A master's degree in library science is the standard minimum education requirement for public, school, and academic librarians. Individuals commonly pursue this degree to fulfill long-standing librarianship career goals. Others may decide to earn their master's after working an entry-level library job and developing an interest in advanced opportunities.

A graduate-level library science curriculum typically covers fundamentals in management, library operation, and information studies. Further degree customization is usually available through concentration options. Most students complete the degree in 1-2 years of full-time study. Read through this guide to uncover more details about curriculums, admission requirements, career opportunities, and professional resources.

Ready to find your perfect program match? You can browse all of the best online master's in library science degrees on our rankings page.

What You Can Do With a Master of Library Science

Every master's in library science program offers education in several core areas. Students gain a fundamental understanding of library organization and operation, management theory, and information studies concepts. Concentrations offer advanced instruction according to each student's specific career goals. The sections below highlight common coursework and concentration options in library science.

Librarian

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: $59,050

Projected Growth Rate (2018-28): 6%

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: $60,374

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: $49,527

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: $53,164

What can you do with a master's in library science? Your options aren't limited to working in a public or school library. Explore popular careers for graduates.

What to Expect in a Master of Library Science Program

Every master's in library science program offers education in several core areas. Students gain a fundamental understanding of library organization and operation, management theory, and information studies concepts. Concentrations offer advanced instruction according to each student's specific career goals. The sections below highlight common coursework and concentration options in library science.

Libraries, museums, universities, and law offices are just a few places that hire library science professionals. Explore a variety of employment options on our career page.

Concentrations Offered for a Master's Degree in Library Science

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.
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.
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.
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.
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.

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 to Choose a Master of Library Science Program

All library science programs share similar, overarching education goals, but when it comes to choosing a college program, the devil's in the details. Keep each of the following considerations in mind while researching your options.

Accreditation
Accreditation ensures the quality of your college education. Make sure to attend a college or university with legitimate national or regional accreditation. Your library science program should also hold separate accreditation from the American Library Association (ALA), as many employers in this field consider only job candidates with ALA-accredited degrees.
Concentration Options
A general library science track provides well-rounded education and training valuable to any professional in the field. However, if you have your heart set on a certain type of library work, completing a concentration is a great way to boost your employment prospects. Make sure your prospective program offers the focus you want.
Internship/Practicum Opportunities
Supervised practicums are typically required for library science students who want to pursue school librarian certification. Depending on the program, other tracks may or may not require similar experiences. Decide whether or not you want to complete an in-person component and look for schools that match your preference.
Thesis Versus Non-Thesis Tracks
The thesis is a unique feature of master's programs that requires students to complete extensive preparation, research, writing, and a defense/presentation. The process typically takes between 15 and 18 months from start to finish. Consider your preferences for a thesis or non-thesis degree track, and then look for schools that offer your desired option.
Cost
The cost of graduate school varies widely. Annual tuition for a master's in library science can range from a low of $6,000 to more than $70,000. Librarianship is typically not a career people pursue to get rich, so it's important to choose a degree you can reasonably afford.

Master of Library Science Program Admissions

The admissions process for graduate school requires time, dedication, and close attention to detail. Prerequisites and application procedures may vary slightly from one program to another, but the following lists should provide you with a general idea of what to expect.

Prerequisites

  • Bachelor's Degree: Before pursuing any form of graduate education, you typically need to earn a bachelor's degree. Your undergraduate credentials should come from an accredited institution. Bachelor's degrees in related fields like education, English, or information technology are ideal, but library science master's programs generally accept students of any undergraduate discipline.
  • Minimum GPA: Master's programs offer a limited number of enrollment slots each year, making it vital to select students with a proven track record of academic success. For this reason, graduate schools typically require applicants to possess a minimum 3.0 GPA in their undergraduate coursework.
  • Work Experience: Work experience is typically not a make-or-break prerequisite for a library science degree, but you will likely need to provide a resume along with your application. Prior library experience, be it entry-level work or volunteer work, may help you stand out among others in the pool.

How to Apply

Statement of Intent
A statement of intent, also called a statement of purpose, allows colleges to narrow down the applicant pool to individuals who show the most promise and/or true passion for the discipline. Your statement should detail your professional goals and career interests while providing a glimpse of your character and personality.
Letters of Recommendation
Letters of recommendation are a standard admission requirement for most graduate programs. Schools typically request between 1 and 3 letters. Your le recommenders should be nonrelatives familiar with your academic or professional journey. Ideal choices include undergraduate professors, managers, and coworkers. Choose writers who will reflect positively on your skills, abilities, and ambition.
Transcripts and Test Scores
Graduate schools require submission of official undergraduate transcripts to confirm applicant GPA, graduation status, and details about completed coursework. Standardized tests like the GRE or GMAT are not standard requirements for library science applicants, but individuals with GPAs below 3.0 may need to provide scores from at least one of these tests.

Timeline

Application Deadlines
Specific admission procedures vary slightly from one school to another, but library science master's programs typically accept new students three times a year: before the spring, summer, and fall semesters. The final day to get your completed application materials submitted usually falls around two months prior to the semester start.
Test Scores
If your undergraduate GPA is not quite up to par, you may need to submit GRE or GMAT scores when you apply. These standardized tests can be taken at any time, but you should plan to spend at least 1-3 months studying before sitting for the exam. Scores are valid for five years.
Supplemental Materials
You should begin gathering your supplemental application materials (letters of recommendation, transcripts, statement of intent, resume, etc.) well in advance of the application deadline. Give your recommenders at least a month's notice. Request official transcripts from your school early enough to allow for processing delays.

Resources for Master of Library Science Students

American Library Association

ALA is the oldest, largest library association in the world, dedicated to the development, expansion, promotion, and improvement of library and information services in America. ALA advocates for librarians, provides accreditation for master's programs in library science, and offers various membership benefits to individuals, organizations, and corporations.

American Association of School Librarians

This independent division of the ALA is the only professional membership association in the U.S. focused solely on school libraries. AASL works to empower and increase recognition of school librarians. Membership in AASL provides benefits including a journal subscription, exclusive webinars, and access to advocacy tools and resources.

Association of College and Research Libraries

The largest division of the ALA represents more than 10,000 organizational and individual members. ACRL develops programs, products, and services to help academic and research libraries advance learning and transform scholarship. Members receive benefits including networking opportunities, professional development offerings, and print and electronic journal/magazine access.

Public Library Association

This ALA division works tirelessly to support the unique needs of public library professionals and the communities they serve. PLA advocates for public libraries and promotes continued improvement of library services. Membership benefits include a free subscription to Public Libraries Magazine and opportunities for networking and professional development.

Library Journal

Founded in 1876 by the inventor of the Dewey Decimal System, Library Journal is a trade publication focused on library-related news. It strives to offer important perspectives, identify trends, inform purchasing decisions, and advocate for libraries and library professionals. Twelve-issue annual subscriptions are available for purchase. Select content can be read for free online.