Earning a high school diploma requires the completion of a state accredited course of study. This completion relies on earning a certain number of credits in various subjects and may require an exit exam. Various paths to a high school diploma include public, charter, online and home schools.
State requirements for a high school diploma vary, and may change over time. Students in traditional public schools need to earn a particular number of credits in Math, English, Social Studies and Science, as well as additional credits in other electives, to be granted a state-approved diploma. Charter schools are exempted from certain state requirements, but have their own accountability standards. Distance learning may be a good option for adults seeking a diploma because these schools may grant credit for life experience or accept previously earned credits. Earning a diploma by completing a course of study at home is also an option, although a diploma earned this way may not be state-certified.
Adult students who demonstrate high-school-level skills can earn a diploma through the National External Diploma program. This program has two phases, the first of which is a review of reading, writing and math skills. The second phase involves the assessment of 65 competencies through a series of real-life situations or exercises.