Master’s in Library Science Online Programs

Ready to earn your online master’s in library science? Check out some of today’s top online MLIS programs, compare course cost and accreditation, and begin your journey to a satisfying career.

Last Updated: 11/02/2020

Do you have a passion for people and a love for books? Are you interested in a career that allows you to utilize your customer service skills while building upon your information technology expertise? If you answered yes, a career as a librarian could be an excellent match for you and there is no better degree to prepare you for the job than a master’s in library science. In fact, online MLIS programs are specifically designed to prepare you for work as a librarian and will teach you the skills to help students and others find and access the books and information they need for personal and professional projects. Not only can you take satisfaction in being a pillar in your community, you may also benefit from a healthy pay rate and growing job opportunities.

To take the first step towards your new career, you need to find the right graduate program to fit your personal needs. From exploring the top online MLIS programs to understanding cost, accreditation, and learning outcomes, read on to learn what you need to know to begin your journey to a rewarding library career.

Top Online MLIS Programs

A master’s degree is a big commitment both personally and financially. To be sure that you’re investing your time and money wisely, it’s important to properly research schools before committing to an online master’s in library science program. To help you with your search, we’ve gathered information and requirements from the top online library science programs from across the U.S. that possess the accreditation that your future employers are looking for. We’ve also picked programs that are affordable, so you don’t break the bank while earning your graduate degree. Here’s a look at some of the top schools with online master’s in library science programs.

1

Indiana University – Master of Library and Information Science

Indiana_Hoosiers_logo

Located in Bloomington, IU is a public institution established in 1820. The school today serves approximately 110,000 students across all its campuses and online. Remote students can take advantage of its online master of library and information science program. Accredited by the American Library Association, this fully online program requires no on-campus or in-person obligations.

IU’s program gives you the chance to specialize in several areas of the field, including concentration areas in academic librarianship, archives management, technical services, and digital curation. Learners can also choose from one of several popular dual degree programs and couple their library science studies with programs including the MA in history, MS in health informatics, or JD in law.

Those seeking an online master’s in library science need to complete 39 credit hours for graduation. Applicants should possess a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution with a 3.0 or higher GPA. Prospective MLIS students must also submit their official transcripts, three letters of recommendation, and a personal statement for consideration. No GRE is required. Both in-state and out-of-state learners pay the same tuition rates. Master’s students usually need two years to complete this program.

2

East Carolina University – Master of Library Science

east-carolina-university

This public school in Greenville is the fourth largest university in North Carolina. The school today boasts approximately 29,200 students and offers a master’s degree in library science. ECU’s program is specifically designed for learners who are interested in pursuing careers as information professionals and librarians at public libraries, universities, community colleges, and K-12 schools.

Distance learners choose between three concentration areas in academic, public, or school libraries. ECU also prides itself on offering MLS students the opportunities to study abroad or pursue international internships.

This 100% online program features asynchronous courses. Depending on their concentration, learners take classes such as materials for early childhood, collection development, and instructional foundations of the school library media program. MLS students must also complete a capstone portfolio for graduation.

Prospective MLS students should possess a bachelor’s degree with a 2.7 or higher GPA. Applications must also include a statement of purpose and letters of recommendation. No GRE scores are required. Full-time students complete the program in five semesters while part-time students usually take seven semesters, including taking classes during the summer.

Earning Your Master’s in Library Science Online

An online master’s in library science comes with a variety of great benefits and advantages when you compare it to traditional on-campus programs. While distance learning isn’t for everyone, many students enjoy the flexibility, affordability, and pace of online learning. As you look into graduate programs, consider some of these perks of remote learning.

Benefits

Convenience

Online MLS programs take advantage of the latest technologies to reduce the amount of time you need to spend on-campus. In fact, some programs don’t have any in-person requirements at all. Many learners enjoy this convenient component of online MLS learning because they can complete classes from home or just about anywhere with a wifi signal. Schools that offer asynchronous courses add yet another layer of flexibility, as this format doesn’t require you to log in at particular times or attend live class meetings. In other words, you can complete your coursework and meet your deadlines on your own time. This is especially helpful for working adults with career or familial obligations.

Affordability

Online master of library science programs also tend to be quite a bit cheaper than traditional on-campus programs. Much of the time, you’ll receive a reduced or in-state tuition rate as an online learner regardless of where you live. You also save money by avoiding costly commutes to campus, including savings on gas or parking fees, subway fare, or bus passes. You save obvious costs like room and board but also on miscellaneous fees that colleges often charge on-campus students. This includes campus activities fees, transportation fees, student legal services, recreation events, and more.

Time

Another possible perk you can take advantage of in your online master’s in library science program is the accelerated program option. In these programs, remote learners can complete their MLS degree in as few as 12 months. The accelerated option works great for students who can’t commit to a two-year full-time program. While accelerated online master’s in library science programs may be hard to come by, they do exist. Keep in mind that accelerated programs may not offer your chosen concentration. It will be important for you to weigh the pros and cons of spending less time in school versus getting training in your preferred areas of the field.

Challenges

Internships

Your online master’s in library science program might require you to complete an internship, externship, or practicum for hands-on learning experience. The specifics of these requirements vary among programs. If you’re an out-of-state learner, there’s a good chance that you’ll have to locate a practicum location on your own. Your school will need to do a little investigating after you submit your desired location to give their final approval but finding an appropriate location might be up to you. That could be more challenging than it seems. You’ll need to locate a place that has the time and space for you, as well as the appropriate technologies to satisfy your department’s requirements.

Technical issues

Another challenge that online learners often face are those technological issues that tend to plague us at the very worst moments. You can be finishing a final paper and, at the last minute, your wifi or power goes out. Since you’re working from home, most troubleshooting aspects of any tech problem will be up to you. Sure, you can call your internet provider or electric company, but it might be hours or days until a service technician arrives. Many professors provide their remote students with some leeway in these situations, but some schools have very strict policies on deadlines.

How it works online

Your online coursework for the MLS degree will come in one of a few formats. There are fully online programs, hybrid programs, and programs that have 100% online coursework with an in-person internship or practicum requirement. Depending on whether your classes are delivered synchronously or asynchronously, you’ll either attend live lectures and participate in real-time discussions online or view pre-record lectures and other instructional content whenever you choose. Classes might also require students to engage with others in the class and professors in an online discussion board.

A Look Inside the Online Master’s in Library Science  

When it comes to enrolling in your online master’s in library science degree program, you’re likely to have questions on nearly all aspects of the process. It’s a good idea to spend some time researching the costs, required courses, and available concentrations of any given program you’re considering. It’s also important that you look into the types of careers that might be available to you after you finish your degree. Here are some of the answers to your most pressing questions.

What do you learn in an online master’s in library science program?

Every online master’s in library science program you consider will be a little bit different.. You should expect that each program will have its own approach to taking you through the required knowledge for the field, including resource management, digital asset management, advanced research skills, professional ethics, and leadership skills. Here are some of the major learning outcomes you can expect from any online master’s in library science degree program.

  • IT and Data ManagementMLS learners develop a thorough understanding of the latest information technology and data management tools used across the field today. Library science professionals put this knowledge to use in a variety of ways to problem-solve. MLS graduates working in the healthcare field, for example, can use IT and data management skills to improve healthcare services delivery that better serves patients.
  • Critical-Thinking SkillsLibrary science professionals need to be able to synthesize large bodies of information. MLS programs will help you learn how to engage with academic and research materials on their own terms, formulate thoughtful questions for further inquiry, think through complex materials with an open mind, and be able to explain this information to others.
  • Understanding of User Behaviors & Access to InformationMLS students obtain a deep understanding of the ins and outs of information access and the technologies that make it possible for researchers and other professionals. In this way, they can explain advanced concepts govern information dissemination, retrieval, and organization, as well as assess the effectiveness of information access available to users within professional research and library contexts.
  • Methods to Support New Research & Information ProfessionalsA primary goal for most library science professionals is to improve general access to information and support academic endeavors for students, researchers, and the public. In this way, MLS programs ensure that graduate students understand how to design and carry-out research projects, employ theoretical frameworks, take advantage of published scholarly materials like peer-reviewed journals, and produce academic research proposals.
  • Professional Ethics in Library ScienceGraduate programs prepare you with the knowledge to navigate professional and academic spaces where intellectual property and the ownership of ideas is treated with the utmost respect. You will develop a series of practical and ethical skills, including how to properly cite sources, support intellectual freedom, and preserve recorded information for future use.

Common Courses

The Information Profession

This introductory class will help you get a foundational understanding of how libraries and research facilities function as part of society and professional life. The course covers the impact of technology on library science professions over time, ethics, current issues in the field, and the philosophy of librarianship.

Classification and Cataloging

In this core class you’ll explore the ways that library science professionals today organize both hardcopy and digital materials. Professors typically include instruction on Dewey Decimal Classification, Anglo-American Cataloging Rules, and Sears Subject Headings. The class also covers database maintenance, materials preparation, acquisitions, and circulation.

Instructional Materials and Teaching in Libraries

In this course you’ll develop essential skills for creating educational library programs using the latest technologies and some non-traditional approaches. Students create lesson content using an online platform, oftentimes for K-12 learners. Professors also cover performance-based assessment models for librarians.

Society and Digital Culture

You’ll get a better understanding of digital culture by examining the networks and systems that make global interconnectedness possible. Faculty cover topics in digital ethics, social media movements, cross-cultural design, and the political aspects of digital technologies.

Genealogy and Local History

This class covers U.S. genealogical tools to locate community and family histories on record. You’ll learn how to navigate archived documents in print and digital formats. Students also learn about copyrights, public and private recording keeping, and identity control.

Can you earn a master’s in library science completely online?

Yes, you can complete some MLS programs entirely online with no on-campus or in-person obligations. Other programs may follow a hybrid course format, requiring you to complete classes both online and in-person. Degree requirements vary among schools, as some require you to complete an internship, externship, or practicum at an approved location for hands-on learning. Alternatively, you’ll find programs that ask learners to complete a final project, create a portfolio of work, or take a comprehensive exam in order to graduate. These options can usually be finished remotely.

How long does it take to earn a master’s in library science degree online?

In a full-time, accelerated programs students can sometimes complete their degrees in three consecutive semesters, or about one calendar year. Part-time learners can take up to three or four years to complete the program, depending on their workload. Additional factors that will affect the duration of your program include whether or not your department requires in-person requirements like on-campus residences or internships or a final project, portfolio, or final exam. If you have transferable credits from previous graduate work at another school, you might be able to save time and money by getting credit for those. Check with your prospective department or registrar to get more information on transfer credits for master’s in library science degree-seekers.

How much does an online master’s in library science cost?

The cost of your online master’s in library science will vary among schools and depends on several factors. Firstly, public schools tend to offer lower tuition rates than private schools. Your tuition rates might also be higher if you’re an out-of-state learner even if you’re completing classes online. The duration of your program, or how long it takes you to satisfy your credit requirements will also has some bearing on how much you’ll spend over time. Lastly, the more funding you’ve secured ahead of time through grants and scholarships greatly affects how much you’ll pay out of pocket. Here is the per credit cost at a few universities to give you an idea of what to expect.

St. Johns University

St. John’s
University

Master of Science in Library and Information Science

Total Credits: 36

$1,355/credit

University of Kentucky

University of
Kentucky

Master of Library
Science

Total Credits: 36

$607/credit

Drexel University logo

Drexel
University

Master of Library and Information Science

Total Credits: 45

$1,342/credit

How do I get into an online master’s in library science program?

Application requirements for the MLS are fairly similar among colleges and universities, with only a handful of variations. Most online master’s in library science programs require you to possess a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution. Schools often consider 3.0 or higher GPAs to be competitive. Not all programs require you to submit GRE scores for consideration. Some programs will accept scores from the Miller Analogies Test, while others ask for no standardized test scores at all. Lastly, you might need to participate in an admissions interview or demonstrate computer/technology literacy. These programs tend to be moderately competitive, with acceptance rates hovering between 50-70%.

Do I need a bachelor’s degree from a particular field to apply for an MLS?

No, you can apply for an online master’s degree in library science with a bachelor’s degree from just about any field. It’s certainly possible that incoming students with a bachelor’s degree in the hard sciences might be slightly more prepared than those coming from non-STEM majors, although this should not deter you from applying or pursuing a career in library science.

Do most MLS programs require the GRE as part of the master’s application?

No, many online programs today don’t require you to submit your GRE scores for consideration. While some programs might require your standardized test scores as part of the application process, submitting your GRE scores might also be optional. You could consider sending in GRE scores to supplement your MLS application, especially if you have strong scores and your application is lacking in other areas.

Paying for Your Online Master’s in Library Science

As soon as you commit to applying for graduate school, you should begin looking for funding opportunities. It’s important to do exhaustive online searches as well as pool local resources and contacts to find local sources of funding. This includes local foundations or individuals who support education, rotary clubs, private institutions, and memorial scholarships.

1

Scholarships & Grants

Scholarships and grants are essentially free money that you don’t need to repay. You should apply for as many library science scholarships or grants for which you are eligible and a strong contender. The American Library Association offers a good list of opportunities. Your prospective schools might also offer some scholarships or grants of their own. You should also check out our scholarships guide for some great funding options.

2

Student Loans

Loans are borrowed money, which you can get through the federal government or privately, that you must repay with interest. You’re more likely to get better interest rates for your MLS program through federal loans than private loans. You can borrow up to $20,500 per year as a graduate student.

3

Assistantships and Work Study Programs

The number of funding options you’ll have access to depends on your program. Many schools offer some of their graduate students assistantship opportunities. These are jobs, such as assistant teaching roles or administrative assistant-type positions, that help you cover the cost of tuition. They may even come with a stipend and tuition remission. Online students can obtain assistantships, too, as many teaching and administrative roles can be carried out remotely. Alternatively, some colleges offer graduate student work study programs. These are based on financial need, and you’ll need to seek out and apply for them on your own. Ask your prospective academic department for guidance on where to look and if there’s any work study jobs available in-house in the library science department.

Accreditation Standards for Your Online Master’s in Library Science

It’s important to your career as a library science professional that you receive training and credentials from a regionally or nationally accredited school. Most online MLS programs will have regional accreditation. This is considered the gold standard for credible colleges and universities. National accreditation is usually awarded to credible vocational or trade schools that offer fewer degrees and programs and focus on developing practical hands-on, career-oriented skills.

It’s also a good idea to get your online master’s in library science from a school that holds programmatic accreditation. While not all schools that possess regional accreditation will seek out programmatic accreditation, it’s reassuring when they do have it. It signals that the program is dedicated to upholding the latest educational standards in the field. The primary programmatic accrediting body for library science programs is the American Library Association (ALA).

What’s After Your Online Master’s in Library Science?

It’s good to know what the job market looks like, which viable career options are out there, and how much you’ll make before you enter an online program. In this section, we’ll help you make sure you’ve got your bases covered and have a good understanding of where this degree can take you academically and professionally.

Do I need certification or licensure to work in library science?

In most cases, MLS degree-holders will not need to obtain additional licensure or certification to work in the field. Public school librarians in some states need to possess licensure or certification as a teacher in the state before they can obtain librarian certification. To obtain licensure, you’ll need to earn a passing score on the Praxis Library Media Specialist test. In other cases, you’ll only need your MLS degree and no additional certifications in order to work in schools or other professional settings. For the latest requirements for librarians, check with the state department of education where you plan to work.

How much can you earn with a master’s in library science?

Most learners with an online library science degree pursue work as a school librarian or college-level library science teacher. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), these professionals make a mean annual wage of $59,500 and $77,170, respectively. Depending on their training and interests, MLS degree-holders can also find jobs working as archivists, who make a median annual wage of $53,950. BLS projects that available positions for librarians in the U.S. will increase by 5% by 2029, which is slightly higher than the average growth for all other occupations in the U.S.

Continuing Education & Related Degrees

After you complete your online degree in library science, you might still have some topics you want to explore. There are tons of opportunities for you to continue learning, especially through advanced or related degree programs. Earning additional credentials can diversify your career options, increase your earning potential, or help you seek out a little different career trajectory altogether.

Continuing Education

PhD in Library Science

If you have an interest in conducting advanced research or teaching at the college level, a PhD in library science is a great choice. You’ll be able to further develop your knowledge in a specialized area of the field, increase your earning potential, and work on research projects that pertain to your expertise. Your master’s degree in library science qualifies you to apply to any PhD program in this area. Like most PhD programs, you can expect to spend four or more years completing your degree requirements.

PhD in Library, Archival, and Information Studies

Take your MLS studies to the next level with more specialized training. This degree prepares you for administrative and leadership roles, as well as advanced research positions, in archives, museums, and universities. You’ll learn archival-grade preservation techniques for digital and hardcopy media in addition to studying the philosophical aspects of human experience and recorded artifacts. You’ll also need four or more years to complete this degree.

Related Degrees to Consider

PhD in Informatics

Graduate programs in informatics combine the study of information and computers. They’ll give you the chance to study human-computer interaction design, the creation of computational methods, educational app development, and user experience. Depending on the program, you might be able to specialize in an area of the field, such as art and cultural informatics, spatial informatics, health and medical informatics, or bioinformatics. Upon completing this degree, you’ll be ready for jobs in software development, data science, cybersecurity, UX design, and much more.

Master of Arts in History

Students with an interest in library science may also find a rewarding path in a history program. These degrees help you develop specialized knowledge in a historical time period and location. From Latin America and the Middle East to medieval times and comparative gender studies, an MA program in history allows you to cast a wide net and study exciting topics. Degree-holders move on to careers as teachers, political scientists, archivists, historians, and more.

Master of Arts in Folklore

If you’re thinking about a library science degree, you certainly have a deep interest in how information is disseminated and informs peoples’ daily lives. With formal training in folklore, you can study the spoken word, stories and storytelling, music and instrument-making, writing, poems, art, and much more. Many folklore degree-holders pursue careers as teachers, historians, archivists, arts organization leaders, among many other roles.

Resources for Library Science Students & Professionals