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High School College Prep Diploma vs. Technical Diploma

Written by Lauren Ambrosio on Wednesday, 14 February 2024. Posted in Traditional Students

Young woman working on electrical components after earning an online technical diploma at JMHS.

So, you've decided to attend an online high school to get your diploma–that’s great! –but now you have to figure out which track to take. At James Madison High School, we offer two different online high school diploma tracks, and it's important to pick the one that's the best fit for you. Let’s break down the differences between the high school diplomas to give you an idea of which is best for you and your future.

What is a general high school diploma?

A general high school diploma is a certificate after successfully finishing the required courses and grades in high school, showing you've completed your basic education. It’s the minimum requirement for entry-level employment and admission to many community and junior colleges and technical schools.

What is a college prep diploma?

A college prep diploma prepares students to attend four-year colleges and universities after high school. This track includes advanced subjects and college-level classes. It’s for students who have higher education aspirations and provides the foundation required for academic success in a competitive college setting.

What is a technical diploma?

A technical high school diploma is a type of diploma earned by completing a high school program focused on a specific career pathway, in addition to the general education requirements. This path prepares students for direct entry into the workforce in skilled trades or for further education in technical fields.

Is college prep harder than regular high school?

The college prep track is more challenging than the general high school diploma track because it includes a curriculum that prepares students who are planning to apply for college. Students get ready for college with in-depth study, advanced coursework, and developing critical thinking skills.

Read more: How to Get a Job With an Online Diploma

What is the difference between college prep and AP classes?

College prep classes prepare you for college by teaching advanced study skills and subjects at a higher level than normal classes but don’t turn into college credits. On the other hand, AP classes are college courses you take in high school, and passing them earns you college credit.

What are college prep courses?

College prep courses are academically challenging classes focusing on subjects important for college readiness. These courses focus on critical thinking, analytical writing, and complex problem-solving—skills essential for college success.

Read more: How to Transfer High School Credits to JMHS

What is a college prep program?

A College prep program is a comprehensive educational pathway that includes courses and advising services to prepare students for the expectations and challenges of college-level work.

What is equivalent to a high school diploma?

The General Education Development (GED) certificate, adult high school diplomas, and other state-recognized equivalency degrees can serve as equivalents to a high school diploma, providing a similar foundation for students seeking employment or higher education opportunities.

Read more: High School Diploma vs GED

Common diploma types

General diploma

A general diploma is awarded to students after completing the standard high school curriculum requirements. It's recognized for entry-level employment and admission to many post-secondary programs. Learn more about the general diploma high school program at JMHS.

College preparatory diploma

Aimed at students planning to enter a four-year college or university. This diploma requires students to complete more challenging courses in core subjects like math, science, English, and social studies, often with a higher GPA. Learn more about JMHS’ college prep diploma program.

Vocational diploma

Focuses on preparing students for a specific trade or occupation. Students take specialized automotive technology, cosmetology, or carpentry classes alongside some academic courses. Learn more about the career pathways online programs at JMHS.

Honors/Advanced placement (AP) diploma

For students who take advanced placement or honors courses. These more rigorous programs can lead to college credit if students pass AP exams.

International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma

A globally recognized program that offers a challenging curriculum across various subjects. Students must complete community service, an extended essay, and pass IB exams.

Special education diploma

Issued to students with special needs who have completed their individualized education program (IEP), although the requirements may differ from those of a general diploma.

Adult education diploma

For adults who return to school or complete a GED program to receive their high school diploma later in life. Learn more about returning to high school as an adult learner.

The names and requirements for these diplomas may vary from state to state, so it's important to research the options where you live. Regardless of the name, each diploma signifies achievement and can open doors to various career and education opportunities.

Read more: Can You Get a Job with an Online High School Diploma

State Types of diplomas offered*
Alabama Alabama High School Diploma
International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme
Alaska Alaska High School Diploma
Arizona Standard Diploma
Grand Canyon Diploma
Arkansas Arkansas High School Diploma
California High School Diploma
Colorado High School Diploma
Early College
Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools
Teacher Recruitment Education and Preparation Program
Connecticut High School Diploma
Delaware High School Diploma (must complete 3 credits in a career pathway)
Florida High School Diploma
Career and Technical Education Pathway
International Baccalaureate
Advanced International Certificate of Education
Academically Challenging Curriculum to Enhance Learning (ACCEL)
Georgia High School Diploma
Career, Technical and Agricultural Education Pathways
Hawaii High School Diploma
Idaho High School Diploma
Workforce Readiness and Career and Technical Education Diploma
STEM Diploma
Illinois High School Diploma
Indiana General High School Diploma
General High School Diploma with Academic Honors
General High School Diploma with Technical Honors
Iowa General High School Diploma
Kansas General High School Diploma
Kentucky General High School Diploma
Louisiana General High School Diploma
TOPS University Diploma
Jump Start TOPS Tech Career Diploma
Maine General High School Diploma
Maryland General High School Diploma
Massachusetts General High School Diploma
Michigan General High School Diploma
Minnesota General High School Diploma
Mississippi General High School Diploma
Missouri General High School Diploma
Alternative, Performance-Based Graduation
Montana General High School Diploma
Nebraska General High School Diploma
Nevada General High School Diploma
Advanced Diploma
College and Career Ready Diploma
New Hampshire General High School Diploma
New Jersey General High School Diploma
New Mexico General High School Diploma
New York General High School Diploma
Regents Diploma
Advanced Regents Diploma
Local Diploma
North Carolina General High School Diploma
North Dakota General High School Diploma
Ohio General High School Diploma
Academic Honors Diploma
International Baccalaureate Honors Diploma
Career Tech Honors Diploma
STEM Honors Diploma
Arts Honors Diploma
Social Science and Civic Engagement Honors Diploma
Oklahoma General High School Diploma
College Preparatory/Work Ready Curriculum Diploma
Oregon General High School Diploma
Pennsylvania General High School Diploma
CTE Concentrator
Rhode Island General High School Diploma
South Carolina General High School Diploma
South Dakota General High School Diploma
Tennessee General High School Diploma
Texas General High School Diploma
Utah General High School Diploma
Vermont General High School Diploma
Virginia General High School Diploma
Advanced Studies Diploma
Washington General High School Diploma
West Virginia General High School Diploma
Wisconsin General High School Diploma
Technical Education Diploma
Wyoming General High School Diploma

Source: Education Commission of the States

Choosing your path at JMHS

Both diploma tracks at JMHS are backed by national accreditation, ensuring you receive a quality education supported by academic advisors and state-certified instructors.

Deciding between a general diploma and a college prep diploma at JMHS is an important step for your education and future job. Both paths have their benefits, tailored to different goals. Whether you're looking to enter the workforce or prepare for college, JMHS offers options that fit your needs. Call the admissions department at 1-800-535-1613 to learn more about our programs and find the right diploma path for you.

About the Author

Lauren Ambrosio

Lauren Ambrosio

Lauren Ambrosio is a lifelong writer with a B.A. in English from the University of Texas at Arlington. She joined Penn Foster in 2023 and is excited to be part of a team with such a rich history. She hopes to help our learners by providing helpful information they need on their education and career journeys. When Lauren isn’t writing about our veterinary programs—her favorite topic—she is hiking the foothills of Pikes Peak with her black lab, Remy.