High School Diploma
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High School Diploma: The General Qualification for University Entrance

The high school diploma is more than just a final exam at the end of school; it is a stepping stone that opens doors to various career paths, from higher education to direct entry into the world of work. As a general university entrance qualification, the high school diploma is considered the highest educational certificate that can be earned in the German school system. In this article, we explore the many aspects of the high school diploma, from the requirements and process to the opportunities it offers after graduation.

What is the High School Diploma?

The high school diploma - often referred to as "A-levels" or "Abitur" in Germany - is the highest academic qualification in Germany and some other European countries. It not only opens the doors to universities and colleges, but also significantly improves your chances on the job market. In this article, you'll learn everything you need to know about the high school diploma: from the requirements and the process to the opportunities it offers you for your future.

Having a high school diploma in your pocket can be the deciding factor when it comes to selecting for specialized professions or higher positions. It also provides the basis for lifelong learning and personal development.

Objective of the article

The main goal of this article is to provide a comprehensive understanding of the high school diploma and related options. Whether you are a student facing the decision to pursue the high school diploma or a parent who wants to learn more about the educational options for your children, this article aims to answer your most important questions. We'll highlight the various aspects of the high school diploma, from the requirements and structure of the exam to the career and academic paths open to you afterward. In addition, we will also give you practical tips and advice on how to successfully navigate the baccalaureate period.

Procedure and duration of the high school diploma

For many students, the time of the senior classes and the subsequent high school exams are the decisive stage on the way to the general university entrance qualification. But what can you expect during this important phase of your life? How are the Abitur exams structured and how long does the whole undertaking take? In this section, we'll look at the process and duration of the high school diploma, take a look at the upper school years, the selection of exam subjects, and how long you should plan to take the high school diploma.

Senior classes and course selection

The high school exam phase usually begins with entry into the senior classes, which, depending on the federal state, starts in the 11th, 12th or, in some cases, as early as the 10th grade, especially in Germany. In this phase, students have the opportunity to prepare for specific fields of study or careers by choosing special advanced courses or profile subjects. Course selection is crucial, as it influences not only the level of difficulty, but also the subject area of your high school exams.

Examination subjects and baccalaureate examinations

The number and type of examination subjects vary depending on the federal state and type of school. As a rule, however, students must choose at least three to four written examination subjects and one to two oral examination subjects. The most common written examination subjects in Germany include mathematics, German and a foreign language, while oral examinations are often taken in social sciences or natural sciences. These examinations are usually very comprehensive and require thorough preparation, both in class and on one's own.

Duration of the high school diploma

The time it takes to earn a high school diploma depends on various factors, such as the state, the type of school, and the individual's educational background. In general, the upper school period lasts about two to three years. During this time, students continuously earn credits that are included in their Abitur grade. The actual examinations usually take place over a period of two to three weeks, but can also be spread over several months if oral examinations and special subject papers are added.

High school diploma requirements: your ticket to higher education

Before setting out on the path to the high school diploma, there are some crucial requirements that must be met. Not every type of school offers the opportunity to take the high school diploma, and personal grades and abilities also play an important role. In this section, we clarify the basic requirements for the high school diploma to give you a better understanding of what is expected of you on this educational path.

Types of schools leading to the high school diploma

In Germany, the high school diploma is mainly attainable at general high schools, comprehensive schools, Waldorf schools and vocational high schools. However, there are also other types of school, such as evening classes or colleges for adults, which can lead to the general university entrance qualification.

Grades and subject requirements

To enter high school and aim for the high school diploma, you usually need to achieve a certain grade point average. The exact requirements can vary depending on the state and school. In most cases, good grades in core subjects such as German, mathematics and a foreign language are particularly important. The numerus clausus, among other things, is calculated on the basis of the final grade of the high school diploma.

Other qualifications

In addition to school requirements, other qualifications may also be important. For example, some schools require a certain minimum age or previous vocational training, especially if they are vocational high schools or evening high schools.

By knowing and meeting these requirements, you lay the foundation for your postsecondary education and open the door to numerous opportunities that a high school diploma brings.

Comparison of vocational baccalaureate and high school diploma

Criterion Vocational baccalaureate High school diploma
Type of school technical secondary school, vocational college grammar school, comprehensive school
Duration 2 years (incl. internship) 2-3 years Upper secondary school
Admission Universities of applied sciences, some universities Universities, technical colleges
Subject specificity Subject-specific orientation (e.g., engineering, business) General education
Examination subjects Usually fewer and subject-specific More subjects, general education
Career opportunities Career entry or study in specific fields Flexible career entry, broader range of study options
Necessary qualifications Mittlere Reife or comparable Mittlere Reife and qualification phase

Subjects and emphases: Electives in the high school diploma

The high school diploma offers a wide range of subjects and specialization options that not only provide you with a comprehensive general education, but also give you the chance to develop your interests and strengths. Whether you want to pursue a scientific, linguistic or artistic direction, the choices are many. In this section, we'll take a look at the different subjects and specializations available to you during your baccalaureate years.

Advanced courses

Advanced courses are subjects that you take with an increased number of hours and at a more demanding level. As a rule, you choose two advanced courses that are particularly relevant for your Abitur exams. These courses allow you to delve deeper into the respective subject areas and often have a greater influence on your Abitur grade.

Opportunities after high school diploma: Your course for the future

The high school diploma opens many doors for you, but which of them do you want to go through? Whether you want to start your career right away, go to university, or explore the world first - the options available to you after your high school diploma are diverse and exciting. In this section, we'll show you some of the most common paths open to you after earning your general university entrance qualification.


The high school diploma qualifies you to study at universities and universities of applied sciences, both in Germany and abroad. You can choose from a huge range of courses, from classic subjects such as medicine, law and engineering to specialized courses such as game design or sustainability science.

Career start

Even though the high school diploma is often seen as preparation for a university degree, you can of course also enter the working world directly with it. Particularly in occupational fields that require specialized knowledge but not necessarily a university degree, a high school diploma can be an advantage. Some companies also offer dual training programs that combine vocational training with further school qualifications.

Gap Year

For some, the time right after high school diploma is also an opportunity to pause and get to know themselves and the world a little better. A gap year can take various forms for this: Travel, volunteering, internships or language courses abroad are just some of the options available to you.

Types of german schools leading to the high school diploma

Type of school Duration (years) Special features
Gymnasium 8 or 9 General education; comprehensive range of subjects
Gesamtschule 8 or 9 Combines Hauptschule, Realschule and Gymnasium
Vocational Gymnasium 3 Subject-specific orientation
Waldorf school 12 Holistic education


The high school diploma raises many questions, especially when it comes to what opportunities it opens up and how it differs from other degrees. In this section, we answer some of the most frequently asked questions to give you a clearer idea of what the high school diploma can mean for you.

Can I study abroad with the high school diploma?

Yes, the high school diploma usually gives you the opportunity to study abroad. It is considered a recognized degree for admission to higher education programs worldwide. However, admission requirements vary from country to country and institution to institution. It is therefore important to find out about the specific requirements and deadlines of the desired study programs early on.

How does the high school diploma differ from the specialized baccalaureate?

The high school diploma and the specialized baccalaureate are both upper secondary school degrees, but they differ in their scope and prerequisites. While the high school diploma confers a general university entrance qualification and gives access to all courses of study, the specialized baccalaureate is a subject-specific university entrance qualification. This means that you can only study in certain subject areas with it. In addition, the two also differ in the duration, subjects covered, and types of schools they offer.

Is the high school diploma necessary for all degree programs?

No, the high school diploma is not required for all degree programs. There are many courses of study at universities of applied sciences and job-related courses of study for which a specialized baccalaureate or a corresponding vocational qualification is also sufficient. However, it is the only certificate that confirms the general higher education entrance qualification and thus allows access to all courses of study at universities.

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