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Should You Earn Your Masters in Library Science Online?

Sep 10, 2012 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Education.org Columnist | 1 Comments

There are plenty of online Masters degrees in Library Sciences (MLS). These degrees are practically required nowadays if you want to work in a library, particularly if you’re interested in academic libraries. Online programs are ideal for working professionals, parents, and other nontraditional students.

But not all MLS programs are created equally. Here are a few things to think about when choosing an MLS degree.

Ask about accreditation

Most libraries will look for students who have earned degrees from institutions with accreditation from the American Library Association. Non-accredited programs may have lower tuition, but they’re not likely to provide you with a credential that most employers recognize. The ALA website* provides a list of accredited degree programs, which includes online colleges and universities.

Be sure it’s relevant

Woman in Library

Getting a library job isn’t easy. There’s high competition for a shrinking pool of jobs, and many libraries have high standards.

  

It’s difficult to get a job in a library without an MLS degree. However, these online degree programs involve high tuition and lots of time invested, and the stark truth is that many public libraries are closing or cutting back hours because of cuts in state funding, the growing prevalence of e-books and Internet services, and other economic factors. Realistically, you may graduate with a degree that won’t lead to the job you want—even if it makes you qualified.

One way you can differentiate yourself—and make yourself more likely to land one of a shrinking pool of good library jobs—is to develop a focus on a certain area of library science, such as technology, Information Science, research, children’s literature, or another specialized area.

Find out about requirements

Most online master of library science degree programs accept students on the same basis as other Masters degree programs—they’ll expect you to have a Bachelor’s degree and to have good scores on the GRE’s. Be sure you meet the basic requirements for acceptance.

Investigate the program’s technical aptitude

Be sure the program offers the latest information on online research, cataloguing software, and other technical advances in the field. Library science is a field that’s becoming increasingly dependent on modern technologies, and this knowledge is essential in a good MLS degree and effective patron services.

Consider whether online or hybrid classes are right for you

Some programs are entirely online—an ideal scenario for nontraditional students such as stay-at-home parents and full-time workers. Others offer a hybrid structure combining online and in-person classes. It’s possible that some employers will give more credibility to a hybrid program, especially if you’re applying to academic libraries. In addition, some students prefer at least periodic interaction with teachers and other students.

Consider tuition and financial aid

Even if you do manage to get your ideal library job, chances are it won’t pay well—according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, entry-level librarians can make as little as $_ on average and the average earnings hover around $_. Because of this, it’s particularly important for MLS students to consider where they can get the best deals on tuition. If you can manage to graduate with no debt or a very minimal debt load, it will definitely make your life easier after graduation.

Getting a library job isn’t easy. There’s high competition for a shrinking pool of jobs, and many libraries have high standards for education and experience. Still, an MLS degree will help your chances. Be sure to choose an ALA-certified program, and give serious thought to whether an online, hybrid, or in-person degree program would be more highly regarded by employers. Choose an MLA program that’s technologically savvy, offers options for specialization, is well regarded in the industry, and is reasonably priced, and you’re likely to be well-placed for a good job after graduation.

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