Master’s in Library Science FAQ
It might have its roots in old-fashioned ways of doing things, but the modern pursuit of library science is anything but retro. Today’s library science professionals must master systems far more complex than the Dewey decimal system, as they help students, researchers and patrons find the information they need from across a vast array of sources.
Most jobs require a master’s degree in the field, and this is especially true for roles in public institutions like schools or libraries. If you’re considering a degree in this field, it may be helpful to know a bit more about what other readers like you have asked.
Here’s a look at some of the most commonly asked questions about library science master’s education.
What's On This Page
- What can you do with a master’s of library science?
- Does a librarian need a master’s degree?
- What do you need to get a master’s in library science?
- Is a master’s in library science worth it?
- Are librarians in high demand?
- How long is a master’s in library science?
- Where do librarians make the most money?
- Can I be a librarian without a degree?
- How is library science related to information science?
- Is there a PhD in library science?
- What bachelor’s degree is best for library science?
- Can I get a library science master’s online?
- Do library science master’s programs have majors?
- What do librarians do every day?
It’s understandable to think there’s only one possible job title a person could hold after earning a master’s degree in library science. But the reality is that the field encompasses both traditional jobs like school librarian as well as technology-focused roles like information architect. Here’s a sampling of some other roles that become possible after earning a master’s in library science:
- Youth services librarian
- Rare books curator
- Semantic modeler
- Media specialist
- Research analyst
- Marketing strategist
- Program consultant
- Competitive intelligence analyst
Yes, but this is due largely to the nature of where librarian positions are typically found. Because most librarian roles exist within public institutions like city or county libraries and public schools, to get librarian or media specialist jobs in these organizations, the necessary certifications usually require a master’s degree. That said, other librarian positions that are not tied to state certifications may not necessitate earning a master’s degree; however, most employers in the space will still expect this level of education. That’s because few undergraduate programs provide adequate training in the area.
Typically, master’s degree programs in the field of library science require applicants to have earned a bachelor’s degree with a GPA of at least 3.0. Grades aren’t the only factor, though, as some admissions offices also require students to have a recent score from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), with a handful of schools accepting scores on the Miller Analogies Test. Other requirements will vary by school, with some requiring as many as three letters of recommendation as well as multiple personal statements or essays.
Whether it’s a good investment to get a master’s degree in library science depends entirely on your career goals. But considering that it’s probably the only way to get certain jobs, such as school librarian or museum curator, return on investment may be a moot point; it may simply be the price of entry. That said, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for a librarian is nearly $60,000 per year, which is far higher than the overall national median wage of just under $40,000.
Even before the coronavirus pandemic, many city and county public libraries were expanding their services to fit the needs of their communities. In some places, that means offering free WiFi and job-training classes, while in others it means hosting enrichment programs designed to close literacy gaps in different cross-sections of the population. A Gallup poll in 2019 found that people made about twice as many trips to a library as to the movies, making visiting a library the most common cultural activity among U.S. adults. What does all that mean for librarians? It means that those who can help expand services and make the library a cultural touchstone have a positive career outlook; in fact, librarian jobs are expected to grow by about 5% through 2029.
As little as 12 months, though most programs will take about two years, particularly those with strong internship or field work requirements. Whether the student can attend full-time or part-time also is a factor, and those who can’t go on a full-time basis will need additional months to complete their coursework.
Librarians working at the collegiate or graduate school level have the highest median income of all types of librarians, as they can expect to make about $65,000, all things being equal. But data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that some states are better than others. The highest average annual salary for librarians and media collections specialists is in the District of Columbia, where they make about $87,000 per year. California, Maryland, Washington and Connecticut all offer average wages in excess of $72,000 for librarians.
Entry-level positions such as clerk or assistant don’t require advanced degrees like a master’s in library science, but many of them are only available after at least earning an associate degree. That said, because these jobs generally don’t require any state licensure, educational requirements are more lax and typically are up to whomever is doing the hiring.
Future learners who have done any research at all into potential programs will find that library science is often joined with information science in academic institutions and degrees. The reason for this is quite simple — they are two branches of the same tree. In fact, many colleges and universities offer their library science programming out of a single school of library and information science, often abbreviated SLIS or information school (iSchool).
Yes, many major colleges and universities offer a Ph.D. in library science or related fields for students who want to go even further than a master’s degree in this area. This may be appropriate for individuals who want to specialize even further beyond what they studied in graduate school and those who wish to teach at the collegiate level or conduct rigorous academic research into the field. Executive-level positions in major libraries may also require doctoral training; this is common in library director positions for metropolitan library systems as well as librarian positions in medical or law libraries.
The answer to which undergraduate degree is ideal for a career in library science depends on you. That’s because your dream job could exist within many different industries thanks to the sweeping applications of library and information science. So, if you’re interested in pursuing a career in public school librarianship, a bachelor’s degree in education, social work, early childhood development or a similar area would be helpful. But if you want to work as an archivist for a branch of the federal government, consider a major in political science or even pre-law. Bachelor’s degrees in library science are becoming more common, but few master’s in library science programs require applicants to have an existing degree in the field.
Yes! In fact, the majority of library science master’s programs that have earned accreditation from the American Library Association allow students to earn their degrees either entirely or partially online. In some cases, schools may offer discounted tuition to online learners, though this isn’t always the case, so be sure to do your homework before planning your educational budget.
In a sense, yes, but schools use the term concentration or specialty instead of major. Not every specialty is offered at every school, but some of the most popular library science specialties at the master’s level include:
- Academic librarianship
- Children and youth services
- Adult services
- Digital librarianship
- Data curation
- Public librarianship
- User experience
- Special/corporate librarianship
- Database administration
- Special collections
- Records management
- Law librarianship
If your assumption is that librarians sit around reading all day, we hate to break it to you, but that’s far from the reality. Depending on the type and scope of services offered in their library, it’s fair to expect a librarian to balance their day between working at various stations, such as the check-out desk, staging story time or other activities, straightening shelves, answering questions from patrons, locating books callers have reserved and much more.