Everyone’s learning follows a different path. Sometimes, that path leads to taking a high school course again to increase your mark. For others, it can mean finishing their high school diploma later than they expected.

International students may also consider upgrading after having their education assessed by the International Qualifications Assessment Service (IQAS).

No matter where your path leads you, you have options for continuing your education.

Some post-secondary institutions require only specific high school courses, instead of a diploma. If you are finishing your diploma to get into a post-secondary program, confirm entrance requirements with your institution before you sign up for upgrading.

Finishing high school

There are 2 different ways to finish high school. The option you choose may depend on:

  • how long you’ve been away from school
  • how many credits you need
  • what you plan to do with your diploma, whether it’s to move on to post-secondary or get a job
  • your learning goals over time

I dropped out of high school to take care of my family when I was 17. I worked for a few years before realizing that I needed a high school diploma if I wanted to be competitive when I’m looking for jobs.
– Horace, 22

Option 1. Alberta High School Diploma

Most employers ask for you to have at least a high school diploma. Many post-secondary programs require certain high school course prerequisites for admission. To earn an Alberta High School Diploma, a student must complete:

  • 100 credits (most courses are 5 credits each) in a high school setting
  • several mandatory courses

Learn more about finishing high school.

Option 2. Equivalency Diploma

An equivalency diploma is an option for adult learners. These diplomas are usually used to get a job. They are not always accepted for admission to a post-secondary program.

If you are thinking of applying for a post-secondary program, ask the institution about their admission policies. Their answer will help you decide which diploma you need to complete.

To register for an equivalency diploma program, you must be:

  • 18 years or older as of September 1
  • out of school for at least 10 months

Learn more about how to earn an equivalency diploma.

Upgrading courses or marks

There are 3 different ways to upgrade your high school education:

  1. Retake high school courses to improve your grades.
  2. Challenge a diploma exam if you’re over 19 and want to improve your exam score (your new exam score then becomes your new overall course grade).
  3. Take only the high school courses you need for post-secondary entrance, without finishing a diploma. You may need to take a placement test first, so the post-secondary institution knows which courses you need to take.

I graduated from high school years ago, but didn’t score very high marks. I’m a working mom and don’t have a lot of free time, so I upgraded part-time until I earned the marks to enrol in an accounting program.
– Jane, 41

Where to upgrade

Options to finish or upgrade your high school education depend on your age:

19 years old or younger on September 1

20 years old or older on September 1

Tuition costs

Tuition costs also depend on your age.

19 years old or younger before September 1

You can upgrade or finish your high school education at an Alberta high school. You do not pay tuition, and may only be asked to pay school fees for textbooks or other expenses.

If you need a more flexible option, you can pay for evening classes at a continuing education provider. Before you sign up, confirm with the education provider that these classes will get you high school credit.

20 years old or older before September 1

You’re responsible for the cost of your education. Upgrading costs vary by program and institution. However, courses generally cost:

  • $500 to $600 in tuition fees
  • $200 to $300 in textbook and other fees

When planning a budget, consider other costs, such as:

  • parking or bus fees
  • babysitting or daycare if you have children

Financial assistance may be available for upgrading, depending on your circumstances. Research your local and distance learning options to find the best option for you.

Learning foundations

Pre-high school education classes and programs can help you:

  • return to learning
  • add skills to get a job or improve your life
  • prepare for other learning opportunities, like academic upgrading
  • learn English as a Second Language

Read more about learning foundations options, including how to find them.


Connect with the Public Awareness Branch:

Hours: 8:15 am to 4:30 pm (open Monday to Friday, closed statutory holidays)
Phone: 780-643-6393
Toll free: 310-0000 before the phone number (in Alberta)
Email: ae.publicawareness@gov.ab.ca