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Is a High School Diploma Important? (A Realistic Look)

Written by Nicole Dalbo on Friday, 06 January 2023. Posted in Helpful Tips

An out of focus woman holding out a high school diploma.

If you haven’t earned your high school diploma yet, you might be asking yourself, “Do I even need a high school diploma? Why is it important?” While the answer is different for everyone, a diploma can definitely help you on your journey to success. From earning potential, career opportunity outlooks, and finding out if you’re eligible to finish high school—here’s what you need to know about getting your high school diploma and what it may mean for you.

What is a high school diploma?

A high school diploma is more than just a piece of paper. It marks you having met all course-work requirements in order to graduate high school. It's also an important benchmark for future employers, colleges, and the military to get a glimpse of your capabilities.

Why is a high school diploma important?

A high school diploma is important, especially when you're applying for jobs or hoping to go to college. Here's how earning your diploma can make a difference in your life, career, and options for the future.

1. People with high school diplomas tend to earn more.

It’s true! The added credentials from a high school diploma can really help your earning potential. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers that have earned a high school diploma, make on average nearly $10,000 more per year than those without.

2. People with a high school diploma have more job options.

Earning your high school diploma can seriously pave the way for more job opportunities. As of 2019, there were over three times the number of jobs available for people with high school diplomas than those without.

Overall employment in high school-level occupations is projected to grow by 5 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

3. Some financial aid and college admission is not available if you don’t have a diploma.

Planning on going to college but don’t have a diploma? In order to become eligible for federal student aid, the government requires you to show that you’re qualified to obtain a college education. You can do this by having earned a high school diploma, or a recognized equivalent such as a GED. High school diploma recipients that have earned good grades may also qualify for additional financial aid which GED recipients would not be eligible for.

Getting your foot in the door to college may also be easier with a high school diploma. While GEDs are accepted in most colleges and universities, there are still a select few that only allow high school diploma holders. Additionally, people with high school diplomas can send in their transcripts to admissions offices putting them at a slight advantage since they can display their skill level in various subjects.

4. You may need a high school diploma to join the military

Depending on which branch of the military you’re interested in, there are different education requirements. You may have a much easier time joining the military if you have earned a high school diploma vs a GED.

Why is that? Well, the military classifies those that have not completed high school or the equivalent as Tier 3, those with GEDs as Tier 2, and those who have a high school diploma as Tier 1. Most branches of the military will not accept Tier 3 recruits and tend to recruit a much smaller percentage of Tier 2 to join their forces than Tier 1’s.

Those with GEDS in the Tier 2 category also typically need to earn a higher ASVAB test score to qualify than those in Tier 1. James Madison High School is classified as a Tier 1 education and may make your time enlisting a much simpler process.

What are the advantages of getting a high school diploma?

Having a high school diploma is not without its perks! There are many ways that earning your high school diploma can help you out in life.

1. More job options

Some careers require a high school diploma to apply for the position. Expand your horizons with more job opportunities with a high school diploma.

2. Greater income potential

Since high school graduates tend to earn more, finishing high school can boost your potential for a higher income. And honestly, who doesn’t want to earn more money?

3. Proving to yourself that you can do it

Sometimes the biggest factor holding us back from achieving our goals is ourselves! Prove to yourself that you can overcome obstacles you come across and you’ll be well on your way to the path to success.

4. Being an example to your kids

You may even become an inspiration to your loved ones to go for their goals as well! According to Education Next, in most studies, parental education has been identified as the single strongest correlation of children’s success in school, the number of years they attend school, and their success later in life.

How does not having a high school diploma affect your life?

Not earning your high school diploma can have a bigger effect on your life than you think. have pulled research from multiple sources claiming that high school dropouts are more likely to self-report overall poor health. These people are also more likely to suffer at least 1 chronic health condition. In other words, completing your high school diploma may decrease the risk of a shorter lifespan.

Earning a high school diploma

As education evolves into modern times, there are options now that allow you to finish high school between your busy life priorities. No matter if you work full time or care for family members, high school completion is possible with a self-paced program.


Recognition and acceptance of your diploma are the two main reasons accreditation matters. Many colleges and prospective employers, as well as apprenticeship program directors, will decline candidates who have not graduated from an accredited high school. James Madison High School is nationally accredited by both Cognia and the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC).

What’s the oldest you can be in high school?

There’s no age limit! Whether you’re a teenager or an adult, anyone can earn their online high school diploma with James Madison High School. Get an affordable, accredited education on your time and begin your journey toward earning your high school diploma. For more information on enrolling in James Madison, reach out to our Admissions Specialists at .

About the Author

Nicole Dalbo

Nicole Dalbo

Nicole Dalbo studied English Literature with a minor in Women’s Studies from the University of Scranton and is currently working toward her MS in Marketing. When she isn’t writing, Nicole can be found watching the newest Marvel movie, baking something sweet, or jamming out to live music.