Most Affordable Online Master’s Degrees in Library Science in 2021

Most Affordable Online Master’s Degrees in Library Science in 2021
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Library science connects people with information. Librarians design organization and classification systems, help scholars conduct research with archival sources and foster a love of reading in students. Librarians may work in public libraries, schools, businesses, or universities.

Most Affordable Online Master's Degrees in Library Science Badge

Librarian jobs offer above-average salaries and the potential for growth. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median librarian salary exceeds $60,000 per year, with school and academic librarians earning higher average salaries.

Earning a master’s in library science (MLS) online gives students the flexibility to balance their studies with professional and personal obligations. This article introduces the most affordable online MLS programs in the country to help prospective students find a program that fits their goals, interests, and budget. It also covers the career and salary outlook for library school graduates and scholarship opportunities for MLS students.

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Accredited Online College Programs

What are the Most Affordable Library Science Programs? Here Are Our Top Picks

  1. Marshall University
    Location

    Huntington, WV

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Marshall University offers an online master of arts in education with a specialization in school library media. The degree prepares school librarians to manage library media centers, support the school and faculty, and encourage information literacy among students. This program emphasizes teaching, information access, and program administration. Courses are available entirely online and delivered asynchronously through Blackboard.

    Students must also complete a clinical library practice experience and pass the Library Media Specialist Praxis II Test. During the library practice experience, students work in school libraries at the elementary, middle, and secondary school levels.

    MU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

    • Graduation rate: 49%
    • Program length: 2 years
    • Credits: 39 credit hours
    • Admissions requirements: 2.5 GPA or master's degree and licensure as a general educator
    • Program Website
  2. Northeastern State University
    Location

    Tahlequah, OK

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Northeastern State University offers a master of science in library media and information technology that prepares students for careers as school librarians. The program provides students with a foundation in theory and practical knowledge in areas of teaching, information access, and program administration. This degree is available completely online and meets the school librarian certification requirements of the Oklahoma Department of Education.

    Coursework includes educational research, school library administration, advanced materials for children, and collection development and management. Students must also complete a practicum field experience under the supervision of a certified school librarian.

    NSU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

    • Graduation rate: 33%
    • Program length: 2 years
    • Credits: 33 credits
    • Admissions requirements: 3.0 GPA in the last 60 credits of undergraduate coursework, GRE score above the 25th percentile
    •  Program Website 
  3. Texas Woman's University
    Location

    Denton, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Texas Woman's University offers an online master of library science that prepares students to work in a variety of library environments, including academic libraries, school libraries, public libraries, special libraries, and health science libraries. Students can select a program track based on their preferred area of concentration.

    Coursework covers collection development, information organization, information retrieval, foundations of library and information studies, and library management. Toward the end of the program, students complete a practicum and final exam.

    TWU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    • Average tuition cost: $5,053-$12,415
    • Graduation rate: 43%
    • Program length: 1-2 years
    • Credits: 36 credits
    • Admissions requirements: 3.0 GPA, GRE scores
    • Program Website  
  4. Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis
    Location

    Indianapolis, IN

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis has an online master of library and information science that emphasizes information literacy, metadata management, and other contemporary challenges in library science and data technology. Students also learn about the legal aspects of digital librarianship, including copyright law, freedom of speech, and ethical issues. Students complete this degree entirely online.

    Students choose from specializations in academic librarianship, archives management, digital curation, public librarianship, school library, technical services, or youth services.

    IUPUI is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

    • Graduation rate: 50%
    • Program length: 2 years 
    • Credits: 39 credits 
    • Admissions requirements: 3.0 GPA or GRE scores
    •  Program Website  
  5. University of Washington-Seattle Campus
    Location

    Seattle, WA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The University of Washington Seattle campus has an online master of library and information science program that emphasizes organization theory, design thinking, and information ethics in training future librarians or information science specialists. This degree is available in residence or online. Online students can choose to attend some classes on campus.

    This library science master's degree requires 63 quarter credits, including core courses, elective credits, and a final project. Courses include information behavior, organization of information and resources, management of information organizations, and information technology.

    UW is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

    • Graduation rate: 84%
    • Program length: 2 years
    • Credits: 63 credit hours
    • Admissions requirements: 3.0 GPA or GRE scores
    • Program Website 
  6. University of North Carolina at Greensboro
    Location

    Greensboro, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    University of North Carolina at Greensboro offers an ALA-accredited online master of library and information science that prepares students to become librarians or information professionals in academic, school, public, and special libraries. Students choose from the following program options: an MLIS, MLIS with school library licensure, and MLIS with instructional technology licensure.

    Core coursework includes foundations of library and information studies, information sources and services, information organization and access, and library information and management. Students must also complete a capstone experience.

    The University of North Carolina at Greensboro is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    • Graduation rate: 59%
    • Program length: 2.5 years
    • Credits: 36 credit hours
    • Admissions requirements: N/A
    • Program Website  
  7. University of South Florida-Main Campus
    Location

    Tampa, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The University of South Florida offers an accredited online master of arts in library and information science that prepares students for leadership roles as librarians or information science professionals. The program is available entirely online. Students aspiring to obtain a school librarian media specialist certification must also take the Florida Teacher Certification Examination in school media.

    Courses include basic information sources and services, research methods, library administration, organization of knowledge, and microcomputer applications. In lieu of a comprehensive exam, students complete a portfolio to demonstrate their competencies.

    University of South Florida is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

    • Graduation rate: 75%
    • Program length: 2 years
    • Credits: 39 credit hours
    • Admissions requirements: GRE scores - 73rd percentile in verbal and 10th percentile in quantitative or a 3.25+ GPA
    • Program Website 
  8. Appalachian State University
    Location

    Boone, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Appalachian State University offers an online master of library science that prepares students for careers as librarians, archivists, or curators in school or rural libraries. Graduates of the program qualify to apply for media coordinator licensure from North Carolina as well as public librarian certification from the North Carolina Public Librarian Certification Commission.

    Courses include collection development and management, information sources and services, organization of information, and collaborative media program planning and evaluation. Students must also complete an internship or practicum under the supervision of a licensed media coordinator.

    Appalachian State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

    • Graduation rate: 73%
    • Program length: 2 years
    • Credits: 36 credit hours 
    • Admissions requirements: 3.0 GPA, GRE scores or work experience
    • Program Website
  9. University of Houston-Clear Lake
    Location

    Houston, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The University of Houston Clear Lake offers an online master of science in school library and information science that prepares students for careers as literacy and technology experts in elementary, middle, or high schools. Students learn to lead teachers in technology and instruction, develop lessons in multiple subject areas, facilitate information literacy among students, and implement school-wide literacy programs.

    Courses include selecting literature and materials for young adults, school library collection development and management, and research in library science. Students can also complete a school library practicum. Students must earn a C or higher in all coursework in order to graduate.

    University of Houston Clear Lake is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

    • Graduation rate: N/A
    • Program length: 18 months
    • Credits: 33 credit hours
    • Admissions requirements: 3.0 GPA
    • Program Website 
  10. Chicago State University
    Location

    Chicago, IL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Chicago State University offers a master of science in library and information science designed for aspiring librarians, archivists, and other information professionals. The program provides students with theoretical foundations and practical applications of topics in the field to prepare them to work in school, academic, and public libraries. More than 50% of the program occurs online.

    Students choose from specializations in school libraries, archives and records management, academic libraries, or public libraries. Coursework includes organization of information, information technology, research methods, and database design for information storage and retrieval. Students must also complete a field practicum and capstone or thesis project.

    Chicago State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

    • Graduation rate: 17%
    • Program length: 3 years
    • Credits: 34 credit hours
    • Admissions requirements: N/A
    • Program Website  

  • Our Methodology, Explained


    Grad School Hub compiles rankings based on public data released from educational, commercial, and government databases. Sources such as the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics play a significant role in how we source our educational data. After collecting insight for each institution, we organize information into five weighted categories.

    Metric Data Used Percentage
    Academic Quality Full-time faculty percentage, student-to-faculty ratio, student retention and graduation rates 30%
    Affordability Tuition rates, median student debt, and financial aid 10%
    Reputation Admission and enrollment rates 30%
    Program Offerings Number of program options 20%
    Online Enrollment Score Portion of learners taking at least one online course 10%

    A more comprehensive evaluation of how each category is determined and scored is accessible on our Ranking Methodology page.


Everything You Should Know About Earning a Master's in Library Science


  • How long does it take to get a master’s in library science?

    A master’s in library science generally takes 1-2 years to complete, but some schools offer part-time and/or accelerated options. You can also choose part time programs that may take longer to complete but give you the flexibility to only take on the credit count you can currently balance.

  • How much does a master’s in library science make?

    Librarians earn a median salary of just under $60,000 per year. Academic and school librarians typically earn slightly higher wages and you can advance your salary as you progress through your career.

  • What kind of jobs can you get with a master’s in library science?

    Graduates with an MLS degree can work in roles such as public librarian, school librarian, and academic librarian. Graduates can also work as information architects, archivists, and information analysts.

  • How do I get a master’s in library science?

    Prospective students with a bachelor’s degree in any subject can apply to a master’s program in library science or library and information studies.

  • What are the different concentrations for a masters in library science degree?

    You can specialize your education with one of five library science concentrations — school librarianship, archives, library and information science, curation, and youth services. Each concentration will have specialty systems, information, and audiences to learn about.

What to Expect from a Library Science Degree Program

Library science involves organizing and classifying information. In public libraries, librarians help people access books, digital collections, and other materials. Academic librarians assist professors in conducting research, while school librarians curate collections designed to educate young learners.

Most librarian jobs require a master’s in library science. Online MLS programs cover topics like cataloging, information behavior, and collection development. Graduates can pursue careers as librarians, information specialists, and archivists. Graduates with a library science concentration can also pursue careers in information management, archival preservation, and digital preservation.

Why Should I Get a Master’s in Library Science?

Specialized knowledge
An advanced library science degree will give you the opportunity to choose a concentration and focus your learning on one specialty. When entering the workforce, this will make you a more competitive candidate and prepare you take on your department.
.
Increase salary potential
Employees with a master’s degree are often likely to earn a higher salary. The advanced knowledge and expertise is valuable to your employer and they reflect that in your compensation. You can use your degree to negotiate a higher starting salary or a raise once you’ve been in the role for over a year.
Maximize management potential
If you’d like to lead a department and advance to executive positions, a master’s degree can help. Some government jobs and schools require a master’s degree to advance to managerial roles. A master’s degree can set you up with the expertise and confidence to eventually lead a museum or curating department or become a head librarian.

Concentrations in a Library Science Program

In some library science programs, you’ll be given the option to choose a concentration. These five concentrations allow you to focus your studies on a particular career field and increase expertise in a specific area. All concentrations will work on organizing and curating information, but your specialty will focus on applying that knowledge to varying workplaces. 

School librarianship

This concentration is for students who wish to work in K-12 school libraries. You’ll take courses that focus on developing young readers and curating books for education. You may also need a teaching certification to work in schools, but a library science degree will increase your hire appeal. 

Archives

An archives concentration prepares students to work in archives, special collections, and historical societies. You could work at a university or specialized library, in a museum, or with private collections. Courses will teach you to handle sensitive and old documents and sort information like maps, photographs, ancestral data, or letters.  

Library and information services

A more general concentration that can be applied to a variety of fields. A focus on library and information services can prepare you to work in public libraries, academic libraries, museums, government, and more. You’ll learn to create programs, catalog information, and assist the public in using resources. 

Curation

If curating is a particular passion of yours, you can choose a curation concentration. You’ll learn to manage data curation and collection for use. You may go on to be a data librarian or data analyst. Students who graduate from this kind of program often work in government, corporations, and nonprofit organizations. 

Youth services

A youth services concentration will focus on librarian work for children and teens. This can mean managing the youth department at a public library or working in a school library. This concentration will include courses that prepare you to curate collections that include the current popular and educational material, collaborating with educators, organizing literacy programs, and creating engagement events or summer programs. 

Career and Salary Outlook for Library Science Majors



According to the BLS, librarians earn a median salary of nearly $60,000 and enjoy 5% projected job growth between 2019-2029. In addition to working as librarians, graduates can work as postsecondary teachers, archivists, and high school teachers. The following list outlines several common careers for graduates.


1. Adult Literacy and High School Equivalency Diploma Teacher
Adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers teach literacy skills to adults and help students complete their GED or equivalency diploma. They teach lessons in areas like reading, mathematics, and writing. These teachers also emphasize job skills through their courses. Adult literacy teachers may connect learners to job placement services.

2. Postsecondary Teacher
Professors and college instructors create syllabi, instruct undergraduate and graduate students, and grade papers and exams. They may also conduct and publish research. A master’s degree is the terminal degree for academic librarian positions, which can involve teaching.

3. Archivists, Curators, and Museum Worker
Archivists, curators, and museum workers preserve materials with historical value, oversee collections, and educate the public on museum collections. An archivist authenticates documents, preserves and maintains objects, and classifies archival material. Library and information studies training, particularly with classes focused on archives, prepares graduates for these roles.

4. High School Teacher
High school teachers build career- and college-ready skills in young learners. They teach subjects like mathematics, language arts, social studies, and science. High school teachers create lesson plans, deliver instructional material, and assess their students’ knowledge. A library science degree can lead to opportunities as a teacher-librarian or school librarian.

Career Salary Average Projected Growth Rate (2019-2029)
Archivist, Curators, and Museum Workers $46,550-$54,570 -10%
Adult Basic and Secondary Education and ESL Teachers $47,580-$61,630 9%
Librarian and Library Media Specialist $53,950-$64750 11%
High School Teacher $56,270-$62,310 4%

Source: BLS

What is the ROI for a Library Science degree?

Tuition for a master’s in library science will depend on the program, but on average ranges from $7,000 to $25,000. According to the BLS, careers related to library science can range in average salary from $54,000 a year to $65,000 a year. There aren’t necessarily more lucrative career paths than others, your salary potential will depend more on your employer. 

Each career type has the opportunity to hit the higher range as you accumulate experience and tenure with your employer. For example, both curators and librarians can have an average starting salary of around $50,000 a year but a museum curator in New York may have a higher earning potential than an elementary school librarian. 

Admissions Requirements

The admission requirements for a library science master’s program will vary by university, but have a few common baselines. You must either have a bachelor’s degree or equivalent work experience to apply. A 2.75 GPA is sometimes required, though many ask for a 3.0 GPA.

Some programs will ask you to submit GRE scores and others allow GRE scores in place of a high GPA. You may need a few letters of recommendation as well. Some of our favorite library science programs require teaching or librarian experience and some expect a valid teaching certificate for your state.

Accreditation for a Master’s in Library Science



Prospective library science students should always check a school’s accreditation status before applying. Accredited schools undergo a voluntary, third-party evaluation of their student learning outcomes, graduation requirements, and academic mission. Accreditation benefits students in several ways. For instance, only students at accredited schools qualify for federal financial aid, and many schools only accept degrees and transfer credits from accredited institutions.

Colleges can hold regional or national accreditation, with regional accreditation generally considered the more prestigious of the two. Students can verify a school’s accreditation status through the U.S. Department of Education’s searchable database.

Programs within a school may also hold accreditation. The American Library Association (ALA) grants accreditation to library science programs. ALA-accredited programs meet high standards for their curriculum, learning outcomes, and faculty qualifications. Many employers prefer to hire candidates from an ALA-accredited program.

Certifications and Licensure for Library Science Majors

Most library science jobs do not require certification or licensure. However, in certain career paths, librarians need a license or certification. For example, school librarians need a teaching license in some states. MLS students should plan ahead to complete any certification and licensure requirements for their intended career before graduation.

Public Library Certification


Librarians who work in public libraries might need state certification depending on their state. Candidates for administrative positions may also need public library certification. Certified public librarians may need to complete continuing education hours to renew their certification. Because requirements vary by state, prospective public librarians should check the rules in their state.

Teaching License


Some school librarians need a teaching license to work in public schools. The requirements for a teaching license vary depending on the state, but in general, candidates must complete a teacher preparation program and pass teaching exams. In other states, school librarians do not need a teaching license, so MLS students should check the requirements in their state.

Library Support Staff Certification


This certification prepares professionals for positions that do not require a master’s degree. Candidates need at least one year of work or volunteer experience in a library within the past five years. Current MLS students can consider pursuing the certification to work in a library while earning their degree.

Scholarships, Grants and Financial Aid for Library Science Master's Students

Library science students qualify for many scholarship opportunities, including students pursuing an MLS degree online from an accredited program. Organizations like the Association of Research Libraries (ALA)and the American Association of Law Libraries award various scholarships to MLS students. In addition to the following scholarship opportunities for MLS learners, students should research opportunities at their college.

Kaleidoscope Program
Who Can Apply: Offered by the Association of Research Libraries, the program awards funds to library science students who identify as a member of an underrepresented racial or ethnic group. Applicants must submit a resume, a 400-word essay on their professional interest in research libraries and archives, and transcripts. The scholarship also requires a minimum 3.0 GPA.
Amount: up to $10,000

Library and Information Technology Association Scholarships
Who Can Apply: The scholarship, offered by the LITA, a division of the ALA, supports students planning a career in the library and information technology field. The committee looks for candidates who demonstrate academic excellence, leadership, and career vision. Applicants must attend an accredited master’s program and submit a personal statement and letters of reference.
Amount: $3,000-$5,000

AALL Scholarship
Who Can Apply: The American Association of Law Libraries awards this scholarship to students planning to pursue careers in legal information. While AALL members receive preference, anyone can apply to the scholarship. Applicants must attend an accredited library school.
Amount: $2,000

David H. Clift Scholarship
Who Can Apply: The ALA offers the David H. Clift Scholarship to students earning an MLS degree from an ALA-accredited program, including online MLS programs. Applicants must submit a personal statement. Recipients must have completed no more than 12 credits toward their degree prior to receiving the award.
Amount: $3,000

Who can apply for this scholarship?

Any student who needs financial assistance in funding their tuition should apply for scholarship opportunities. Eligibility for a scholarship will vary widely depending on the organization and specific grant. Sometimes being a part of a specific minority group or having an academic specialty will be required. Often, your chances are better if you have proven academic excellence. 

You can look for scholarships from any library or reading literacy associated organization or nonprofit. You could be eligible for general federal grants and graduate scholarships too.

Common Library Science Master Degree Courses



Master’s in library science programs generally require 36-42 credits. Students learn to catalogue material, develop collections, and preserve digital materials. These programs build strong research and analytical skills. Most programs incorporate a capstone or thesis at the conclusion of the degree.

Courses vary by program, but the following list outlines common courses found in online MLS programs.


  • Foundation of Library Science

    Many online MLS programs begin with an introductory course that offers foundational training in the field. Coursework may cover topics like information technologies, issues in library science, and collection development. The course also introduces theoretical and disciplinary approaches to library professions.

  • Information Behavior

    Information behavior courses introduce students to a user-centered approach to information. By analyzing the information needs of users, librarians can present information in effective and useful ways. The course covers theoretical approaches to information needs, the search process, and how to use information. Learners also examine how information behavior informs the design of information systems like libraries.

  • Cataloguing and Classification

    This class teaches students how to construct catalogues and classify materials using various classification systems. Learners study topics like entry formats for titles and data tagging for computer databases. Students also learn to use the Dewey Decimal Classification system, the Library of Congress Classification system, and Library of Congress Subject Headings. After taking the class, MLS students can catalogue monographs, serials, and digital materials using a variety of classification systems.

  • Digital Preservation

    Digital preservation courses introduce graduate students to the concepts and techniques behind preserving digital content. Students review theories of digital preservation and learn to create and implement a digital preservation plan. Coursework also covers the auditing process to assess current preservation methods and preservation standards, such as metadata content.

    The course prepares students for careers in digital curation and digital preservation.

  • Collection Development

    In collection development classes, students learn to develop and manage library collections. The course may cover differences between collection development in public, school, and academic libraries. Students also explore topics like the budgeting process, collection development policies, licensing, and collection evaluation.

Our Picks for the Most Affordable Online Master’s in Library Science Programs



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Danika Miller

HIGHER EDUCATION REPORTER

Danika Miller is an education reporter at Grad School Hub who covers higher education news and trends, as well as paying for college. Her writing has also appeared in Best Value Schools, Affordable Colleges Online, and Her Campus, and her financial expertise has been featured in The Simple Dollar and CreditCards.com.

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