How to Become a School Librarian: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Learn how to become a school librarian. Research the job description and the education and licensing requirements and find out how to start a career as a school librarian. View article »

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  • 0:01 Becoming a School Librarian?
  • 0:33 Career Requirements
  • 1:32 Earn a Bachelor's Degree
  • 2:23 Gain Licensure or…
  • 2:58 Complete a Master's…
  • 3:27 Earn Voluntary…

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Video Transcript

How to Become a School Librarian

The steps to become a school librarian include:

  1. Earning a bachelor's degree
  2. Gaining teaching licensure or certification
  3. Completing a master's degree program
  4. Earning voluntary professional certification

School librarians are sometimes referred to as media specialists. They teach students how to use their school libraries and help faculty members find materials needed for classroom instruction. Depending on the size and layout of their libraries, school librarians may have a separate office in which to carry out administrative tasks, or they may have a shared space with colleagues. Full-time librarians work during school hours. Some schools have librarians who work part-time.

School Librarian Requirements

Degree Level Master's degree in most states
Degree Field Library science or a related field like information studies
Certification Teacher certification/licensure required in many states
Experience Teaching experience varies by state
Key Skills Active learning and interpersonal communication skills; reading comprehension; knowledge of barcode scanners, microfiche, and microfilm readers; use of library, database user interface, and editing software
Median Salary (2019) $49,476*

Sources: American Association of School Librarians, University of North Texas, O*Net Online, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, *

Although a bachelor's degree meets the educational requirement to be eligible for teacher certification, most states require a master's degree for school librarians. Whether interested in becoming a high school or elementary school librarian, prospective librarians have to enroll in an undergraduate degree program in education or another relevant field, complete teacher preparation requirements, and obtain valid teaching certification or licensure. Sometimes, they will also be required to attain work experience as a teacher before completing all of the steps to become a school librarian.

School librarians should have some key skills, including knowledge of barcode scanners, microfiche, and microfilm readers; knowledge of library software, database user interface software, and editing software; reading comprehension; and active learning and interpersonal communication skills. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, librarians in general made a median annual salary of $59,050 per year in 2018. School librarians earned a median of $49,476 annually, according to as of 2019.

Earn a Bachelor's Degree

The first step to becoming a school librarian is to earn a bachelor's degree. This generally is the minimum level of education required to be eligible for state certification as a teacher. Library science graduate degree programs, such as the Master of Library Science (MLS), also mandate that applicants have a bachelor's degree, which can be from any field. In order to become certified, students need to complete a student teaching internship while obtaining a bachelor's degree.

Aspiring school librarians should also seek part-time employment, internship, or volunteer opportunities with local school or public libraries. Many libraries have reading programs during the summer months that need volunteers. Local libraries might also have part-time positions available for aspiring school librarians seeking experience.

Gain Teaching Licensure or Certification

Aside from earning a bachelor's degree and completing a student teaching internship, requirements for teaching certification or licensure vary by state. Anyone who plans to become an educator must be certified in the state where they plan to teach, so individuals living in states that require teacher certification or teaching experience for school librarians must follow this step. After finishing a bachelor's degree program and passing any professional exams required by their states, individuals should meet the qualifications for applying for and receiving licensure or certification as a teacher.

Complete a Master's Degree Program

The Master of Library Science (MLS) is a common graduate degree program when pursuing this career. Individuals planning to work as school librarians should complete a program that is accredited by the American Library Association (ALA). Graduation from an ALA-accredited program is required by some states to work as a school librarian. Students enrolled in an MLS degree program typically take courses in children's literature, learning technologies, and library management.

Earn Voluntary Professional Certification

School librarians who want to demonstrate their expertise and commitment to the profession, and possibly qualify for salary incentives, can pursue voluntary certification through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. This organization offers a library media certification in early childhood through young adulthood to qualified applicants who pass a four-part evaluation process.

Most states require school librarians to hold a master's degree in a field such as library science. Other requirements might include getting teacher certification or experience and gaining additional professional certification.

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