Getting your high school diploma

For whatever reason, not everyone graduates from secondary school and gets their high school diploma. If you are in this situation, this page provides information and resources on how to get your diploma or equivalent so that you can access more career opportunities.

Why you should get your high school diploma

A high school diploma is important. High school is the first level of your public education where you must study on your own and show initiative. When you graduate from high school, it shows employers that you can achieve long-term goals. It also shows that you’re capable of managing deadlines and completing specific tasks, which are important skills for any job.

The unemployment rate is often lower for high school graduates than for young workers who didn’t graduate. This means that when it comes to graduates versus non-graduates, it is the graduates who are more likely to get and keep a job.

High school graduates are also more likely to earn a higher salary than non-graduates. Even without additional education beyond high school, having a secondary school diploma often means more financial security in the long run. 

Planning for the future

If you have a certain career in mind for your future, it will likely require at least a high school diploma. Many specific careers also require post-secondary education, like a college diploma, an apprenticeship, or a university degree.

Consider your career plan and education plan first to help you determine the kind of education you will need. An important thing to remember: the first step in both of these plans will involve getting a high school education.  

High school alternatives

Students choose not to finish high school for a variety of reasons. Some students don’t like the atmosphere, some struggle academically, and some find new responsibilities that take them away from student life. Whatever the reason, there are alternatives to the traditional high school environment that can help you get your secondary school diploma or equivalent.

General Educational Development (GED)

General Educational Development, or GED, is a secondary school equivalency test that certifies high-school level education and academic skills. It is a series of five tests covering five different subject areas. The test must be taken in person at a designated GED testing centre, and once the test is successfully completed, the learner earns a High School Equivalency Certificate.

The GED is very similar throughout the United States and Canada, so practice materials are commonly available online and through larger bookstores.

The cost of the GED varies across the country. Each province and territory offers information on GED testing centres and testing days and on GED practice information.

Provincial and territorial GED information:

Distance education

Many high schools now offer online distance education options. While still enrolled in your local high school, you can complete various courses by working independently online.

If you choose distance education, the overall structure of the curriculum depends on the standard procedure used by your high school. Some students will be allowed to complete independent exams and tests, while others will be expected to attend some classes to write exams and tests and complete in-class assignments.

Lifestyle schools

In mid-sized and larger Canadian cities, there are usually lifestyle schools to accommodate the special needs of students. These schools offer assistance to students to help remove barriers to learning and make the high school experience fit their lifestyle.

These schools often help students that have physical or learning disabilities, and sometimes offer daycare accommodations for young parents. Contact your local school board to inquire about lifestyle or specialty-focused schools in your area.

Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition

Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition, or PLAR, is an evaluation program used by colleges and universities to assess the academic capabilities you have acquired outside the classroom.

If you’ve gained knowledge and skills from work experience, corporate training or independent learning, PLAR can test you on these skills for academic credit. If you pass a designated test, you can earn an equivalency certificate or diploma that attests to your academic skills and expertise.

If you think you’ve obtained valuable out-of-classroom knowledge in a certain academic area, contact your local college or university to see if they offer PLAR.

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