If you have an interest in data management and retrieval or enjoy working with new research technologies and various types of digital media, a library science bachelor's degree may be an excellent fit for you. Communities, colleges, and universities today look toward libraries and affiliated professionals for a variety of media services and research assistance.
Library science professionals work with digital and new media. They practice information collection and management, archival techniques, and media curation and presentation -- all skills which cross over into several major information science fields.
A library science degree can lead to a variety of exciting careers, including positions as archivists and museum curators, middle and high school librarians, and public library technicians. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that, by 2026, jobs in library science and its related fields will grow by 13%, and professional librarian positions by 9%.
Should I Get a Bachelor's in Library Science?
The library science bachelor's degree leads to diverse types of work and careers outside of working within a library. This career path is ideal for students interested in how education, learning, and various modes of research benefit from progressive media and technology. With this degree, you can find work in private and public libraries, help researchers use print and digital sources, or operate as webmaster for libraries and other research institutions.
Earning this degree on campus provides you the opportunity to train in your school's facilities, offering hands-on experiences in libraries, archives, or museums. Online library science degrees are also available, and ensure that distance learners obtain the vital tools for success in the field, but lack the hands-on experiences.
While on-campus programs may appeal more to recent high school graduates who wish to move directly into a position that requires a bachelor's degree in library science, an online program could be a better fit for working professionals.
Whether you enroll in an online or on-campus program, take advantage of your time as a student. While in school, you have a unique opportunity to work closely with and learn from your instructors and experts in the library science field. Classmates are also valuable resources as the future leaders in library science. As you get closer to graduation and the competitive job market, your peers and instructors serve as useful sources of information, inspiration, and might even help you locate your first internship or job.
What Can I Do With a Bachelor's in Library Science?
Depending on your school's strengths, resources, curriculum and your desired area of focus in the field, multiple job prospects open. From director positions at corporate libraries to archivist roles in museums, bachelor's in library science programs produce skilled professionals that satisfy a staggering number of roles across the information technology and library sciences fields. Below are a few potential careers for graduates with a library science bachelor's degree.
Archivists handle fragile documents and media, such as books, handwritten records, Edison wax cylinder recordings, garments and fabrics, artifacts, and digital files. They organize, store, and preserve these materials. Because of the specialized knowledge required to handle this job, entry-level positions in this area of the field require a bachelor's degree.
Median Annual Salary: $46,519
- Research Analyst
Analysts examine and synthesize large amounts of data and compile that information into digestible presentations and reports for their employers. Strong written and verbal communication skills are a must for this career.
Median Annual Salary: $53,252
- Instructional Designer
Professionals working in this area of the field develop useful instructional materials to help others understand various products such as computer software and research tools and equipment. Experience in education or instructional design is an added plus and make you a more a more competitive candidate.
Median Annual Salary: $61,128
- Library Director
As a library director, you manage the library staff, scheduling library programs and special events, and promote the library's services and resources. Most professionals in this area possess a master's degree. With a bachelor's degree, you can work under library directors and position yourself to advance to those positions in the future.
Median Annual Salary: $62,509
- Information Architect
In most cases, information architects focus on improving the user experience by refining interface functionality. Most architects have a bachelor's degree and experience or formal training in computer science or engineering.
Median Annual Salary: $95,602
How to Choose a Bachelor's Program in Library Science
All degree programs have something unique to offer you, and the number of schools to choose from can be overwhelming. To start, consider how much money you can afford to spend on your education. For many students, the location of their school matters. Schools that are close to home or online programs may save you some money in the long run. On the other hand, you may find opportunities on campus that are unavailable to distance learners. In any case, be sure to figure in all of the predictable costs beyond tuition, including rent, room and board, transportation, and entertainment.
Bachelor's degrees also require a significant time investment. If you attend full time, a library science degree takes about four years to complete. For part-time students, expect to spend an extra one or two years completing the same curriculum. Depending on the program, you may have to complete an undergraduate thesis or final project, which can add additional time to your tenure in school.
Some schools offer library science specializations, with focused curriculum and even academics, researchers, or professors dedicated to the specialization. Consider programs that will afford you the chance to take classes or work with these professionals in some capacity to help expand your professional network.
Programmatic Accreditation for Bachelor's Programs in Library Science
Universities and colleges can obtain multiple accreditations, both for the school as a whole and for individual departments and programs. Accreditation in higher education indicates that a school meets common educational standards of excellence. In the library science field, the top programmatic accrediting body is the American Library Association.
Colleges and universities may also have regional or national accreditation. Regional accreditation is more prestigious and allows for easy transfer of college credit, should you pursue a master's degree later. Schools with regional accreditation do not always seek programmatic accreditation. If your school has regional accreditation, it is safe to assume that your library science degree program has the same exceptional education standards as its home institution.
Accreditation ensures that your degree is worth your time and money. If you earn a degree from an unaccredited institution, you may obtain substandard training or credentials not accepted by a future employer.
Bachelor's in Library Science Program Admissions
While admission to both on-campus and online programs is competitive, on-campus programs have a limited amount of physical space and scheduling logistics to take into consideration. Online programs may have a limited number of available spots per class, but scheduling and space are often much less of a concern.
Each application requires contact information, high school or college transcripts, test scores from the SAT or ACT, and an application fee. A personal statement and letter of recommendation may also be required. Some students may qualify for an application fee waiver because of financial need.
To best ensure that you have some options to choose from, you should apply to six schools, including two "dreams schools," two schools for which you are totally qualified, and two that are most likely to grant you admission.
- Minimum GPA: The minimum GPA recommended or required for admission varies between schools. Unless otherwise stated by your prospective library science degree program, 3.0 is an average minimum GPA for most applicants.
- Application: Depending on the school and number of required materials, an application can take several hours to complete Your prospective schools may accept Common App, a nonprofit which offers one general application that can be used to apply to over 800 participating schools.
- Transcripts: Official transcripts from your high school and for any previously earned college credit are required. Most schools charge a small fee of around $10 for a transcript.
- Letters of Recommendation: Letters of recommendation from previous teachers, mentors, or co-workers who can speak to the quality of your character, work ethic, and ability to succeed in a library science degree program may be required.
- Test Scores: Most bachelor's degree programs require you to submit SAT or ACT scores. Some universities provide average test scores for incoming freshman on their admissions pages.
- Application Fee: Many schools charge an application fee, which is typically around $40. In some cases, schools waive the application fee for students demonstrating financial need.
What Else Can I Expect From a Bachelor's Program in Library Science?
A bachelor's in library science lays the foundation for a promising career in a growing field. In the sections below, several points to consider when pursuing a bachelor's degree in library science are explored, including major courses and topics, program duration and cost, and professional organizations.
Courses in a Bachelor's in Library Science Program
Each program is unique and has a set of specialized resources and classes to offer its students. A school's faculty, location, funding, and facilities help determine the strengths and weaknesses of each program. While the curriculum varies between programs, below is a sample of commonly required courses for a library science bachelor's degree.
- Information and Organization
In this foundational course, the basics of cataloging and classification are explained. Classroom and library training consists of descriptive and subject cataloging standards offered by the American Library Association and the Library of Congress.
- Library Management and Leadership
From library director positions to managing a team of analysts at an information agency, leadership skills are essential to success in managerial roles. Upon completion of this course, students should demonstrate leadership principles and an ability to employ institutional policies and procedures.
- Literature and Media for Children
Tailoring library events and workshops to serve the infant to 10-year-old patrons is the focus of this course. Depending on your degree program and interests, this course may be useful for students pursuing a career in public, private, or school libraries.
- Research Methods
Research methods courses help prepare you to aid scholars with collecting materials for their research. Also, knowing the myriad ways that others conduct research makes you a better librarian, curator, records manager, and collections supervisor. It is common for bachelor's students to take multiple specialized versions of this course.
- Multimedia and Data Collection
Library science professionals can work actively with anthropologists, folklorists, and researchers who collect data in fieldwork settings. Courses on multimedia help you understand the technology used to collect the research and the best practices for storing, presenting, and making the data easily accessible.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor's in Library Science?
Several factors influence how long it will take you to complete your degree. In most cases, a library of science bachelor's degree requires approximately 120 credit hours and takes full-time students four years to complete. If you can only enroll as a part-time student, or if you have to take extra time to earn a required credit for your major, more than four years may be required.
Some library science programs let you take beyond the recommended number of course credits per semester, which accelerates the program and leads to a faster graduation. Taking more credits, however, may affect how much you must pay per credit. If you are interested in finding a fast track through your desired program, be sure to contact an academic advisor or the chairperson of your prospective department to see what options are available.
How Much Is a Bachelor's in Library Science?
When figuring your budget and expenses required to complete your education, be sure to factor in common costs beyond tuition. Prices vary from program to program, especially depending on if the school is a public or private institution. Additionally, a school's location can dramatically affect the cost of your education.
As an undergraduate student pursuing a library science bachelor's degree, money for entertainment, food, school supplies, rent, transportation, and technology fees are the most common costs outside of tuition. Recent studies conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics show that a four-year library science degree program costs about $16,700 or $43,000 per year at public and private institutions, respectively. Full-time students may pay between $67,000 and $172,000 over the course a four-year program.
There are some ways students save money while pursuing their undergraduate degrees, including reducing any moving and transportation costs by attending a school near your current location. Apply to schools that meet your educational needs without breaking the bank. Alternatively, online library science bachelor's degrees can save you a significant amount of money, both regarding transportation and extraneous living expenses. Online credits also often cost a little less than their on-campus counterparts.
Certifications and Licenses a Bachelor's in Library Science Prepares For
As library science bachelor's degree feeds into several career paths, graduates could expect a variety of certifications and licenses applicable to their career of choice. Below are a few certifications available to graduates with a bachelor's degree in library science.
- Public Librarian State Certification
Many states have different types of librarian certifications available on a tiered system. Graduates with a library science bachelor's degree and 15 semester hours of library sciences courses are eligible for a level four librarian certificate. The higher certifications, three, two, and one, require graduate degrees. Public certification helps you secure librarian positions in government-funded public schools and libraries.
- Technology Specialist Endorsement
Librarians who hold a teacher's license can obtain a technology specialist endorsement. Depending on your state's requirements, this endorsement often takes an additional 24 hours of training and a specialist exam. The training includes how to further integrate digital resources into learning environments for students in any educational setting. Most technology specialists work with K-12 students or hold instructional positions in museums, hospitals, science centers, or performing arts centers.
- Media Specialist Certification
By obtaining a media specialist certification, you show that you can meet the educational needs of students and provide easy access to digital media and information for faculty and staff in public school environments. Requirements for this certificate vary per state. In many cases, you need a teacher's license and a library science bachelor's degree.
Resources for Library Science Students
This site provides access to popular blogs written by professionals working in the library science field. Blogs are valuable resources for related news and ongoing debates in library science.
Students and working professionals can obtain additional education and leadership training through AASL's eAcademy, offered in convenient four- and six-week programs.
The Library of Congress offers online subject guides, full-text resources, and interlibrary loan services free to all members of the public.
UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, provides access to over 145,000 full-text documents, periodicals, and electronic records for free to the public.
With over 400 periodicals from over 50 countries, ProQuest offers a diverse collection of full-text research materials for its members. ProQuest also has on-staff library specialists to help students and researchers locate documents within the collections.
Professional Organizations in Library Science
Professional organizations can be one of the most valuable resources for students and professionals, with networking opportunities and forums for disseminating academic work. Typically membership grants you access to annual conferences, continuing education programs, online seminars, career services and coaching, and job boards.
With 7,000 members, AASL is one of the largest national professional membership organization focused on librarians and the school library community. Members have exclusive access to applications for awards and grants, professional development services, monthly newsletters, and electronic discussion lists.
SLA is a nonprofit organization that promotes learning, networking, and community building initiatives. In addition to the annual conference, members have access to local chapter meetings, events, and discipline-specific programs.
Founded in 1876, ALA is the oldest and largest library association in the world. ALA student members gain access to valuable career services designed for first-time job seekers. The association also provides a variety of awards, grants, and scholarships to help students and young professionals fund their education or research projects.
DLF strives to advance research and education about digital library technologies. With over 170 member organizations, DLF provides an online community for collaboration and research development, as well as access to job boards and grant and scholarship applications.
IFLA is a nonprofit association with 1,400 members in over 140 countries. Members receive IFLA's annual reports, journals, and discounts on various academic publications.