Library Science Careers
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Library science careers involve collecting, preserving, and organizing information. Library science graduates can find work in libraries, museums, and schools. They can also pursue careers with government agencies and corporations.
This page explores the types of careers available to library science students, the skills gained through a library science degree, and resources available to library science professionals.
Why Pursue a Career in Library Science?
Careers in library science focus on sharing information with others. Library professionals store, communicate about, and disseminate library materials and resources.
Library science professionals need technical abilities, customer service skills, and a positive attitude. Careers in library science also require independent thinking and initiative, knowledge of library policies and procedures, and experience with research tools.
Within library science, professionals can specialize in fields such as medicine or law. They can also pursue positions as data curators, corporate or business librarians, and educators.
Library Science Career Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 5% job growth for librarians between 2019 and 2029, a rate faster than the average for all occupations. Librarians earned a median annual salary of $59,500 in 2019.
Both education and experience increase earning potential for library science professionals. Most librarian positions require a master's degree. Library professionals with a bachelor's degree can pursue careers as library aides, technicians, and assistants.
Specialized skills, leadership training, and teaching licenses lead to additional career opportunities for library science majors. The following table demonstrates how experience and education level affect salary potential for library science professionals.
|High School Teacher||$40,940||$43,550||$48,990||$55,700|
Skills Gained With a Library Science Degree
Library science students learn skills in the classroom from experienced librarians. They then apply these skills in the field through internships and practica. Library science students use the following five skills throughout their careers.
The best library science programs instruct students on the latest technological advances and how they apply to different jobs. Students learn how to use technology to create documents, publications, and simple programs.Reading
Librarians need keen reading skills to stay current on best practices in the field and make thoughtful recommendations to library patrons. Library science students hone reading skills by analyzing complex texts and completing research projects.
Problem-solving skills allow librarians to identify problems, consider possible solutions, and commit to an action plan. Employers desire applicants with strong problem-solving skills who can work independently with minimal supervision.
Librarians who take the initiative to further their education or execute projects without prompting stand out to employers. As such, employees with strong initiative typically receive the most in-demand positions and increase their salary potential.
Librarians use communication skills to collaborate with peers and help patrons find relevant information. Librarians with excellent communication skills foster a sense of community in the library, which ensures that it remains a valued and active institution.
Library Science Career Paths
The concentration you select as part of your library science program can make a significant impact on which library science careers you decide to pursue. The four concentrations below are common among library science programs. Availability varies by school and program.
Archival studies students learn how to catalog and preserve historical documents while making them accessible to the general public. Students learn these techniques in class and apply them in internships while working under experienced archivists' supervision. Graduates can pursue careers at local, state, and federal archives, as well as with preservation societies.
An information organization concentration emphasizes cataloging and indexing skills. Students can apply these in-demand skills at libraries and companies that work with large amounts of data. This concentration often features fieldwork experiences and courses in information architecture, thesaurus construction, and database management systems.
Information technology students become experts on how to use and manage libraries' technology services. In class, they study digital libraries, web and mobile content development, and information systems analysis and design. Popular career opportunities include search engine engineer, emerging technologies specialist, and integrated library systems manager.
Aspiring public librarians complete a specialized curriculum that emphasizes topics like critical approaches to public librarianship, library collections management, and legal issues for library and information management. Students intern at public libraries in their local communities. Graduates can work as information services specialists, outreach coordinators, and patron services managers in public libraries.
How to Start Your Career in Library Science
Graduates with associate and bachelor's degrees can pursue careers as library technicians and teachers. However, library science graduates with advanced degrees typically earn the highest salaries and gain the most career opportunities. They also enjoy greater responsibilities and the ability to make positive changes at the departmental or institutional level.
As you review the careers in this section, keep in mind that not all library science students become librarians. They can also use their education to become historians, curators, teachers, and archivists.
Associate Degree in Library Science
With an associate degree in library science, you can explore entry-level jobs and determine whether a long-term career in library science matches your interests and goals. Associate degrees also convey valuable skills applicable to diverse career paths.
Associate degree-holders can pursue the following two careers without additional education or training. These careers provide valuable, on-the-job experience that can bolster your resume and prepare you for a bachelor's in library science program. Working after you earn an associate degree may also help you fulfill professional experience requirements for licenses and certifications.
What Can You Do With an Associate in Library Science?
Library technicians and assistants help librarians by cataloging materials, answering patrons' questions, and performing clerical duties. The job provides an excellent introduction to library science and gives professionals the chance to practice the skills they gained in their library science associate program.
Teacher assistants work in public and private K-12 classrooms. Typical responsibilities include answering students' questions, supervising behavior, and helping teachers prepare lessons and materials. This position can help aspiring school librarians earn state-issued teaching licenses.
Bachelor's Degree in Library Science
A bachelor's degree in library science prepares graduates for more careers than an associate degree. Graduates who do not immediately enter a master's program — a requirement for most librarian positions — can gain relevant professional experience, typically in the education field. Working as a teacher provides librarians with many transferable skills and prepares them for top library science programs.
What Can You Do With a Bachelor's in Library Science?
In public and private schools, high school teachers usually teach classes in a single content area. They also write lesson plans, meet with parents, and help less experienced teachers. Additional responsibilities include mentoring students and collaborating with peers to implement school and district policies. High school teachers work alongside librarians to help students perform academic research.
Middle school teachers teach specific subjects, create lesson plans, meet with parents, and assess student learning. An additional job duty is to issue the standardized tests that states require for K-8 students.
Special education teachers work with children with mental and physical disabilities. They also keep detailed records and maintain legal documents. Library science degrees, along with some additional education in the field, can prepare students for this fulfilling career.
Master's Degree in Library Science
Most librarian positions require a master's degree. In master's programs, students build on the research, analysis, and critical thinking skills they gained during their undergraduate studies. Typically, master's programs take 1-2 years to complete, and students can earn this degree on campus or online.
The top online master's programs offer flexible schedules that allow students to continue working full time while earning their degrees.
What Can You Do With a Master's in Library Science?
Librarians perform managerial duties such as planning programs, approving purchases, and training less experienced librarians and library technicians. Job duties vary depending on where the librarian works. These professionals can find work in school, public, and medical libraries.
Elementary, middle, and high school principals use their education and experience to mentor staff, develop new initiatives, and act as their school's public face. They may also address disciplinary problems. School librarians with teaching experience and a principal license can succeed in this position.
Postsecondary education administrators oversee departments in colleges and universities. Working alongside other administrators, they develop new policies and train staff. An experienced postsecondary librarian can qualify for this position, managing their school's library by hiring staff, leading training seminars, and reviewing proposals.
Instructional coordinators develop curricula for public and private schools. They must analyze data; follow local, state, and industry standards; and train teachers in the latest curriculum and instruction best practices. Experienced librarians can qualify for this position by writing curricula for professional development courses.
School and career counselors help students explore postsecondary education and career options. Professionals can use the research skills gained from their master's in library science program to help students select appropriate colleges and careers. Library science graduates can pursue this career with additional education and experience.
Doctoral Degree in Library Science
Doctoral degrees in library science prepare graduates for careers in academia, in addition to professions traditionally not associated with library science. Graduates typically earn lucrative salaries and secure top managerial positions. Although some careers may require only a master's degree, applicants with a doctorate have a significant advantage over other applicants.
What Can You Do With a Doctorate in Library Science?
Postsecondary teachers instruct students at colleges and universities. They typically teach 1-3 courses each semester. Professors also publish original research, mentor students, and collaborate with peers to develop new courses. Tenured professors must hold a doctorate in their field.
Graduates with a doctorate in library science possess the skills needed to succeed as a survey researcher. Survey researchers perform extensive research to create unbiased surveys. Major corporations often hire these professionals to gauge employee satisfaction or measure public opinion concerning a new product or service.
Many master's and doctoral programs in library science develop advanced IT skills. Graduates can become computer and information research scientists, creating new software programs that librarians and patrons use to locate materials and research data. These professionals play a vital role in ensuring the relevance of libraries.
How to Advance Your Career in Library Science
To advance within library science, professionals may benefit from earning certifications and taking online courses. Professional certifications demonstrate experience in library science and enhance participants' existing skills.
By earning a certification, library professionals also demonstrate their understanding of and adherence to the latest technologies, resources, and practices in library science. Some states also require licensure for public and school librarians.
Continuing education coursework provides similar opportunities for professional growth, giving entry-level and experienced library science workers alike access to specialized and current library information. Professionals can also pursue a graduate degree in library science, information management, or museum studies to advance their careers.
Certifications and/or Licensure
Typically, certification is optional, while licensure is mandatory to pursue certain careers. Certifications are administered by professional associations and other organizations, while licenses are issued by government bodies.
The American Library Association (ALA) offers certifications in public library administration and library support staff work. The certified public library administrator program supplements a master's degree in library science, primarily serving librarians with three or more years of experience in a supervisory role.
ALA's library support staff certificate does not require candidates to have a master's degree in the field. This certification helps public library support professionals hone their overall understanding of library operations.
The Medical Library Association (MLA) encourages medical librarians to pursue certification through the Academy of Health Information Professionals, while the American Association of Law Librarians (AALL) offers extensive resources for law library professionals.
The American Association of School Librarians, as a subset of ALA, supports professionals working within elementary, middle, and high school libraries. The association provides licensure and certification information by state.
Library science professionals can take continuing education (CE) classes to update their skills and knowledge. ALA, MLA, and AALL all offer continuing education programs.
Because librarians in individual states must meet requirements to maintain licensure, many regional, local, and state libraries offer continuing education opportunities. ALA also offers information about state library agencies and the services they provide.
Open courseware is another resource for library and information science professionals. Coursera.org and edX.org offer individual classes and certificates on topics such as library management, information science and technology, and digital library tools and techniques. State licensing boards may or may not recognize these options.
To hone your knowledge and skills in library science, you may pursue continuing education and network with your peers. Online forums and in-person conferences bring together like-minded professionals to collaborate and exchange ideas. You can access forums and conferences through library science professional organizations.
Independent research into trends and issues in library science can also facilitate professional development. By staying current on challenges, innovations, policy, and technologies, librarian and information science professionals make themselves invaluable to employers.
How to Switch Your Career to Library Science
For most library positions, candidates need a master's degree in library science from an accredited institution. School librarians can enter the profession with a teaching degree, but they still benefit from specialized coursework in library-related topics.
When transitioning to a career in library science, experience is a good first step. Aspiring professionals can gain insight into the inner workings of libraries, museums, and archives by working or volunteering as aides, docents, and assistants.
Academics with research backgrounds, information technology professionals, and social and community workers can also move into library-related positions by building on existing knowledge and skills. Open courseware and certificate programs can facilitate this switch.
Where Can You Work as a Library Science Professional?
Library professionals provide valuable services by compiling, preserving, and disseminating information. Commonly found in schools and colleges, librarians also work in government and corporate settings. The proliferation of electronic data continues to increase the demand for professionals with library science knowledge and computer skills.
Librarians work in many industries, including elementary and secondary education, government, information services, and postsecondary education. To enter one of these industries, professionals may choose to complete a specialization or concentration during their master's program. Some industries may require licensure or certification in addition to a master's degree.
Elementary and secondary schools educate children and young adults in K-12 classrooms. School librarians maintain school libraries, check out materials, and help students with research.
Average Salary: $63,390
Local governments often house extensive archives accessible to employees and the public. Librarians catalog new files, help patrons, and preserve historical documents. Librarians in this industry must abide by state and federal laws regarding certain documents.
Average Salary: $56,060
Colleges, universities, and professional schools host large libraries that help students and faculty perform research. Librarians in this industry typically specialize in one or more academic fields so that they can best help patrons find appropriate materials.
Average Salary: $68,480
The information services field employs librarians to organize and catalog information. Information services librarians must accurately and quickly process employee requests for documents.
Average Salary: $58,230
Junior colleges prepare graduates for entry-level careers and bachelor's programs. Junior college librarians teach students valuable research skills applicable to careers and advanced studies.
Average Salary: $66,680
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
New York, California, and Texas employ the most library and media collections specialists in the United States. With over 10,000 positions in New York and California, respectively, library and media collections workers have opportunities to work on either coast.
Texas, Illinois, and Pennsylvania, round out the top five states with the most library and media collections specialists. Library technicians find the most jobs in California and New York, as do clerical library assistants.
Library and media collections specialists earn the highest salaries in the District of Columbia, earning an average annual salary of $87,250. The District of Columbia also offers the top average annual salaries to library technicians ($52,310) and clerical library assistants ($47,000).
Interview With a Professional in Library Science
Catherine Pellegrino is a reference and instruction librarian at Saint Mary's College in Notre Dame, Indiana. She earned her master's degree in library science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2004 and held a position as a library fellow at North Carolina State University for two years before moving to her current position.
I decided to build a career in library science because it gave me an opportunity to work with and help people, while also working with technology and learning about new subjects every day. I work at an academic library, so in my case, most of the people I work with are college students and faculty.
But many librarians work in public libraries with children, older adults and retirees, young parents — basically anyone who lives in their city or county and goes to the library. Other librarians work at special libraries, such as at corporate headquarters doing research to support their companies, or in law or medical offices managing information resources to support lawyers and medical professionals.
I'd been going to libraries since I was a small child, but it took me until I tried a few different things first to realize that making my career in a library would be a good fit, and that is not unusual. Lots of librarians are making a transition from a different career or majored in a different area entirely when they were in college.
To be a professional librarian, you need a master's degree in library science. There are a few undergraduate programs in related fields, like information science, but the important credential is the master's degree.
The coursework covers traditional library subjects like referencing (helping people at an information or research desk) and cataloging, but you can also take additional courses like archival studies and rare books, children's librarianship, database design, web design, user experience, and scholarly communication.
Most programs also have a strong internship, work-study, or practicum element. The best way to learn how to be a librarian is to work in a library, so library schools try to make sure that their graduates have some practical work experience before they graduate.
My first position after I completed my degree was a two-year fellowship program at a nearby university where I got to work with several different departments on a variety of different projects. I was fortunate in that I had that position lined up before I graduated, so I knew that as long as I finished the program successfully, I was set up for a good position immediately.
Knowing that I had to finish the program in order to secure the position also motivated me to do as well as I could in my final semester. It also helped that I had done an internship at that large university as part of my graduate coursework, so the people who were hiring for the fellowship program knew me already and knew that I could be successful in the fellowship program.
Having that practical, on-the-job experience before I graduated really helped with the job search.
I decided to work at a university because I really enjoyed working with college students but did not want the pressure to publish and do research that goes along with being a faculty member. I love getting to work on different subjects every day and helping students learn to do research and find and work with information.
Lots of librarians go into academic libraries at colleges and universities, but many more work in public libraries of all sizes, from tiny one-room libraries in small towns to huge metropolitan research libraries in our largest cities. The work of these libraries and librarians is vital in their communities and can be some of the most rewarding library work anywhere.
The best part of my job is when I'm working with a student and I'm able to show them something that saves them a lot of time in doing research, or I'm able to introduce them to an information source that they didn't know about.
It's also really rewarding when I can help a professor design an assignment that helps students learn something about how information works and how they can not just use information but also create new information themselves.
The most challenging aspect of my job is never having enough money in our budget to purchase all the books, journals, and electronic resources that our users need. This is true of any library, really. Nobody has infinite money in their budget to buy every possible resource that's out there.
But especially in academic libraries, the prices of scholarly journals are rising much faster than inflation, and our budgets are often flat, so in practical terms that means that we often have to cut resources. It challenges us to use our budgets creatively and strategically and to negotiate from a position of strength with publishers and vendors.
The first piece of advice I have is to work in a library! Get some practical experience working in a library, even as a volunteer in your local public library, before you commit to going to graduate school and getting a master's degree.
Make sure that you like the work (it isn't all reading books all day — in fact, many of us do very little with books) and the work environment before you make the leap.
My second piece of advice once you're enrolled in a library science program is to work in a library! Make sure that you get an internship or a practicum or a work-study job in a library so that you have some experience to put on your resume when you go out looking for a job.
If you can arrange it so that you have a tangible project that you organized and had ownership of that you can talk about in interviews, even better. Employers want to see evidence of what you can do.
I really want to encourage people from all backgrounds to consider librarianship as a career. As a field, we need to reflect the communities we serve, and librarians from historically underrepresented communities bring experience and values to the profession that our patrons really need.
Our field is stronger when the perspectives that librarians bring to it are more diverse. Whether we're working with university professors; young children getting ready to read; professionals in law, medicine, or business; or older adults, we need people with all kinds of experiences to do this work and to share their unique perspectives with the communities that we serve.
Resources for Library Science Majors
Library science majors can find resources through professional organizations and educational institutions. With 11 divisions, ALA offers information to students interested in a specialized area of library science. Libraries house repositories of information for library science majors, while government agencies and research institutions provide materials related to library-related practices, policies, and standards.
International Literacy Association: ILA focuses on improving literacy around the world. Members are education and library science professionals who enjoy access to the ILA magazine, free literacy lessons for different age groups, and professional development resources.
Special Libraries Association: SLA members come from medicine, law, and government library science. Members can collaborate online, attend the annual conference, and complete continuing education courses. Members also receive access to private job boards, discounts on publications, and local networking events.
International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions: With more than 1,400 members worldwide, IFLA educates the public on the vital services that libraries provide in the 21st century. Graduate student members may qualify for a fellowship or grant. Members at all levels can take on leadership positions within an IFLA working group.
American Association of School Libraries: A division of ALA, AASL provides resources to primary and secondary school librarians living in the U.S. and Canada. The association's approximately 7,000 members receive free lesson plans, continuing education webinars, and steep discounts on all ALA publications. Student members save approximately 40% on membership dues compared to active members.
Association of College and Research Libraries: A division of ALA, ACRL offers online and in-person networking events, volunteer opportunities, and professional development courses to its members. Student members save over 90% on dues compared to regular members.
Public Library Association: PLA provides resources for the nation's public librarians. The association's website offers career resources and the latest news impacting public libraries. PLA also provides leadership development courses for librarians pursuing a promotion.
Medical Library Association: MLA represents over 3,600 individual members and 1,100 member institutions. The association advocates for the medical librarian profession, provides professional development opportunities, and strives to improve medical library services in developing countries.
Association of Research Libraries: ARL's member institutions collaborate to foster the next generation of research library leaders. The association also advocates for more research publications to enter the public domain. ARL's job board posts open jobs, internships, and fellowships at U.S. and Canadian research libraries.
American Association of Law Libraries: AALL strives to ensure that law librarians can access the latest resources to succeed in their careers. Members receive access to special interest groups, digital communities, and free continuing education webinars. AALL's career center provides the most current list of open positions throughout the United States.
Society of American Archivists: SAA represents the nation's archival librarians. Student members pay a discounted membership fee and can participate in the SAA mentoring program. Students also receive access to professional development workshops and discounts on all SAA publications. The organization maintains an extensive job board featuring entry-level archivist positions.
Developing Signature Pedagogies in Information Literacy: Offered by ALA, this course includes four weeks of content on the development of mental processes during the research process. Students explore pedagogies and learn to develop lesson plans to increase overall information literacy.
The Sustainable Library: Provided through the ACRL, this three-part webinar series focuses on sustainable thinking and development for academic libraries. Students learn how to integrate concepts such as environmental justice and urban studies into their library programs and services. The webinars also provide guidance about community outreach, engagement, and partnerships available to academic libraries and librarians.
Cultivating Leadership in the Next Generation of Law Librarians: This course challenges law librarians to assess leadership opportunities within their current positions. The webinar explores strategies and techniques for librarians to enhance their value and influence in the field while fostering an environment of productivity.
Identifying Community Needs for Public Library Management: Offered by the University of Michigan through edX.org, this course trains students to gather and analyze data as they assess the needs and wants of a library community. The class explores quantitative and qualitative research techniques, aspects of community engagement, and decision-making skills applicable to leadership roles at public libraries.
American Libraries: Published by ALA, American Libraries puts out six issues each year. The magazine publishes feature articles, highlights noteworthy individuals in the field, and introduces readers to trends and newsmakers.
Public Libraries: Published six times per year, Public Libraries includes updates about PLA and ALA, featured articles about strategies and ideas for public library programs, and industry news and updates.
School Library Journal: SLJ supports librarians working with children and teens. Content covers topics such as literacy, education policy, and best practices for school librarians. SLJ also provides book and digital content reviews, information on reference materials, and updates on library and information science technology trends.
Teacher Librarian: The Journal for School Library Professionals: Teacher Librarian guides, supports, and advocates for librarians who work with students in elementary, middle, and high school settings. Articles, education reviews, and information about information technology accompany infographics and lists of newly released books for children and young adults.
The Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults: This journal emphasizes theory, research, and practice related to the development of young adult library services. Articles explore the informational and developmental needs of young adults, library service management and implementation, and the use of classic and contemporary young adult literature. Contributors include librarians, library workers, and academics with insights into library services provided to young adults.
Journal of Intellectual Freedom and Privacy: This journal includes essays and articles alongside book reviews, legal briefs, and opinion pieces about intellectual freedom and privacy. Each issue includes content on the latest legal controversies, court rulings, and changes to intellectual freedom policies in the United States.
Frequently Asked Questions
A career in library sciences is a good choice for students interested in sharing information with others. Individuals who enjoy collecting, organizing, and managing books, magazines, electronic data, and similar materials thrive as library professionals.
Yes. The BLS projects 5% job growth for librarians between 2019 and 2029, a rate higher than the average for all occupations. Library science graduates can also apply their skills to roles in schools, postsecondary institutions, and public libraries.
Graduates can find work providing information services in a variety of settings. For example, medical librarians work with scientists, researchers, and medical professionals as they collect data, while school librarians assist children and adolescents as they carry out assignments. Public librarians engage with their communities, offering library patrons information on materials related to their personal interests.
Library assistants and technicians earned a median annual salary of $30,560 in 2019. With a master's degree in library science, graduates can work as librarians, who earned a median annual salary of $59,500 in 2019.
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BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.
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