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Penn Foster High School

High School Diploma
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North Carolina High School Diploma Requirements

Learn about the requirements to graduate and receive your high school diploma in the state of North Carolina. Find out the courses that must be taken, the electives required, and more.

What Are the Requirements to Graduate from High School in North Carolina?

The high school graduation requirements in North Carolina were last modified for students entering in the 2012-2013 school year, into what they call the Future Ready Core and Future Ready Occupational courses of study. These two pathways are designed to provide students with everything they need, regardless of whether their plans after high school involve community colleges, university study, or entering the workforce. While the plan can vary slightly with local requirements, all students in North Carolina must achieve 22 total credits to graduate. For the Future Ready Core, this includes 4 English credits, 4 math credits, 3 science credits, 4 social studies credits, 1 physical education credit, and 6 elective credits. The Future Ready Occupational path, an alternative for those who are not planning to attend any form of higher learning, has these 22 credits distributed a bit differently: only 3 math, 2 science, and 2 social studies are required, with the 4-credit difference reassigned to career and technical education electives.

North Carolina High School Graduation Requirements 22 total credits, two paths available (Core and Occupational)
English Requirements 4 English credits (both paths)
Math & Science Requirements 4 math credits and 3 science credits for Core
3 math credits and 2 science credits for Occupational
Social Studies, Physical, And Fine Arts Requirements 4 social studies credits for Core
2 social studies credits for Occupational
Elective Requirements 6 credits total, 2 foreign language credits recommended for Core
6 credits total, 4 must be occupational prep for Occupational
Career Technical Education Requirements 4 credits required for Occupational only

What Are the English Requirements for Graduation in NC?

Regardless of the path to graduation, all students must complete four courses of English, simply labeled English I to English IV. It is possible, with special permission, to substitute these for other courses that may be available, if on the Future Ready Core path, but such courses are not commonly available. Many high schools in North Carolina require the completion of a graduation project, also called a senior project, during the English IV course, which requires an extensive research paper, a presentation, a portfolio of research data, and a final product demonstrating what was learned and that the student is capable of applying this knowledge. Students are allowed to choose the topic of this project, but it must be approved by the teacher before work can begin.

What Are the Math and Science Requirements for Graduation in NC?

The mathematics courses are similar to those for English, now simply structured as Math I, Math II, and Math III. These loosely correspond to the topics of algebra, geometry, and statistics, with all three topics dealt with in each course. The last credit is up to the student's choice, and is designed to work with their plans after graduation, with common choices being advanced functions, discrete mathematics, and precalculus. Students on the Future Ready Occupational course take introduction to mathematics, Math I, and financial management for their three credits. The science requirements include earth and environmental science, biology, and a physical science, such as physics or chemistry. The availability of Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses may offer other opportunities, however. Courses required by the Future Ready Occupational pathway are biology and applied sciences.

What Are the Social Studies Requirements for Graduation in NC?

For students on the Future Ready Occupational course, only two social studies requirements exist, which are simply American History I and II. There are a few options as to how to meet the social studies requirements for the Future Ready Core path, however, one of which includes those two courses before taking AP US history. Alternatively, the founding principles of American history, civics and economics, and world history can be taken to meet these requirements without AP courses. In both progressions, a fourth credit is still required, which can be a course of the student's choosing from the available options. Common social studies electives include African American studies, the Cold War, civil rights, psychology, and sociology.

What Are the Elective Requirements for Graduation in NC?

While students are free to choose their electives, there are some requirements and suggestions that they should keep in mind. Foreign languages are not required for graduation, for example, but are an entrance requirement for schools within the UNC system and other in-state universities, so earning at least two foreign language credits with your electives is wise for those planning to apply. Arts and humanities courses are also highly recommended, which could include band, orchestra, chorus, theater, or visual arts. It is also strongly encouraged that at least four of the six credits be in the same area, rather than dabbling in a wide variety of electives, for which Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) is also an option. Students on the Future Ready Occupational path must take occupational preparation for four credits and assemble a career portfolio on the career they plan to take after high school.

What Are the Career And Technical Requirements for Graduation in NC?

Students on the Future Ready Core path do not have to take any career and technical education courses, although they may as electives if so desired. Students on the Future Ready Occupational path will have to choose four courses from this area to graduate and are encouraged to choose four in the same field to better prepare them for a job in that area. Topics available include agriculture, business and information technology, family and consumer sciences, health sciences, marketing, technology, and trade and industry. Courses in these areas can offer apprenticeships, internships, field trips, job shadowing professionals, mentoring, and opportunities to put what they are learning to use in volunteer work. Other courses may also be available, depending on your local requirements and curriculum.