Does a Diploma Affect Earning Potential?

Happy male graduate holding his diploma and smiling

Have you ever wondered just how much education you really need? It may seem like there’s not a big difference between completing most of your high school education, as opposed to all of it, but statistics show that people who earn their diploma or pass their GED exam are likely to earn more income than those who don’t finish high school.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median usual weekly earnings for adults age 25 and over that lack a high school diploma is $493, compared to $678, for workers who have a diploma. That’s an annual difference of $9,620.

Workers with no diploma also have a higher rate of unemployment — an estimated 8 percent, which is about twice the average for all workers.

Not Just About College

Historically, parents and educators have focused on how a high school diploma and good grades are essential for students who plan to attend college. But even when you don’t plan to attend a traditional four-year college, a high school diploma can help you enter a skilled trade program at a community college, or make you a more qualified applicant for a skilled trade apprenticeship. If you plan to work in retail or hospitality, a high school diploma may qualify you for management training.

Alternative Options

Plenty of factors may cause a teen to drop out of high school, but there are options for getting a diploma through non-traditional means. Online high school is free for full-time students, or for a fee, students who have failed a class they need in order to graduate can take it again online.

Online learning may also be helpful for homeschool families, when subject matter for certain courses exceeds a parent’s knowledge. Internet classes can supplement homeschool curriculum to ensure students stay on-track for graduation.

Finishing high school may, at times, seem to be an unattainable goal, but when you consider the lifetime difference in earnings that comes with a high school diploma, it’s worth the effort.