and learners must pass all of the subject exams to earn their GED. If they fail one, they do have the opportunity to retake just the failed exam. However, retakes can cost additional money and students have two opportunities to retake the failed exams with no penalties. If more than two retakes are required, you may have to pay the full fee again for each exam. Offering a GED can be a path that’s best for employers and organizations who want to ensure their learners earn a credential in a relatively short time, though it doesn’t include learning new material.


A high school diploma can be a better offering for employers and organizations that want to encourage a well-rounded education as well as build essential critical thinking skills in their learners. It can also offer an opportunity for learners to build career-relevant skills through elective courses. While the cost for a full high school program can initially be higher than that of a GED test, it can be a better investment because learners who fail an exam or a lesson won’t necessarily fail an entire course or the program; that means less is being spent on paying for retakes.


Read more: Education Benefits Can Bring Long-Term ROI


Can offering a high school diploma program impact your business?

While in the past, a lack of a high school diploma didn’t act as a barrier to financial and career achievement – if you were skilled enough or dedicated, you could find a job that would allow you to take care of a family, buy a small home, etc. - today, it can serve as a foundation for struggle. Those without this “standard” credential may find themselves juggling multiple minimum wage jobs to make ends meet, stuck in a cycle of work and exhaustion that doesn’t allow for a way out.


Even if you have a dedicated employee who is exemplary at their job and can handle the responsibilities of a higher role, you may not be able to promote that employee without a high school diploma. You’re then forced to hire new talent to fill leadership and advanced positions in your company or promote less dedicated workers, leaving your most dedicated employees lacking the proper credentials in the dust. While this may not, at first, impact their productivity, over time it can have a detrimental effect on motivation and satisfaction, which can lead to higher turnover.


Besides allowing you to build an internal talent pipeline and keep employees satisfied, offering a path toward diploma attainment can also

  • Increase retention. Offering any sort of education benefit can have a positive impact on employee retention. For workers who participate in your benefits program, you’re likely to see a 20-40% increase in retention.
  • Lower recruitment costs. Because education benefits impact retention, by offering a high school diploma pathway and other opportunities for growth you can significantly lower recruitment costs. If you don’t need to constantly replace workers due to turnover, you’ll spend less on filling vacant roles.
  • Attract new hires. Opportunities for professional and personal growth are a priority for many job seekers today and a company that offers clear pathways to career advancement and skill attainment are more likely to appeal to a diverse range of prospective hires.
  • Build employee confidence. Through a high school diploma program, you can help employees build confidence in their abilities which can have a positive impact on their work and productivity.


Partner with an accredited, proven online high school

Unlike offering career-focused training, it’s nearly impossible to build your own internal high school classes to help employees earn their diploma. That’s where an accredited, online high school program can help. Through Penn Foster’s range of high school diploma offerings, your organization can provide a pathway toward graduation that makes a difference to your workers and your business. With self-paced high school classes that offer career training to a diploma track focused on helping English language learners build proficiency, there’s an option that will meet the needs of your workers. To learn more about the benefits of online high school to your organization, reach out to our training experts today!