High school diploma

High school diploma awarded to the Romanian writer Mihail Sorbul

A high school diploma is a North American academic school leaving qualification awarded upon high school graduation. The high school diploma is typically studied for over the course of four years, from Grade 9 to Grade 12. The diploma is typically awarded by the school in accordance with the requirements of the local state or provincial government. Requirements for earning the diploma vary by jurisdiction, and there may be different requirements for different streams or levels of high school graduation. Typically they include a combination of selected coursework meeting specified criteria for a particular stream and acceptable passing grades earned on the state exit examination.

Diplomas in specific jurisdictions


British Columbia

In British Columbia, the diploma is known as the British Columbia Certificate of Graduation. The province of BC has two distinct graduation programs: the BC Certificate of Graduation (Dogwood Diploma) and the BC Adult Graduation Diploma (Adult Dogwood). Students also have the opportunity to meet their educational goals (other than graduation) through the BC School Completion Certificate (Evergreen Certificate).

The current Dogwood requirements have been in place since July 1, 2004.[1] Under current regulations, students must earn a minimum of 80 credits to graduate, which must include 48 credits for required courses, a minimum of 28 elective credits, and 4 credits for "graduation transitions", a standards-based assessment evaluated by schools under BC Ministry of Education guidelines.[1] Required courses include, among other things, language arts, social studies, mathematics, and science courses in grades 10, 11, and 12. Part of the evaluation of students includes standardized provincial examinations in a number of the required courses in grades 10 and 12. As part of the 80 credits for the Dogwood, 16 credits must be at the Grade 12 level, and must include English 12 or Communications 12.


In Ontario, the high school diploma is known as the Ontario Secondary School Diploma. The diploma is awarded to all students who complete the Ontario educational curriculum. The requirements for the diploma include compulsory credits in English or French, Mathematics, Science, Canadian History, Canadian Geography, Arts, Health and Physical Education, and a second language; compulsory half credits in Career Studies and Civics; one credit each from three elective groups; 12 optional credits, 4 of which may be obtained through dual-credit classes; 40 hours of community service; and the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test. Those who leave school after completing 14 credits but prior to obtaining the diploma can obtain the Ontario Secondary School Certificate.


Quebec issued the D.E.S. (French: diplôme des études secondaires), formerly Quebec Certificate of Education (and sometimes were known Quebec HS Secondary Certificate and Québécois baccalaureat) before it changed into HS Diploma/Diplôme D.E.S. at the end of secondary V (grade 11), for graduation from secondary school (high school), a five-year school spanning secondary I (grade 7) to secondary V (grade 11).


To earn a high school diploma, Saskatchewan students are required to earn a total of 24 credits from grades 10 to 12. For a regular English program diploma, they must earn 5 credits in English Language Arts, 3 credits in Social Studies, 2 credits in mathematics, 2 credits in science, 1 credit in Physical Education/Health Education, 2 credits in Arts Education/Practical and Applied Arts, and 9 elective credits.

United States

Education in the United States
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A United States high school diploma usually refers to the satisfactory completion of grade schooling including kindergarten through the 12th grade and is then issued by the school district and the high school after a student's graduation.


In Alabama, all students are required to earn 24 credits. The required credits are: English (4 credits), Math (4 credits), Science (4 credits), History (4 credits), PE/JROTC (1 credit), Health (0.5 credits), Career Prep (1 credit), CTE/arts education/Foreign language (3 credits), and Electives (2.5 credits).

County schools offer Honors, and AP classes.


In California, students are required to take, and successfully complete the following minimum requirements to earn a high school diploma: 3 years of English, 2 years of Math including Algebra I, 3 years of History/Social Studies including one year of U.S. history and geography; one year of world history, culture, and geography; one semester of American government and civics, and one semester of economics, 2 years of science including biological and physical sciences, 1 year of either visual and performing arts, foreign language, or career technical education, 2 years of Physical Education, and Beginning in 2005–06, all students must pass the California High School Exit Examination prior to graduation, which is normally first administered in the 10th grade. Most schools' individual graduation requirements far outweigh the state's minimum standards. The California exit exam was suspended until 2018.

This information is taken from the California Department of Education.[2]


In Illinois, students are required to take English, mathematics, science, social science, world language, fine arts, physical education, and elective classes meeting selected criteria as part of the program of study for the High School Diploma. Electives may include advanced courses, career and technical education (CTE), Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC), dual-enrollment, or additional classes in the required subjects that meet school board requirements. Driver's Education is required for all students.[3][4] An additional requirement is a passing grade on the Prairie State Achievement Examination which is typically taken in Grade 11.[5]

Accommodations are made for select students with unique needs. English Language Learner (ELL) students may substitute English as a Second Language for English to meet the graduation requirements. Students receiving special education services may complete modified requirements according to an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

New York

In New York State, the high school diploma awarded is known as the Regents Diploma, which is earned upon successful completion of the Regents Exams in the required subjects.[6] Two levels are offered: the standard Regents Diploma and the Regents Diploma with Advanced Designation.[6] Both diplomas require 22 credits, including 4 credits in English, 4 credits in Social Studies, 3 credits in Math, 3 credits in Science, 0.5 credits in Health, 1 credit in Art or Music, and 2 credits in Physical Education; the Regents Diploma requires 1 credit of Secondary Language and 3.5 credits in Sequence Courses or Electives, while the Regents Diploma with Advanced Designation requires 3 credits of Secondary Language and 1.5 credits in Sequence Courses or Electives.[6]

The subjects for which passing grades on the Regents Exams are required for the Regents Diploma include Comprehensive English, any one Mathematics, Global History, US History, any one Science, and Language Other Than English (LOTE).[6] The subjects for which passing grades on the Regents Exams are required for the Regents Diploma with Advanced Designation are Comprehensive English, all three Mathematics, Global History, US History, one physical Science, one life Science, and Language Other Than English (LOTE).[6] A passing score is 65 in each subject; the "With Honors" designation is added if the average score in all required exams is 90 or greater.[6] A "Technical Endorsement" is given to students enrolled in a Career and Technical Education (CTE) program who additionally complete an approved technical assessment, a work-based learning experience, and a work-skills employability profile. You are also able to receive a Mastery in Mathematics and Mastery in Science designation on your diploma alongside others.

The New York State Regents Diploma, with or without advanced designation, honors, or mastery, is the most heavily weighed and usually most influential high school diploma offered in the country. A Regents diploma is often referred to as the most difficult and challenging diploma to obtain. The highest level of a New York State Regents diploma is a: New York State Regents diploma with Honors, Advanced Designation, Mastery of Science, Mastery of Mathematics, with a Technical Endorsement. [6]


In Texas, there are three programs offered for graduation: the Minimum High School Program (MHSP), the Recommended High School Program (RHSP), and the Advanced (Distinguished) High School Program (AHSP/DHSP).[7] The Recommended and Distinguished programs are the streams typically chosen by most students, and are expected of students who are college-bound. Also required for graduation is successful completion with passing grades on the Exit Level examination of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR), which is typically taken in Grade 11. Multiple re-sits for the exam are available, in case of failure on a previous attempt.

Students in the Recommended and Distinguished programs must take four years of English, mathematics, science, and social studies classes as part of their program of study.[8] Students in the Distinguished program must also take a minimum amount of advanced-level coursework, which could include Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate classes or university classes taken as dual-enrollment. Students in the Minimum program have less stringent requirements to complete their diploma than students in the other diploma programs.

By Texas state law, completion of the Recommended or Distinguished programs or a program with an equivalent curriculum and level of rigor, along with suitable scores on the SAT or the ACT, is required for a student to be eligible to be considered for admission to a four-year public institution of higher education in Texas.[9]

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