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Is a Master’s Degree in Library Science a Poor Investment? A Counter Perspective to Forbes Magazine

In the June 2011 Forbes online edition, Jacquelyn Smith ranked a Master’s degree in Library Sciences as the one of worst Masters Degrees a student could invest in. She based the rankings on employment projection data and average mid-career pay compared to other people in similar jobs.  I can understand Smith’s conclusions: based solely on statistical data, librarianship on average does make less than engineering, mathematicians and physicists.

My issue with her analysis is that statistical data alone does not provide a complete picture of the opportunities presented by obtaining a degree in librarianship.  I disagree with the assertion that a degree in information sciences in an information age is a poor investment. So, let me provide a counter perspective to supplement the statistical analysis and create a more complete picture of the benefits for those considering the degree.

Career Opportunities Outside the Library

Smith wrongly assumes in her analysis that graduates can only work in a library. The truth is, a Master’s degree in Library and Information Sciences provides a set of skills which does not limit graduates to just libraries. The ability to navigate and manage information is not a useless skill and there are many non-librarian jobs the degree qualifies graduates for, including: information resources specialist, researcher, meta-data analyst, documentation specialist and creative project manager.  In fact, fellow contributing blogger Mia Brietkopf wrote an excellent article on 61 non-traditional jobs for LIS grads.

LIS degree holders have utilized their skills to establish successful businesses.  For example, Professor of Practice Jill Hurst-Wahl of the Information School at Syracuse University runs a consulting firm for digitization initiatives. From a personal example, I am currently working on a non-traditional librarian project; I am writing a project planning, marketing and assessment plan for Polaris Software Company’s new community cataloging software for libraries.  The above jobs do not take place in a library and are not part of the traditional librarian career path.  Therefore, such jobs are not accounted for in the above statistical data.  As with any degree, if you limit yourself to just the traditional career options, of course your job options will be limited.

Librarian Revolution = More Opportunities

The statistical data also does not account for the current revolution and innovation librarianship is undergoing, and the resulting opportunities.  The stereotype of a mean old lady with her hair tied tightly back and lost in the stacks of an austere library is being replaced with a welcoming digitally advanced and community involved organization.  To remain relevant in today’s information and digital world, librarians continue to undertake innovative projects and services needed by communities.

A key action area of the American Library Association is to “transformation of libraries and library services in a dynamic and increasingly global digital information environment”. This revolution is providing a host of exciting projects for LIS graduates.  To give an example, the Fayetteville Free library recently installed a new service, the Fab lab, making expensive commercial machines and software for creating, developing and testing innovative ideas available to the community, including a 3D model printer.

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Career Advancement

Finally, the statistical data fails to mention that the Master’s degree is a necessary investment for advancing one’s career in librarianship. An MLIS is often required when applying for professional librarian jobs, especially in regards to the more advanced positions such as director or manager.  This is why I am pursuing my Master’s degree: in looking at job postings and talking with people in the field, I quickly discovered that a lack of educational credentials would quickly eliminate me for consideration for the director or manager positions I was seeking. An MLIS is necessary to become a certified public librarian and school of media librarian in New York State. Furthermore, a Master’s degree program exposes aspiring librarians to a multitude of ideas, lectures, seminars and the opportunities to professionally network with leaders in the field, which might otherwise be inaccessible.

Yes, a master’s degree in librarianship is an investment, and like many investments, you are not guaranteed a certain salary or position upon graduation. This degree usually does not make its recipients millionaires. However, a Master’s degree in Library and Information Sciences provides a set of skills in information literacy, and great opportunities for graduates who work hard and are willing to be nontraditional and innovative.  There are opportunities and benefits to a Master’s in Library and Informational Sciences degree which the statistics do not accurately reflect.

Do you have a response or personal story to share about a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science? Please share in the comments below.

Dorotea Szkolar

I am an alumna of the iSchool MLIS program and am mainly interested in writing about technology and libraries. Contact me at or @doroteaszkolar if you would like to chat.

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  • Nicole Fonsh

    Thanks so much for this Dorotea!  And thank you to Syracuse for continuing to have the discussion about “non-traditional” roles to be had with this degree.  I am on my second job out of my program and neither have been in a traditional library.  The first was in a research services group at an investment firm and I now work in a research department in a development group at a local university.  In both roles, though, my librarian skills of reference/research and content evaluation were absolutely necessary and valued.  Knowing where and how to look for information and then to be able to evaluate that information is something my managers depend on me for and these are skills I learned while getting my MLS.  I still struggle with whether my degree was absolutely necessary, but I know that it definitely was in leading me on the path that I am now which has led me to a position that I absolutely love.  So I guess that makes it worth it!!  Seems like a good investment to me!

    • Dorotea Szkolar

       Thank you for the positive feedback Ms. Fonsh!  I am excited that the MLIS led you down a successful non-traditional career path which you love! Stories like yours are very important to share because they prove not limiting oneself to the beaten path can really pay off!  Also, that the MLIS degree is not a “poor investment”.  Thank you again for sharing!!

  • Nice article.

  • Scott FM

    Good article! I am an MLIS degree holder who does not work in a library. I am a research scientist for a large telecommunication systems operator. In my position I spend enormous amounts of time researching trends in the industry of our competitors and our vendors. I write the technology strategy for the company and most importantly I work directly in the development of standards that will govern how our systems works. This all entails a lot of information organization skills that most engineering and scientist types lack. My degree give me a huge advantage over them and is one of the reason why I am one of the leaders in the field. Whenever I read about how MLIS = library job I get a little red in the face. Not that there is anything wrong with library jobs, but they are not the only job that is open to MLIS. I was hired into this position not on the degree itself, but on the views and skills that the degree conferred upon me. 

    • teyaszkolar

       Hello Scott, thank you for reading my article and sharing your positive experience with the MLIS degree!  Sharing successful stories such as yours are very important, especially to future librarians and those considering the degree.  Many considering the degree do not realize Librarianship can blossom it too many other opportunities if you keep an open mind.

    • Jobless Entry-Level Librarian

       How did you find out that the position would be a good fit for you?

  • Frobrarian

    I am in my second semester seeking my MLIS and I am so excited to read this post! I work as a substitute for a large city public library system and have encountered several people who either feel like they’ve been discouraged from pursuing a master’s degree, or who have completed the degree and seem bitter that they weren’t made managers immediately. When I talk to them about my decision to go to school and mention the opprtunities outside the realm of the public library, they look at me like I’ve grown an extra head! I think I’ll definitely share this with them. Thank you!

    • teyaszkolar

      Thank you for the excitement and positive feedback Frobrarian!  Librarianship is awesome, but like any career track, you have to remain positive and put in the time!  I hope to one day work as a director in a library, but i understand it is important to create a skill set that is desirable for multiple jobs and companies, not just libraries!

  • NickleB

     Good!  Hope a lot of people read this and change their decision of becoming a librarian and then more job opportunities will open up and less competition. 

    • teyaszkolar

       I think you misread the point of this article Mr. NickleB

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  • I understand your defense and have often had to defend why librarians need a master’s degree. However, professional librarian jobs are highly competitive and some librarians are forced into a career path (public, academic, school media, special) simply because that was the first job they could get. The salary differences between librarians in these different fields are huge. Graduate school is expensive, and from a financial perspective, many professional librarians do not make enough money to pay back their loans and live a middle-class lifestyle on their own.

    I learned a lot in library school that I use in my work and a lot that I have never used again. I wonder if librarians would benefit from certificate programs similar to the IT industry. Earning certificates in special skills related to your career path (i.e. cataloging, reference, systems, etc.) may be a cheaper and faster route that would allow librarians to be better educated and have more mobility without as much expense.

    I am blessed that I love my current job in a non-profit library, and I liked my jobs in public libraries as well. But governments and non-profits are in the business of saving money and the thousands of librarians that work in these fields may find themselves struggling. We are lucky that we love our jobs.

    A degree in information science is very different from a degree in library science and often requires additional technical skills not taught in library school, but IS grads often make a lot more money. There is a large disparity among information professionals in a highly competitive field, and statistics like Forbes reported are true and should not be glossed over even though we may love the work that we do.

    • Dorotea Szkolar


      Thank you for your response, and I think the points you
      bring up are all valid.  It is important
      to have a healthy dose of realism and realize the other pitfalls of the
      profession outside of Forbes magazine’s analysis, which I did not communicate as well as I should have.  I’m getting an MLIS degree and had not
      realized there were such differences between the MLIS and LIS.   I apologize
      for that and maybe I can analyze the differences between the two in
      a follow up article!  Because our field
      is so competitive, I totally agree that we must find ways to make ourselves marketable
      and a major part of that is gaining technological skills.  You mentioned certificates and, in fact, I am getting
      one in digital libraries in addition to my degree.   I keep
      hearing libraries look for technical skills in the new generation of librarians. I hope
      to be in a better position with the digital skills the certificate teaches.    It is important
      to gain skills that will make one competitive in other jobs and not
      limited to libraries because at the end of the day this degree is an investment
      for getting a good job!

       I think it is an
      extremely valid point that students take on massive students loans with interest, and then it is difficult to find a job that allows them to pay off the loans and live
      a comfortable middle class life.  This is
      definitly a consideration one must take when investing in higher education. Unfortunately,
      I feel this is a problem that is not limited to our degrees.  When educational debt surpasses credit card
      debt in this country, and college graduates have trouble finding jobs to pay
      that back, I believe it is a major problem in the system and one of the long
      term survival of this county. Thank you again for sharing and bringing another perspective
      to the conversation for those considering the degree!

  • Reasonably Content Librarian

    In and of itself, the MLIS won’t get you much. Even in a better economy, the degree’s marketability depends a lot on your individual circumstances: previous work history, skill set, educational background. Personally, I’m very happy as an academic librarian, but I was fortunate to enter the field with an MA in English, foreign language proficiency, and a few years of well-rounded paraprofessional experience — during which I was more fortunate still to get a tuition waiver and release time to earn my MLIS. Not everyone is that lucky, and I actually wouldn’t recommend the MLIS to someone with a newly minted BA and little to no work experience. To be honest, librarianship isn’t a good first career, but it’s a great second, third, or fourth career because then it’s building on what you’ve already accomplished. That’s what search committees are really interested in; just having an MLIS doesn’t separate you from the 50 other MLISes applying for the same job.

    • Christine Holm

      I am 54 with a MA in English and 1 year of library experience in a small community. After about 10 years in the book/magazine publishing and writing field, I find I enjoyed my time at the library THE MOST. Do you think it’s worth it for me to pursue an MLS now? I’m willing. I’m in Minnesota, if that makes a difference. How did you enter the academic field with a MA? Thanks!

  • New Librarian Begs to Differ

    The point about other fields being valid choices is well made, certainly, but I wouldn’t hold your breath on the “library revolution” front. For every story of a library reinventing itself, there are 10 stories of libraries stagnating and branches closing down. Funding is tight, right now, and risk-taking is not something we, as a profession, do well. Librarians are also terrible at advocacy, as a general rule. There will be fewer libraries open when you graduate than there are now. 

    Also, don’t believe ALA on that surge of retirements that are coming “any day now.” Although it ignores fields other than librarianship, I would encourage you to look here:,, 

    Long story short, the MLIS is *NOT* a good investment for anyone straight out of their bachelor degree, for sure, and it’s not a particularly good bet, even for people with other experience. If you don’t have years of paraprofessional library background or some special skills not taught in library school (IT, non-humanities subject specialization, business/marketing experience, etc.), and you want to work as a librarian, you’re almost certainly going to be disappointed. 

    So, the MLIS, for most people? Not a good bet at all.

    • Jobless Entry-Level Librarian

       I totally agree.  ANYONE thinking that they are going to earn their MLIS and get a job in a library is kidding themselves.  There are just too many people all applying for the same job, and not only are times tough, but they’re changing.  At the time that I chose to enroll, there were tons of articles on what a great up-and-coming field it would be to pursue due to the Boomers retirement….what a joke.  I learned nothing, and there are NO jobs.

      • Austinoneway

        Please don’t give up. look at non traditional jobs, and be willing to move.

        • If you’re simply looking for a job to make money, avoid getting a MLIS. If you WANT to work in a library and have that passion then it’s a must. Without a masters degree, you really can’t get promoted beyond a clerk, regardless of work ethic. A Masters seems to be a minimum for reference, department heads and branch managers.

          In fact, my wife (MLIS 2006) just got a sweet promotion a few month back, mainly because the other person that would have gone for it did not have his degree. As a sidenote, my wife is currently interviewing to fill 2 positions that require an MLIS, so jobs are out there, you just REALLY have to look.

      • Did my time in Podunk

        I’m an Academic Librarian for a community college, as well as working the Circ Desk at a local public library.  You remind me of the woman who walked into the library, told me that she had an MLS and couldn’t find a job.  I said, I’m sorry to hear that.  I thought, “That’s because you don’t WANT one.”  I moved from St. Louis, MO to Podunk, Texas for my first professional position directly after graduation.  After 4.5 years of professional experience, I’m moving to San Antonio for a position that will provide a $20k increase over my current salary, putting me over that Forbes median.  There are quite a few Library jobs, public, academic, and special, on the various Library Association sites.  You have to WANT a job enough to go get it!  

        Even if you are a new graduate, still apply for those positions that have 2 years of professional experience required.

        • Jbm

          People like you are snobs. There are to many people getting this degree and willing to move anywhere to get that first job. They still don’t get them.

          • TeenageVoice

            Those people aren’t doing their best.

        • Anonymous

          Good for you, Podunk. But clearly you know zero about empathy. Not everyone can move just anywhere. It has nothing to do with wanting or not wanting it, it has to do with family, responsibilities, etc. For many people making their career their first priority would be selfish and highly damaging to many other aspects of their lives. Grow up!

          • Ididsaythat

            Rude much?

        • TeenageVoice

          Despite what others are saying about your post, I find your post to be a good motivation. I read what others are saying about how libraries are closing down. I think that that is more of a reason for us youth to get into action. Most people don’t see it, but the library system is very significant –especially for those who don’t have access to computers, books, and other resources at home. Thank you for posting an inspiring comment.

  • AxelDC

    An MLIS can be a highly valuable degree if you pursue the more cutting edge advances.  Web design, KM, Competitive Intelligence, Information Retrieval, database design, metadata, electronic records management, etc. are all highly valued in the business world.  I took SharePoint courses and was shocked at how many LIS concepts were used in its design, and SharePoint and its clones are extremely important to businesses, government and institutions today.

    If you want to work in a school library in today’s climate, I wish you the best of luck.  If you want to make money, think outside the box and realize that librarians are more valuable outside libraries.

    • An Information Science degree is very valuable and is becoming more so in today’s information economy. It opens up job opportunities that may require skills in library science, but the IS field is highly technical and most LS degrees do not offer that sort of training.  Graduates with LS degrees vs. IS degrees go into vastly different job markets even though the fields may be very closely related conceptually. 

      The bottom line is that traditional librarians (of which most of us are) suffer from antiquated gender pay (primarily a female profession a la teaching). Even though the field is changing and more cutting edge career paths are becoming available, we are a long ways from redefining the entire field of librarianship and the historically meager pay associated with it. Ask any public librarian.

  • Danandannette

    The ALA has been posting misinformation regarding potential jobs for librarians for years.  Here’s what I learned in library school. Evaluate the source. Are they trying to sell you something. In this case it is a library school posting which has been cross posted on ALA Direct. Both sources have financial stake in the numbers of students attending library school. By itself, this does not make it false. It should certainly raise those skeptical little hairs on the back of a librarian’s neck. Forbes may be right in this case.  You could certainly get better value elsewhere. Librarianship is a form of financial suicide. It can be used for other fields as the article states, but why take the other nine courses and spend tens of thousands of dollars gaining knowledge you will never use.  At best a fifty percent chance of gainful employment.

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  • ChrisB

    My career of almost 40 years is just about at its end. When I applied for MLS graduate school, there were 300 applicants for 50 positions – the school winowed its applicants and was looking for people with skills. I had worked in libraries and bookstores, had a science background and a number of languages. Jobs were there, BUT not always in ideal places. I moved to take a job. I made more money as a student than at my first position. It wasn’t a cake-walk.
    Getting an education is a gamble – there are no promises of fame and fortune. Find a career doing what YOU want to do. Be Happy.

    • hobo

      Like get an MLS and be happy living under a viaduct.

  • Virginiafoulkes

    Frankly, if I’d had the ability to become an engineer, mathematician, or physicist, my story might be different. But it’s really not all that expensive to become a librarian, and the work’s fun and full of variety.

  • @wnylibrarian

     Excellent post, and I feel insulted by Forbes. I am a librarian. That means I’m an information manager. I also don’t work in a library. The Forbes article is shortsighted, ambiguous, and presumes too much. Librarianship, like any career, is upon the individual. Librarians that might be discouraged would also be so if they were a fireman or dog catcher. A career is what you invest in and what you make out of it. If there are no windows take a sledgehammer and make one. Careers identify us. A person passionate about their career and continuing improving in it will go far. No career owes any one person anything. Ask not what your career will do for you, ask what you can do for your career and you’ll go far. This notion of librarianship or any other career being a poor investment is eyewash.

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  • Nicole Engard

    Let me start by saying that I love my career! I love being a librarian, I love learning and sharing information. I love the organization of information and all that that means.  I however do think that my MLIS was a unnecessary investment.  I liked library school well enough and certainly did learn things, but nothing I learned in school prepared me for my job as a librarian or information professional.  All that I learned about being a librarian and research and cataloging and technology I learned on the job.  I think that the fact that some librarians feel that only those with an MLIS should be called ‘librarian’ is silly. 

    As with most organized education, the work you do in library school will give you a nice background, but will not prepare you for what’s ahead. So if you like the idea of getting that MLIS I say go for it, but try and get some practical experience in there as well because it’s that experience that will be invaluable.

  • Abghak

    I am a MLISc degree holder, both working in Library environment as well as blogging regularly. I almost earn equal amount from both the job.

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  • coffeeandinternets

    I have three words: user experience architecture

    I get paid to organize the internet. I love what I do and earn a competitive NYC salary. I never would pursued this field had I not gone to library school.

  • Guest

    There’s tremendous opportunity for librarians. Using your advancing information seeking skills, understanding both tactical and strategic trends, it is then just a matter of timing…persistence… and PMA (positive mental attitude) with regard to landing that job. Serendipity is browsing the stacks. Books, by the way, will remind people of what they have lost. Technology, when used effectively, will advance new ways of discovery, learning and understanding. Fear not. Once people stop staring at their hand, they’ll actually want to know something (think leveraging subject matter expertise (SME)). Today’s tablets are tomorow’s e-waste, melted down for rare-earths. Do we have bonfires of books (again)? Not yet. Ray Bradbury, we miss you. Point is, libraries and books are not pejorative terms/concepts. Cutting edge digital skill sets-  sure, value systems in information services-  4-evah. Librarians will be around for a very long time to come. Less is more. Cheer up. The Forbes piece, with all do respect, is a bit naive. (…from a senior federal librarian)

  • Sparkle123

    I find, once again, that if there were great jobs articles like this to justify the degree would not be needed. Also I find, once again, literal strung together worlds that mean absolutely nothing or have so many meanings one can hardly pin them down. For example…”global digitization informational environment” you mean like google? Any one from any country can use it. As to your personal project, that takes probably a computer science undergraduate degree. To mean if you want to be a CEO get an MBA rather than a library degree so you can be a director. You’ll earn more. I believe your article is written to get you noticed and is not well thought out or well written. So good luck with that. Your computer skills will get you more where you want to go than this degree.

    • Scott

      An MLS degree is required for most higher up jobs in a library. One cannot just go get an MBA and become a director. Please, don’t offer advice on a topic when you have no idea what you’re talking about.

  • Spencer

    Hello! 🙂

    I am currently working at a library in the IT department. A few weeks ago, I was told that there are available funds for me to start with my MLS degree. Now, I am excited because I have been out of school for like two years. I would like to complete my MLS before I turn 30 because I plan on having children and I do not want to battle obtaining a degree and a crying baby.

    I came across this article and now I am basically reconsidering going for my MLS. I really enjoy working in the library because everyone who I work with is great. I love my job (I have a background in IT) and I can see myself working in the IT department for a long time.
    >>>Can this MLS advance me in my career outside the library in the IT sector?

    What do you think? I want to focus on IT and that is my strong suit. Everyone is telling me if I want to branch out in the private sector that I should go for my certs. If I want to remain in the public section…go for my Masters.

    Please advise.

  • Lilly

    Thanks so much Dorotea for articulating the definition of LIS degree. Like any other field/job it completely depends on the individual’s background, experience, aspiration, motivation….. for a cliche success example, mix and match it with computer science and BAM you could be in demand for any high tech company and also have a good income.

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  • Christie

    Is it also true that many librarians are of baby-boomer age, and therefore many job openings are projected?

    • I’ve heard that theory, but I’ve never seen any hard numbers or evidence to back it up.

    • Roxy Edenic

      This is what library schools like to claim so they can get your money. There is no shortage.

    • Goody Weaver

      I know this is an older post, but just wanted to point out that librarianship is a field where workers are more likely to reach retirement age and opt to continue working – often because the work meshes well with personal interests. So while there are a lot of openings projected, they are probably not going to pan out the way it’s being presented…

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  • Amin khan

    I AM going to take admission in an distance learning library sciences programe …i have no idea about libraries ….can i do it without any practical knowledge about libraries ? Plz help me ,and give me some good advice .

  • GOAT

    The minute you look at college as an “investment” you lose. Further, it is hard to establish when, but when society in general started doing that it created a downward trend for the common college graduate in real earnings. Colleges and universities are not the minor leagues for the business world. A true education is something that cannot be quantified as an asset like a home, equity stock, mutual fund or insurance policy.

    • I can definitely see your point. However, if students are going to take on thousands of dollars in student loans and dedicate two years to an intense program, the end goal and future employment to pay off those loans must be a consideration! I mean academic debt has surpassed credit card debt in the United States

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  • Athira Izlan

    Do you need to have a Diploma that is relevant if you want to pursue a Degree in Library Science?

    • There is not required diploma or major for the MLIS program. It just needs to be a bachelors degree from an accredited university. However, getting your undergrad in a topic related to the type of library you want to work in can be helpful. So for example, if you want to work in school libraries, an undergraduate degree in education would be helpful. But again, it is not necessary. 🙂

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  • SarahFW

    Getting a master’s degree in library science is practically worthless if you want to be a librarian and you aren’t already working in a library. They only hire librarians with degrees AND experience. And that is for the upper level positions like director. For library assistants or entry-level librarians, they are hiring para-professionals that they can pay less or qualified librarians who are desperate enough to take practically no pay/part time hours.

    • Guest

      I went to graduate school for library science and graduated with a 4.0. I also worked in one of my university’s libraries where I my final performance rating was a perfect score. Three years and hundreds of resumes later, I am working two part-time jobs: One in retail and one in a library shelving books… and the retail position pays better. Library science is an over-saturated field: There are often over 100 qualified applicants for each position posted and frequently those without an MLS are promoted over those with one. In hindsight my library science degree was one of the worst mistakes I’ve ever made. Hopefully everyone here will have better luck than I did, but don’t be surprised if things don’t turn out according to plan.

      • blindsey82

        Did you look for a job all across the country? Did you look outside of traditional libraries like corporations or hospitals. There are librarians in every field. They may not be called librarians but if you’re able to do research you can get hired.

        • octopussoup

          I did. There are too many degree holders and not enough jobs. If you are independently wealthy you could find a part time job.

      • Wendy Darling

        ” frequently those without an MLS are promoted over those with one”

        So maybe leave it off the resume?

        • Mildred

          So why get the MLS, dearie? That’s what someone I know is doing, leaving off the MLS she worked so hard to get.

    • Sean N.

      Truth. My univeristy and professors flat out lied to me about the career opportunities and my field is even WORSE – archives. “Oh, yeah, there’s jobs, you might have to move out of state, but they’re there!” – WRONG. There are NO jobs – archivists typically DIE occupying a position because there is so little opportunity to move up and make more money. The majority of jobs are based on 1-5 year grants and offer less than full time wage compensation. You’re supposed to have the degree in hand to get the job, but they want you to have a bunch of experience – catch 22! And to make matters worse, many states have these positions locked behind exam and preferential list (read as: nepotism) walls. It’s beyond bullshit.

      • yourmom

        I am supposed to start my MLIS in Archival Studies in the fall, but I’m having SERIOUS doubts about that now. I can’t even get a part-time job at a local library, so I seriously doubt that even with my Master’s I will be able to get a job when I graduate. Bogus.

      • octopussoup

        you have to donate your time or work multiple part time jobs ,to get the experience, and even that wont guarantee anything. If you have a family you cant get into it. I have a mlis and gave up and joined a different field.

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  • Andrew

    Why do I see so many job openings in trade pubs like Chronicle of Higher Education?

  • Blindsey82

    I don’t know where you guys are looking for jobs but the library system I’m in just recently had 3 openings for entry level librarians. If you are not flexible or not willing to relocate to where there are jobs then of course you’re gonna think that the degree is useless. That’s why before deciding to pursue the degree you should ask yourself A are you willing to go anywhere even if its on the other side of the country or B do you think you stand a chance against people who have been in the field for a while and have experience whether its through working or volunteering.

    • fiftyrfour

      Where are you located?

    • pigbitinmad

      Be willing to relocate for a a crap job like librarianship? It’s not like it’s Hollywood and at least glamorous and fun. I only got this stupid degree because I thought it would be slightly better than being a greeter at Walmart. Now I am beginning to think the greeter job is better.

      It’s like saying, be willing to relocate for a job cleaning toilets. In fact, as a librarian, you are likely to be cleaning toilets.

      Thank god I did not spend a lot of money on my degree. More like a car payment than a house payment. The real reason there are no jobs is that the repugs have decimated public services in addition to outsourcing all of our jobs. They claim there is no money. Meanwhile trillions are hidden in offshore tax haven accounts. It’s our money and we should demand it back.

  • Mike Rushing

    I’ve yet to see a job, outside of a library itself, with a need of such a degree. I’ve seen many requiring accounting, law, etc………….That is I’ve seen many from every direction needing such a degree. I haven’t even seen a job requiring experience of a librarian degree. Accounting, Law, Medical……………?

    • Winkingkodakwhore

      Are you referring to academic and public libraries or libraries in general?

  • Name

    I was happy to read an article in favor of a MLIS degree, as I am presently readying myself to submit my application to the MLIS program at Kent State. I currently work in a library as a part-time Children’s Services Assistant Librarian, and I love my job, but I’ve been out school for 12 years now, so it is a bit terrifying! I’m in a unique position, however, in that over the next 5 years, nearly half of the full-time librarians at my library will be retiring. Without my MLIS, I could possibly obtain one of the full-time (and MUCH better paid) positions, but it’s possible I would lose to an outside candidate with a MLIS if I don’t pursue mine now. I realize that my situtation is not the norm, but when I started researching the so-called “value” of a MLIS, I was immensely discouraged to see that so many people find it to be a useless graduate degree. (Nevermind my B.A. in Advertising…which really IS useless, lol). Thank you for an alternate, and encouraging, viewpoint!

    • Sheila

      Where is your library located. I am willing to relocate.

      • christie

        Look into city of Fort Myers, Florida….they have at least two openings…good luck

  • raghava

    how it is good oppertunity

  • PN

    that is discouraging coz most people are training on thesame,am planning to join my degree so what is your advice

  • Jay

    I have an MLIS and I am a higher education officer at age 31, before that I worked as a federal specialist for the govt, and prior to that a public librarian. There’s a tons of opportunities if you know where to look. In most cases if you have the right experience with a Masters Degree from a good school, chances of getting a great job are higher.

  • Peach Kay

    I know it’s an old article, but just wanted to weigh in. There are arguments for both sides. I’ve seen several job postings that required an MLS degree. However, I have 15+ years experience in metadata management, cataloging, controlled vocabularies and many library-related areas. What’s frustrating is some employers won’t even give my resume a second look because I *don’t* have that MLS. I have a bachelor’s degree. (Regardless of my years of experience.) So, for that reason alone, I would say spend the money.

    • Teaching and Learning

      Good point. The issue with libraries is they value the MLIS degree over everything else. Most people, even those that have graduate from library school, will admit that the degree itself is rather pointless other than being a union card.. If a librarian truly believes their degree is more valuable than your experience you really can’t argue with them. The MLIS degree is a religious experience to some, it is not a real Masters degree as much as it is post-graduate certificate, but they will argue the perceived value all day long.

      Let’s be honest. We all know it is a pointless degree that will eventually go away. There people are just trying to protect their livelihoods.

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  • BKM

    You need to be flexible. I have an MLIS degree and concentrated in medical librarianship to match my previous experience in the medical field. After graduating and realizing finding a job in the field was going to be difficult I highlighted the skills I learned in school (research, database skills, etc) with my current skills working as a data analyst at a major hospital. I have been very happy with the skills I learned while gaining my MLIS. You just have to be creative during your job hunt and willing to look outside of the library field. I have found my employer is happy with the “masters” title.

  • shasta316

    I have had the MLIS for six years now. I graduated Beta Phi Mu. I have 5 years experience as a library paraprofessional. I have not been able to get a librarian position.

    I would recommend to anyone considering an MLIS not to unless they already have a connection that will give them a job. The SLIS codeword for this is “networking”. What it means is that you need to know someone.

    The library schools and ALA recruit heavily to generate money for themselves. The truth is that the profession is way too overloaded already. Even if you are able to get a professional librarian position, most jobs do not pay well enough to justify the cost of the degree.

  • Rachel Noel

    4 years out and I still don’t have a library job. I’m under-employed to the point I can’t afford classes or workshops to keep my skills. All I have to show for my degree? Over $100,000 in student loan debt.

    • Mark

      Are u just a librarian or a teacher librarian? Are u a certified school librarian? Pretty sure u could get a job in a school district.

      • nogoodnews

        I’ve been teaching nearly 10 years and getting a job as a librarian in a school district is next to impossible – why? The librarians stay there for their career. Why? Because getting a librarian job is next to impossible.

        You may have 150 schools in a district … and each school needs a librarian. That’s it – ONE librarian per school. Now, compare that to my degree in Science. You need perhaps 3 or more (way more if it’s a high school) science teachers PER school.
        Sorry, but NO school librarian is going to leave their job unless he / she is moving or totally decided to change fields – so no luck there I’m afraid. And again, as stated by others in earlier posts… it’s WHO YOU KNOW. So that school library job DOES become open and guess what? They will fill it with someone they already know WANTS the job and is already working for the district…. So back to square one for you.
        When our librarian retired his position was IMMEDIATELY replaced with a teacher (not an MLS person) who wanted the job. That’s the real world.

        • Mark

          Well, library media is a pretty good gig. Lol

    • jai


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  • I think it is very clear from reading the comments that many people who went to library school missed the point of becoming a librarian. Librarianship and its study includes philosophical discourse in ethics and a commitment to fight censorship, promote intellectual freedom, protect privacy, and provide access to information for every person regardless of economic limitations or social bias. I do not think our IT workers spend 90% of their time in school discussing these issues and engaging in dialogue about how they can best serve their communities – IT workers do not have social or ethical obligations, librarians do. I spent a lot of money going to library school and if I looked at its value in terms of potential financial gain I would likely be as bitter as some of you. However, the value of library school for me was in its commitment to a better society. It saddens me greatly that even librarians don’t see this value and it is exactly why people without LS degrees are being moved into librarian positions. No one recognizes our education as valuable, even many of us. I suppose, for those of us who truly understand what it means to be a librarian, we best raise our voices before we allow this ignorance to overcome our communities and we – and eventually our libraries – disappear.

    • OrehRatiug

      And to those who can’t become librarians even after all of the work? Most people here aren’t complaining about pay, instead they are complaining about not even receiving the chance to do what they set out to do. You’re ignoring something bigger with your faux-philosophy.

    • The Banana

      In the UK at least IT courses are required to include an ethical component as part of an undergraduate degree, so, no. Also, engineers in general have ethical and social obligations – as all professionals do.

  • mildred

    This is great to do to put on your resume. But the reality is there are too many MLS programs and too few jobs. Add to that the politics of being hired and the favoritism toward males and getting a professional job is a crap shoot. This is one of the worst degrees to get. They could go without graduating a new librarian for 5 to 10 years because so many are stuck in low paying paraprofessional jobs or in other work. This is a worthless piece of paper with a debt that is not worth it.

  • Organgrinder

    I got my MLS when I was 46. I was lucky in that I got a job in the system I had been working in for 16 years. Moving somewhere else for a position was impossible. Since I’ve been a librarian I’ve seen budget cuts and staff stretched to cover vacant positions that would never be filled. Now I am dealing with burnout. I would encourage anyone who is going to library school to forget about a traditional position. It was my desire to be a cataloger but that has all but gone away in my system. I don’t envy the noobies coming in. Many of them will have to eventually find something else to do.

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  • nogoodnews

    Beautifully put!!! I was thinking the same thing… why not get a degree OUTSIDE the MLIS degree….I almost got an MLIS degree and then two things hit me (this was like 15 years ago…) 1. There are NOT many well paying library jobs – and as such people stay in them until the day they retire. 2. Library is dying as we know it (and this btw was back in the 90’s when I considered this and the internet was revolutionizing itself…) – so if I saw that BACK THEN … I can only imagine today what it must be like. I would get a more broad based degree another field and VOLUNTEER at your community library to make social changes in the world – yadee yada and get in touch with your inner core self. But that’s just me.

    • Fred

      The problem I have is that there are no volunteer opportunities at the library in my city and you can only work at the libraries if you have a degree or diploma in library studies

  • nogoodnews

    Don’t forget to include the cost of moving debt … AND the added income you will need to support yourself when you can’t find a library job for people in the 50+ older bracket – age discrimination ya know. And then, the LOWER pay you may have to work at because you need a job ANYWHERE – good luck with that.

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  • Straight

    80% of MLIS degree holders are women … yet of these same 80% only 20% hold management positions.

    Just another “reason” why woman only make 77 cents on the dollar as compared to men.

  • Crispien Van Aelst

    In Chicago right now there are nearly 20 academic library positions open. Northwestern has 5 openings, Roosevelt 3, Northeastern 1, UIC 2, U of C 3, and Benidictine 1. Though some require a subject MA as well as a MLIS. I have a master’s in history and am working on my MLIS with a focus in archives and i have already been offered positions. BTW History Makers is also looking for an Archivist here too.

  • unsunghiro

    I work full-time as a DAM practitioner (essentially a digital librarian without the degree) and I am considering an MSLIS (as opposed to an MLS).

    From what I see, it is hard to find traditional librarian positions, but if you have experience with digital assets, content management, metadata, and/or data analytics, you will be able to find a non-traditional librarian position in the private sector.

    There may not be many jobs in libraries, but there is still a great NEED in both public and private sectors for knowledge organization, enterprise content management, and records management. Yes, you can get this experience in iSchools or trade schools, but they won’t teach the long-range thinking and leadership skills that is rooted in the librarian profession.

    Even though I have marketable job skills, I see a ceiling because I basically do the grunt work (albeit digital / tech oriented). I miss being a student and having the time to learn theory and look at the bigger picture. I want an education that positions me to be a leader in an organization. I’ve looked at MBA’s and IT degrees, and I still think an MSLIS is closest to what I’m trying to accomplish.

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  • Winkingkodakwhore

    The more I read about job prospect in the fields that I have an actually interest in and aptitude for the more I curse the day I was born an introvert with dyscalculia… *sigh*

    • Veronica Stork

      You can work in a library without the degree. Save yourself the expense. In many areas, you can be the director without a degree, even. I don’t regret working in libraries. I regret getting an expensive degree I can’t use.

  • octopussoup

    Even if you work in library its hard to find work with this degree. There are way too many people with them and not enough jobs.

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  • pigbitinmad

    If I knew then what I know now, I would say do not bother. I was 46 when I finished my degree and I am considered too old. I always check to see who got the job I applied for and it is ALWAYS someone under the age of 30.

  • Sandra

    Did any of you look for work in government service or military service?

  • SDK

    I worked for 8 years as an academic reference librarian. It was a fantastic job — I had a lot of autonomy, great colleagues, an intellectual environment. It was like being a faculty member, except I had to work summers (but I *didn’t* have to get a Ph.D.). However, when it came time to start a family and buy a house and all of that, there was absolutely no way those things were possible in the high-cost city where I had taken my first library job.

    The reality is that a library degree usually gets you a job as a librarian, which is what most people are seeking. And a job as a librarian is enough to support one person. Together with one other person making a similar salary, you can probably live a middle middle class life in a reasonably priced city. But if you want to have a child or live in an exciting high-cost city, you’d better find some rich parents or a rich partner to fill that salary gap.

    Like social work, librarianship is a profession for middle class and upper middle class women who will either inherit money or marry a software engineer (or both). And until that changes, it will continue to attract exactly the same demographic it currently has.

    This is too bad because being a librarian is a GREAT job. I loved it. But I can’t possibly recommend taking out 100K in loans to someone who sees their education as an investment that is expected to pay dividends in cash (as opposed to satisfaction).

    That said, if you happened to have made the same mistake I did, all is not lost. I currently work for an online publisher making a very respectable salary even in a high cost city. I do not in any way regret my time as a reference librarian. The opposite — I only wish there was some financial way for me to return to librarianship.

    However, if like me, you don’t have rich parents and you don’t plan to marry a man making 2-3 times your salary, I would hedge your bets. Go to library school but gain as much experience as possible in other kinds of information work while you’re there.

    • Katie

      SDK – what a candid, organized, and thoughtful response – as a true librarian would! The more that people like you can share from their experiences, the easier it will be future library students to make the best decisions regarding their future. We’d also add that no future library student should be looking into programs without also researching scholarships. Here on InfoSpace, there’s an old post that’s a good place to start: Thank you for commenting!

      • Daniel

        Many of the comments and discussions on this thread are incredibly worrying. I’m about to start my first semester in an MLS program with a focus on archives and cultural preservation. I realize competition in public libraries is stiff, but I also see many opportunities for librarians, library information specialists, archivists, or historians for people with an MLS at federal institutions posted on USA Jobs. Has anyone had difficulty obtaining such positions? Has anyone looked?

        • Katie

          Daniel – I’m sorry that you’re feeling anxious about starting your MLS program. Some library programs emphasize career networking and placement more than others, but every MLS program has career resources. I can’t speak from personal experience about what it’s like to apply for library jobs (hopefully others can chime in with their experience). I can tell you that I graduated with a degree that has an extremely high placement rate, but I didn’t get a full-time position for over a year – but it was because I didn’t want to relocate. I don’t blame my degree for that.

          But if there’s anything I can recommend as you start your program, it’s to make fast friends with the career center staff and faculty at your MLS program, and attend any career event that’s available to you. They will be the key to getting you a position once you graduate. And librarians might be the most helpful people out there — don’t be afraid to make the most of your time with them!