What Is a High School Degree Called?

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After four years of study and effort, you're getting ready to finish high school and walk in your school's graduation ceremony. When you walk down the aisle, you'll be handed a piece of paper that confirms that you've completed the requirements and are ready to move on to the next phase of your life.

The piece of paper you receive once you've finished school is called a diploma. Although people often assume that a diploma and a degree mean the same thing, there are differences between the two.

Difference Between a Degree and a Diploma

Technically speaking, you don't earn a high school degree. You can only earn a degree after you've completed a program at a post-secondary institute. There are several degree levels:

  • Associates Degree: Earned after you complete a two-year program at a community college
  • Bachelor's Degree: Earned after you complete a four-year program at a college or university
  • Master's Degree: Earned after you complete a graduate-level program at a university
  • Doctoral Degree: Another graduate-level degree, earned after additional years of research and study

A diploma, on the other hand, is a document that verifies that you've completed a program of study, such as a high school program. You can also earn a diploma after you finish a program in a specific field, such as nursing.

How to Earn a High School Diploma

How you go about earning a high school diploma depends on where you live and the requirements of your school. Most high schools expect students to complete a certain number of courses in subjects such as science, math and language arts, before they can receive a diploma.

Your school might have additional requirements. For example, you might need to complete a senior project before you can graduate.

What Is a GED?

The GED, or General Educational Development Test, can be an alternative to a diploma. Passing the GED gives you the equivalent of a high school diploma. With a GED, you can apply to college or get a job that requires a high school diploma.

How to Earn a GED

To earn a GED credential, you need to pass a four-part test. The test focuses on four subject areas:

  • Mathematical Reasoning
  • Social Studies
  • Science
  • Reasoning Through Language Arts

You can take each test one by one or sign up for all four at the same time. To earn the credential, you need to get a passing score on each one of the tests.

Many people take a GED prep course before they sign up for the exams. A prep course can help you hone your skills in each of the subject areas.

What Is HiSET?

Like the GED, the HiSET is a test you can take to earn a credential that is the equivalent of a high school diploma. Passing the HiSET verifies that you have the same knowledge and skills as a person who has a diploma.

How to Earn a HiSET Credential

To earn a HiSET credential, you need to successfully complete a five-part exam. The HiSET exams focus on the following areas:

  • Math
  • Science
  • Social Studies
  • Language Arts: Writing
  • Language Arts: Reading

Each test section ranges from 65 minutes to 120 minutes in length. As with the GED, you can sign up for a preparation course.