Library Science Degree Program Summaries

Oct 14, 2019

Degree programs in library science teach students about how information resources are stored and retrieved by researchers, as well as what impact information resources have on society. Library science programs are offered at bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree levels.

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Essential Information

Today, library science is about much more than books, and the field of study is commonly referred to as library and information science to reflect that. Programs are available at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Some bachelor's degree programs are intended for individuals who want to work as librarians, while others are designed specifically for individuals who want to work as library teachers in schools. In master's degree programs, students learn how to locate and store data using a variety of electronic resources. Degree concentrations are often available, such as reference or archival studies. Doctoral degree programs prepare graduates for advanced academic careers. PhD candidates work with advisors to develop their own specialized study plans consisting of courses, seminars and research. A dissertation is usually required.

Bachelor's Degree Programs in Library Science

Bachelor's degree programs in library science include a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Library Science, a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Library Science and a Bachelor of Science in Education (BSEd) in Library Science. Students should consider a program that prepares them to work in their desired library setting. All three programs introduce students to the fundamentals of library work and common technologies, but BSEd programs prepare students specifically to become certified to work in schools. Bachelor's degree programs may include an internship or practicum. It is important to note that many library jobs require individuals to hold a master's degree, so a bachelor's degree may better serve as a stepping stone to a higher degree rather than a job. During their undergraduate education, students may take courses in some of the following topics:

  • Reference and information services
  • Cataloging and classification
  • Library collection development
  • Library management
  • Literature and media for children
  • Programs and services for youth
  • Information ethics
  • Computer applications in libraries

Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS)

The curriculum of a master's program requires 1-2 years of study and teaches degree candidates how to access, retrieve and store data and information using the Internet, digital databases and other electronic resources, and generally concludes with the writing of a thesis. Some MLIS programs allow students to choose a concentration such as Web design and technology, archival studies or reference studies. Some programs also provide preparation for state licensure exams or for teacher certification exams, which are required for work in a public school. Common courses include:

  • Research methodologies
  • Information organization
  • Youth information
  • Academic library management
  • Cataloging

Doctor of Philosophy in Library and Information Science

Doctoral programs are generally quite small, and competition for admissions can be intense. These programs generally take 5-7 years to complete, requiring candidates to conduct research into information storage and retrieval, information research processes and the societal impact of information resources. Students often work with their advisors to develop a curriculum of seminars and prepare for researching and writing a dissertation. Common courses include:

  • Book preservation
  • Information services laws and ethics
  • Cartographic resources
  • Reference services and resources
  • History of print culture

Licensure/Certification Information

Most states require licensing or certification for school librarians. For this, they may need to complete a master's degree program in library and information science from an accredited university, earn teacher certification or pass a standardized test such as the PRAXIS II Library Media Specialist Exam. A smaller number of states require school librarians to have teaching experience. Some states also require public librarians to complete teacher certification.

Popular Career Options

A Ph.D. program does not prepare individuals for careers as librarians, for which the MLIS is the terminal degree. Graduates with a library science doctorate are more often found in scholarly or academic lines of work such as:

  • Senior information researcher
  • College professor
  • Senior library administrator

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for librarians are projected to increase by 6% between 2018 and 2028 ( The BLS also reported a median annual salary of $59,050 for librarians in 2018. For postsecondary library science teachers, the expected job growth rate from 2018 to 2028 is 4%, according to the BLS. The median annual salary for these professionals was $71,560 in 2018.

Bachelor's and master's degree programs in library and information science can prepare aspiring librarians for work in school or public libraries. Individuals who are looking for academic careers in the field must complete a Ph.D. program.

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