Education with a high school diploma: Is this worth it?

High school graduation, studies, career – this is the traditional career of many young people, at least according to the idea of ​​conservative parents. However, reality has long since left behind this ideal, which has always been dubious. More and more high school graduates are flirting with education rather than studying, and are seriously considering it. But is training with a high school diploma even worthwhile? And if so, when and for whom?

Education: High school graduates are (partially) welcome

Something seems to attract high school graduates on the educational path. The Vocational Training Report 2019 makes it clear that in 2009 only one in five trainees had an Abitur certificate in their pocket, in 2017 more than 29 percent of all trainees who had access to higher education.

Surprisingly, that’s not really the case, students with a real and secondary school degree complain for some years now of their ever-worsening opportunities in certain industries. One important reason for this is the recruitment criteria for trainees, which were significantly raised by many companies.

In many sectors and training occupations, a high school diploma is now almost mandatory, applicants with secondary school diploma must have excellent grades and applicants with a secondary school leaving almost no chance. This development, which is worthy of discussion, mainly concerns jobs in the financial and banking sectors and in the commercial sector. Here, companies attach great importance to an excellent school degree.

The situation looks a little different in craft occupations and training occupations in the industrial sector. Here are the chances of high school graduates comparatively worse. Applicants with a primary and secondary school diploma, due to their greater practical relevance, even if this is perhaps only suspected, have better cards.

The most popular training occupations of high school graduates

High school graduates are attracted mainly to the commercial professions. In many training occupations the Abi certificate is even – unofficial – hiring requirement. For primary and secondary school students or early school leavers, this means that they have little or no chance of finding an apprenticeship.

For the high school graduates themselves, this means that while they are open to the public, they are also confronted with high quality and numerical competition. Nevertheless, the Abitur is worthwhile for many trainees, because it has a decisive advantage: they can shorten their training time in many training areas.

Depending on the training contract and industry as well as the final marks, the Abitur can shorten the training by up to 12 months! Although a minimum training time must not be undercut, but for the usual rule training times this means:

  • Standard training period of 3.5 years: only 2 years
  • Standard training period of 3 years: only 1.5 years
  • Normal training period of 2 years: only 1 year left

However, there is no entitlement to the training reduction and it must be requested.

In these training occupations, the proportion of high school graduates is the greatest:

  • Bank merchants: 73.7 percent
  • Merchants for insurance and finance: 71.9 percent
  • Industrial clerks: 71.2 percent
  • Clerk: 66.5 percent
  • IT specialist: 61.8 percent
  • Merchants for forwarding and logistics services: 58.3 percent
  • Merchants in wholesale and foreign trade: 54.2 percent
  • Administrative Clerk: 56.6 percent
  • Office management merchants: 42.1 percent
  • Retail traders: 21.0 percent

The most popular industries of high school graduates

Among craftsmen, the Abitur is still a rarity. But even carpenters, roofers or mechatronics have visited the gymnasium more and more often before starting their careers. In 2009, only 6.3 percent of new trainees in the craft sector had passed the university entrance qualification. In 2017, according to the provisional data report on the vocational training report 2019 (PDF), it was already 14.1 percent.

Quite different in public service. Over half of the new trainees already have their Abitur – 55.5 percent. In industry and trade (35.5 percent) and in agriculture (23.4 percent), the proportion of high school graduates has increased significantly in recent years.

In the liberal professions, the plus is slightly lower – from 2009 to 2017, the Abi share rose from 23.8 to 28.6 percent. The liberal professions include, for example, physiotherapists, midwives or podiatrists.

Only housekeeping is still Abi-free zone. In 2009, a whopping 1.3 percent of new home economics apprentices had their first year of apprenticeship; by now, 3.4 percent are not much more. All industries can register significant growth, but in the liberal professions the increase of 0.1 percent was very weak.

Federal police

The Federal Police has graded their recruitment requirements. For the two and a half years of training in middle-level service, you need at least a secondary school leaving certificate with completed training.

A career in the upscale service, however, is only open to high school graduates. Even more: in English, at least the grade 4 must be on the certificate, in sports even the grade 3. And for the higher service, the federal police recruited exclusively university graduates.


The customs is nothing without the university entrance qualification. Abitur, Fachabi or an equivalent school leaving qualification are.

But that’s not enough. Applicants wishing to be trained in one of the main customs offices must also pass the written competition. Required are mathematical skills, language comprehension, analytical skills and general education. Anyone who subsequently masters the oral selection process has good chances.


Pilots win a reputation and a top salary, without the need for academic merit. Simple is the way to the cockpit but not. Without a high school diploma or Fachabi denied any flight school entry.

Who wants to be trained to pilot, also needs good English and eagle eyes. This applies, for example, to the German airlines Lufthansa and Air Berlin.

Air Traffic Controller

Also air traffic controllers the training place is not given. Like pilots, they need good eyesight, English skills – and a high school diploma.

Those who survive the harsh selection process can start their training with the European air traffic control – and ascend into above-ground salary classes.

For whom is the education with high school graduation worthwhile?

The question asked at the beginning can therefore be answered quite simply: Yes, a high school education is worthwhile for a certain group of high school graduates and applicants. Whether you belong to it depends on a few factors. The most important:

  • Do you want to or can you join the rather self-determined study organization right after graduation?
  • Do you enjoy the development of theoretical knowledge or do you need the practical relevance to learn effectively?
  • Is the duration of the different programs, which often goes beyond the duration of the training, okay for you?
  • Are your academic and personal strengths in areas that meet your desired or target education?
  • Do you prefer a quick start to the job compared to better earning potential in perspective?

The last question may sound provocative for one or the other, but it is supported by a study by the Institute for Employment Research as well as the OECD Education Report 2018 (PDF).

Both show that academics earn (significantly) more over the course of their career than colleagues without a degree. However, this is not necessarily an argument against post-graduate education. The figures only apply to employees who complete their entire career without a degree. However, employees with a degree earn money much sooner than their academic counterparts and can later complete their studies and / or extra occupationally.

An apprenticeship with a high school diploma is therefore especially suitable for you, if you want to breathe practice air after school and want to apply your knowledge directly. For purely financial reasons, training may even be superior to dual study.

The training allowances are in many areas on the level of dual students. But as a rule, there are significantly more apprenticeships than dual study places. Your chances are therefore better as a high school graduate in finding a training, provided that you prepare the search appropriately.

Application for an apprenticeship: Tips for high school graduates

When looking for an apprenticeship position, the above-mentioned training occupations in the financial and banking sector or the civil service or commercial area are obvious for high school graduates, as a high school diploma is often required for the training. In these industries, you can apply more or less normally for an apprenticeship. That means:

You make it clear in the application letter what attracts you to the training and why the company is attractive to you as a training provider.

You will show what practical experience or points of contact you already have for training.

In addition to the school wards, you will also list all relevant internships and honorary posts in your CV.

They research the company thoroughly before applying and adapt the application accordingly.

However, if you want to apply for an apprenticeship, which is traditionally more likely to be apprentices with a real or secondary school diploma, for example in the craft trades, the situation looks a little different. In this case, your practical experience and your affinity for education and work are essential. To choose a rather striking example:

If you really want to do a vocational training in the metal sector, you should already have experience in dealing with metal in advance. Even if this experience comes purely from the hobby field or from internships, it is important and should be reflected prominently in your application. In addition, your motivation for this training plays a decisive role. What drives you to choose this path? Why is this your desired education? Which aspects fascinate you? If you can answer these questions, your chances are good.

If you apply for an apprenticeship with a high school diploma, some companies may perceive you as overqualified or misguided. One or the other person or boss will not relieve you of your motivation for the training. Instead, the suspicion may soon be in the room, you would see the training as an emergency nail, because you have found no place.

This suspicion can only be counteracted by the clear communication of your enthusiasm for the training. It does not depend on polished formulations or numerous technical terms. What is more important is that you write openly and honestly what drives you and fascinates you about your education. It’s not just your chances. They also know that the training suits you and is worthwhile for you.

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