America’s Smoke Screen: What Lies Beneath the GED Test

We all know the importance of a high school diploma; it’s our ticket to entry-level jobs or post-secondary education. Our teachers, parents, and grandparents have all sat us down, and spoken to us about getting good grades to graduate and move on from high school. Naturally, after that, they then sat us down and gave us the same talk about college or university. The point is the high school diploma is the stepping stone everyone needs to take if wanting to progress in the workforce. 

But some of us, for whatever circumstances, weren’t able to complete high school and receive a high school diploma. So, what’s the alternative? The General Education Development (GED) credential has been widely known as the equivalent to a high school diploma for individuals who didn’t receive a diploma. In fact, the GED credentials have a long track record in the educational system as they’ve been around since 1942. 

Originally, the GED credential was the second chance diploma-less students received to pursue further job opportunities or education for World War II veterans. Yes, the GED’s original purpose wasn’t for the average high school dropout. Rather, these veterans were drafted into the military prior to receiving their high school diplomas. Thus, the GED tested veterans in reading, science, math, and social studies. Since then, it’s evolved into being a secondary alternative to students across the country to increase opportunities without having to go back to high school.

However, today’s students of the GED differ greatly from World War II war veterans. Many dropped out of high school due to economic challenges, unexpected pregnancies, addiction or personal difficulties. Most people don’t dream of dropping out of high school, knowing the limitations it creates. Thus, obtaining a GED credential would provide them the opportunity to move out of a low salary position. But the GED isn’t as respected as you’d think. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) conducted a five-year study of the gap between an individual with a high school diploma and one with a GED credential. There are some of the discrepancies found in the results. 

The Wage Gap

When it comes to education, there’s a price. Though people such as Steve Jobs and Bill Gates didn’t pursue secondary education, most people are not in their position. In a long-range study done between 1980 to 2005, the U.S. Department of Education found a male GED recipient earned an annual income of $30,000, whereas a male high school diploma graduate earned more than $33,000. A longitudinal survey conducted by BLS in 2013, reconfirmed these findings, thus showing inequality between the two credentials. 

Perception of GED credential

You can have all the GED Resources or online prep resources you want, achieving the highest marks possible, but outside perception will greatly influence your employment opportunities. Author of “The New Global Student: Skip the SAT, Save Thousands on Tuition, and Get a Truly International Education,” Maya Frost believes employers are hesitant to hire individuals without a high school diploma. Frost states, “GED may be seen as an indication of lack of ability or follow-through.” 

In high school, students spend hours and hours covering various materials in class, working in groups, and being tested on the given material. But with the GED, invaluable skills are missed. Sure, an individual may have obtain social skills, teamwork, and critical thinking outside of high school, but they don’t have the piece of paper to prove it. As an employer, uncertainty in a employee isn’t something they’re looking for. 

Playing catch up

Research has also shown GED recipients are still not up to the standards of high school diploma graduates. The material high school students learn during their education isn’t relevant in life. Those who take the GED struggle with the material because they don’t use it in their day-to-day life.

For example, a 26-year-old mother of two children who wants to get her GED credentials has probably never used Pythagorean theorem once in her adult life. Yet, on the math section of the GED, she’s expected to know and exemplify how to use it. 

So what is the purpose of this test? Essentially, the GED is a test that takes four years of education and pounds it into a one-day exam. These issues pose a significant question to the education system. Most people who want to take the GED, wish to enroll in higher education such as college or university. But, is the GED able to put students in the position needed for increased income and higher education? 

It’s been said and said again, if someone wants to increase their salary, the best way to do it is through education. If an individual didn’t complete high school, the GED is the only option to a high school diploma. Seeing from the discrepancies, the GED isn’t an ideal solution, but as of now, it’s the only one adults in continuing education have.