Librarians work with readers of all ages, helping them build reading skills, find research materials, and locate information. Working in schools, universities, and public libraries, librarians apply the knowledge gained from their graduate degree to promote reading advocacy and support the community. They also work in specialized positions, managing corporate, law, or medical libraries. And librarians are in high demand -- the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects librarian positions to increase 9% by 2026.
Most librarians hold a master's in library science. The degree qualifies professionals to work in library sciences, information sciences, and related fields. Before enrolling in a master's program, prospective library science students should research what to expect during their program, how to choose the best program to advance their career, and the job opportunities for graduates with a library science degree.
Should I Get a Master's in Library Science?
A master's in library science prepares graduates for careers in information science and data management. Master's students build extensive knowledge of cataloging, preserving, and maintaining materials in a library, and they also gain skills in program design for patrons, digital source management, and research. Librarians help children develop reading skills, assist academic faculty with research projects, and provide library services for the public.
Through a library science master's program, students grow a professional network, often completing internships or working at the university's library to gain practical skills. The two-year degree lets master's students specialize in an area of library science, training them to become a public librarian, school librarian, or academic librarian. Many programs offer specialized internships and job placement assistance for graduates.
A master of library science graduate qualifies for many positions. Nearly all librarian positions at universities and public libraries require a master of library science degree, as do many school librarian jobs. Graduates also meet the qualifications for a school librarian license, which some states require to work at the K-12 level.
Before enrolling in a master's in library science program, prospective students must choose between the on-campus or online option. Students moving directly from their undergraduate degree to a master's program may prefer an on-campus option, as may students with a strong local library science program. Working professionals or individuals considering a career change may prefer the flexibility of an online program. Similarly, prospective students who cannot relocate to attend a program may benefit from an online option.
What Can I Do With a Master's in Library Science?
A master's in library science prepares graduates to work as librarians. However, students can select a specialization within the field to prepare for their chosen career path. For most librarians, the type of library where they work defines their professional path. Some pursue careers working in public libraries, while others work in school or academic libraries, law libraries, or special libraries. Many librarians work in corporate environments, assisting companies that must maintain a library. The degree can also lead to careers in data science, database administration, digital librarianship, and knowledge organization.
Librarians assist students and patrons looking for information and conducting research. They work in public, academic, and school libraries, customizing their services and roles based on the type of library and the patrons. Most librarian positions require a master's degree in library science.
Median Annual Salary: $58,520
Projected Growth Rate: 9%
- Law Librarian
Law librarians work for law schools, law firms, courts, and law libraries, conducting legal research and preserving legal records. They often assist lawyers, paralegals, and other legal professionals, helping them find information or conduct research. The position may require a Juris Doctor (JD) or other legal training.
Median Annual Salary: $59,320
Projected Growth Rate: 9%
- School Librarian
School librarians work in educational settings, often assisting young learners access reading materials, promote reading, and holding lessons on research and reading. They may assist students in conducting research for a school project, collaborate with teachers to design lesson plans, and oversee library staff. Typically, school librarians must hold a master's degree in library science, and some states require librarians to apply for a school librarian license.
Median Annual Salary: $46,495
Projected Growth Rate: 9%
- Academic Librarian
Academic librarians work at colleges and universities, acquiring materials for the school's collection and helping students and faculty access research materials. Academic librarians may specialize in a particular educational field, such as history or science, or they may work at the institution's law library, art library, or another specialized library. Academic librarians may also work at a research institution.
Median Annual Salary: $52,416
Projected Growth Rate: 9%
- Special Librarian
Special librarians work in museums, corporations, and other non-public, non-school libraries, maintaining and acquiring library materials and assisting patrons. They may catalog new materials, conduct research, assist others in conducting research, and train people on reference materials.
Median Annual Salary: $52,492
Projected Growth Rate: 9%
How to Choose a Master's in Library Science Program
When comparing potential library science programs, prospective students should consider factors such as cost, location, and length of time to degree. The cost of a library science master's degree varies widely, with in-state public institutions often charging the lowest tuition. Some programs may offer financial support to students. Location may narrow options to local schools, particularly for students who are unable to relocate for their degree. These students may benefit from the flexibility of an online degree, which allows students to enroll at the top online library science programs without relocating or leaving their current job.
While most library science programs require two years to earn a master's degree, the length of time can vary depending on internship requirements, specialized courses, or final project requirements. Some programs also offer part-time options, which add time to the degree but may work well for students balancing school with work or family obligations.
In addition to cost, location, and time to degree, prospective students should also consider the specializations each program offers. Checking the program's curriculum and how often the program offers required classes can also help students narrow their choices, as can looking at a program's placement record in different specializations. Students should check a program's accreditation status, which can affect their job prospects after graduation.
Programmatic Accreditation for Master's in Library Science Programs
Accreditation ensures that colleges, universities, and academic programs follow the best practices in their field and use the highest standards for educating students. In addition to regional and national accreditation, which evaluate an entire college or university, programmatic accreditation reviews one specific program, such as a business school, teaching program, or social work program. For library science, the American Library Association (ALA) accredits master's programs. As a professional organization dedicated to advancing library science, the ALA applies the highest standards when reviewing programs.
When evaluating programs, prospective students should check the accreditation status. Many certifications and licenses only accept master's degrees from accredited programs, with some states only granting public library or school library licenses to candidates with an ALA-accredited degree. In addition, an unaccredited degree may hurt graduates in the job market because many employers only hire candidates with an ALA-accredited degree. Prospective students can use the ALA list of accredited programs to determine which programs they should apply to.
Master's in Library Science Program Admissions
Library science programs evaluate potential graduate students to ensure they meet prerequisites and to determine which applicants should gain admission to the program. The admissions process often requires extensive work from the applicant, with some schools requiring an application, a personal statement, an essay, three letters of recommendation, a resume, transcripts, and GRE scores. Because of that, library science applicants should plan to spend several weeks or more compiling their applications.
Each program sets its own admissions requirements, so when researching prospective programs, applicants should create a timeline with deadlines and required admission materials. While candidates may be able to reuse some materials, programs may ask for specialized essays or customized materials. The admissions process for an online program may also require more steps than on-campus program admission. Prospective students may apply to multiple programs to increase their chances of receiving an admissions offer and financial support.
- Bachelor's Degree: To gain admission to a master's program, applicants must have a bachelor's degree. Most institutions require a degree from an accredited school, and some programs accept any major.
- Professional Experience: Some programs may prefer candidates with professional experience working in libraries in a support staff position, which may also include volunteering at a library.
- Minimum GPA: Graduate programs frequently set minimum GPAs for admissions, often around 3.0. Some programs accept candidates who do not meet the minimum GPA for provisional admission.
- Application: Prospective library students typically submit an online or paper application, either to the graduate school or the library science program. The application covers academic history, work experience, and other relevant background information.
- Transcripts: Applicants must submit transcripts from all colleges and universities they attended. Library science programs use transcripts to ensure candidates meet the GPA requirement.
- Letters of Recommendation: Many library science programs require two or three letters of recommendation from professionals or academics who can speak to the candidate's qualifications. Applicants should give their letter writers at least three weeks' notice.
- Test Scores: Some library science programs require GRE scores as part of the admissions process, while others may make the test score optional or accept a different standardized test.
- Application Fee: Most programs charge an application fee to cover the cost of reviewing the materials. Prospective students can apply for a fee waiver with the program or graduate school.
What Else Can I Expect From a Master's in Library Science Program?
While earning a master of library science degree, graduate students usually choose a concentration, take specialized courses, and prepare for different certifications after graduation. Because the exact curriculum, graduation requirements, and cost vary by program, incoming students should research what to expect in a master's in library science program.
|Public Librarian||The public librarian concentration prepares graduates for careers working in nonprofit libraries organized and funded by the government. The concentration provides training in designing outreach programs, reaching adult readers, and organizing events and services at the library.||Librarian positions at state, county, and local public libraries|
|School Librarian||A school librarian concentration prepares graduates to work in schools, emphasizing the skills required to teach children of all ages through the school library. Students in this concentration also focus on children's and young adult literature.||Librarian positions in K-12 schools, including public and private schools|
|Academic Librarian||The academic librarian concentration prepares graduates to work in a college or university, supporting students and faculty members through teaching and by providing research support. These librarians may also go on to work at research institutions.||Librarian positions at colleges, universities, and research institutions|
|Special Librarian||Special librarians work in a variety of settings outside of academic, school, and public libraries. This concentration emphasizes the skills required to work in a museum library, corporate library, or other special collection, and it may cover legal and medical librarian skills.||Corporate librarian, medical librarian, museum librarian, special collection librarian|
|Law Librarian||A law librarian concentration trains graduate students to work in the legal field, applying their research skills toward a career in law. Some programs require incoming law librarians to have a JD or enroll in law school to earn a joint degree.||Librarian positions in a law library or law firm|
Courses in a Master's in Library Science Program
Library science programs design their own curricula. However, most programs incorporate some version of the courses listed in the sample curriculum below, including introductory classes, information science courses, and electives in a student's focus area.
- Introduction to Library Sciences
Incoming graduate students in library science often start with an introductory course, which gives an overview of concentrations within library science, such as working in school libraries, public libraries, academic libraries, or other libraries. The course may also introduce students to information science.
- Public Library Services
Courses that focus on public library services introduce students to the advisory services public libraries offer adult readers and children. The course may emphasize reading advocacy, organizing book talks, designing and hosting library events, and marketing skills for public libraries.
- Preservation and Conservation
Library science students learn how to preserve and conserve library materials, including resources and strategies for creating a preservation policy. The course may also include archival and manuscript preservation for students planning careers in special collections or archives.
- Marketing and Planning for Libraries
Library students learn how to plan and market libraries and their services. The course may emphasize strategic planning, determining short-term and long-term goals, and partnerships between the library and other institutions. Students may also complete a group project to design a marketing plan.
- Government Publications
Courses on government publications cover the acquisition, organization, and use of publications created by the U.S. government and foreign governments. The course covers freedom of information, the federal depository library program, and sources of government information. The course particularly benefits students planning careers in academic libraries.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Master's in Library Science?
Earning a master's degree in library science typically takes two years of full-time study. Many library science programs offer a standard curriculum for all students, with the opportunity to complete electives in a specialization. Some program characteristics may add time to the degree, such as an internship or courses that are only available during certain semesters. Students may also choose an accelerated option, and some programs may let incoming students meet degree requirements with transfer credits. Certain specializations, such as a law or medical librarian track, may require fewer credits depending on the program.
Working professionals or students balancing school with family obligations may prefer a part-time option, which adds time to the degree. Many programs offer part-time options, including online options for students who require a more flexible path to their master's degree.
How Much Is a Master's in Library Science?
The cost of a master's degree in library science varies depending on the program. While the least expensive schools charge around $6,000 in tuition and fees, some programs may charge two to three times more in tuition. In general, public institutions charge lower tuition rates than private institutions, both for in-state and out-of-state students.
In addition to tuition and fees, library science master's students should also consider related costs, such as books, technology, housing, and commuting. These expenses can add thousands of dollars to the cost of a degree. Students who choose an online master of library science degree may save on commuting, parking, and childcare expenses.
Library science students can also limit the cost of their degree by pursuing scholarships, fellowships, and grants. Some programs offer financial aid for admitted students, and private organizations may help graduate students fund their education. Many programs also provide opportunities to work in the university's library while earning a degree. These positions offer financial support and provide valuable work experience for learners.
Certifications and Licenses a Master's in Library Science Prepares For
- Licensed School Librarian
In many states, school librarians must apply for a license through the state, undergoing a process similar to that used for teacher licensure. The requirements may vary, but a master's degree meets the educational requirements.
- Teaching License
Professionals planning to work as school librarians need to first receive a teaching license in certain states. This requirement ensures that school librarians hold subject area knowledge in addition to their librarian training, and it may require a teacher preparation program. Some library science programs offer this training.
- Public Librarian License
Some states and localities require public librarians to complete a licensure process before gaining employment. The specific requirements vary by location, but a library science master's meets the educational requirements. Prospective public librarians should research the licensure requirements for any of their potential library system employers.
- Certified Public Library Administrator
This certification, offered by the American Library Association-Allied Professional Association, recognizes public librarians with a minimum of three years of supervisory experience. Candidates must have a library science master's, and ALA members receive a $100 discount on the application fee.
- Library Support Staff Certification
This certification recognizes library support staff with at least one year of paid or unpaid work in a library. Managed by the American Library Association-Allied Professional Association, the certification requires candidates to complete six competency sets. Candidates do not need a master's of library science degree to apply.
Resources for Library Science Graduate Students
Run by the ALA, this Job list is a national resource for finding library jobs, with services for job seekers and employers. The site also includes job resources for library professionals.
Those considering a career in an academic library benefit from the resources provided by the Residency Interest Group, which connects professionals with residency opportunities through the Association of College and Research Libraries.
An open access journal, Library and Information Research publishes articles covering every subfield of library science, with a focus on information research. The journal includes both refereed and non-refereed articles.
The site provides training, support, and collaboration opportunities for professionals who work in public libraries. Since 2003, WebJunction has helped more than 80,000 professionals expand their job skills.
A network for librarians who work with children or in the education setting, edWeb connects professionals, offers information on the best practices, and provides professional development support.
Professional Organizations in Library Science
Professional organizations help master's in library science students transition from their program to the workforce. They provide professional development resources, run career centers with job postings and job market resources, and offer networking opportunities for job seekers. Many also offer support for current students, with scholarship and grant opportunities. Professionals benefit from continuing education resources, networking opportunities at conferences and events, and specialized organizations for their field.
The association offers awards, grants, and scholarships for students and professionals. The ALA also hosts conferences and events to provide networking opportunities, as well as a career center.
Designed to connect school librarians, AASL hosts conferences, confers awards, and publishes research in the field. The association also provides eLearning opportunities for professionals and students.
A specialized association for professionals working in medical libraries and students planning careers in medical libraries, MLA provides continuing education resources, scholarships and awards, and a career center for jobs in the field.
An organization for professionals working in public libraries, PLA offers webinars, public library initiatives, and an annual conference. The association, which dates back to 1944, also offers continuing education opportunities.
Comprised of professionals working in special collections and in the information profession, the association provides professional development resources, a career center, and continuing education opportunities for members.