Standard High School Graduation Requirements

Standard High School Graduation Requirements

The information below describes state high school graduation requirements as defined by state statutes and regulations. These requirements should be understood to show minimum course requirements, in that local boards may adopt graduation requirements above and beyond those mandated by the state. Policies reflect courses to be completed and do not include exit exam requirements. This database indicates where state policy specifies courses that may or must be completed to earn subject area credit.

With the exception of Nebraska and New Jersey, required coursework is expressed in Carnegie units, with one unit reflecting one year of coursework. Units defined in Idaho and Indiana policy have been translated from half-year to full-year units to maintain consistency. Exceptions and other circumstances related to completing high school graduation course requirements are included in the "Technical Notes and Citations" field at the end of each state's report. Subject area fields with a --- indicate that the state does not set course requirements for that subject. Where the number of state-mandated units in specific subjects falls below the total number of state-mandated units, this difference is indicated in the "total units" field rather than the "electives" field to reflect local districts' option to increase unit requirements in subject areas.

This information was gathered in January to August 2005 and is updated as new policies are enacted.

Last update: March 23, 2007

This database was compiled by Jennifer Dounay Zinth, project manager, ECS High School Policy Center. For questions, additions or corrections: 303.299.3689 or


Standard Diploma
English units (Std.) 4
Math units (Std.) 3, incl. 1 unit each algebra (or higher) and geometry
Social studies units (Std.) 3

Notes/Citation: 1 unit each in U.S. history; world history; and local, state and national government aligned with the Maryland High School Assessment for government.

Science units (Std.) 3, incl. 1 unit biology and 2 labs

Notes/Citation: 2 lab units must be chosen from earth, life, and/or physical sciences

P.E./Health units (Std.) 1

Notes/Citation: .5 unit each p.e. and health education

Arts (Std.) 1

Notes/Citation: 1 unit of visual arts, music, theater, or dance, or a combination thereof

Foreign language (Std.) See notes

Notes/Citation: Students must complete 2 units of foreign language or American Sign Language, or 2 units advanced technology education, or successfully complete a state-approved career and technology program.

Electives units (Std.) 3 or 1 (see notes)

Notes/Citation: 2 units of foreign language or advanced technology ed. and 3 units in electives or 4 units by completing a state-approved career & technology program and 1 unit in electives.

Other units (Std.) See notes
Notes/Citation: 1 unit "technology education ... that includes the application of knowledge, tools, and skills to solve practical problems and extend human capabilities." Students must also complete 2 units of foreign language or American Sign Language, or 2 units advanced technology education, or successfully complete a state-approved career and technology program. All students must complete either "75 hours of student service that includes preparation, action, and reflection components and that, at the discretion of the local school system, may begin during the middle grades; or a locally designed program in student service that has been approved by the State Superintendent of Schools."
TOTAL # units (Std.) 21
Other diploma options State does not offer differentiated diploma pathways. State has policy on awarding proficiency-based credit.
Technical notes and citations (Std.) MD. REGS. CODE tit. 13A, § 13A.03.02.01 through 13A.03.02.12; MD. CODE ANN., EDUC. § 7-205
Planning and Counseling Requirement
State requires student to adopt learning plan (not including career pathway requirements) No
Additional Coursework Options and Requirements
State has policy on early graduation Yes. Each district may "develop alternative ways for individual or groups of students to fulfill graduation requirements," including "waiver of the fourth year enrollment requirement if all credit, assessments, and student service requirements are met and if the local superintendent of schools or designee determines that the waiver is in the best interest of the student." Alternatively, a student may receive a diploma through the "Early College Admission Program" or the "Early Admission to Approved Vocational, Technical, or Other Postsecondary School Program" if the student (1) is accepted for early admission to an accredited college or an approved vocational, technical, or postsecondary school program before high school graduation; (2) has met all Maryland High School Assessment and student service requirements; (3) receives approval of a written request to the local superintendent certifying early admission acceptance; (4) receives the superintendent's approval of the student's program for the first year of college if this program is included toward the issuance of a diploma; and (5) upon concluding a full year of study, submits to the superintendent a written request for a Maryland High School Diploma, along with a transcript or letter from the college or other postsecondary school to the high school principal indicating the student has successfully completed a year of postsecondary school work.
State has policy allowing students to meet coursework requirements through proficiency Yes. Experience outside the school "may be counted for credit when identified as an integrated part of a planned study program. For work or experience outside the school which is approved and supervised by the local school system, not more than nine elective credits toward meeting graduation requirements may be granted to a student." Credit may also be "earned for independent study or internships in which a student successfully demonstrates pre-established curricular objectives" or "by passing an examination that assesses student demonstration of local school system curricular objectives. Credit toward high school graduation may be earned by middle school students if the following criteria are met: (a) The student has taken a high school level course meeting the local school system curricular objectives; and (b) The student passes an examination that assesses student demonstration of course objectives and the examination is equivalent in content coverage and rigor to examinations given to high school students for the course content area." However, "The determination to allow high school credit by examination for middle school students shall be made by the local school system." A student who earns credit for algebra/data analysis, biology, English I, or government outside the classroom must "take the requisite Maryland High School Assessment during its next regular administration." Elsewhere, statute allows an individual to earn a high school diploma by exam if the individual has lived in the state for at least 3 months [this may be waived by the state board]; is at least 16 years old; and "has withdrawn from a regular full-time public or private school program for at least 3 months, except that the State Board my waive the 3-month withdrawal requirement" if the state board deems this justified. At least twice a year the state board must offer these exams, which must be "offered in appropriate high school subject areas" and "be of a comprehensive nature as determined by the state board."
Required coursework aligned with college entrance requirements
  • No
  • State does not have statewide college entrance requirements
All high school students are required to declare a major/career pathway/career focus No
Sources Early graduation: MD. REGS. CODE tit. 13A, § 03.02.10 and .11
Proficiency-based credit: MD. REGS. CODE tit. 13A, § 03.02.05; MD. CODE ANN., EDUC. § 7-206
Alignment: High school graduation requirements: MD. REGS. CODE tit. 13A, § 03.02.04; College admissions requirements: ECS Postsecondary Governance Structures Database

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