Best Online Master’s in Library Science Programs

The rapid technological advancement over the last 20 years has altered the meaning of librarianship and changed the face of libraries.The modern librarian, particularly those who work in public libraries, needs to be knowledgeable of books and technology. They need to understand what building a library’s collection entails, from ordering to cataloging to enticing patrons to read. They also need strong research skills, knowledge of the latest technologies that people use, and an understanding of how to analyze and organize data.

By pursuing an online master’s degree in library science, you will gain these skills and knowledge. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment opportunities for librarians will only increase 2% between 2014 and 2024, citing budget cuts as the possible cause. While this seems discouraging, librarians are trained to be information experts, and a person with a MLS can find work in just about any industry that requires research or is information driven.

Use this guide to further explore your options after earning your MLS. Note that some of the programs may have other titles including, master of information and library science (MILS), master of library and information sciences (MLIS), an master of information (MIS).

DO I NEED PREVIOUS WORK EXPERIENCE TO GET IN?

No. You are not required to have experience working in a library to be accepted into most MLS programs. If your ultimate goal is to work for a library after earning your degree, getting your foot in the door as a page or volunteer before finishing your program is a good idea.

HOW DO I FIND THE RIGHT ONLINE PROGRAM FOR ME?

The first thing you should look for when considering any MLS program is its American Library Association accreditation status. Most public and school libraries in the U.S. require degrees from schools that have been approved by the ALA. From there, consider what, if any, concentration you want to give your degree, how long you want to spend on your studies, and how far you’re willing or able to travel for any in-person requirements.

CAN I WORK WHILE I COMPLETE MY ONLINE MASTER’S IN LIBRARY SCIENCE?

Yes. Most online MLS programs are taken part time and asynchronously, allowing you to continue to work while attending classes on your time.

WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES TO EARNING MY MLS ONLINE?

The biggest advantage to earning your MLS online is having the ability to complete the degree without having to move. The nature of the library and information field makes it conducive to online learning, and many professors in MLS departments are trained to teach their on-campus classes online. You will receive the same education as your on-campus counterparts without needing to move closer to an ALA accredited school.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost % Enrolled Online Location Description
1 University of Washington 74.35 3/5 8% Seattle, WA

Accredited for more than 90 years by the prestigious American Library Association, the University of Washington's master of library and information science degree explores the role of information in organizations, preparing students for positions in the nonprofit, government, education, and private sectors. The program curriculum includes core courses, electives, and culminates in a final project, giving students a theoretical foundation in information science along with advanced skills in research, pedagogy, policy, management, and relevant technology. The capstone project has students work alongside an information organization as a consultant, identifying an information problem and developing a strategy to solve it. While all required courses and most electives for the program are available online, students must attend a three-day campus orientation session when the program starts, typically in early September. The online master's in library science at UW typically takes around three years to complete with part-time study.

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2 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 73.28 3/5 25% Champaign, IL

As the flagship institution of the University of Illinois system, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is a major center of education in the Midwest, serving more than 40,000 students from its campus in the cities of Urbana and Champaign. The school’s master of science in library and information science degree is highly customizable, with just two core courses that build a foundation in information access and its role in society. After completing the introductory course requirements, students can work with an adviser to determine a course of study that fits their professional interests. UI offers its master's in library science online through its unique Leep system, a distance education platform that dates back more than 20 years. Using Leep, online students interact in real time through a virtual classroom environment that supports lectures and collaborative coursework. While the degree is available entirely online, students begin with a three-day weekend orientation session that allows them to meet with peers and faculty members.

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3 University of Wisconsin-Madison 71.70 3/5 12% Madison, WI

Established in 1848 in the state capital of Madison, the University of Wisconsin-Madison is the oldest and largest public college in the state, enrolling more than 43,000 students annually. The school’s master of arts in library and information studies offers four available concentrations: data/information management and analytics, librarianship, organization of information, and technology information and people. Most courses are available online, though the program does begin with a three-day campus “bootcamp” that introduces the program curriculum and resources for online students. In addition to online courses, the degree includes a field practicum that students may complete locally. UW also offers dual degree programs that allow students to combine the school's master's in library science online with either law librarianship or music, giving graduates the specialized skills for positions as law or music librarians. Students apply to both programs separately and complete most work independently, though some special dual degree courses are required.

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4 University of Maryland-College Park 69.74 3/5 5% College Park, MD

The University of Maryland, College Park's proximity to Washington, D.C. offers a wide range of opportunities for library science students, many of whom take jobs in the area after graduation. The school’s master of library and information science program includes three specialization options for online students: community analytics and policy, school library, and an individualized program plan that allows students to customize their course of study. The community analytics track focuses on skills for community data and information analysis in the service of developing effective public policy, identifying community needs and creating solutions to meet them. The school library track focuses on the intersection of education and information studies, preparing graduates to obtain school library certification for K-12 schools in Maryland. Students in the individualized track can pursue their own path with an adviser’s help or follow one of the school’s suggested course plans for areas including accessibility and usability, planning and evaluation, electronic resource management, and more.

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5 University of South Carolina-Columbia 62.95 3/5 2% Columbia, SC

Founded in 1801, the University of South Carolina is the flagship institution of the University of South Carolina system, occupying a campus in downtown Columbia near the South Carolina State House. The school’s master of library and information science degree includes 36 hours of courses, with nine hours of core program requirements and 27 hours tailored to students’ individual interests. Along with basic information science principles, students choose from electives in a wide range of subjects, from government documents and digital archives to children’s literature and music librarianship. Students can also take courses through other departments and, with faculty approval, even other colleges. Regardless of specialization, students build a portfolio that demonstrates mastery of the program’s six main areas: information organization, leadership and management, professional development, information services, research, and technology. The program's curriculum also includes an internship requirement that students may use to build professional experience and develop further specialization.

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6 Syracuse University 60.54 4/5 3% Syracuse, NY

A selective private college in New York State, Syracuse University traces its history back to 1831, when it was founded as a Methodist Episcopal seminary. Today the school is nonsectarian, serving more than 21,000 students from all 50 states. Syracuse offers a master of science in library and information science degree with options for specialization in data librarianship, historical materials, management, public service librarianship, school media, and technical services librarianship. Students earning their master of library science degree online take advantage of a unique format that includes live virtual class meetings, collaborative group work, and interactive multimedia assignments. This program requires 36-credit hours of courses and is typically completed within 18 months. Many students also pursue a professional certificate of advanced study in data science in tandem with the degree, opening up a greater range of professional opportunities upon graduation.

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7 The University of Alabama 58.92 4/5 24% Tuscaloosa, AL

Founded in 1820 in Tuscaloosa, the University of Alabama was one of the first colleges in the region, and the school is both the oldest and largest in the state. UA’s master of library and information studies degree prepares students for leadership positions in information service, focusing on socially responsible strategies for the use, management, and organization of data. Designed to accommodate working professionals, UA's master's of library science online is arranged in a cohort model in which students move through courses with the same group of peers. Courses are offered in a synchronous model that has students meet once a week for virtual course sessions — viewing lectures, completing group work, and communicating with instructors in real time. The degree requires a minimum of 36 credit hours for graduation, and may be completed in under two years if students enroll in two courses per semester.

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8 Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College 58.52 3/5 15% Baton Rouge, LA

Louisiana State University is the flagship college of the Louisiana State University system, and its main campus in Baton Rouge serves more than 31,000 students each year. The school’s master of library and information science is the only accredited program in the state, and this fully online degree offers eight optional specializations: academic librarianship, adult services in public libraries, archival studies, cultural heritage, digital content management, knowledge management, school librarianship, and youth services librarianship. Regardless of specialization, students complete six core courses focusing on the practices of collecting, describing, disseminating, evaluating, and organizing information, along with six elective courses to further define their degree. LSU’s library science master's online offers start dates in both the fall and spring, and can be completed with two years of full-time study. Part-time students have up to five years to earn their degree.

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9 University of Pittsburgh 57.90 4/5 4% Pittsburgh, PA

Founded in 1787, the University of Pittsburgh serves more than 28,000 students annually. The school’s master of library and information science is a 36-credit, 12-course degree, with four core courses that introduce students to the fundamentals of information organization, retrieval, and management, along with the use of relevant technology. For the program’s remaining eight courses, students work with an adviser to choose electives that align with personal and professional interests, selecting from subjects as diverse as book arts, management, and organizational behavior. While the program’s flexibility makes it ideal for working professionals, applicants to the master's in library science online program need not be employed as librarians; students in the program come from a range of backgrounds, and 38% of admitted online students already possess more than one degree. The program is typically completed within two years of part-time study.

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10 Rutgers University-New Brunswick 57.23 3/5 24% New Brunswick, NJ

One of the most respected public colleges in New Jersey, Rutgers University is also the largest, with a body of more than 67,000 students. The school’s master of information with a concentration in library and information science emphasizes the social value of information, exploring theories related to its creation, use, organization, and preservation. Students gain the skills to build, maintain, and analyze both physical and digital collections, preparing them for advanced positions in a range of library settings. The program also touches on social issues related to information access and the evolving role of information in a digital, globalized world. In addition to foundational courses, the program curriculum includes elective options ranging from information retrieval and cataloging to community engagement and library leadership. Students interested in school librarianship may further specialize in school library media, which prepares them for New Jersey state certification.

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11 University of North Carolina at Greensboro 57.19 3/5 38% Greensboro, NC

Founded in 1891, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro is a nationally ranked college that is commonly recognized as one of the top public institutions in North Carolina. UNC’s master of library and information studies is the oldest accredited program in the state, but the school has also modernized the degree with a fully online option that includes a mix of synchronous and asynchronous classes. Students earning their master of library science degree online gain the skills to work in academic, public, school, special, corporate, and nonprofit settings, with options to earn professional licensure in either school librarianship or instructional technology. All students take six core courses, fulfilling the remaining credits with a selection of electives to further define the degree. Students seeking licensure have fewer elective options and more required courses. Instead of a thesis, students complete a capstone course to demonstrate mastery of the program’s major learning objectives.

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12 University of Northern Iowa 56.54 3/5 18% Cedar Falls, IA

The University of Northern Iowa serves more than 12,000 students from its campus in Cedar Falls, Iowa, and the school is commonly recognized as one of the top regional colleges in the Midwest. Part of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, UNI’s master of arts in school library studies trains students to become K-12 teacher librarians, focusing on topics in administration, library curriculum, instructional technologies, and library resources. Aligned with the American Library Association’s Standards for Initial Preparation of School Librarians, the program produces graduates who are advocates for students, encouraging values of literacy, collaboration, and community connection. In addition to standard coursework, students also complete a hands-on practicum experience and a comprehensive master’s research paper. UNI’s master's in library science online is offered in a blended format that does require some campus meetings, though these are always held on weekends or during the summer. The program also meets all requirements for Iowa state K-12 teacher librarian endorsement.

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13 Emporia State University 56.26 3/5 20% Emporia, KS

Emporia State University is based in Emporia, Kansas, but the college’s distance education programs are organized to accommodate students around the country, with courses offered both online and through additional regional locations in Denver, Portland, Salt Lake City, and Overland Park, Kansas. So while the blended format of the school’s master of library science degree does mean that students can expect to spend four to six weekends each semester meeting for campus courses, those based in Colorado, Kansas, Oregon, Utah, or other neighboring states may find the program a perfect fit. Students in Emporia's master's of library science online program are part of a cohort that completes all core classes together, collaborating on coursework and building bonds that last beyond graduation. In addition to core theory courses, the curriculum also covers information tools, applications, and electives, along with a capstone course that synthesizes major program topics.

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14 Dominican University 56.01 3/5 15% River Forest, IL

A private Catholic college in River Forest, Illinois, Dominican University offers a master of library and information science with a wide range of career pathway and certification options, along with several dual degree programs. Students can choose from seven distinct specializations, each of which results in a professional certificate along with a degree: archives and cultural heritage resources, data and knowledge management, digital curation, digital libraries, informatics, web design, and youth services. The program also offers a track for professional educator licensure along with a school library media specialist endorsement. Students interested in a dual degree can combine library science with a master’s in public history, business administration, divinity, or social work, though not all courses for each dual degree program may be available online. The school also offers an accelerated 4-year MLIS/PhD program in which students complete MLIS coursework in one year and then join a cohort to earn a PhD in three years.

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15 The University of Tennessee-Knoxville 55.82 3/5 26% Knoxville, TN

The University of Tennessee’s master of science in information sciences is a 36-credit program offered through a combination of both synchronous and asynchronous courses, with starts dates each fall and spring. The program is offered mainly online, but all students are required to attend a one-day orientation session on the UTK campus in Knoxville, which allows for meetings with other students and faculty members. Students in the program take three core courses focused on information theories before moving on to elective courses. While students can develop their own individualized course of study, UTK also offers course suggestions for several common career pathways, including academic librarianship, data curation, digital collections, geographic information, and public librarianship. Through a special reciprocity agreement, residents of Arkansas, Delaware, Virginia, and West Virginia can pursue the master of library science degree online at UTK with the same in-state tuition rate offered to Tennessee residents.

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16 University of North Texas 55.18 3/5 31% Denton, TX

A major public research college, the University of North Texas is based in Denton, Texas, about 40 miles north of Dallas. The school’s master of science in library science degree offers a general track along with six unique concentrations: archival studies and imaging technology, distributed learning librarianship, information organization, law librarianship and legal informatics, music librarianship, and youth librarianship. Regardless of concentration, the program requires three core courses covering information organization, access, and professions, along with a selection of guided electives that students choose with the help of an adviser. Students also complete an internship at an information center in their own community, such as a library or museum. Offered in both full-time and part-time formats, the degree uses an asynchronous delivery method that allows students to complete assignments at their own pace. While the program is mostly online, students are required to spend six days total attending campus courses.

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17 San Jose State University 54.69 3/5 6% San Jose, CA

San Jose State University has offered library science courses since 1928, and the school’s master of library and information science degree has been available online since 2009. Unlike many schools, SJSU’s library science master's online program is actually offered entirely online, with no required campus visits or courses, and students have access to unique services that are uncommon among online programs, including guest lectures, research assistant opportunities, and academic convocations. The degree is also highly customizable, with a wide selection of elective courses students can use to create a degree that suits their interests. SJSU’s location in the heart of Silicon Valley allows for a range of unique internship opportunities for students, both in California and other states. The college maintains a database of more than 200 active internship programs across the country, and students can also pursue a range of virtual internships, allowing them to gain professional experience without ever leaving the home.

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18 Appalachian State University 53.61 3/5 13% Boone, NC

Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Boone, North Carolina, Appalachian State University is a comprehensive public college with around 18,000 students. The school’s master of library science prepares students for careers in either public or K-12 libraries, teaching them to provide library and information technology services, build collections that meet public needs, and advocate for effective library programs that strengthen communities. Offering a fully online format and four start dates throughout the year, the program balances asynchronous course materials for individual student work along with synchronous meetings that allow for live collaboration and group discussion. Along with standard coursework, the degree includes two options for students to gain real world experience in the field: an internship/practicum for students with no professional library experience, and a course in applications of librarianship standards for those who already work in the field. The program also offers licensure options for K-12 teaching and instructional technology/computers, requiring an additional 12 and 18 hours of coursework, respectively.

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19 Drexel University 53.51 5/5 31% Philadelphia, PA

Drexel University's master of science in library and information science degree was founded in 1892, making it one of the oldest in the nation, and the program has maintained a history of academic and technological innovation throughout its existence, resulting in a comprehensive online degree that’s constantly being updated to reflect new developments in the discipline. Focusing on the varying contexts of information work and the use of technology in the field, the program also includes advanced subject knowledge in information literacy, ethical reasoning, and responsible citizenship in the context of information services. This versatile degree prepares students for work in a range of information fields, from libraries and archives to government organizations and private companies. Students earning their master's in library science online can also pursue a dual degree, combining the program with Drexel’s graduate programs in information systems, computer science, or software engineering.

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20 Texas A & M University-Commerce 52.50 3/5 52% Commerce, TX

Founded in 1889 in Commerce, Texas A&M University Commerce is one of the oldest public colleges in the state and one of the largest in the A&M system. The school offers both a master of science and a master of education in educational technology/library science, preparing students to develop strategies for educational technology in school libraries. Based on the integration of current technological trends, research, and literacy advocacy, both degrees train graduates to become effective leaders and facilitators for student learning and curiosity. Intended for working students, the programs both require 36 credits hours (12 classes) for completion, which typically takes around two years when taking two classes per semester. In addition to online coursework, the degrees also include a practicum that gives students experience working in a library media center within their own community. Students may also pursue certification in either technology applications or school librarianship in tandem with their degree.

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21 East Carolina University 52.42 3/5 34% Greenville, NC

Based in Greenville, North Carolina, East Carolina University was founded as a teacher’s college, and the school maintains a strong commitment to education programs. The library science program at ECU dates back to 1939, and today it graduates more school library media coordinators than any other school in the state. Students in the master of library science online program have the choice of three tracks preparing them for different work environments: school library media, public library, and academic library. Each track requires eight core courses and a selection of concentration courses, along with elective courses approved by an adviser. Only students in the school library track can earn public school licensure, completing more required courses and fewer electives. All tracks also require students to develop a comprehensive portfolio, which includes work from each course in the program along with reflections on each selection.

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22 University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus 52.18 3/5 21% Denver, CO

The University of Colorado Denver was one of the first colleges to offer comprehensive online education, founding its CU Online program in 1996. The school’s online master of arts in information and learning technologies - teacher librarian leadership combines information technology, leadership, and pedagogy, preparing students to serve as effective school librarians and media directors. Focusing on a variety of topics, including collection management, instructional leadership, learning technologies, and the integration of information and education strategies, the degree also leads to a Colorado State Teacher Librarian endorsement, providing graduates with everything they need to become school librarians. Students in the program also gain practical experiencing by completing a supervised 90-hour practicum in a school library. No thesis or final exams are required, but students compile a comprehensive online portfolio that also serves to demonstrate professional experience to potential employers. The degree requires 30 credit hours for graduation and offers three start dates throughout the year.

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23 North Carolina Central University 49.34 3/5 30% Durham, NC

North Carolina Central University's master of library science program focuses on the foundations of information work and librarianship, along with advanced skills in research and information services and systems. Students earning their master of library science degree online can choose from one of seven professional concentrations, including academic librarian, archives and records manager, digital librarian, law librarian, public librarian, school media coordinator, or special librarian. Unique among many library science programs, students at NCCU must demonstrate language knowledge, either in a foreign language, sign language, a computer language, or statistics. This requirement can be fulfilled either through previous academic coursework or two semesters of coursework at the college. Students also have the option to enroll in the Juris Doctor/master of library science joint degree program, preparing them for careers in law librarianship or legal research. The dual degree program can typically be completed with three years of full-time study.

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24 University of Kentucky 48.22 3/5 18% Lexington, KY

Based in Lexington, the University of Kentucky is a popular choice with students around the country in part due to its policy of offering in-state tuition rates to online students regardless of location. The college’s master of science in library science offers several options for professional specialization, including academic libraries (further concentrations available in either public services or technical services), health information, information systems, public libraries, school librarian, youth services, and literature, and a generalist track for students who want to design a customized course of study. UK's school librarian program also offers concurrent school media certification, making it an ideal choice for students who plan to work in education. All tracks include a professional practicum course, which requires 140 hours of supervised experience under an information professional. UK's program is also unique in that it allows students to perform supervised independent study for topics that fall outside the range of available library science courses.

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25 University of Oklahoma-Norman Campus 47.98 3/5 28% Norman, OK

A public research university with an annual enrollment of around 20,000 students, the University of Oklahoma operates its main campus in Norman, Oklahoma, just 20 miles outside of Oklahoma City. The college’s School of Library and Information Science was founded in 1929, and today UO offers the only degree program in the state with American Library Association accreditation. UO's master of library and information studies program covers the field’s fundamental principles of management organization, and access to information. Students can choose from several professional specializations, including academic librarianship, archives, information organization, public librarianship, reference services, and school library media. Regardless of specialization, students develop the skills and attitudes necessary for the storage and use of information, applicable to both public and private institutions. This comprehensive degree requires a minimum of 36 credit hours of coursework, along with one of three degree completion options: a written thesis, a culminating portfolio, or a comprehensive final exam.

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A master’s in library science online prepares students for careers in library administration, archives and manuscript collection, and more. The following information provides students with a general overview of what they can expect when pursuing a master’s of library science online.

CONCENTRATIONS OFFERED FOR AN ONLINE MASTER’S DEGREE IN LIBRARY SCIENCE

Concentration Description Careers This Concentration Prepares For
Archival Studies With a concentration in archival studies you will learn how to manage archives and records. You will become familiarized with various storage methods and the challenges of archiving electronic records. Digital records manager, digital imaging technician, and file archivist.
Digital Libraries This specialization focuses on the operation of digital libraries. Students learn how to design databases and standardize information technology for eBooks and web use. Distance learning librarian and emerging technologies specialist.
Youth Services A youth services concentration prepares you for a career working with children and adolescents. You will learn how to effectively engage children and become familiar with topics and materials relevant to their development. Work settings include libraries and special education programs at museums, zoos, and gardens

CURRICULUM FOR AN ONLINE MASTER’S DEGREE IN LIBRARY SCIENCE

Below you will find a sample curriculum that is offered by most master’s in library science online programs. While coursework may vary depending on the program, these foundational courses cover topics that are useful for all library science specializations.

  • Human-computer Interaction: This course prepares students for careers as web service librarians and explores the factors that influence use and acceptance of information technology. Theories that describe how people seek information are examined, including cognition and sociology. Students examine the impact society, culture, and ethics have on human-computer interactions.
  • Foundations of Information Systems: Students become familiarized with contemporary information systems and examine them from a user’s perspective. Research methods are explored, including online surveys and network analysis. This course introduces students to the process of collecting, analyzing, and displaying data. Acquired skills will prepare you for a career as a metadata librarian or data services librarian.
  • Organization of Information: Theories of organizational and social behavior are examined to understand the most effective approaches to managing information and communication technologies. Students learn how organizational intelligence influences the dissemination and storage of information in the digital world. This knowledge is utilized by librarians who work at information centers, public libraries, and digital libraries.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET AN ONLINE MASTER’S IN LIBRARY SCIENCE?

Most master’s in library science online programs can be completed in two years and range from 36 to 48 credits. Program length varies depending on core curriculum and specialization requirements. Students may be required to complete an internship or master’s thesis, and some programs require coursework in digital literacy or information technology.

The structure of online programs influences the process of degree completion, and most programs either utilize a cohort model or have rolling admissions. The cohort model emphasizes peer interaction and support. Students follow a fixed plan of study and progress through coursework together. Cohort programs usually offer admission twice a year. Programs that cater to self-paced learning often use rolling admissions and admit students year round. Students progress through the program at an individual pace and complete more or less courses when it is convenient for them. They can take time off from coursework if necessary.

CERTIFICATIONS AND LICENSES A MASTER’S IN LIBRARY SCIENCE PREPARES FOR

  • Post-Master’s Certificate in Data Curation: This certification program is for master’s level graduates of library science who work in libraries, archives, museums, and businesses. It prepares students to take the lead on their organization’s data management procedures. The program consists of 10 courses that focus on areas such as database systems, information analytics, and policy-based data management.
  • School Librarian Certification: If you are interested in pursuing a career as a school librarian you can complete a brief certification program that builds upon the master’s of library science online curriculum. While certification requirements vary state-to-state, general requirements include two years of teaching experience, 15 hours of additional coursework, a practicum experience, and a passing score on the state teacher licensure exam.

Accredited programs adhere to measurable criteria specified by accrediting bodies. Regionally accredited institutions are considered the top providers of quality higher education, and there are six major regional accrediting bodies in America. Nationally accredited academic programs are not as standardized as regionally accredited programs but are on average more affordable. Both regional and national accrediting agencies influence curriculum, learning resources, and student services. Online programs that are accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) have undergone thorough peer and self-examination. The commission ensures that programs meet academic goals and provide a standard education that is comparable to other accredited programs across the nation. Program-specific accrediting agencies provide best-practice models designed to standardize professions. The American Library Association (ALA) is the oldest and most expansive library association in the world, and through the accreditation of master’s in library science online programs, the organization implements its core values in areas such as advocacy, information policy, and diversity and inclusion.

Uniform accreditation is made possible by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). While the USDE does not accredit programs, it provides oversight and holds accrediting agencies accountable. CHEA provides quality assurance and promotes the academic integrity of higher learning institutions and programs. Students enrolled in academic programs that are accredited by DOE or CHEA are eligible for financial aid and can rest assured that they are receiving the best education available. Comprehensive databases of accredited schools and programs are available through the USDE and CHEA websites.

MASTER’S IN LIBRARY SCIENCE CAREERS & SALARY

“Librarian” is an all-encompassing title that generally applies to anyone working in a library or who holds an MLS degree. While many with the title gravitate towards careers in the public or academic domains, librarians can find employment opportunities within government, medical institutions, corporations, and museums. Where there is data to be collected, materials to be organized, and research to be done, a librarian can find a niche. Below are a few of the potential careers you can pursue after finishing your online master’s in library science program.

Public Librarian: These librarians work for and with communities to provide a number of free services, including homework help, resume prep, reader’s advisory, and research. Depending on the size of the library, public librarians may perform in all roles, from user to technical services, or in only one.

Library Director: The library director is in charge of overseeing the daily business of the library. They are in charge of staff changes, managing all employees and departments, analyzing and revising how the library is run, and creating budget reports. Becoming a library director requires several years of managerial experience and about ten years of experience working in a library.

Archivist: Often working with old, rare, and fragile materials, an archivist’s job is to preserve items for historical posterity. They may work with any media, including books, film, sound recordings, and maps, and often focus their efforts on one time period. They may work for special, academic, or public libraries.

Reference Librarian: These librarians do everything from conducting research for patrons to recommending materials to be added to the collection. They answer questions, recommend resources, conduct reader’s advisory, and lead classes. They work for public, academic, and special libraries.

School Librarian: Also called “School Media Specialist,” these librarians work for public and private, K-12 schools. They work closely with teachers and administration to create collections and lesson plans that meet the educational standards. They instruct students on how to use the library and find materials for student and teacher projects.

Most employment opportunities for librarians require a master’s in library science degree, and the more experience you have working in a library setting, the better your pay will be as long as the budget is there. Below, we look at the entry, mid-career, and late-career salaries for the five job opportunities above.

Job Title Overall Median Salary Median Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 years) Median Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 years) Median Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ years)
Librarian $48,551 $44,579 $48,349 $59,975
Library Director $62,101 $42,553 $53,631 $73,823
Archivist $45,598 $41,413 $50,364 $53,635
Reference Librarian $48,335 $45,411 $50,286 $60,019
School Librarian $45,301 $34,000 $45,000 $57,000

Source: PayScale

ALTERNATIVE CAREERS FOR MASTER’S IN LIBRARY SCIENCE

Though the projected job growth for librarians as a whole is only 2% between 2014 and 2024, the research, analytical, and organizational skills gained in this degree can be applied to positions in nearly any field that handles information. Pursuing a career that revolves around research or business analytics may require further training or for you to focus your degree on classes that will prepare you to work in a non-library setting. The five alternative career opportunities listed below do not require a master’s degree in library science, but an MLS may give you an advantage over other applicants to related positions.

Position Median Annual Salary Projected Growth Rate
Information Clerk $32,050 2%
Editor $56,010 -5%
Market Research Analyst $62,150 19%
Operations Research Analyst $78,630 30%
Database Administrator $81,710 11%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

Professional library organizations set education and employment standards. They give members exclusive access to annual networking conferences, publications, digital resources, and discounts for continuing education opportunities. It’s a good idea to join an organization that aligns with your career goals while you’re still a student. Member fees for current students are reduced, and you will have access to a group of professionals who can answer your questions and guide you through your studies and job search.

  • American Library Association: The oldest professional library association, the ALA sets the standard for librarian education. Students can join the ALA and their state branch for a discounted annual price, and receive up to 75% off of their conference registration.
  • American Association of School Librarians: The AASL is a division of the ALA that focuses on the needs of school librarians. Members receive a subscription to eCOLLAB, a repository of resources from continuing education and professional development events. Students can join at a discount and maintain student member status for up to five years.
  • Public Library Association: The PLA creates initiatives and opportunities for public librarians to grow and change along with the new demands on public libraries. To become a PLA member, you must also join the ALA. Students pay $32 annually for membership.
  • Special Library Association: The SLA encompasses information professionals and nontraditional librarians who work in specialized positions for the government, businesses, law firms, and any number of organizations that aren’t traditional libraries. Student members receive a 65% to 75% discount on annual development conferences.

When looking for ways to finance your online master’s in library science program, the first thing you should do is fill out your FAFSA. As a graduate student, you will file the FAFSA as an independent student, and it will determine the amount of federal and school loans you are eligible to receive and whether you qualify for work-study. Professional organizations, like the ALA, offer scholarship opportunities for students enrolled or enrolling in accredited programs. You don’t need to be a member to apply, but they are highly competitive.

Use the resources below to find ways to finance your degree.

AN OVERVIEW OF FINANCIAL AID

Approximately two-thirds of today’s college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.

UNDERSTANDING THE FAFSA

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.

FINANCIAL AID FOR ONLINE STUDENTS

Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you’ll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn’t always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR SINGLE PARENTS

Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family’s financial future. We’ve compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.

FINANCIAL AID FOR VETERANS AND ACTIVE MILITARY

Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.