MLIS Degree Programs by State
Every individual’s educational journey is unique to them, taking into account their career goals, personal interests, budget, academic history, free time and dozens more large and small factors. But for people who are planning for careers in library science, there’s usually only one realistic path: getting a master’s degree in library science, information science or a closely related field.
The good news is there’s probably a library or information science master’s degree program in your state, as there are more than four dozen graduate degree programs in the U.S. that have been accredited by the American Library Association.
Follow the links below to see what programs are available in your state (or nearby), and read on for our guide to picking the best library science master’s program for you.
ALA-Accredited Library Science Master’s Programs
Accreditation by the ALA may not be required for every possible job opening, but it’s typically recommended, which is why our list here is limited to only ALA-accredited programs in each state.
- MLS Programs in Alabama
- MLS Programs in Arizona
- MLS Programs in California
- MLS Programs in Colorado
- MLS Programs in Connecticut
- MLS Programs in District of Columbia
- MLS Programs in Florida
- MLS Programs in Georgia
- MLS Programs in Hawaii
- MLS Programs in Illinois
- MLS Programs in Indiana
- MLS Programs in Iowa
- MLS Programs in Kansas
- MLS Programs in Kentucky
- MLS Programs in Louisiana
- MLS Programs in Maryland
- MLS Programs in Massachusetts
- MLS Programs in Michigan
- MLS Programs in Minnesota
- MLS Programs in Mississippi
- MLS Programs in Missouri
- MLS Programs in New Jersey
- MLS Programs in New York
- MLS Programs in North Carolina
- MLS Programs in Ohio
- MLS Programs in Oklahoma
- MLS Programs in Pennsylvania
- MLS Programs in Rhode Island
- MLS Programs in South Carolina
- MLS Programs in Tennessee
- MLS Programs in Texas
- MLS Programs in Washington
- MLS Programs in Wisconsin
A Guide to Choosing the Best MLS Program for You
For the average student, we think these are the most important factors to consider before making your list of finalist schools, but your mileage may vary when it comes to how important each of these factors is.
As we mentioned, our list above is limited to master’s degree programs that have earned accreditation by the American Library Association, or ALA. Programs earn this designation by meeting a series of requirements and undergoing thorough evaluation every few years to ensure they’re continuing to meet the ALA’s standards. The ALA review process includes investigating things like curriculum, faculty, student outcomes, physical and technological resources, and missions, goals and objectives.
ALA-accredited degrees are required in many states to earn the certifications necessary to work in schools as well as (potentially) in other public spaces like libraries, museums and government agencies. These rules vary by state, though, so it’s wise to consider your career goals and which state you intend to work in before making a firm commitment to a school.
All MLS programs listed here require applicants to have earned an undergraduate degree, though it’s not necessary to have majored in library or information sciences or in any closely related field. In most cases, the minimum acceptable GPA for undergraduate degrees and any prior graduate degrees is 3.0/4.0, but a handful of programs do accept GPAs lower than that.
In some cases, applicants will be asked to provide a recent score on a standardized entrance exam like the Graduate Records Examination (GRE) or Miller Analogies Test (MAT). Most schools don’t publish minimum acceptable scores for these exams, and schools that do require these tests have suspended the requirement temporarily because of the coronavirus pandemic. It’s assumed they’ll re-establish the requirement after the pandemic is over, though.
As with any other higher education program, public institutions tend to be cheaper than private ones. In some cases, in-state residents can expect to spend as little as $9,000-$10,000 on tuition costs for their entire degree program. Library science degrees from private universities begin around $25,000, making them relatively affordable for the average student, though the most expensive ones cost about $50,000-$60,000 for tuition costs.
There are several types of ALA-accredited degrees in library and information science, though in many cases, they are more or less interchangeable when it comes to getting a job. Here’s a look at the most common degree types you’ll encounter:
- Master of Library and Information Science, MLIS
- Master of Library and Information Studies, MLIS
- Master of Library Science, MLS
- Master of Science in Information Science, MSIS
- Master of Science in Library and Information Science, MSLIS
- Master of Science in Library Science, MSLS
- Master of Science in Information, MSI
- Master of Science, MS
- Master of Information Science, MIS
- Master of Information Studies, MIS
- Master of Information, MI
- Master of Arts, MA
- Master of Arts in Library and Information Science, MALIS
- Master of Arts in Library Science, MALS
- Master of Management in Library and Information Science, MMLIS
Generally, degrees with “science” in their titles will include more curriculum devoted to data science, technology and related areas, while those with an “arts” name are more likely to include humanities-heavy education.
The majority of ALA-accredited programs offer the option to complete at least some coursework online, though some are only available in-person, while a few others offer a hybrid approach. For many students, this may be the deciding factor in what programs to consider, since there are more than a dozen states in which there are no ALA-accredited library science master’s degree programs. The good news for those students is that the vast majority of ALA-accredited degrees can be earned online.
Internship, Field Work & Thesis
Specifics of curriculum vary pretty widely by school, but in most cases, students will need to complete some sort of culminating project. In most programs, that’s an internship, a practicum or a thesis, and students often have the choice to pursue whichever path they want.
Another crucial factor that for many students turns out to be the tipping point is the ability to declare a specialization. In some schools, they’re called concentrations, while others refer to them as clusters. Whatever the terminology, specializations allow students to tailor their educational pursuits to the area of this broad field they’re more interested in studying.
This is more than just picking a few electives and calling in a day. In most programs that offer specializations, students are immersed in courses that speak directly to their specialty area. What this means is that students who aren’t interested in, say, becoming school librarians don’t have to take courses that won’t appeal to them.
Not every specialty is offered at every school, so some students may use the specialty options to guide their decisions, narrowing their search to schools that offer specialties in their interest areas. The most common specialties are:
- Academic Librarianship
- Archival Studies
- Children's Services
- Cultural Heritage Information Management
- Digital Libraries
- Health Informatics
- Information Organization
- Information Systems Design/Analysis
- Knowledge Management
- Law Librarianship/Legal Information Services
- Management and Administration
- Music Librarianship
- Organization of Information
- Public Librarianship
- Records Management
- Reference and User Services
- School Librarianship
- Science Librarianship
- Special Collections
- Young Adult Services
Some specialties may only be offered to students attending on campus, so if there’s a focus area your heart is set on, be sure you can complete in whatever method you’re taking classes. In some schools, school librarian specialties may require additional courses for students who don’t already have teaching certifications.
Time to Completion
The typical library science master’s degree requires 36 credit-hours to complete a degree. For full-time students, this can take as little as 18 months, though the average full-timer will probably need more like 24 months. Part-time students will generally need about 30-36 months, and some programs set maximum time limits by which students must complete their degrees.
A few programs require 40-50 credit-hours, and those will take at least another year or more.
If you’re planning to pursue a career in library and information science, the decision of whether to get a master’s degree has probably already been made for you. That’s because most jobs in the field require completion of a graduate program just to get a foot in the door. The good news is that there are dozens of options, and most Americans live in a state with at least one library science master’s program, while those who don’t can most likely pursue online education options.