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For students aiming to become librarians, mastering the requisite research and writing skills with a Master of Library Science (MLS) degree program is essential. Many MLS degree programs welcome candidates from diverse undergraduate backgrounds, providing them with the professional abilities to thrive as librarians in many different settings.On average, librarians earned a median salary of $64,370 in 2023, but those who delve into specializations can expect higher wages, with the top 10% earning over $101,970 the same year.

The academic journey to this rewarding career typically spans about two years for a full-time student, with the average cost of these programs being $19,749.

How to Choose a Master’s in Library Science Program

Choose your area of study

When choosing a program for your master’s in library science, it’s important to first reflect on your intended area of study, as this will guide your future research. Specialization options will vary depending on the institution but may include archival studies, ideal for those interested in preserving historical documents; information technology, suited for students keen on managing digital information systems; or school librarianship, intended for those wanting to work in educational settings.

Research schools and programs

Once you’ve chosen your specialization, you can tailor your research by asking questions like:

  • How relevant is the program’s curriculum to my area of study?
  • Are their specific resources related to my specialization?
  • How does the program support career placement in my chosen field?
  • What practical experiences, like internships, does the program offer?

By exploring these questions, you can assess how well a program suits your career objectives. Information about these programs can be found on university websites, in information sessions, or by speaking with an admissions counselor.

Prepare for tests and applications

Now that you’ve identified your target schools, early preparation is crucial for a smooth application process. Start by securing transcripts and letters of recommendation early, as these can take time to gather. Be sure to allow sufficient time to write your personal statement, which often takes longer than many students expect. For programs requiring GRE scores, enroll in a test prep course well in advance to ensure you’re adequately prepared.

Select your program

The arrival of acceptance letters is often an exciting time, but it can quickly become overwhelming if you receive more than one. You can make this decision easier by revisiting your initial research criteria and focusing on the most critical aspects, such as specialization availability, the faculty you’ll learn from, and program resources. This is an excellent time to consider the total cost of attendance and assess financial aid options, especially scholarships and assistantships, to make sure the program you choose is financially feasible and in line with your academic and professional goals.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Financing your degree can feel daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Many financial aid resources can help you minimize debt rather than add to it.

For instance, numerous scholarships are available specifically for graduate students in library science, and many schools offer assistantships, which provide a tuition waiver or stipend in exchange for teaching or research duties. Many companies offer tuition reimbursement programs as part of their benefits package for current employees, especially if the degree improves their job performance.

Federal loans can help bridge financial gaps. Although these loans are widely accessible for most students, it’s important to avoid over-borrowing, as every dollar taken out on a loan will eventually have to be repaid with interest.

Best 50 Accredited Master’s in Library Science Programs

Best Master's in Library Science Degree Programs_badge 2024

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Rutgers University

University of Maryland

University of Washington

University of California, Los Angeles

University of Wisconsin–Madison

Florida State University

University of Michigan

Indiana University Bloomington

Drexel University

The Catholic University of America

The University of Alabama

Syracuse University

Kent State University

University of Arizona

Kutztown University of Pennsylvania

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

University of Pittsburgh

Simmons University

University of South Carolina-Columbia

Queens College, CUNY

Long Island University

University of North Carolina at Greensboro

The University of Oklahoma

University of Iowa

Wayne State University

University of Denver

University of Kentucky

Discover More Options

How we rank schools

We reviewed many master’s in library science programs. Most of these options are Master of Library Science (MLS) programs, but there also are some Master of Science (MS) in library science programs.

Our list includes on-campus, online, and hybrid programs, so many individuals should be able to find a workable option.

All of the programs on our list have regional accreditation, and many are accredited through the American Library Association (ALA) or Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (CAEP). The ALA accredits MLS programs, while CAEP awards accreditation to MS programs.

We evaluated each program on the basis of flexibility, faculty, course strength, cost, and reputation. Then, we calculated the Intelligent Score for each program on a scale from 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out our ranking methodology.

What Can You Expect From a Master’s in Library Science Program?

An MLS degree program will give you the skills to manage information resources effectively in libraries and other settings. During your studies, you’ll learn to curate, organize, and disseminate information in digital and physical formats. Core subjects include information organization, research methods, information technology, and user services, ensuring that you’ll be well-prepared for information management post-graduation.

Most programs also emphasize the development of leadership and administrative skills, preparing students to handle managerial roles within libraries and information centers. A significant component of this degree is completing a thesis, which allows you to delve into a specific area of interest under the guidance of experienced faculty.

Typically, the program can be completed in two years if pursued full-time, though part-time options are available.

Potential courses you’ll take in a master’s in library science program

  • Information Organization: This foundational course covers the principles and practices of organizing and accessing information — including cataloging, classification, and metadata. Students learn to use tools and systems to ensure library materials are accessible.
  • Digital Libraries: Frequently considered a core course, this class encourages students to explore the creation, management, and dissemination of digital content within the framework of library science. Course materials are structured to address issues like digital collection development, preservation strategies, and user interface design — all essential elements for operating modern libraries.
  • Public Library Management: Most commonly offered as an elective, this course examines public libraries’ administrative and operational aspects. Topics include budget management, community outreach, and strategic planning. Participants gain insights into effectively leading a public library to meet community needs.
  • Archival Studies: This course teaches students about the acquisition, preservation, and use of archival materials. It explores traditional and digital archiving, preparing students for roles in various archival settings.

Master’s in Library Science Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to a master's in library science degree program?

Applying for these degree programs involves meeting a set of prerequisites, although specifics can vary by institution. Common application requirements may include:

  • A bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
  • Official transcripts
  • Letters of recommendation
  • A statement of purpose
  • GRE scores, although this may be optional at some schools

Don’t hesitate to reach out to an admissions counselor before applying, as they can clarify any unique requirements and ensure your application is complete.

How much does a master's in library science degree cost?

According to the most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the average cost of graduation tuition for the 2020-2021 academic year was $19,749. However, this figure can significantly fluctuate based on whether the institution is public or private and your residency status.

In addition to tuition, you should also budget for expenses like textbooks, library fees, and possibly housing or commuting costs if you’re attending an in-person program. These costs can add up over time, making it essential to create a financial plan ahead of time.

How long does it take to earn a master's in library science degree?

Obtaining this degree takes two years for full-time students, though timelines can vary based on the program’s credit requirements. Part-time students may take longer, often three to four years, depending on how many courses they take each semester.

It’s important to note the total number of required credits for graduation, as this differs by program and significantly impacts the duration of the degree.

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