Most Affordable Online Master’s in Library Science Degrees 2021

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Librarians and library media specialists can work in medical, school, and public libraries. Typical job duties include helping visitors locate books and digital resources, training and overseeing less experienced staff, and maintaining collections. A librarian’s employer and title impacts the professional’s overall mission and day-to-day activities.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment for librarians and library media specialists to increase 5% from 2019-2029. According to the BLS, librarians earn a median salary of $59,500 per year, which is approximately $20,000 higher than the median annual salary for all occupations. BLS data indicates that librarians working in the District of Columbia, California, and Maryland earn the highest salaries.

Aspiring librarians typically earn a master’s in library science from a program with accreditation from the American Library Association (ALA). Application materials often include standardized test scores, a statement of purpose, and recommendation letters. Applicants to the top library science degree programs typically need prerequisite coursework and a minimum undergraduate GPA.


  • Do I need to take the GRE for a master's in library science?

    Applicants to master’s in library science programs must typically submit GRE or GMAT scores. However, universities may waive this requirement for applicants who already possess a master’s or doctoral degree.

  • What jobs can you get with a master's in library science?

    After earning a master’s in library science online, graduates often become academic librarians, administrative services librarians, and school librarians. Other professionals in the field, such as corporate and law librarians, assist with research.

  • What is required for a library science degree?

    Most students earn their master’s in library science in 1-2 years. Curricula generally emphasize cataloging, archiving, and collection management. Learners in some library science degree programs select a concentration.

  • Can you get a library science degree online?

    Accredited online programs offer learners the same high-quality educational experience that on-campus students receive. Individuals pursuing their library science degree online typically gain hands-on training through an internship experience.

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What Are the Goals of a Library Science Degree?

Students earning a master’s in library science receive training in library and information services fundamentals, research methods, and the organization of information. Coursework helps students hone the technological skills that librarians need to help people, companies, and organizations perform online research.

Students earning a library science degree online generally hone their skills during a capstone internship and create a digital portfolio to demonstrate proficiency in the field. Learners often prepare for a specific career track by pursuing a concentration or certificate. Common specialization areas include archival studies, law librarianship, and medical and community health information. Learners can work with academic and career advisors to research concentration and career options.

Why Get a Degree in Library Science?

Earning a master’s in library science can lead to personal and professional benefits. Graduates often commit to lifelong learning and enjoy comfortable salaries and job opportunities throughout the United States.

Multiple Career Paths
Universities, K-12 schools, medical centers, and law offices employ trained librarians. The availability of positions in various sectors makes the profession appealing to people with different interests and career goals.
Higher Salary
Librarians earn a higher median salary than the median for all occupations, according to the BLS. This above-average earning potential can lead to financial stability and help professionals save for retirement.
Transferable Skills
Modern librarians need technical skills to help individuals and clients perform research online. Learners can also apply the technological skills they gain while earning a library science degree to positions in other fields.
Professional Development
Students pursuing a master’s in library science develop in-demand knowledge and skills. This foundation prepares graduates to complete professional development and continuing education courses throughout their career.
Historic Preservation
After earning a master’s in library science online, graduates can work as archivists. These professionals digitize historical documents, preserving and increasing access to knowledge.

What is Accreditation and Why Does it Matter?

Career and Salary Outlook for Library Science

After completing the core curriculum, students earning a master’s in library science often choose a concentration to prepare for a certain career. Specialized careers for graduates of library science degree programs include archivist, curator, and museum worker. These and other related positions may require a professional certification or state-issued license. Learners can use their school’s academic and career resources, such as job boards and counseling sessions, to plan their job search and career goals.

Archivists, curators, and museum workers preserve historical documents and objects for future generations. In addition to museums, typical job sites include government archives and postsecondary institutions. Responsibilities involve designing museum exhibits, digitizing materials, and leading research projects. These professionals use cataloging and archival skills to ensure that artifacts remain in good condition within secure environments.

Median Annual Salary: $49,850

Projected Growth Rate (2019-2029): 11%

Schools, medical offices, law firms, and corporations hire librarians to maintain documents and help individuals conduct research. These professionals often provide one-on-one assistance, teach courses, and prepare budgets. Librarians in public K-12 schools need a teaching license with a librarian endorsement. Other employers may require applicants to hold professional certification.

Median Annual Salary: $59,500

Projected Growth Rate (2019-2029): 5%

Certifications and Licensure for Library Science

More than half of all states require public library workers to hold certification. Certification requirements vary by state and may include a master’s in library science and a passing exam score. Librarians must typically earn professional development or continuing education credits to maintain their certification.

Library science degree-seekers who plan to enter a career that requires certification should choose an ALA-accredited program. ALA accreditation demonstrates that the program offers a rigorous educational experience and prepares learners to succeed in the field. ALA maintains an online list of accredited programs in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Canada.

Prospective students interested in becoming a K-12 public school librarian should research programs with accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). Programs with ALA and CAEP accreditation provide learners with the training necessary to obtain a teaching license with a librarian endorsement. As with librarian certification requirements, teacher licensure requirements vary by state.

Scholarships for Library Science Students

Although pursuing a master’s in library science online can help students save money, distance learners still need assistance funding their education. Private scholarship programs, such as those below, award funding to degree-seekers who meet certain requirements. Applicants may need to demonstrate academic excellence or financial need.

Alice L. Haltom Educational Fund

Who Can Apply: This award supports library science and information management students with a minimum 3.0 undergraduate or graduate GPA. Applicants submit a 200- to 300-word essay, three recommendation letters, and official transcripts by May 1. Recipients are announced on July 1. The scholarship does not renew.

Amount: Varies

Christopher Hoy/ERT Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The American Library Association offers this annual scholarship to master’s degree-seekers in the United States and Canada. Applicants must have no more than 12 graduate credits and must submit a personal statement and three professional references. Students apply by March 1, and ALA notifies recipients by phone on June 1.

Amount: $5,000

Tom and Roberta Drewes Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Library support staff pursuing a library science degree to advance their career can apply for this scholarship. Applicants must attend an ALA-accredited program. Application materials include three recommendation letters and an essay. Interested students apply by March 1, and the scholarship committee chooses recipients in early summer.

Amount: $3,000

Most Affordable Online Master’s in Library Science Degrees 2021

  1. University of Washington-Seattle Campus

    Seattle, WA



    A preeminent public university based in Seattle, Washington, UW offers an online master of library and information science for aspiring innovators and leaders in the library and information industry.

    MLIS students can complete their courses online or take their classes on campus. UW requires students to complete 63 quarter credits, consisting of courses in information resources and services, management of information organizations, research, assessment and design, and a culminating capstone project. UW offers this online MLIS degree program at $852 per credit.

    MLIS program applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution. UW also requires prospective students to submit official transcripts of records, an updated resume, a personal statement, three letters of recommendation, and a completed online application through MyGrad. The University of Washington-Seattle Campus is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NCCU).

  2. University of South Florida-Main Campus

    Tampa, FL



    With a strategically located campus in Tampa, Florida, USF offers an online master of arts in library and information science through its School of Information.

    This online MLIS program follows an asynchronous format. Students must complete 39 semester credits of coursework, including 18 credits of core subjects. Students take courses in basic information sources and services, research methods in library and information science, and collection development and maintenance.

    Applicants must complete the graduate application online and upload all supporting documents. UWF also requires applicants to submit their official transcripts from all previously attended higher learning institutions and pay a $30 application fee. The University of South Florida-Main Campus is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

  3. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

    Champaign, IL



    A public land-grant research university located in Champaign, Illinois, U of I offers an online master of science in library and information science for librarians pursuing leadership roles in a variety of settings.

    U of I's MS/LIS program also provides specialized pathways in archival and special collections, data and asset management, information organization and management, knowledge management and competitive intelligence, research and information services, and youth and school librarianship. Illinois offers this online MS/LIS degree at $652 per credit for residents and $975 per credits for nonresidents.

    The MS/LIS program requires all applicants to hold a bachelor's degree in any discipline from an accredited institution. Applicants who earned a 3.0 cumulative GPA in their last two years of undergraduate study do not need to submit GRE or GMAT scores. Illinois requires all applicants to submit three letters of reference, a resume, and a personal statement.

    The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

  4. Appalachian State University

    Boone, NC



    A premier public institution located in Boone, North Carolina, Appalachian offers an online master of library science program for students who want to become leading information professionals.

    This graduate degree program entails 36 credits of coursework in two academic years. Appalachian delivers courses through a combination of synchronous and asynchronous online learning.

    Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. Candidates should submit official transcripts, three references, an updated resume, and an application fee. Appalachian State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

  5. University of Wisconsin-Madison

    Madison, WI



    A public institution based in Madison, Wisconsin, UW offers an online master of arts in library and information studies. The program maintains small class sizes to help foster a better teaching-learning environment for students and professors.

    Learners choose from five concentrations: librarianship, digital archives, UX and information technology, information management and analytics, and organization of information. Students may take online or in-person courses. The university provides online students with a virtual orientation bootcamp, which prepares participants for online learning activities.

    All applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution or a comparable degree from an international institution. Applicants must submit all official transcripts of records, along with a minimum 3.0 GPA in their last 60 credits. The University of Wisconsin-Madison is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

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