What Can You Do With a Library Science Degree?

James M. Tobin, MFA
by
Updated May 30, 2024
Edited by
A library science degree can lead to many information-focused professional paths. Explore job options in libraries and beyond with this career guide.

Are you ready to discover your college program?

College degrees in library science prepare graduates for careers in a variety of settings. Students learn to assess and organize information, catalog data, and distribute materials — all valuable skills that translate to varied industries. Graduates also gain computer, database, and technology training, which they can apply to roles in business or technology fields as well as academia and libraries.

Library science explores the principles, practices, and tools of information management. A library science program trains students to manage, organize, assess, and distribute books, periodicals, databases, and other reference materials. Individuals interested in working in a library can gain the necessary skills through a library or information science degree. Other professional options for library science graduates include nonprofit work, corporate data management, and archivist roles.

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Why Get a Library Science Degree?

  • In our digital economy, the ability to search, organize, classify, and retrieve specialized information has enormous value to employers.
  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects nearly 14,000 annual openings for librarian jobs from 2022 to 2032.
  • Library science degrees build skills you can use to support literacy and benefit communities.
  • As libraries adopt an increasingly multimedia focus, you can use your knowledge to help people navigate new ways of interacting with the world.
  • Library science programs develop diverse skills in areas like project management, instructional design, and information preservation.

What Kinds of Library Science Degrees Are There?

Library science degrees and certificates teach students how to collect, manage, and preserve information. Curricula vary by program, institution, and degree level. For example, associate degrees prepare learners for roles as library assistants and technicians, while bachelor’s programs train individuals to work in entry-level librarian positions. Certificate programs in library science also build the foundational skills relevant for library settings.

To become an actual librarian, individuals usually need a graduate degree in library and information science. Online master’s degrees in library science covers advanced aspects of library operations, information management, and information studies. Doctorates in library science allows students to specialize in areas like leadership, curation, archives, or health information and education.

We explore these degrees and programs in more detail below.

Certificate Program in Library Science

A certificate in library science is an entry into the library and information science profession. Certificate programs usually last between one semester and two years, covering fundamental information about the tools and techniques librarians use.

With a certificate in library science, graduates can become library assistants at public, private, and school libraries. A certificate in library science can also lead to careers in data entry, research, and material collection at businesses and nonprofit organizations.

Associate Degree in Library Science

Associate degrees in library science usually take two years of full-time study. Learners complete general education coursework in English, the humanities, and natural sciences alongside introductory classes in library and information sciences. An associate degree in this field can lead to entry-level roles or set the foundation for continued study in a bachelor’s program.

A library science associate program can benefit students already working in a library by qualifying them for more specialized roles. With this educational credential, professionals can become library assistants, research technicians, and curatorial aides.

Bachelor’s Degree in Library Science

A bachelor’s in library science — which typically takes four years of full-time study — incorporates general education coursework with library and information science fundamentals. Students study cataloging and technical processes, library management, and information literacy as they work toward a career in a library setting. Classes may also include information technology, literary studies, and research methods.

A bachelor’s degree in library science prepares learners to become library assistants, data curators, and research technicians. With a bachelor’s degree in this discipline, individuals can also pursue a graduate program in library and information science. A master’s degree in library science is the standard level of education required for professional librarians.

Master’s Degree in Library Science

Coursework in a master’s degree in library science builds on library and information science fundamentals with specialized coursework. Students explore advanced aspects of library management, operations, and information science. Often, programs include concentrations that let learners specialize their knowledge in fields like youth library services, digital media, information architecture, and archival records management.

To pursue a master’s degree in library science, students usually need a bachelor’s degree. Graduates can qualify for jobs like librarian, archivist, and library director — many libraries require a library science master’s degree as a minimum for these roles.

Doctoral Degree in Library Science

A doctorate in library science can lead to advanced careers in academic and archival settings. Professionals with a doctoral degree in library science can find work as library directors, college and university instructors, and data managers.

Typically, learners finish these programs in 3-5 years. The curricula for Ph.D.s in library science blend lecture and research coursework, often incorporating practical experience and teaching. Doctoral students also conduct research and produce dissertations about niche subfields of library and information science.

Accreditation for Library Science Programs

Before choosing a program, students should consider the accreditation status of a library science degree. Library science students should only consider schools with active, valid institutional accreditation.

Individual degrees can also hold programmatic accreditation. The accrediting body for library science is the American Library Association (ALA). Accreditation from ALA is a voluntary process that involves self- and peer evaluation of curricula, instruction, and program outcomes. Librarian jobs and other advanced roles typically require an ALA-accredited library science master’s degree.

Paying for a Library Science Degree

College can be expensive, especially since costs keep rising. The National Center for Education Statistics reported the following nationwide average tuition rates for the 2021-22 school year:

  • Two-year degree (in-state public institution): $3,564
  • Four-year degree (in-state public institution): $9,596
  • Four-year degree (out-of-state public institution): $27,457
  • Four-year degree (private nonprofit institution): $34,041
  • Graduate school (overall average among public and private institutions): $20,513

For students who need help paying for their degrees, research financial aid options. Generally, you should prioritize funding sources like scholarships and grants, as these do not require repayment, while loans typically require repayment with interest.

Fill out your FAFSA application to determine your eligibility for financial aid. A filed FAFSA means you receive automatic consideration for the federal student funding programs for which you qualify, including grants and loans. We explore financial aid below.

Scholarships

Scholarships deliver one-time or renewable awards in the form of direct financial aid. Schools and organizations award scholarships on the basis of need, merit, or demographics. Winners don’t repay the funds they receive, which means scholarships can be competitive.

ALA’s scholarship program offers financial support to underrepresented groups and other qualified students in need of aid. ALA also maintains a directory of agencies and organizations that provide aid to library science program enrollees.

Grants

Grants are similar to scholarships, though they emphasize financial need more heavily. While grants specifically for library science students are rare, the Institute of Museum and Library Services runs funding programs specifically for indigenous, Black, and Latino/a applicants.

Federal Loans

If scholarships, grants, gifts, and savings aren’t enough to meet your education expenses, consider federal student loans. Generally, all loans require repayment, but federal loans usually offer lower interest rates and more flexible repayment options than private loans.

Private Loans

As a last resort, look into student loans from private lenders. These are especially useful if you’re an international student and you don’t qualify for federal aid from the U.S. government. To reduce your debt, review all terms and conditions of loans closely, and keep your borrowing to a minimum.

Jobs for Library Science Graduates

Salaries for workers with library science degrees vary by career, education level, and location. We explore librarian and library-related careers and growth projections below:

Careers for Library Science Graduates
JobMinimum Education RequiredMedian Annual SalaryJob Growth Rate (2022-32)
Intelligence analystBachelor’s degree$77,940*N/A
Instructional coordinatorMaster’s degree$74,620+2%
Librarian or library media specialistBachelor’s or master’s degree$64,370+3%
Data administratorBachelor’s or master’s degree, plus computer science or information technology training$61,620*N/A
Archivist or curatorMaster’s degree$57,120+10%
Corporate information specialistBachelor’s or master’s degree$56,930*N/A
*Denotes average annual salary
Sources: Arizona State University, BLS, Payscale

Discover Resources for Library Science Students

Numerous groups and agencies offer specialized resources and assistance to library science students and professionals in the field. Organizations for library workers include:

International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions

Established in 1927, IFLA unites hundreds of members whose impact spans more than 190 countries. The organization advocates for libraries and librarians, tracks library and information science trends, publishes industry journals, and offers extensive networking and professional development programs.

Digital Library Federation

DLF unites individuals who design and use digital library technologies, including members from research, practical, and academic settings. DLF promotes digital library standards and best practices, offers career resources, and hosts events and online forums for members. Members also receive discounts on educational programs as well as access to scholarships, awards, and DLF publications

Society of American Archivists

Founded in 1936, SAA is the oldest, largest association for archivists in North America. With a mission to advance standards and ensure diversity within the archival work field, SAA offers educational programs, publications, and advocacy opportunities for members. Student membership includes access to SAA’s mentoring program.

Frequently Asked Questions About Library Science Degrees

What is library science?

Library science is the formal study of tools and systems for collecting, cataloging, organizing, regulating, and accessing library and information media. Schools offer library science degrees at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, beginning with associate degrees and progressing to doctorates. Some institutions also offer certificates in the field.

What colleges offer library science degrees?

According to the NCES, 119 U.S. colleges offer library science degrees as of May 2024. Programs are available across the United States. You can also search for schools using ALA’s directory of accredited programs.

What is the best degree for a librarian?

In general, a master of library and information science (MLIS) degree can maximize your career options and your earning potential. Many of the highest-paid library science careers prefer or require a master’s degree for entry or advancement. MLIS credentials can also help you stand out on the job market.

How much do librarians make?

According to 2023 BLS data, librarians and library media specialists earn a median salary of $64,370 per year. The BLS also reports that library professionals at the 25th percentile of earnings made $50,930 per year, while those at the 75th percentile earned $80,980 per year.

How long does it take to get a degree in library science?

Library science degrees take about as much time to complete as degrees in other fields. On a full-time study schedule, you can complete an associate degree in two years, a bachelor’s degree in four years, and an MLIS degree in two years. Doctoral programs usually take 3-5 years.

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