What Can I Expect from an Online Master’s in Library Science Program?

Most professional librarian positions in the United States require individuals to obtain the Master of Library Science (MLS). Also referred to as the Master of Library and Information (MLIS), this degree focuses on the written word and on technology and the rapid advances in the way individuals receive information. Obtaining this degree online is one way to gain the necessary technical skills to work as a librarian in the digital age. Not only does it prepare professionals for the changing environment of digital trends, but it also guarantees an in-depth understanding of library resources. The online MLS is convenient for individuals currently working in a library with plans to advance their careers and for those who don’t have access to this program close by. When looking for an online MLS program, it’s important to research and find the right program to suit your needs.

Concentrations Offered for an Online Master’s in Library Science

CONCENTRATION DESCRIPTION POSSIBLE CAREERS THIS CONCENTRATION PREPARES FOR
Public Librarian Develops graduates for careers in nonprofit libraries funded by the government, with training in designing outreach programs, organizing events and reaching adult readers. Knowledge Manager, Information Officer, Academic Librarian, Cataloguer, Library Director, Library Manager
Law Librarian Trains graduates to work in the legal field. Most law concentrations also require a JD degree or a joint law degree program. Legal Researcher, Senior Manager of Library Services, Head of Access Services, Legal Technology and Research Librarian, Reference Librarian, Research Analyst
Academic Librarian Equips professionals to work in a public or private school system or in a college or university to support students and faculty members. School Librarian, Media Specialist, Teaching and Learning Librarian
Archival Studies Learn how to manage records and archives and becoming familiar with the various storage methods and challenges of archiving electronic records. File Archivist, Digital Imaging Technician, Digital Records Manager, Head Archival Technician
Youth Services Prepares an individual on how to work with young adults and children, including how to effectively engage children and current childhood reading trends and popular authors. Youth Services Specialist, Youth Services Coordinator, Youth Services Librarian, Program Coordinator

Curriculum for an Online Master’s in Library Science

When looking for an online program for a master’s degree in library science, keep in mind there is considerable diversity among programs depending on the chosen career path. Some programs offer general preparation to practice in the library profession while others deliver specialized tracks or concentrations for school librarians, art librarians and other information studies. Most MIS degrees offer independent study courses, while other accept courses taken on-campus at other schools. Some programs require an internship or fieldwork to complete the degree. You can also expect to write a thesis or complete a capstone project in order to graduate.

Coursework depends on the chosen career path but also includes some core classes. An example of some of the classes you may choose from include:

COURSES DESCRIPTION
Library Science Focuses on the development and skills all librarians need to collect, manage and distribute information.
Library Management Help individuals recognize and develop their leadership abilities.
Fundamentals of Information Science Develop the skills needed to work in the information technology industry.
Foundations of Librarianship Teaches the histories of libraries, how they operate and focuses on new advancements.
Foundations of Librarianship Learn how to effectively use library resources to research a specific topic.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master’s Degree in Library Science?

Earning an online master’s degree in library or information science typically takes two years. Programs range from 36 to 48 credit hours, depending on the core curriculum and special requirements and whether or not a student enrolls in full-time or part-time coursework.

The structure of the degree program can also affect the process of degree completion. The cohort model focuses on peer interaction and offers admission twice a year. All students who start together follow a fixed plan of study and graduate together. Rolling admissions programs admit students year-round. Individuals work at an individual pace and can even take time off from coursework when necessary.

Certifications and Licenses an Online Master’s in Library Science Prepares For

CERTIFICATION DESCRIPTION
School Librarian Certification Most states require those with a master’s degree to obtain state licensure to become a school librarian, which requires a passing grade on the Praxis Library Media Specialist Test. Certification carries over from state to state and is sponsored by the American Association of School Libraries.
Certified Public Library Administrator Program Individuals with at least three years or more supervisory experience in a public library may apply for the CPLA certification, which is sponsored by the American Library Association. Once complete, public library administrators may improve career opportunities within the library system.
Library Support Staff Certification Sponsored by the American Library Association, this certification allows support staff to demonstrate their competencies to become a Certified Library Support Staff member (CLSS). The certification offers a greater edge for job promotions, proof of past achievements and earns respect within the library community.

Accreditation for Online Master’s in Library Science

Most employers require an American Library Association (ALA)-accredited master’s degree for positions in library science. For this reason, it’s important to choose a program that is fully accredited if you wish to advance your career. With an ALA accreditation, the program undergoes an external review that meets the standards set by the organization. Accreditation is based on the program’s mission, objective, goals, administration, staff and students. The school can be either regionally or nationally accredited. Public nonprofit universities and colleges typically receive regional accreditation, while for-profit schools receives national accreditation. Graduation from a regionally accredited school is preferred by many employers because they usually require higher standards from their graduates.

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Library Science Graduates

Job Placement: Master’s v. Bachelor’s

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job opportunities for all types of librarians is projected to grow 9 percent from 2016 to 2026. Librarians, curators and archivists may experience a slightly higher growth rate of around 10 percent in opportunities, as-well-as those who are easily able to adapt to changing technologies. The total job growth across all library occupations is around seven percent, which includes those with bachelor’s degrees in assistant and support positions. Because most professional library positions require an advanced degree, furthering your education with an online master’s in library science can provide you with many additional opportunities.

Expected Salary

Salaries across all librarian positions range from the lowest 10 percent, who earned $34,300 in 2017, to the highest 10 percent who earned more than $91,620 the same year. Industries and positions can affect your overall salary, even with a masters degree.

Source: PayScale.com

Because many librarian positions require state certifications, salaries may vary depending on what state you live in. Pay may also vary depending on a number of factors, including the amount of time spent on the job.

Librarian Mean Wages by State
Figures in US Dollars per year

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Opportunities

Individuals who hold a master’s in library science have a wealth of job opportunities to choose from. While most gravitate to careers in the public or academic fields, there are many industries where librarians can find employment, including medical institutions, government, museums and corporations.

JOB TITLE JOB DESCRIPTION MEDIAN SALARY PROJECTED GROWTH RATE
Archivist Archivists work in museums, historical sites, governments and universities to help appraise, process, catalog and preserve historical records. They often help curators restore objects and documents to be placed into exhibits. $47,360 per year 13%
Multimedia Collection Specialist Multimedia collection specialists work in the education field to help prepare, plan and operate media that is used as teaching aids in classrooms. They may also help catalog and file information into storage. $51,290 per year 8%
Librarians Librarians work in schools, public libraries, and as media specialists in universities. They assist patrons in locating books, help order new media for the library and organize events. $58,520 per year 9%

Professional Organizations

Professional organizations provide networking opportunities and can help foster a sense of community within an industry. Organizations for those with a master’s in library science provide a way to keep up with the changing technological advancements, and they offer educational opportunities to help enhance your professional skills. Consider these top organizations for those who hold an MLS degree.

American Library Association (ALA): The ALA is the oldest and largest library association in the world. It provides news, holds events and advocates for its members.

American Association of Law Libraries: Founded in 1906, the American Association of Law Libraries enhances the value of law libraries to both the legal and public communities. It also seeks to promote the importance of the legal information field and how it pertains to law.

Association of College and Research Libraries: A division of the American Library Association, the Association of College and Research Libraries is an organization for academic librarians in universities and colleges. Its goal is to improve learning, teaching and research at the higher education level.

You can find an additional list of professional organizations for those with an MLS at the University of Southern California library.

Financing Your Online Master’s in Library Science

Online master’s degree in library science programs are traditionally more affordable than on-campus programs. In spite of this, many students still require financial assistance to pay for their education. The first step for any degree program is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This will provide information on grants and loans available through the federal government. There is also a selection of private loans, grants and scholarships available to those interested in a master’s in library science. Check out some of the resources below.

Resources

Scholarships

Scholarships

Details

American Library Association Scholarship Program

Award: Varies

Deadline: March 1

Eligibility: Students must be U.S. citizens or a Canadian student or permanent resident who attends an ALA-accredited master’s program.

LITA/Christian (Chris) Larew Memorial Scholarship in Library and Information Technology

Award: $3,000

Deadline: March 1

Eligibility: Students should be a student seeking a graduate degree in an ALA-accredited master’s program.

Spectrum Scholarship Program

Award: $5,000

Deadline: March 1

Eligibility: Applicants must identify themselves as American Indian, Alaska Native, Asian, African American, Hispanic, Middle Eastern or Native Hawaiian and must take a minimum of two classes for credit in the semesters they receive scholarship payments.