library science

In today’s digital age, more universities than ever before are offering online degree programs — including those in library science. Online Master in Library Science (MLS) programs allow students to gain knowledge and skills in managing, organizing, and preserving information, all while offering the flexibility to learn on their schedules.

Listed below are the top five ALA-accredited online master’s in library science degrees, their unique features, and admission requirements to help you decide where to apply.

Are Master’s in Library Science Programs Available Online?

Yes, there are many Master’s in Library Science programs available online. Many accredited universities and colleges now offer online degrees that allow students to pursue their educational goals from the comfort of their own homes.

Several prestigious universities and colleges offer online MLS programs, including the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Washington, and San Jose State University. These programs provide an identical curriculum and the same high-quality education as traditional on-campus programs, with the added convenience and flexibility of online learning.

It’s worth noting that there has been a significant shift in the perception of online degrees by employers and HR professionals in recent years. According to a recent study conducted by Northeastern University, 61% of HR professionals now approve of online degrees, and 71% have personally hired someone with an online degree. As more and more top universities and colleges offer online degree programs, the acceptance of online degrees is likely to grow.

ALA accreditation

It’s crucial to remember that, just like traditional on-campus programs, accreditation is instrumental in earning an online degree that employers will respect. Accreditation is a process that evaluates and ensures that an educational institution meets specific quality standards, including curriculum, faculty qualifications, and student services.

The American Library Association (ALA) is the primary accrediting body for library science programs. The ALA Committee on Accreditation (ALA-CoA) is responsible for evaluating and accrediting Master’s degree programs in library and information studies. ALA-CoA accreditation is the gold standard in library science, and many employers prefer to hire candidates who have earned a degree with the ALA’s seal of approval.

In addition to ALA accreditation, looking for schools with CHEA-approved regional accreditation, such as the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) or the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), is essential. This type of accreditation ensures that the institution meets basic quality standards and is recognized by the US Department of Education.

Top 5 Online Master’s in Library Science Programs

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in library science, earning a Master of Library Science (MLS) degree is a significant first step. However, for those who prefer the flexibility of online education, there are many ALA-accredited online MLS programs to choose from. Here are the top five online MLS programs that can help you gain the skills and knowledge you need to succeed in this field.

1. University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign offers a highly regarded online Master of Library and Information Studies (MLIS) program, consistently ranked as the top program of its kind by US News & World Report. This program equips students with the skills to manage, analyze, and preserve information across public, academic, and school libraries.

To begin the program, students must complete two core courses that provide a solid foundation in library and information studies. From there, they can customize their degree by selecting classes that align with their interests or choosing a concentration in archival and special collections, youth and K-12, data and asset management, or information organization and management.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is relatively affordable for in-state students, with tuition at $680 per credit. However, it is slightly more expensive for out-of-state students, costing $941 per credit. To apply, students must submit an online application alongside their official transcripts, personal statement, and three letters of recommendation.

2. University of Washington

The University of Washington’s Master of Library Science program is renowned for excellently preparing students for successful careers in diverse organizations and companies. In addition, this program sets itself apart by offering a highly-ranked MLS degree specializing in law librarianship. This unique offering is rare among other programs in the field.

Through the law librarianship concentration, students learn to integrate their backgrounds in law with new skills in knowledge organization, enabling them to support courts, federal and state governments, law schools, corporations, and other entities that require specialized legal research and information management services. As part of this program, students can gain practical, hands-on experience through an experiential learning component, which involves an internship at the Gallagher Law Library.

Regarding tuition, the University of Washington charges $852 per credit. To apply, all applicants must submit official transcripts, three letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and an online application to the university.

3. San Jose State University

San Jose State University’s Master of Library and Information Science online degree program offers a flexible and accessible option for students unable to attend in-person orientations or events. With no requirement for on-campus attendance, this program is ideal for those who may not live near the campus or require a more flexible class schedule.

To complete the program, students must complete 43 units, including a thesis or an e-portfolio. In addition, the online learning portal provides students access to all resources and support services they need, such as academic advising, faculty office hours, research assistant opportunities, and guest speaker presentations. These resources ensure that students receive the same support and guidance as their on-campus counterparts.

At $525 per credit, San Jose State is more affordable than similar programs, making it an excellent fit for those seeking to save money while continuing their education.

4. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Information and Library Science offers an outstanding Master of Science in Library Science degree program, highly regarded for its comprehensive curriculum and practical approach. Students will gain a deeper understanding of collecting, organizing, and preserving recorded knowledge while exploring innovative ways to serve their communities.

Throughout the program, students will develop a solid theoretical understanding of information science and practical skills to apply in real-world scenarios. UNC is an excellent choice for students seeking valuable field experience. The school’s internship program allows students to receive class credit while working at an information organization.

At $991 per credit, tuition at UNC Chapel Hill is more expensive than other programs. However, despite the high cost, it may still be the best for students prioritizing field experience. To apply, prospective students should submit an online application and all official transcripts.

5. Syracuse University

Syracuse University, a private institution in Syracuse, New York, offers a range of high-quality online programs, including a master’s in library and information science that is well-regarded among students and industry professionals. Its various available concentrations set Syracuse apart, making it an excellent choice for students who want to explore multiple professional pathways in library and information science. Students can focus their programs on user services and community engagement, data curation and services, children and youth services, or other areas of interest.

At $1,802 per credit, Syracuse University is more expensive than similar programs, but it may be worth it for students interested in a specific specialty or concentration. To apply, students can complete an online application and submit all official transcripts, personal statements, and a current resume to the university.

Interested in another degree instead?

Learn more about online degrees, their start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.