Most Affordable Online Master’s Degrees in Library Science 2020

| Staff

Most Affordable Online Master’s Degrees in Library Science 2020
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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 $59,000 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 Goals of Library Science?



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 degree in library science. Online MLS programs cover topics like cataloguing, information behavior, and collection development. Graduates can pursue careers as librarians, information specialists, and archivists. Graduates can also pursue careers in information management, archival preservation, and digital preservation.


What Are the Benefits of a Degree in Library Science?

Information Studies Training
Most MLS programs incorporate information studies training. The ability to gather and analyze information supports many different career paths.
Specialization Options
MLS students can focus their studies on areas like archival preservation, academic libraries, and digital libraries to customize the degree around their interests.
Transferable Skills
Courses in database management, preservation, and information management prepare graduates for careers in diverse fields like project management and information technology.
Flexibility
Earning a master’s in library science online gives students the flexibility to balance their studies with personal and professional obligations.
Career Paths
Graduates with an MLS degree can work as school librarians, public librarians, and academic librarians. They can also work in other fields with information management needs, such as business and healthcare.

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.

FAQ

Question Answer
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.
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.

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.

Courses in a Library Science Master’s Program



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.

How to Become a Librarian



A master’s degree in library science is the minimum educational requirement for most librarian jobs. A degree in information studies or library and information studies also meets the requirement. Students earning an MLS degree online study topics like research methods, search techniques, and reference systems. Students can often specialize their training with courses for school librarians, public librarians, academic librarians, or law librarians.

After earning an MLS degree from an accredited program, graduates can apply for librarian jobs. Some career paths require a license or certification. School librarians, for example, need a teaching license in some states.

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 Median Annual Salary Projected Growth Rate (2019-2029)
Adult Literacy and High School Equivalency Diploma Teacher $54,350 -10%
Postsecondary Teacher $79,540 9%
Archivists, Curators, and Museum Worker $49,850 11%
High School Teacher $61,660 4%

Source: BLS

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.

How Can a Master's Student Pay for College?

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.

ALA Spectrum Scholarships
Who Can Apply: The ALA offers scholarships to students of color to help them earn a master’s degree and pursue careers in library and information science. Each cycle, the scholarship funds dozens of students based on their leadership potential, commitment to community building, and dedication to social justice.
Amount: varies

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

Affordable Online Master’s in Library Science Programs 2020



  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.

    This online master's degree requires 40 credits, including 21 credits to complete the school library media certification program, 15 credits of core education courses, and a 3-credit capstone course. 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.

    To gain admission to the program, applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution and have earned a minimum 2.5 GPA or possess a master's degree and licensure as a general educator.

    MU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  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.

    The online master's degree in library science requires 33 credits. There is also an alternative 23-credit option for candidates with a master's degree who want to obtain certification as a school librarian. 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.

    Admissions criteria include a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution and a minimum 3.0 GPA in the last 60 credits of undergraduate coursework. Applicants also need a GRE score above the 25th percentile.

    NSU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  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.

    This library science master's degree requires 36 credits and takes 1-2 years to complete. 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. Students must maintain a "B" average to graduate.

    To gain admission to the program, students must hold a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA. Candidates with a GPA lower than 3.0 may still apply, but they must submit GRE scores. An application should also include a resume, statement of intent, and three professional references.

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

  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.

    This online master's in library science requires 39 credits. Students choose from specializations in academic librarianship, archives management, digital curation, public librarianship, school library, technical services, or youth services. Coursework covers topics such as information sources and services, acquisitions and management of knowledge and information, evaluation of information sources, and academic library management.

    Admission requirements include a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution and a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicants who do not meet the GPA requirement must submit GRE scores.

    IUPUI is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  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. The residential program takes two years to complete. 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.

    Applicants to the program must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution and a minimum 3.0 GPA. Law librarianship candidates must possess a JD from a law school in the U.S. Students who do not meet the GPA criteria may still apply and are encouraged to submit additional materials, such as GRE scores.

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

  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. This degree is available entirely online and delivered synchronously with a few asynchronous options. Students choose from the following program options: an MLIS, MLIS with school library licensure, and MLIS with instructional technology licensure.

    The UNC Greensboro MLIS degree requires 36 credits and typically takes 2.5 years to complete. 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.

    Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution and submit a personal statement and three references. UNC Greensboro does not require students to submit GRE scores. The University of North Carolina at Greensboro is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  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.

    This MA in library science requires 39 credits and takes two years to complete. 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.

    Applicants must score in the 73rd percentile in verbal and 10th percentile in quantitative on the GRE. The GRE requirement is waived for students with a 3.5 GPA or higher in a completed master's program, a 3.25 GPA or higher in upper-division undergraduate coursework, or a doctoral degree.

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

  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.

    This MLS degree requires 36 credits and takes two years to complete. 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.

    Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited university, hold a minimum 3.0 GPA, and boast competitive GRE scores. The school waives GRE requirements for students with an undergraduate GPA of 3.4 or higher or who have more than five years experience working in a library setting.

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

  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.

    This MS in library science requires 33 credits and takes 18 months to complete. 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.

    Admission requirements include a bachelor's degree and a minimum 3.0 GPA in the last 60 credits of undergraduate coursework. Students must submit GRE scores if their GPA is between 2.5 and 3.0.

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

  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.

    This MS in library science requires at least 34 credits and typically takes under three years to complete. 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.

    To apply, candidates must submit transcripts, their resume, and a personal goals essay. Chicago State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

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