University of Wisconsin Online Library Science Masters Review

For students of library and information science, there’s one major educational hurdle they need to clear to get a job in the field — a master’s in library science. Fortunately, many of the best programs in the subject offer optional online degrees, helping students in Wisconsin and beyond fit education around their lives rather than the other way around. At two of the University of Wisconsin’s campuses, students can earn online master’s degrees in library science.

What should students in the state and across the country know about each, including degrees offered, and biggest pros and cons?

About the Program

Before we discuss some of the pros and cons of online master’s degrees offered in the University of Wisconsin system, let’s check out some basic facts and statistics about the university.


  • Institution type: Public
  • Campus: Madison and Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • Accreditation: American Library Association (ALA)
  • Program format: Online, traditional (both campuses)

Tuition and fees

  • Expected total tuition: $33,150 Madison online; $30,600 Milwaukee online
  • Per credit-hour tuition: $850 (both campuses online)

Degrees & requirements

  • Library science degrees offered: Master of Arts in Library and Information Studies (Madison), Master of Library and Information Science (Milwaukee)
  • Number of credit hours required: 39 (Madison), 36 (Milwaukee)
  • Estimated time to completion: 24 months
  • Optional specializations and concentrations (varies by campus): Librarianship, Archives in a Digital Age, Archive Studies, Data/Information Management & Analytics, Information Technology and User Design, Information Organization, Public Library, Information Law, Policy & Ethics, Information Literacy, Special Libraries

Biggest Pros

What are the biggest factors that work in the University of Wisconsin’s favor when it comes to enticing students in the state and across the country with their online master’s degrees in library science?


At each campus, at least six specialty or concentration areas are available, ranging from the traditional, such as public librarianship, to the forward-thinking, like data management. Students are not required to specialize or name a concentration area, but the diverse options will be enticing to those who have in mind their ideal career. Not all specializations are offered online, so students should consult with advisers to be sure their dream educational pathway is an option for them.


Both campuses are home to ALA-accredited programs, which extends to the physical, on-campus degrees, as well as what’s offered online. For most library science students, ALA-accreditation is crucial to obtaining state licenses that are often necessary to work in public spaces like schools and libraries.


In addition to a diverse array of specialty areas, each campus is also home to at least two certificates in advanced study, with digital library and archives/records administration certificates offered in Milwaukee and capstone certifications offered in Madison that cover analytics for decision making and user experience design. These certifications signal the weight UW places on professional development and advancement.

Biggest Cons

All programs have their drawbacks, so what should students know about the less-than-ideal factors of the University of Wisconsin’s graduate degrees in library and information science?


Though both degrees are more affordable than many others in the field, particularly those offered at private institutions, they still represent a major financial investment. Most students will spend upwards of $30,000 on tuition alone, which could be cost-prohibitive for some.


Placing the requirement for internship or fieldwork in the cons section is controversial, but considering that this information is meant for online students, it seems appropriate to consider this a mark on the negative side of the ledger. Madison students are required to complete a 120-hour practicum, which can usually be done for course credit, while Milwaukee students have the option of completing a thesis or fieldwork.

University of Wisconsin Online Library Science Program FAQs

Here’s a look at some of the most commonly asked questions about the University of Wisconsin library science master’s degrees.

Do I need to take the GRE?

Students applying to the UW-Madison program do not need to take the GRE, but some applicants to the Milwaukee program may be expected to do so. The GRE requirement for admission into the UW-Milwaukee library science master’s has been waived because of COVID-19, but that is only in effect through the fall 2021 cycle.

Is a thesis or fieldwork required?

Yes, though requirements differ between the two campuses. At Madison, students, even those earning their degrees entirely online, must complete 120 hours of fieldwork (which also counts for course credit), while their counterparts at Milwaukee have the option of a thesis or fieldwork.

Will I need to visit campus to complete the degree?

There’s no requirement in either program for online students to visit campus in person, but regular virtual interaction is baked into both programs through interactive meetings and assignments.


Library science students are fortunate to have many options for pursuing online master’s education from ALA-accredited institutions, and the University of Wisconsin system is home to not one but two excellent options for students in that state and beyond.

Additional Resources


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Sarah J

Sarah J is Chief Editor and Founder at, formerly (LSL). Join us today and become a community curator. We can also be found on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. Learn more about me on Google+