3 Paths for Life After the HSE: Which One Is Right For You?

by Scott Andrew Schulz, Ph.D.

When I first visited Seeds of Literacy last year, I was impressed by the character of the students receiving education and support in hopes of earning a high school equivalency (HSE). No one forced them to attend tutoring sessions. Yet there they were, some twice a week, many twice a day.

Seeds students are motivated by the idea that education can better their lives. Some simply want to finish what they started in school. Others have young kids at home and are either struggling to assist with homework, or want to be a living example of what it means to earn an education and inspire their children to do the same. Although they may share similar motivations for coming to Seeds, every student has a unique story and their own dreams for the future.

What are your options after completing your high school equivalency? What comes after Seeds of Literacy?

There are three typical paths:

  1. College & Training Programs
  2. Work
  3. Military

College & Training Programs

Research shows a distinct relationship between education level and earning potential: the higher an education level, the higher the earnings potential.

Median Earnings by Highest Degree Earned*

  • Not a high school graduate $26,208
  • High School Diploma or HSE, no college $35,984
  • Associate degree $42,588
  • Bachelor’s degree $60,112
  • Master’s degree $71,760
  • Professional degree $90,740

*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016


Students that have earned an HSE qualify to enroll in a trade school. Trade schools provide the vocational training needed to work in a variety of jobs that provide a living wage, including jobs as a welder, mechanic or electrician. An apprenticeship is often required.


Seeds grads might also consider a two-year community college to pursue an associate degree, with the option to transfer to a four-year college to complete a bachelor’s degree. Or, if they have performed well on standardized tests such as the SAT or ACT, they may enroll directly in a four-year college.


It’s an important question. Students are often surprised to discover that most people attending college receive financial aid such as scholarships and grants from federal, state and institutional sources. These funds do not have to be repaid. Student loans (that DO have to be repaid) are also common. Students interested in attending college are encouraged to apply to one or more schools, then fill out the Federal Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at Students can review what types of assistance they may receive, and then decide for themselves the best path before enrolling.


Additional training and education may provide the most direct route to higher pay. But sometimes more immediate needs (bills, food, child care) must be attended to. Fortunately, pay is higher for those with an HSE than for those without one. According to USA Today, grads with an HSE are eligible to work as postmasters for the U.S. Postal Service, construction supervisors, and distribution managers among other positions. Seeds grads can explore the list of expanded opportunities at websites such as and


There is possibly no higher calling than serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. In order to join the military, you must meet various citizenship, age and physical requirements. You are also required to have a high school diploma. Some branches, including the U.S. Army, may allow holders of an HSE to enlist depending on the number of available slots and your proficiency on assessment tools such as the Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). Seeds graduates interested in exploring a military career should visit


You may feel like all of the time studying and preparing to complete the HSE will never end. Eventually, however, all of the hard work and commitment will pay off, opening new doors and opportunities. Planning ahead to understand your next steps will position you for future success.

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About Dr. Scott Schulz
Dr. Schulz is passionate about education and its capacity to raise living standards, improve people’s health, and lower incarceration rates. In addition to being a Seeds volunteer, he serves as a mentor for veterans and is the Vice President for Enrollment Management at Baldwin Wallace University.