What is the Importance of a High School Diploma in the 21st Century?

Your parents probably tell you all the time that it’s crucial to get a quality education. Sorry for bursting your bubble, but they’re right. We’re not stuck in the olden times when people could just simply live off the land and work without going to school. Today, you can’t do much unless you have a high school diploma.

Although people often think that a diploma and a degree mean the same thing, there are differences between the two. For instance, you don’t earn a high school degree because such a thing doesn’t exist. You can only earn a degree after you complete a program at a post-secondary institute. In other terms: college.

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

How to Earn a High School Diploma

Typically, students complete four years of high school to earn their diplomas. Requirements to earn a high school diploma vary depending on the school and the state, so candidates should inquire with their state’s Department of Education or their educational institution for more details.

Earning a public high school diploma traditionally entails the completion of courses in science, mathematics, English, social studies, physical education, electives, and foreign language.

Earning a high school diploma from a private school may require additional coursework in fine arts and foreign language.

What if I didn’t finish high school? Can I still get a high school diploma?

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If you didn’t finish high school, you can still earn a diploma through various other programs. Many states have adult high schools that enable you to continue where you left off and earn the remaining credits you need to graduate. All states also offer exams you can take to receive a high school equivalency diploma.

  • Adult High School Diploma

    Adult High Schools are generally offered through public school systems, technical schools and community colleges. In adult high schools, you earn a diploma from the institution hosting the program. Admissions requirements vary but applicants usually submit a copy of their high school transcript and talk with a counselor to determine the credits they need for a diploma.
    Each state has their own requirements for graduation, but many require around 22 credits, including 3 credits in science, 3 credits in social studies, 3 credits in math, and 4 credits in language arts. Students usually work at their own pace and complete the coursework through classes, online work, and supervised study. Some Adult High Schools require students to pass state assessment tests.

  • Online High Schools

    A growing number of accredited online high schools are now available for adult learners. Some online high schools offer distance learning programs so that they’re accessible to adults anywhere in the U.S.For example, Brigham Young University is a well known university that offers online diploma opportunities. In addition to core academic requirements, students of the online program must also earn credits in fine arts, physical education, financial literacy, computer technology, and five elective courses.

  • High School Equivalency Diplomas

    All states offer a high school equivalency diploma that students can earn by passing a comprehensive exam. In the past, the General Education Development (GED) high school equivalency exam was the national test used for equivalency diplomas. However, since 2014, some states have replaced the GED with the TASC Test or the HiSET Exam.Although the GED, TASC and HiSET tests have different testing options and formats, all three exams cover similar content. To pass, you need reading comprehension and analytical skills. You also need to interpret information presented through tables, charts and diagrams. All of the exams require you to write at least one essay. To pass the sections on mathematics, you will need to solve problems involving arithmetic, geometry, and algebra.

Why do I need a high school diploma?

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With a high school diploma, you open yourself to many educational and professional opportunities. Here are six reasons why getting a high school diploma is important:

  1. Career Opportunities

    If you want to make more than the daily minimum wage, you need a high school diploma. Without it, you’re going to be stuck in a dead-end job with no chance of a raise or a promotion. With a high school diploma, you’re more likely to land a job that offers a higher salary in addition to benefits such as health insurance and retirement.

  2. Further Education

    In today’s job market, a college degree is becoming more vital in landing coveted job positions.  But in order to enroll at any type of college – be it a four-year university, community college, or online university – you need to have a high school diploma. By obtaining a high school diploma and then earning a college degree, you can apply for jobs with higher salaries and better benefits.

  3. Career Opportunities

    Not only will you feel good that you graduated from high school, it also protects your health and the well-being of your loved ones. You’ll more likely have access to medical care (health insurance from your job) and the funds to pay for bills (higher salary). Plus, the more you learn at school, the better-rounded you’ll be!

High School Diploma vs. College Degree

According to a survey of teens and young adults conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, many young Americans consider a high school diploma enough to attain success in their chosen careers.  The findings are alarming some experts, especially those who believe that college will pay off in the long run.

However, there are careers that do not require a standard four-year college education but do involve vocational school or specialized training. Jobs such as real estate agents, fitness trainers, auto mechanics, and plumber are good examples. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in those industries, an apprenticeship or internship may be better than going to college.

But why do education experts believe that college pays off in the long run?

Major Benefits of Going to College

To put it simply, college grads enjoy economic advantages over Americans with less education. According to the Lumina Foundation, bachelor’s degree holders earn about $32,000 more than those who only hold a high school diploma.

Aside from having higher salaries, college graduates also have a competitive edge in the career market. In the economic times, we’re living today, finding jobs is not a guarantee. As a job seeker, you’re competing with a high number of experienced workers. Employers tend to value those who have completed college over those who only have a high school diploma. This means that college graduates are more likely to enjoy greater job security and increased life savings.

Should I go to college right after receiving a high school diploma?

For many high school seniors, attending college right after graduation is a given. But transitioning to college immediately after high school isn’t the right choice for everyone. Some students take a year off after high school to work, travel, or volunteer and they end up returning to school more mature than their peers. Having some “real world” experience helps them take better advantage of their college education because they already know what to expect.

Taking time off also gives undecided students some time to truly think about the career path they want to pursue. There are students who leave high school without a firm idea of what they want to do with their lives, and it may take some real-life experience to help shape their decision.

However, going to college right after high school does have significant benefits. For instance, the earlier you attend, the earlier you can apply for high-paying jobs in the future. You won’t lose the momentum that 12 or 13 consecutive years of learning have built up. If you wait, it can be harder to get back in the swing of things or you might not go to college at all.

All in all, it boils down to your personal decision. You know yourself better than anyone so whatever you decide, what matters is that you do it for the betterment of your future.

The importance of higher education in the 21st century

As mentioned before, graduates who have higher education tend to have more job opportunities than those who don’t further their education after high school. But it doesn’t at obtaining a college degree. According to a study conducted by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the earnings or salary of an individual increase each time they achieve a higher level of education.

Average earnings include:

  • No high school diploma: $520 per week with an unemployment rate of 6.5%
  • High school diploma, no college: $712 per week with an unemployment rate of 4.6%
  • Attended college, no degree: $774 per week with an employment rate of 96%
  • Associate degree: $836 per week with an employment rate of 96.6%
  • Bachelor’s degree: $1,173 per week with an employment rate of 97.5%
  • Master’s degree: $1,401 per week with an employment rate of 97.8%
  • Doctoral degree: $1,743 per week with an employment rate of 98.5%
  • Professional degree: $1,836 per week with an employment rate of 98.5%

If you do the math, a doctoral degree could earn you $6,972 per month, while a professional degree could land you a $7,344 monthly salary.

As you can see, in our economy today, it’s no longer enough to have a high school diploma. Yes, investing in higher education is a huge commitment of time and money, but you can think of it as a down payment on your future. There’s a lot of hard work involved, but you’re preparing yourself for a challenging and rewarding career that leads to financial security and fulfilling life.

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