What Can You Do With a Library Science Degree?

A library science degree can position professionals to pursue a career helping and educating others The question “What can you do with a library science degree?” presents myriad possibilities to consider. Many graduates with library science degrees end up in libraries. Some librarians choose to work in school libraries, while others opt for jobs at public libraries—it all comes down to preference.  

Professionals with library science degrees are skilled in collecting, classifying, retrieving, storing, analyzing and distributing information. Regardless of the form it takes, information is critical in business, government and other sectors. It forms the basis of policy-making decisions and drives research toward improving society. People need information to solve problems and help their communities—and librarians have the skills to assist, thanks to the professional degrees they earn. 

What Is a Library Science Degree?

The Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS), also known as a library information science (LIS) degree, provides graduates with an arsenal of tools that can be used in a range of professional services. The field of library and information science draws people who want to help others navigate methods for accessing research and solving problems while promoting equity, literacy and a safe space for learning. 

Are Libraries Dying?  

Are libraries dying? It depends on who you’re asking, but recent trends point to a pivot in the industry, according to a New York Times article on library use during the pandemic. Libraries constantly are evolving—striving to serve communities and keep people connected. In addition to offering e-books, e-magazines, audiobooks and streaming movie platforms, libraries may do the following: 

Because libraries continue to expand in the communities that they serve, the number of librarians and library media specialists is expected to increase at a faster rate than the average for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment of librarians and library media specialists is projected to grow 5 percent from 2019 to 2029, and about 13,800 openings are expected each year during that period. The BLS notes that some openings will result from the need to replace librarians due to job transfers or retirement.

Several states are projected to see even more growth. Employment of librarians in New York is expected to grow by 12.6 percent from 2018 to 2028, adding 1,470 openings, according to Projections Managing Partnership long-term projection data. Other states with higher than average growth estimates include Colorado, Tennessee, Virginia and New Hampshire.

Are librarians in demand? Yes. As library services and technology continue to broaden and change, the need for people with library science skills is expected to increase. Employers are finding that those skills can be useful in settings outside libraries, too.

Why Earn a Library Science Degree?

The motivation behind earning a library science degree often begins with an interest in the discipline, commitment to the field or a desire to work in a library. Through a master’s program, aspiring librarians explore the core principles of the profession and build their knowledge base by delving into topics like user-based design and storytelling. Library professionals are experts at handling information. They invest their time and resources in growing this expertise and honing personality traits that may help their careers, right from the classroom. 

If you envision yourself working in a library, running community programming, fostering literacy in your community, you may want to consider a library science degree program. A library science degree can also allow you to develop invaluable, transferable skills relevant to work in academic and research institutions.

Skills Gained with a Library Science Degree

With an MLIS degree, candidates have the potential to change the way people and organizations think about libraries and information resources. But how?

Degree programs offer opportunities to develop transferable skills, both technical and non-technical. Graduates’ expertise in helping others use information and technology to answer queries may be useful in libraries, nonprofits, corporations and government agencies. 

Archiving, information organization and information technology are typically associated with the profession, but the skills gained with a library science degree may broaden focus areas. MLIS graduates may acquire skills in these areas: 

  • Project management
  • Leadership
  • Instructional design
  • Community advocacy
  • Marketing
  • Cultural competency
  • Research methods
  • Data research, collection and analysis
  • Digital systems management
  • Preservation of artifacts
  • Web development

And according to the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), librarians also have these important qualities, which help them perform their professional duties:

  • Communication skills: Explain information clearly in service to people, communities and organizations.
  • Initiative: Stay current with changing information and technology to know the latest tools available for gathering and distributing data and research.
  • Interpersonal skills: Work well with others, including the public, ensuring equity and justice for library patrons.
  • Organizational skills: Conduct research efficiently and manage resources logically to facilitate needs of individuals, communities and organizations.
  • Problem-solving skills: Identify problems, research solutions and draw conclusions to help people, especially those in underserved communities.
  • Reading skills: Know the latest literature to be able to address questions and provide direction to individuals and the communities that they serve.

If you have these qualities and enjoy managing information, you may find a library science degree worthwhile.

Library Science Careers

Equipped with in-demand skills, MLIS graduates can explore various sectors for job opportunities. Master’s in library science jobs may be found in educational institutions, public libraries, museums, technology firms, media companies and more. 

A professional librarian may expand their career beyond traditional library science jobs. Some potential occupations for MLIS graduates: 

  • Library director
  • Research specialist
  • School librarian
  • Reference librarian
  • Law librarian
  • Medical librarian
  • Marketing and communications specialist
  • Communications outreach coordinator
  • Director of technical services
  • Professor
  • Curriculum developer
  • Documentation specialist
  • Content production manager
  • Archivist/digital collections librarian
  • Cartographic metadata librarian
  • Museum collections manager
  • Preservation specialist
  • Records manager
  • Digital assets manager
  • Insurance forms research librarian
  • Acquisitions and copyright manager
  • Technology consultant
  • Data officer
  • Database administrator
  • Systems analyst/administrator
  • Government research analyst
  • Multimedia director
  • Taxonomist
  • Market researcher
  • Web developer
  • User Experience (UX) researcher

How Much Do Librarians Make? 

What is the average library and information science salary? A librarian salary in one part of the country may differ from a library science salary in another location, depending on the employer and other factors. The median annual salary for librarians and library media specialists was $60,820 in May 2020, with the top 10 percent of earners earning more than $94,520, according to the BLS.

The BLS also reported that in May 2019, library professionals in colleges, universities and professional schools had a median annual salary of $65,120. Those with jobs in elementary and secondary schools had a median annual wage of $62,370.

Depending on the position and industry, workdays and shift schedules may vary for librarian jobs, sometimes affecting pay. Public and academic librarians often work on weekends and evenings and may work holidays while school librarians and library media specialists usually have the same work and vacation schedules as teachers. Corporate and other specialist librarians typically work normal business hours, making exceptions for work that is needed to help meet deadlines.

Earn a Master’s in Library Information Science

If a career in library science interests you, Syracuse University’s iSchool offers online programs for a Master of Library and Information Science and a Master of Library and Information Science: School Media that can be completed in as  few as 18 months.

The iSchool’s interdisciplinary curriculum is designed to prepare graduates with a master’s degree in library science to become effective library and information science leaders, and foster equity and justice in their communities. The MLIS program offers several professional pathways to fulfill your passion. Students may choose to focus their program on User Services and Community Engagement, Data Curation and Services, Organization and Management of Information and Knowledge, Children and Youth Services, Digital Information Systems, or Information Research and Analytics.  

The iSchool’s MLIS program has been accredited by the American Library Association since 1928 and has been offering a library science degree online since 2017.