Earning an Applied Studies Diploma (Career and Transition Services)

The Applied Studies Diploma is a recognized diploma by the Virginia Department of Education. Students who earn an Applied Studies Diploma are able to pursue multiple postsecondary options.

The Applied Studies Diploma is a recognized diploma by the Virginia Department of Education. It is available to students with disabilities who complete the requirements of their IEP and who do not meet the requirements for other diplomas. Students who earn an Applied Studies Diploma are able to pursue the following postsecondary options:

Continuing Education

Secondary Education

Fairfax County Public Schools - Fairfax County residents receiving special education services who have not graduated high school with a Standard Diploma or Advanced Studies Diploma are eligible for admission on a non-tuition basis if they have not reached 22 years of age on or before September 30 of the school year. Students may choose to continue their education in their base school or may consider the following programs:

  • Special Education Career Centers: Secondary Transition to Employment (STEP) program/Davis or Pulley Career Center
  • Career and Technical Education Academy classes

Please contact the Special Education Department Chair or the Employment and Transition Representative (ETR) at your school to discuss these options.

Post-Secondary Education

Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA): Students are eligible to attend Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) and other community colleges with or without a high school diploma, however, they must complete an ability to benefit test for admissions. Students who earn an Applied Studies Diploma may not qualify for financial aid. For more information about financial aid, please contact the college directly.

Placement test information at NOVA

Prior to registering for classes, all students must take a placement test to demonstrate that they are prepared for college level course work. This test is computerized and given on the NOVA campus. Students may participate in the Test First Program where they can take the placement test in March, April and May, and receive early advising. Students are allowed one retest per year if they do not register for any courses. The most recent placement test score will be used to determine admission status. The scores are valid for two years. Students who take the placement test and their score requires them to take a developmental (remedial) English (ENF) and Math (MTT) course are given another “placement” type of assessment on the first day of the course. If the student performs better on this assessment, the instructor will work with the student to place them in another level of the course.

Certificate or Alternative Programs

  • Adult and Community Education (ACE) - Fairfax County Public Schools: Students must be 18 years or older to participate. A high school diploma is not required to participate. Students must be able to read and write in English. ACE allows reasonable accommodations as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Class content and class pace cannot be altered for students due to compulsory state exams given at the end of each course.
  • Apprenticeships: An apprenticeship is an employer’s training program that combines on-the-job training with related instruction through ACE.
  • Job Corps: Job Corps offers a comprehensive array of career development services to at-risk young women and men, ages 16 to 24, to prepare them for successful careers. Job Corps is a holistic career development training approach which integrates the teaching of academic, vocational, employability skills and social competencies through a combination of classroom, practical and project-based learning experiences to prepare youth for stable, long-term, high-paying jobs.
  • Wilson Workforce Rehabilitative Center (WWRC): WWRC provides vocational training to successfully prepare clients for employment, higher education, and/or other career development goals by maximizing their employment, occupational and self-sufficiency skills.
  • George Mason LIFE (Learning Into Future Environments) Program: George Mason LIFE is a supportive academic university experience offering a four-year curriculum of study to post-secondary students, 18-23 years of age, with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Students are eligible for Pell Grants through FAFSA.
  • Virginia Commonwealth University, ACE IT: This program is meant for students who have an Intellectual disability. It provides students with the social experience of college and prepares them for competitive employment. Students earn approximately 21 credits while living on campus.
  • College STEPS: College Steps provides customized college support for students with learning and social challenges who are enrolled at NVCC Annandale or Loudoun campuses.

Additional noncredit programs can be found on the Think College website.


Competitive Employment

  • An Applied Studies Diploma is considered a diploma by the state of Virginia. Therefore, when asked on a job application or by an employer if you have graduated from high school, the response is yes.
  • WIOA Youth Program: This program assists youth age 17 to 21 by preparing them for employment and education opportunities. Students must meet specific criteria in order to be eligible to participate.
  • SkillSource: This is a non-profit organization serving Northern Virginia Employers and Job-Seekers. Free job placement, training, and educational services are available to employers, job-seekers, and incumbent workers.
  • Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS): This agency assists individuals with disabilities to find employment and sustain employment.

Supported Employment

Adults with more significant disabilities may benefit from job coaching in a work setting. These services are offered through a number of agencies that receive local and state funding as well as private pay. Many of the agencies are funded through the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board-Developmental Disabilities Services.

  • SPARC Solutions: This program provides specially adapted resource clubs where participants complete service projects, entrepreneurial projects, and guided lessons for life skills.
  • Autism Bridge to Learn and Empower (ABLE): This program provides employment services to adults with autism spectrum disorder, with an emphasis on transitioning youth. Call 703-461-6000

The Employment and Transition Representative in each high school can provide information and guidance for all of the programs and supports listed above. Please contact them with any questions.