2023 Best Online Masters in Library Science Programs [MLS Degree]

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If you love books, information, and data, then you might be interested in earning a masters in library science.

Best Online Masters in Library Science Programs

This degree program is an essential component of preparation for anyone who wants to be a librarian. It can also be useful for a variety of jobs in record-keeping, data, and technology.

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To take the next step in your career, you can look into earning your master in library science online. You may graduate equipped to organize library materials and connect people to the information they need.

Online Masters in Library Science Programs

Woman taking Online Masters Degree in Library Science

Librarians know how to access a wealth of information. They can put you in touch with the resources you need for answering questions, sparking imagination, or satisfying curiosity. If you want to be a professional who can do the same for others, then it might be time to earn your master’s degree in library science.

A Master of Library Science is sometimes called an MLS degree. A similar degree is the Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS). Colleges offer these programs to train students for careers in libraries and other information settings. To get into a master’s degree program in library science, it’s necessary to have a bachelor’s degree.

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There’s not usually a particular undergrad program required for admission. A bachelor’s degree in library science is one option, but other fields to consider include information science, communications, and English.

The curriculum in a library and information science program might cover:

  • Archival processes
  • Cataloging
  • Computer and web programming
  • Digital resources
  • History
  • Information searches
  • Information technology
  • Library marketing
  • Library programming

Concentrations can shape your curriculum and help you prepare for a particular type of librarianship. Specializations related to working in a public library might include adult services and youth services.

The college might also have specializations like:

  • Academic librarianship
  • Law librarianship
  • Learning technology

Some programs offer licensed teachers the chance to become school librarians. This degree program usually takes 1 to 3 years to complete. The full length of the program depends on how many credits are required, the course format, and whether you enroll full-time or part-time.

Some schools offer 4+1 programs that allow you to earn both a bachelors degree and a masters degree in 5 years. MLS degrees online provide a convenient way to prepare for a library career. Studying online offers flexibility and the freedom to structure your schooling around your own schedule.

At the end of this program, you may qualify to pursue librarianship licensure if that’s something offered by your state. In other places, you can immediately begin applying for librarian positions in public, academic, or specialty libraries. You could also look for work as a curator or a data analyst.

Common Online Master of Library and Information Science Concentrations

School Librarian helping a college student

Since many types of organizations have information that they need to catalog and retrieve, library science is useful for a number of different fields. If you have a particular type of library career in mind, you can pursue a concentration that will prepare you for that line of work.

Here are some common concentration options:

  • Academic Librarianship. Academic librarians often work in a university library to provide materials and information for students and faculty members.
  • Archival Skills. If you’re interested in history and artifacts, then you might want to study how to preserve and arrange archival items.
  • Digital Collections. This modern concentration addresses the unique tasks involved in curating, maintaining, and organizing collections of digital material.
  • Law Librarianship. In a law-focused concentration, you’d learn to collect and organize legal information, which could help prepare you for jobs in public and private law libraries.
  • School Librarianship. This program can provide the certification needed for working as a librarian in K-12 educational settings, but a valid teaching license may be required.

Colleges also offer generalist degrees that can be useful in many different positions and settings.

Library Science Careers & Salaries

Library Science Careers & Salaries

Librarians have diverse job opportunities. Public libraries may be the setting that springs to mind first, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg.

Academic libraries are another major employer. There are also law, music, medical, business, and government libraries. K-12 schools usually have libraries too. With a master’s degree in this field, professionals are likely to work as a librarian, library media specialists, or library directors. Of course, you’d probably also qualify for more entry-level positions, such as being a library assistant or technician.

Today’s library and information science students learn a wealth of relevant skills related to technology, data, and information management. That makes this an in-demand degree program for a variety of industries, not just ones with “library” in the name.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in education, training, and library fields pay a median of $57,220 per year.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Computer and Information Systems Managers $159,010
Database Administrators $96,710
Postsecondary Library Science Teachers $77,100
Web Developers $77,030
Instructional Coordinators $63,740
Librarians and Library Media Specialists $61,190
Curators $60,110
Archivists $60,050
Library Technicians $36,970
Clerical Library Assistants $29,450

The skills learned in a librarianship master’s program are relevant outside of libraries as well. Being a curator could be a closely related role.

Curators might gather and take care of old or historical items. Curating books and paperwork would be closely related to a librarian’s background, but librarianship skills could be helpful in curating other types of collections as well. Another similar job would be to work as an archivist. In that role, you might be more involved in cataloging, organizing, and preserving collections of old or important materials.

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Information science is a key area of study for people who want to become librarians. That knowledge could lead to work in a variety of non-library positions. Examples include being a database administrator, a web developer, a data analyst, or even a chief information officer.

People with advanced library science knowledge might also teach at the college level. Academic librarians are sometimes professors as well.

Library and Information Science Masters Curriculum

People pursuing Masters in Library Science

As a student in an online master’s program for library and information science, you might be required to complete between 36 and 48 credit hours’ worth of classes. Here are some course examples:

  • Appraisal of Archival Materials: You may investigate how to identify older materials and determine their value.
  • Digital Collections: You’ll study what’s involved in maintaining digital resource collections and sharing them with the public.
  • Ethics for Information Professionals: A course on ethics might encourage you to think through issues related to intellectual property ownership, book banning, intellectual freedom, censorship, privacy, and more.
  • Information Tools: During this class, you’ll become more familiar with methods of storing, organizing, and visualizing data and information.
  • Library History: There might be a class that covers the historical development of books, libraries, and related institutions.
  • Library Management: You can gain skills for working as a leader in a library setting and keeping the organization running smoothly.
  • Library Marketing: You can learn how to conduct promotions, public relations, and social media campaigns that address your audience’s needs and connect people to your library.
  • Local History: This course will teach you to use historical resources to learn about the families and communities of your area.
  • Programming and Web Development: As you prepare for a career in information, you might learn digital skills, such as programming applications and developing user-friendly websites.
  • Youth Services Librarianship: You’ll learn about building collections and providing programming for children and young adults in public library settings.

Since many programs offer degree specializations, you can expect your choice of concentration to influence your curriculum.

How to Choose an Online Master of Library Science Program

colleagues taking library science masters degree programs online

Many colleges offer library science master’s programs. To find the one that’s right for you, you can consider what benefits and features you’d like your school to have. The list below can help you start thinking through the options:

  • Accreditation. For the most widely accepted degree, you can choose a college that holds both regional accreditation and programmatic accreditation from the American Library Association.
  • Admission requirements. Select programs may require a particular background or experience, such as school librarianship programs that call for a teaching license.
  • Credit requirements. In a longer program, you can learn more, but you may complete a program with lower credit requirements more quickly.
  • Online experience. While many colleges hold asynchronous classes, some may require you to log in at set times.
  • Specializations. If you want to study a particular area of librarianship, you could search for a program that offers a relevant track.

Exploring several different schools and comparing their pros and cons may help you identify which features are most important to you.

MLIS Program Admissions Requirements

Man preparing requirements for MLIS Program Requirements

To get into a competitive library science program, whether on campus or online, you can submit a strong application that showcases your abilities. Common admission requirements include:

  • College transcripts that show completion of an accredited bachelor’s degree
  • GRE or GMAT score (not required at many MLIS schools)
  • Reference letters
  • Resume, preferably with relevant work experience
  • Written statement about interest in the program and professional goals

Students planning to study school librarianship may also need to supply proof of an active teaching license.

Library Science Masters Programs Accreditation

University offering Masters Degree in Library Science

Since getting a reputable master’s degree is so important to success in this field, you may want to make sure you attend a regionally accredited college. Regionally accredited schools have been verified as institutions that educate students well.

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Accredited classes often transfer from school to school, and they may help you get into additional degree programs in the future. Also, if your state issues librarian licensure, an accredited college degree might be one of the requirements.

ALA Accreditation for Master’s in Library Science Programs

Regional accreditation shows a school’s overall quality throughout all its departments. Programmatic accreditation demonstrates that a school meets industry standards in a certain field.

The American Library Association (ALA) issues programmatic accreditation for library degrees. Going to an ALA-accredited college ensures that you’re going to receive a well-respected education in this field. It could boost your resume since some employers only consider candidates with ALA-approved master’s degrees. Also, in some states, accredited studies are a licensure requirement.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

MLIS Financial Aid

Financial support from the government, your school, private organizations, or your employer may help you pay for school, if you qualify. To find out about your qualifications for government aid, whether state or federal, you can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Your benefits might include grants or loans.

Colleges and other organizations award scholarships to students who demonstrate the potential for excellence or meet other qualifications. Scholarships may be one-time awards or renewable for each year of your program. Also, some workplaces will give money toward their employees’ educational pursuits.

What Is a Masters in Library Science?

masters of library science

A masters in library science is a graduate degree program for people who want to become librarians or experts in information science. Earning this degree from an accredited university fulfills the requirements for working as a librarian, even in states or jurisdictions with strict guidelines for librarianship.

Library science studies are often paired with studies in information science. The joint focus prepares students to take jobs in libraries or a variety of other settings that depend on information, data, and technology. While PhDs in library science are available, the master’s degree is considered the terminal degree in this field.

What Can You Do with a Masters in Library and Information Science?

Computer & information Systems Manager discussing with his team

With an online master degree in library science, graduates may work as librarians or library media specialists. In addition to public library jobs, there are roles in academic, law, business, private, school, and medical libraries. Public librarians may focus on services for adult or youth patrons or oversee digital collections.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are also user services librarians who help patrons find information. Other roles for library science graduates include archivist, curator, or library science professor. Also, training in information science could be useful for a job in database management or data analysis.

Do You Need a Masters to Work in a Library?

do you need a masters to work at a library

You probably don’t need a master’s degree to work in a library, but you might need a master’s degree to be considered a librarian. Entry-level library roles include being a page, a circulation assistant, or a library associate. Those jobs might not require any formal training.

On the other hand, many library systems only hire people with a master in library and information science for their librarian positions. The regulations vary by state or municipality, but both public and academic libraries often have this rule. A master’s degree can be especially important for those hoping to become library directors.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Masters Degree in Library Science Online?

student taking library science master's degree online

It may be possible to finish a 36-credit hour master’s degree that doesn’t require a thesis in 1 year of full-time, year-round enrollment.

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Many programs require more credits than that, though, so it’s common for full-time online MLIS programs to take up to 2 years. Part-time studies could last around 3 years. Previous grad school experience might count toward this degree program. If so, you might be able to graduate more quickly.

What’s the Difference Between an Online Master’s Degree in Library Science vs. Information Science?

Library science and information science are two closely related fields.

Masters in Library Science Masters in Information Science
  • Focus: Gathering and storing information in various forms
  • Potential class topics: Digital library collections, marketing principles for libraries
  • Common job settings: public libraries, academic libraries
  • Focus: Sharing information in various forms with people
  • Potential classes: Big data mining, information search methods
  • Common job settings: healthcare organizations, corporations

Because these two fields are so intertwined, most librarianship schools offer Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degrees. MLIS programs may be Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Science (MS) degrees.

Is an MLIS Degree Worth It?

masters in librarian

Yes, a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree is worth it for many students. For people who love books and information—and want to help put those things into other people’s hands—a job in a library could be fitting. To qualify for many library positions, it’s necessary to earn this degree.

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The Bureau for Labor Statistics projects that librarian and library media specialist positions will grow at a 6% rate over the next ten years, which is in line with the national average. Plus, studying library and information science could help make you a candidate for other in-demand roles related to information and data analytics.

Universities Offering Online Masters in Library Science Degree Programs

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.

Appalachian State University

Appalachian State University

Appalachian State University offers a Master of Library Science. Potential classes include Collection Development and Management, Collaborative Media Program Planning and Evaluation, and Information Sources and Services. This program utilizes a part-time schedule and an online learning model. The program’s 36 required credit hours can typically be completed in 2 years.

Appalachian State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Drexel University

Drexel University

Drexel University offers an MS in Information—Library and Information Science. Many graduates pursue roles as librarians, library technicians, archivists, database administrators, and information systems managers. The curriculum consists of 45 credits. Coursework can be completed fully online. Full-time students can typically finish it in 1.5 years, whereas full-time students can typically finish in 2.5 years.

Drexel University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Indiana University

Indiana University

Indiana University offers a 100% online program for a Master of Library and Information Science. It offers a variety of concentrations, including Digital Curation, Public Librarianship, Archives Management, Academic Librarianship, and Facilitated Learning.

A minimum of 39 credits must be completed to graduate. Classes cover topics like cataloguing, database management, acquisitions, preservation, and best practices for serving diverse populations.

Indiana University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Kent State University

Kent State University

Kent State University offers a Master of Library and Information Science. Graduates often pursue careers as archivists, curators, database administrators, media specialists, or librarians in a wide range of settings. The program is housed fully online to help accommodate busy working professionals. Incoming students can select one of three start dates each year.

Kent State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Louisiana State University

Louisiana State University

Louisiana State University offers an online program for a Master of Library and Information Science. This program aims to help students develop the theoretical and applied knowledge needed to excel as librarians in diverse settings.

The curriculum requires the completion of 36 semester hours. Potential classes include Information and Society, Archival Arrangement and Description, and History and Theory of Cultural Heritage Institutions.

Louisiana State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Sam Houston State University

Sam Houston State University

Sam Houston State University offers a Master of Library Science. This program aims to help students develop communication, ethical, collaborative, and organizational skills. Courses cover topics like collection development, research methods, information services, archiving, school and youth librarianship, and digital technology. The program admits incoming students three times a year.

Sam Houston State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

San Jose State University

San Jose State University

San Jose State University offers a Master of Library and Information Science. The program offers a wide range of courses to help students cater their studies to their personal interests and professional goals. All classes are offered entirely online. The curriculum consists of 43 units and covers concepts like database management, research methods, preservation, acquisition, and program development.

SJSU is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

St. John’s University

St Johns University

St. John’s University offers a Master of Science in Library and Information Science. The program offers specializations in Academic Librarianship, Archival Studies, Public Librarianship, and Youth Services. On average, the degree requirements can be completed in 24 months of full-time study. The program utilizes a fully online learning format.

St. John’s University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Syracuse University

Syracuse University

Syracuse University offers a Master of Science in Library and Information Science. The program’s 36 required credits can typically be completed in 2 years of full-time study. Classes can be attended online or in person. Many graduates pursue careers in disciplines like curation, archives and special collections, user services, community engagement, information systems, or youth services.

Syracuse University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

University at Buffalo

University at Buffalo

The University at Buffalo offers a Master of Science in Information and Library Science. The program offers concentrations in Information Management, Information Organization, and Information Services. Classes can be attend online using part-time or full-time schedules. The degree’s 36 required credit hours can typically be completed in 2 years.

The University at Buffalo is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

University of Arizona

University of Arizona

The University of Arizona offers a Master of Arts in Library and Information Science.
The program offers additional specialties in Archival Studies, Academic Librarianship, Public Librarianship, Medical and Community Health Information, and Law Librarianship. A minimum of 37 credit units must be completed to graduate. All classes can be completed entirely online.

The University of Arizona is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign

University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign

The University of Illinois—Urbana Champaign offers a Master of Science in Library and Information Sciences. The program offers the flexibility of online and in-person classes. The curriculum is customizable. Concentrations are offered in School Librarianship, Information Organization, Research, Data Management, Competitive Intelligence, and Archival and Special Collections.

The University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of Kentucky

University of Kentucky

The University of Kentucky offers a Master of Science in Library Sciences through the School of Information Sciences. Potential courses include Information Architecture, Internet Technologies and Information Services, and Introduction to Digital Libraries. This program requires the completion of 36 credit hours. Classes can be attended part-time or full-time in an asynchronous online format.

The University of Kentucky is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of North Texas

University of North Texas

The University of North Texas offers an online program for a Master of Science in Library Science. Many graduates pursue librarian and information science roles in schools, government agencies, corporations, law firms, hospitals, or museums. The curriculum consists of 12 classes for 36 credits total. The coursework can typically be completed in 2 years.

The University of North Texas is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of Washington

University of Washington

The University of Washington offers a Master of Library and Information Science. The program uses a fully online learning model, with most coursework completed asynchronously. It requires the completion of 63 quarter credits. On average, the program can be completed in 3 years of part-time attendance.

The University of Washington is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

Getting Your Masters in Library Science Online

library science masters degree online

Now might be the time to earn your master’s degree in library and information science. You’ll learn about tracking down information, connecting people to resources, and preserving historical archives.

The classes you take could help equip you to be a skilled information professional who serves patrons in libraries or provides resources in other settings. You can take a look at your options for online library science master’s programs. Online study is a useful format for earning a degree on your own schedule.

When you select an ALA-accredited program from a regionally accredited school, you can complete a course of study that’s thorough and in line with industry standards. Why not start exploring available MLIS programs today?

Ready to start your journey?
Jordan Meeks
Jordan Meeks
Jordan is pursuing a Ph.D. in Public Policy and earned her Master of Business Administration in Strategic Management and her Bachelor's in Business Administration. Jordan's research focuses on adults returning to college and online degree programs.