A master’s degree in library science is typically the minimum degree level required to become a librarian. A higher degree is necessary because library science requires an in-depth understanding of research processes and materials, and master’s programs provide that kind of experience. While there are other career options for graduates of library science master’s programs, most students pursuing library science degrees are actively working toward positions in libraries.
Library science is the process of classifying, storing, and accessing important information. Libraries can house a wealth of documents and cultural archives in all kinds of formats, from original novels and academic journals to audio, video and film archives. Anyone looking to conduct research will, at some point, need to dig into the depths of a library. Students who love to read, who are interested in preserving historical documents and important information, and who have a passion for research may be just the right fit for a master’s program in library science.
Why a Master’s Degree?
The most obvious reason to earn a master’s degree in library science is the fact that a master’s is the minimum level of education required to get a job as a librarian. Bachelor’s degrees in library science may allow graduates to work in a library, but only as filing assistants or technical aides. There is also a significant difference in pay between the two degree programs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, library assistants make around $14 an hour. Full-fledged librarians, however, make a median salary of $54,500 per year, around double that of a library assistant working full-time.
Getting into a Master’s Degree Program
Every school is different, but there are some commonalities in application requirements for master’s programs. Students will typically need the following materials:
- A bachelor’s degree in library science.
- Work experience in a library (not always required, but preferable).
- GRE scores.
- Reference letters.
- A personal essay or statement of intent.
Inside a Library Science Master’s Degree Program
Online masters library science programs are not too different from those offered by traditional schools. Students will use their bachelor’s backgrounds to further their knowledge of the library science field by studying more advanced topics, conducting their own research, and contributing critical analysis to current library practices and research procedures. Students will also have the opportunity to concentrate more fully on an area of interest. Coursework will expand on topics like research methods, library material classification, examination of archives, and library procedure efficacy, but students may wish to more fully explore, say, political materials or historical documents. Capstone research projects will be required of master’s students, and this may involve on-site studies in libraries or critical analysis of published library methodology.
The main difference between a masters degree library science online program is in the learning experience. While students at traditional schools are required to attend class in person at specific times, online students can take part in class time at any hour of the day. Online students in any education major do this by logging in to an online learning platform which houses course assignments, drop boxes, discussion forums, and lecture materials, like videos, slideshows, and notes. Students connect with classmates online to discuss course topics or get help with assignments. Professors also take part in discussion forums and structure course participation that way.
What’s Next for Library Science Master’s Degree Holders?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports an estimated employment growth of 7% for librarians from 2010 to 2020. This is slower than the rate projected for most occupations. A slower rate of growth generally indicates less available jobs and more competition among masters online library science graduates.
The slow rate of growth could be attributed to the many librarians that continue to work at a single institution over the course of their career. It may be important to make sure that a career as a librarian is a true passion before going through a degree program. Those with the most passion for the discipline will often have the highest grades and be the most competitive in the marketplace.