Online Master’s Degrees in Library & Information Science 2021

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Librarians help patrons access library materials and maintain and organize a library’s resources and collections. Increasingly, librarians and information science specialists assume additional responsibilities. Some information science specialists with technical knowledge and training manage vast digital resources. Those with an art background may work as museum curators.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 5% growth for library professionals, translating to 7,300 added jobs in 2019-2029. The options for library and information science master’s degree-holders remain plentiful and promising.

This guide provides a ranking of the top master’s in library and information science programs and an overview of the degree. We outline costs, career outlook, typical courses, and scholarship opportunities.

What to Know about Master's in Library Science?


  • How much schooling do you need to be a librarian?

    Senior librarian positions typically require a master’s degree, which usually takes two years of postgraduate study to complete.


  • What degree do you need for library science?

    Employers often prefer candidates with a master of library science or a master’s in library and information science degree.


  • Is there a demand for librarians?

    Aspiring library professionals enjoy a job outlook faster than the national average for all occupations. The BLS projects a 5% growth rate for librarians and library media specialists during 2019-2029.


  • What is a librarian's salary?

    The BLS reports a $59,500 median salary for librarians and library media specialists. Salaries vary by sector, location, and experience, so some professionals could earn even more. The top 10% garner more than $94,520.


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Why Get a Degree in Library and Information Science?

A master’s in library and information science typically qualifies degree-holders for senior positions in most college or university libraries. Their duties include helping patrons use library resources, maintaining collections, and acquiring new items. Librarians specializing in a specific arena including art or law can work for museums or law firms.

The BLS projects a 5% growth rate for librarians and library media specialists, translating to approximately 7,300 added jobs in 2019-2029. The BLS reports a $59,500 median annual salary for these professionals, higher than the $39,810 median salary for all U.S. occupations. Library and information science degree-holders stand to enter a labor market offering professional growth opportunities and higher-than-average income potential.

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How Much Does a Library and Information Science Degree Cost?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, graduate students at public institutions paid an average of $12,171 in tution for the 2018-2019 academic year. Graduate degree-seekers at private nonprofit institutions paid $27,776. The cost of a library and information science master’s degree will likely approximate these average amounts.

Several schools now offer online master’s in library and information science programs. Online learners typically save money by not incurring additional rent, board, and transportation expenses. In addition, some public institutions allow out-of-state online students to pay in-state tuition. These savings can accumulate significantly over the course of a program, so students should research whether a prospective school offers this privilege.

Calculating the Cost of a College Degree

The affordability calculator below can help students compare the net costs of master’s in library and information science programs. A school’s website often contains much of the information required to use the tool. Some colleges charge online enrollees additional technology fees per credit or per course, significantly affecting attendance costs.

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How Much Do Library and Information Science Majors Make?

According to BLS data for 2020, elementary and secondary schools employed the highest number of library professionals at 48,210. Government agencies and higher education institutions showed the second and third highest employment levels at 41,310 and 19,310, respectively.

States hiring the highest number of librarians and media collection specialists include New York, California, Texas, Illinois, and Pennsylvania. Industries and states with the highest employment levels in a professional arena typically offer more opportunities for career advancement and salary growth.

According to the BLS, the top-paying industries for librarians include the federal government, organizations involved with scientific research and development, and companies offering legal services. These sectors offer annual mean salaries of $92,930, $80,130, and $79,710, respectively.

Washington, D.C. pays the highest annual mean salary for library professionals, $86,520. States ranking among top-payers include Washington, California, Maryland, and Massachusetts. Librarians there earn annual mean salaries of $ 78,330, $78,300, $77,950, and $74,000, respectively.

Courses in Library and Information Science

Library and information science master’s degree coursework varies among schools, depending on specializations and the school’s educational objectives. Some of the more popular concentration areas include school media, database design, health science librarianship, and archival studies. Some programs allow students to craft an individual study plan supporting their specific career and academic goals.

The courses described below represent some of the most common classes in master’s in library and information science programs today.


  • Data, Statistical Models, and Information

    The course introduces probabilistic and statistical models relevant to assessing and quantifying different types of information. Topics include probability theories and parametric and non-parametric predictive modeling. Students learn to apply appropriate models to manage and organize information in various fields of study.


  • Libraries, Information, and Society

    Participants explore current issues impacting library and information science, including intellectual freedom, professional ethics, social responsibilities, and community service. Enrollees examine the interplay of these and other factors in determining the socio-cultural role libraries and information agencies play in a world inundated with data.


  • Information Organization and Access

    Students learn how to create different information systems through selection, preservation, and various organizational methods. Learners analyze information providers and various communities that use or rely on the services to organize information more relevantly.


Certifications and Licensure for Library and Information Science

Many states require school librarians to first obtain a credential as a teacher in a specific subject area or grade level. Some states require a teaching license, others accept a certification, some require a master’s in the field, and others do not. Students should contact the department of education in the state where they plan to work for specific requirements.

Certified Public Library Administrator


The American Library Association (ALA) offers this credential to candidates with three years of supervisory library experience. The credential tests a candidate’s proficiency in seven out of nine standard areas. Competency topics include budget and finance, technology management, planning and management of buildings, and organization and personnel administration.

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Certified Data Management Professional (Associate)


The Data Management Association (DAMA) administers four levels of CDMP credentials. The associate-level credential requires six months to five years of experience in data management. Candidates must hold current DAMA membership and pass the data management fundamentals exam to earn the credential.

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Early Childhood through Young Adulthood/Library Media Certification


The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards offers this certification for school librarians teaching students ages 3-18 years. Candidates must pass a four-part evaluation process covering several key areas. Topics include administration; access, equity, and diversity; ethics; and knowledge of library and information studies.

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Scholarships for Library and Information Science

Colleges and universities often support graduate students through teaching or research assistantships and work-study grants. Degree-seekers not only receive financial assistance, but further their education and professional experience as well. Professional organizations and private nonprofit groups with strong ties to the field may administer scholarship programs that students can explore for additional funding. See below for sample opportunities.

  • Christopher Hoy/ERT Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: ALA administers this scholarship established with donations from the Exhibits Round Table. Students in an ALA-accredited master’s in library and information science program can apply.

    Amount: $5,000

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  • New Media Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: The program accepts applications from students in a master’s in library and information science program with a specific concentration in digital communications and human-computer interactions.

    Amount: $2,500

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  • Spectrum Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: ALA welcomes applications from students enrolled in a master’s in library and information science program who belong to a minority group including African American, Asian, or American Indian/Alaska Native.

    Amount: $5,000

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Online Master’s Degrees in Library & Information Science

  1. University of Southern Mississippi
    Location

    Hattiesburg, MS

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The University of Southern Mississippi offers a fully online Master of Library and Information Science degree. This degree increases professional opportunities for public librarians, school librarians, academic librarians and special collections librarians. It's the only program in Mississippi accredited by the American Library Association and is open to students with various academic and professional backgrounds. To be considered for regular admission, students must hold an undergraduate degree with a minimum GPA of 2.75 and submit GRE or MAT test scores, 3 letters of recommendation and a statement of purpose. Students in this degree program are required to take 25 hours of core courses, such as Reference and Information Sources, Cataloging and Classification, Fundamentals of Information Science and Library Management. Fifteen credit hours of electives like Children's Literature, Archival Theory and Practice, and Information Technology are mandatory as well. To graduate, students must successfully complete the comprehensive exam in the master's research project course and take the archival practicum or library practicum if they have little to no library experience. Master of Library and Information Science students may spend a month in the United Kingdom to earn credits while enhancing their knowledge on historic and modern British libraries, archives and special collections. There, students can learn from distinguished British librarians, archivists and information systems. In addition, students may attend the Fay B. Kaigler Children's Book Festival, which brings together more than 400 teachers and librarians to hear major speakers and participate in a variety of workshops. Lastly, students can choose to earn a graduate certificate in archives and special collections or youth services and literature along with their degree.

  2. University of Oklahoma-Norman Campus
    Location

    Norman, OK

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    At the University of Oklahoma, students may pursue an online Master of Library and Information Studies. They can tailor their educational experience to focus on a particular area of library and information studies. Academic leadership, archives, children and young adult services, information organization, information technology, public librarianship, reference services, school library media and special librarianship are all examples of the available specializations. Regardless of which specialization students select, they'll develop the skills and knowledge necessary to manage, store, organize and access information in nonprofit and for-profit environments. This online program uses a variety of technologies such as Canvas, Adobe ConnectPro, podcasts and course websites to provide students with an engaging learning environment. For admission consideration, students must hold a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0 and submit a statement of purpose and goals, a professional resume and 3 references from individuals who are familiar with their academic or employment accomplishments. The Master of Library and Information Studies at the University of Oklahoma is the only master's degree in Oklahoma that is accredited by the American Library Association (ALA). This comprehensive program involves a minimum of 36 hours of coursework and hands-on experience. Its goal is to educate professionals to meet the ever-evolving challenges of the information society. In order to graduate with a Master of Library and Information Studies, students are required to pass an exam, complete a written thesis or compile a portfolio. Many graduates are currently employed in a variety of settings, including public libraries, academic libraries, archives, special collections, government information systems and corporate libraries.

  3. The University of Alabama
    Location

    Tuscaloosa, AL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    At the University of Alabama, students may earn an online Master of Library and Information Studies through virtual sessions that are usually held one night per week from 6:00 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. Central time. This degree is accredited by the American Library Association and designed for students who would like to prepare themselves for leadership positions in library and information service. For admission, students must hold an undergraduate degree with a GPA of at least 3.0 and a minimum score of 300 on the GRE or 50th percentile on the MAT, a previous graduate degree within the last 5 years, or 5 years of work experience in the field. Students who enroll in this program can expect to learn about the uses, organization and management of information in a socially responsible way. They will also find out how information is used for personal, educational and organizational purposes. Since the Master of Library and Information Studies degree uses a cohort model, students share content, work in groups, have discussions with instructors and receive support from a group of peers. The cohort model provides online students with the opportunity to network with their classmates and professors. This 36-credit hour degree involves 18 hours of core courses and 18 hours of electives. Organization of Information, Research Methods and Information Technologies are a few examples of the mandatory core courses. Students in this program who wish to pursue the State of Alabama School Library Media Certification must pass a written exam and take courses that are approved by the Alabama State Department of Education. Graduates with this degree can pursue careers such as archivists, project managers and data analysts.

  4. University of Central Missouri
    Location

    Warrensburg, MO

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    University of Central Missouri offers an online Master of Science in Library Science and Information Services degree. The Master of Science in Library Science and Information Services is nationally recognized by the American Association of School Librarians and accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation. The main goal of this 33-credit degree program is to help students develop the knowledge and skills necessary to become a librarian in the 21st century. By enrolling in this program, students can learn how to create programs that engage students as they become users and creators of ideas and information. Admission requirements include an undergraduate degree with a minimum GPA of 2.75 and a personal interview. At the end of the program, students will be required to complete a practicum at the school they work at or a local school library if they are not yet working in a school setting. This will allow them to gain hands-on experience and put everything they've learned throughout the degree to use. In addition, students will need to take LIS 6960 Research Problem, which is the last course in the program and intended to give students the chance to explore an area of library science they find interesting. During this course, they may choose to write a literature review or complete an action research project. Regardless of which option they choose, students will be able to become experts in their particular area of interest. It's important to note that students who don't have an initial teacher certification can meet the requirements for one by taking courses that are available online at University of Central Missouri. Graduates of the Master of Science in Library Science and Information Services program are often seen working as elementary, middle, high school or district librarians.

  5. Louisiana State University
    Location

    Baton Rouge, LA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Accredited by the American Library Association, Louisiana State University offers a fully online option to earn a Master of Library and Information Science. Students must maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA while completing 36 semester hours of core and elective curriculum. Foundational classes cover the management of information systems, research, organization and information technologies. If you're interested in exploring beyond required coursework, you can choose from 7 specializations including academic librarianship, cultural heritage resource management, adult services in public libraries, digital content management and archival studies. Following degree completion, graduates enter the workforce as archivists, public school librarians, corporate web analysts and records managers. Courses are implemented through the web platform Moodle and online resources such as the library, IT assistance, tutoring and career services will help you through your studies. The Virtual Lab allows students to utilize software that would be found in the computing labs on campus. Every online learner is matched with an enrollment specialist, who helps to navigate the application process, registration and financial aid opportunities. In-state and out-of-state enrollees pay the same tuition rates. There are around 20 scholarships granted each year for students within the School of Library and Information Science. Awards are also available to offset the costs of traveling to conferences or other professional events. Program eligibility requires the submission of a resume and proof of a 3.0 grade average in undergraduate work. You must also write a statement of purpose explaining your intentions for pursuing the program, as well as outlining your professional goals.

  6. Sam Houston State University
    Location

    Huntsville, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Built to produce skilled school librarians, the master of library sciences degree from Sam Houston State University is an online program for professionals in various stages of their career. The program can accommodate first-time graduate students without any certifications, as well as Texas-licensed teachers with at least 2 years of experience under their belts. Experienced teachers will be able to test for the school librarian certification exam in Texas after successfully completing the MLS degree requirements. All library science students are expected to complete a culminating portfolio to be analyzed for degree completion. The program consists of 36 credit hours and has 3 different start dates throughout the year. To gain entry into the MLS program, all students need to fulfill the requirements on SHSU's graduate school application and should have at least a 3.0 GPA. For students whose cumulative GPA falls below this standard, SHSU evaluates the students GPA for the most recent 60 credits earned. All online graduate students at SHSU pay the same cost per credit no matter what state or country they live in and also see a cheaper tuition rate than graduate students attending campus classes. As the MLS degree is offered through SHSU's College of Education, graduate students have a number of scholarship opportunities available to them through the department. All degree programs offered through the college of education are accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

  7. Appalachian State University
    Location

    Boone, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Appalachian State University provides an online master of library sciences program geared towards certifying public librarians and media coordinators within the state of North Carolina. The MLS degree is an online program, requiring a 2-year commitment for study. Each week, students log-on and engage in a live class with their peers and professors, lasting 3 hours. In addition to synchronous learning, students complete class assignments from home when it fits into their schedules. Students will earn 36 credits for graduation and are not required to construct a thesis or dissertation. Instead, students undergo an internship experience, working alongside established library professionals. Students interested in the MLS degree must first apply to ASU's graduate school. Applicants can have a bachelor degree in any area, but must prove strong academic standing. Those with at least 3.0 GPA meet the minimum entrance criteria. Students with a 2.5 to 2.99 GPA and exceptional standardized test scores may also be accepted. All applicants must have recent (within 5 years) GRE, GMAT or MAT scores. Accredited by the Council for Academic Educator Preparation and endorsed by the American Association of School Librarians, the MLS program satisfies the requirements for 2 state certifications in North Carolina. Graduates with an existing teaching license can apply for the media coordinator license, while those without a teaching license may apply for the public librarian certification. To help make college more affordable, distance learners at ASU are not subjected to campus-related fees that traditional students face. In-state and out-of-state tuition are not equal, and North Carolina residents can benefit to more budget-friendly rate.

  8. Texas Woman's University
    Location

    Denton, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    At Texas Women's University, graduate students have several avenues to travel that lead to a profession in library sciences. The university offers an online master of library science degree, or a master of arts in library science degree, with 8 possible concentrations to choose from. Graduate students can realize a career in areas such as pubic, school, health science or academic libraries, or can choose to study the technical side of librarianship with a concentration in information technology, community informatics or cataloging. Accredited by the American Library Association since 1938, TWU's MLS program is comprised of 24 core credit hours plus 12 elective credits. As part of graduation requirements, all students undergo a practicum course demanding either 120 or 160 hours spent in an unpaid internship. Students perform their practicum in a setting that suits their education path and get the chance to learn from experienced librarians. Students also create a comprehensive portfolio that is evaluated as part of the student's final exam. Prospective graduate students interested in the program should have transcripts with at least a 3.0 GPA, resume and recommendation letters to accompany their application. International students and those who don't meet the GPA requirement must submit scores from a standardized test, such as the GRE as evidence of academic strength. To ease the cost of tuition, TWU offers a scholarship opportunity specific to library science students. Students are also encouraged to seek out scholarship awards from the Texas Library Association or the American Library Association.

  9. University of North Texas
    Location

    Denton, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Offering diverse courses of study within the realm of librarianship, the master of science in library science degree program at the University of North Texas preps graduates for careers in areas such as music, law and information technology. The program has 8 specializations available so that students can earn the education appropriate to their professional goals. This includes school library studies and general studies as well as information organization and imaging technology. The core courses required by the MSLS degree are offered online and in person, as well as blended options. All tracks of the library science program do require student attendance on campus for 3 separate occasions; therefore, the program cannot be completed entirely through distance learning. In addition, students are expected to gain experiential learning in order to graduate from the program. To accomplish this, students can opt for spending 6 months working in a position related to their field or they can complete 120-hour internship experience that is unpaid. As the last semester draws to an end, students take a final examination before their degree is granted. Interested applicants don't need to take graduate school exams or have prior work experience in the field. Applicants must have at least a 3.0 GPA reflecting their most recent 60 college credits completed or a cumulative 3.0 GPA. As college costs rise every year, graduate students at UNT can take advantage of scholarship opportunities offered from within the university.

  10. Chicago State University
    Location

    Chicago, IL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Students coming from diverse educational sectors can begin a career in library sciences at Chicago State University. The school offers a master's in science program in library and information sciences with 4 specialization options. The MSLIS degree can be earned with a concentration in school libraries, public libraries, archives and record management or academic libraries and is provided in a hybrid format. Depending on the track selected, more than 50% of coursework may be completed online, with the remaining fraction requiring in-person class attendance. Currently the program is seeking accreditation from the American Library Association and chooses to follow the ALA's guidelines for graduate library studies. As such, the program requires the completion of 15 core credits, 15 to 40 concentration credits, and between 4 and 7 credits of a capstone project. Throughout their library sciences education, students work towards the completion of their dissertation in the field. To gain acceptance to the program, students must apply to CSU's graduate school after earning their bachelor degree in any discipline. Additionally, students need a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher when measured over the last 60 credits completed. Prospective librarians interested in the school libraries concentration can opt for a path to initial educator licensing in the state of Illinois, however this requires fulfilling student teaching standards and testing. Already licensed teachers can proceed to earning a library information specialist endorsement with the MSLIS degree. As a hybrid program, students have access to the same on-campus resources as traditional students such as career and academic advising, financial aid assistance and tutoring.

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