An academic diploma is a certificate from an educational institution that certifies that the recipient has successfully completed a particular course of study. The word originated from the Greek, meaning folded paper (license). Today, the most typical diplomas are those given after finishing high school, followed by those given after completing many continuing education or adult education programs.
Many trade schools - those with programs such as auto repair, HVAC and hair styling - offer diploma programs. Depending on the field, graduates can either begin work immediately or may qualify to take a state or industry licensure exam, enabling them to begin working in the field.
Most schools allow students to earn a high school diploma within four years after turning 18. Other diplomas, such as those given after successfully passing the General Education Development (GED) test, are often awarded to those who never finished high school, but wished to return to school later in life and qualify for jobs or positions where a high school diploma or higher is required.