The Comprehensive Guide to a Masters in Library Science (MLS) Degree

With a master’s in library science (MLS), you will be working in the lead of the growing and dynamic field of librarianship. Thanks to major changes in technology and systems in the past decade, librarianship is much different today. With all of the technological changes has come the emergence of the valuable MLS degree as the most efficient way to break into this competitive field.

A masters in library science degree will ready you for the rapidly-changing environment of library and media digital trends, and will ensure you have a complete understanding of modern library resources, both technical and paper-based.

Some of the common responsibilities for a librarian with an MLS degree today include providing detailed service to students and faculty, circulation, references services, serials management, digital file management, teaching and much more.

With technology so important now in library science, enrolling in an MLS degree program is the perfect way to develop the technical skills to be an effective librarian in our digital age. Earning your master’s in this prestigious field from an accredited university is now essential to work in librarianship.

This page offers you the comprehensive information you need to make a decision about earning this valuable degree, including top programs, course requirements, curriculum, career outlook and more.

Top MLS Campus Programs

As you consider earning your MLS degree, which program you decide to attend is of great importance. Below are some of the top MLS campus programs in the US.

University of Washington

The Master of Library Science program at the University of Washington currently is ranked #2 in the US, according to US News and World Report. The university offers a very low student to faculty ratio and an excellent track record of after-graduation employment in libraries, corporations and nonprofit organizations. (ischool.uw.edu)

The world-class faculty at the University of Washington Information School will provide you with cutting-edge education in the library and information world so you can become an innovator and leader in the field.

The school offers both an on-campus and online version. Both draw from the vast resources of a high-quality research university located in Seattle, a leading-edge city in the country.

The University of California - Los Angeles

UCLA offers a Master of Library Science within the Department of Information Studies that is establishing the intellectual table for many information professions and related disciplines. All members of the faculty are internationally known teachers and scholars who are performing research at the top of the field. (is.gseis.ucla.edu)

At UCLA, you have the choice of the following specializations. The specializations are designed to give you the chance to tailor your studies to your exact career objectives:

  • Archival studies
  • Informatics
  • Library studies
  • Media archival studies
  • Rare books

University of Arizona

The University of Arizona offers a Master of Arts in Library and Information Science that is focused on efficient information organization, digital information, law, culture and health sciences. The program can be completed on campus in two years, full time. (ischool.arizona.edu)

Specializations are:

  • Academic librarianship
  • Archives and special collections
  • Digital information
  • Health science librarianship and health informatics
  • Law librarianship
  • Public librarianship

Indiana University

Indiana University and the Department of Information and Library Science offers a Master of Library Science that will prepare you for a dynamic career as a librarian or related information professional in the corporate or nonprofit sector. You will enter a profession that preserves, transmits and provides access to information to both preserve and advance world culture, social and scientific knowledge. (ils.indiana.edu)

Specializations available are:

  • Data science
  • Digital humanities
  • Front end development
  • Digital curation
  • Digital libraries
  • Information architecture

St. Catherine University

St. Catherine University offers a Master of Library and Information Science on its St. Paul, Minnesota campus that educates students for exciting careers and leadership roles in the information and library professions. The program is taught primarily on weekends and can be completed in approximately two or three years. (stkate.edu)

Students graduating with this degree have gone on to work in the following careers:

  • Public or academic libraries
  • Library media specialist
  • Archives and special collections
  • Law librarian
  • Information architect
  • Reference and information services
  • Business information specialist
  • Literacy coordinator

MLS Degree Overview

An MLS degree is the master’s degree that is needed for the majority of professional library and related information positions in the US. Students generally have the opportunity to specialize in many types of library and information science. You may study reference work, cataloging, collection development, digital media services, school libraries, and archiving.

Reasons to Earn a MLS  Degree

Earning a master’s degree in library science prepares you for a career in information science and data management. Reasons to earn an MLS degree include:

  • Build strong, extensive knowledge of cataloging, preserving and maintaining vital materials in a library
  • Gain skills in program design for digital resource management and research
  • Learn how to help academic faculty complete research projects
  • Work in many areas outside the library field directly including digital media specialist, university digital archivist, information broker, information manager in a company or nonprofit organization. Also, work in consulting companies, to research, organize, evaluate and analyze information for clients

MLS Educational Prerequisites

To enter most MLS degree programs, you should have previous courses in English, journalism, media studies, information management, computer science and statistics.

MLS Degree Curriculum

Your course requirements vary based on the school you attend, but you can expect to take the following courses:

  • Information Organization
  • Introduction to Library and Information Science
  • Information Sources and Services
  • Research and Evaluation Methods
  • Management of Libraries and Information Centers
  • Web Design for Libraries and Information Centers
  • Project Management in Information Organizations
  • Project Leadership in Librarianship

Career Outlook for MLS Graduates

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the employment of librarians is expected to grow 9% from 2016 to 2026, which is about as fast as average compared to other occupations. The increase of availability of electronic information should boost the demand for librarians in special and research libraries. (BLS.gov)

MLS Degree Salary

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the median salary for all librarians was $59,000 in May 2018, with the top 10% earning more than $93,000. The median annual salaries in top industries for MLS graduates were:

  • Colleges and universities: $64,100
  • Elementary and secondary schools: $60,700
  • Information: $56,700
  • Local government: $53,000

Additional Resources for MLS Students

Students who are interested in the library science field generally and the MLS degree may wish to review these related resources:

MLS Grants and Fellowship

Students wanting financial help with an MLS degree may consider the following scholarships, grants and fellowships:

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