April 2023

IZA DP No. 16081: The Labor Market Returns to Very Short Postsecondary Certificates

Rajeev Darolia, Chuanyi Guo, Youngran Kim

Major policy initiatives and high award rates have led to questions about the value of short-term postsecondary credentials. We examine the labor market returns to very short certificates, including those that require only a few credits to complete, using data from a state that has among the highest awarding rates of such credentials. We do not find strong evidence that rapid certificates (those that require 6 credits or fewer) have lower immediate labor market returns than longer but still short-term certificates (7-36 credits). For health students, rapid certificates yield the greatest immediate earnings and employment gains, though these benefits appear to fade out. We also find that, compared to pre-enrollment, health and skilled trades students who earned a rapid certificate are most likely to switch into an establishment whose industry aligns with the field of study.