What Does “High School Diploma or Equivalent” Mean?

What Does “High School Diploma or Equivalent” Mean?

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In many job applications, you will find the expression: “High School Diploma or Equivalent Required.”

“High School Diplom or Equivalent” means that you either own a high school diploma or hold a high school equivalency (HSE).

Both documents are a basic certification that opens many doors: many employments and internships require that you have a high school diploma or an HSE. Also, people who have a diploma or equivalency earn more than people who don’t!

Exams That Are Considered a High School Equivalency (HSE)

High School Equivalencies (HSE) are given to students who did not attend secondary school but completed secondary education credentials.

In the United States, three exams are considered a High School Equivalency diploma and bear the same weight as a high school certificate:

  • General Educational Development (GED): a high school equivalent certificate that you get after passing a high school equivalency test about math, science, language arts, and social studies.
  •  HiSET: passing this test demonstrates you have the same skills and knowledge as a high school graduate.
  •  TASC: an affordable, accessible, and flexible exam for measuring high school proficiency.

Employers Also Consider These Qualifications as High School Equivalency (HSE)

The definition that employers use in their job applications may vary from the legal definition. A more loose description of “High School Diploma or Equivalent” would include the following cases:

  • You own a high school diploma.
  • You completed 12th grade in another country.
  • You have an equivalency from an accredited institution – Many accredited institutions (including some from the National Private School Accrediting Alliance) issue high school diploma equivalents.
  • You have an accredited home-school certificate – The U.S. Department of Education recognizes some home-school diplomas as high school diploma equivalents.
  • You own a General Education Development certificate (GED) – a test about your aptitude in math, science, language arts, and social studies (it’s just like getting a high school diploma). Other alternatives to GED include HiSET and TASC.

A High School Diploma or Equivalent Is Necessary for Many Careers

Do you think a high school diploma is necessary for college admission and job applications?

Well, that’s not always true!

There are many options to further your studies without a high diploma. Also, many good-paying jobs don’t require a “high school diploma or equivalent.”

  • Many traditional jobs require a high school diploma or equivalent at entry-level. However, plenty of jobs do not have such requirements.
  •  Most college or university studies require a high school diploma or equivalent as part of admission procedures.

Jobs and Careers Without a High School Diploma

Many entry-level jobs are available without a high school diploma or equivalent.

Those with exceptional voice or physical traits can be modeling, acting, performing, voice-over or dubbing, or singing. 

Those with unique abilities, talents, or passionate interests can also find great jobs. For example:

  • Art & technology: Cosmetologist, Hair Stylist, Illustrator, Architectural Drafter, or Florist.
  •  Technology: Computer Programmer, Web Developer
  •  Communication: Translator, Interpreter. Photographer, Freelance Writer, Court Reporter, Online Advertising Manager, or Telemarketer.
  •  Travel & Transport services: Ship Captain, Air Traffic Controller, In-flight Services Manager, Locomotive Engineer, Airline Pilot, Flight Attendant, Delivery Driver, Tour Guide, or Bus Driver.
  •  Legal / Financial Services: Real Estate Broker, Paralegal Assistant, Insurance Agent, Tax Examiner, or Tax Collector.

Even an average person can still earn a good salary without a high school diploma. Still, if there are many applicants, experience and attitude will have to compete against formal training. For example:

  • General / Personal Services: Office Manager, Executive Assistant, Housekeeper or Janitor, Animal Care Specialist or Dog Walker, Nanny, Counter Attendant, or Personal Shopper. 
  •  Technical Services: Elevator Installation & Repair, Nuclear Power Operator, Heating & Refrigeration Mechanic, Industrial Mechanic, Construction Machine Operator, Electrical Technician, Power Plant Dispatcher, Automotive Technician, Machinist, Construction Worker, or Property Custodian.
  •  Health / Medical Services: Home Aides Supervisor, Home Health Aide, Dental Hygienist, Fitness or Gym Instructor.
  •  Entertainment Services: Casino Gaming Manager, Casino Dealer, or Stuntman.
  •  Food & Drink Services: Food Server, Barista, Sous Chef, Sommelier, or Restaurant Manager.

How to Further Your Education

If you want to continue your studies after secondary school, here are some of your options:

  • Go to trade school – You can register at a trade school without a high school diploma or GED. You can be trained to become dental hygienists, web developers, plumbers, and so on.
  •  Go to college – While most colleges and universities require a high school diploma for admission, other options include the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) and Advanced Placement (AP) tests. In contrast, community college admission options include Wonderlic and ACCUPLACER.


A high school diploma is a document that certifies the completion of your high school education. Besides formal education, you have other options, such as the GED, HiSET, and TASC, which are high school diploma equivalents.

Although entry-level jobs generally require a high school diploma or equivalent, that’s not always the case. As a result, many schools provide training and certification without it. 

If you’re blessed with striking looks, skills, talents, and abilities, many high-paying job opportunities are still available

Now you know what a “high school diploma or equivalent” means, when it’s absolutely needed, and when you can get around it.

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About The Author

Nathan Brunner
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Nathan Brunner is a labor market expert. He is a mathematician who graduated from EPFL.

He is the owner of Salarship, a job search engine where less-skilled candidates can find accessible employment opportunities.