Why Should I Get An MLIS Degree?

An MLIS degree- or Master in Library and Information Science- is a degree many librarians will have. Of course, it’s not just people in libraries who have MLIS degrees. MLIS degrees can be used for a variety of occupations. If you’re interested in why you should be pursuing an MLIS degree, read on!

What Is An MLIS Degree?

An MLIS- or Masters of Library and Information Science- is a graduate-level degree focusing on the cataloging and study of printed and digital media. Typically those who want to pursue a career in librarianship in the US or Canada can attend an ALA-accredited degree program[1].

MLIS Degree programs cover a variety of subjects such as:

  • Reference Work
  • Cataloging and referencing
  • Developing collections
  • Archiving primary documents
  • Digital Cataloguing
  • School Libraries
  • Teaching and student management

There will be coverage of theoretical subjects of librarianship- such as what makes a good collection, and what books you need in a library[2].

“Graduation caps” by JMaz Photo is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

What Can I Do With An MLIS Degree?

Now that you know what an MLIS degree is, and what it consists of, you might be wondering, what can I do with it? There are many things that you can do with an MLIS degree and not all of them are library work.

Depending on your type of degree or specialty you can work in libraries, but you can also go into archival work, and museum work, you can become a project manager at a university or institution, a professional academic writer and editor, a fact checker for professors, record manager for a medical facility or government office2

The possibilities are endless!

If you’re anything like me and want to march forward into library work, I have good news for you. First thing first, don’t let the previous list dissuade you. Libraries are not dead, nor are the importance of them.

Libraries are needed to house all forms of information, in fact, there’s a reason some websites call themselves a library or archive of information. They are excellent places to combat the digital divide created by technology.

Librarians are also key activists to accessibility and civil rights movements. I know for a fact that the DC Public libraries host events dedicated to civil movements.

The skills offered through a library degree can be applied to all sorts of situations and jobs. In an MLIS program, graduate students will learn

  • Project Management
  • Leadership
  • Instructional Design
  • Community Advocacy
  • Marketing
  • Cultural Competency
  • Research Methods
  • Data research, collection, and analysis
  • Digital Systems Management
  • Preservation of Artifacts
  • Web Development

As a side benefit- librarians also tend to have the qualities of communication skills, Initiative, Interpersonal- sometimes called soft- skills,  Organizational skills, Problem-Solving Skills, and Reading skills.

The following list is potential Jobs for MLIS Degree holders:

  • Library Director
  • Research Specialist
  • School Librarian
  • Law Librarian
  • Medical Librarian
  • Marketing and Communications Specialist
  • Communication Outreach Coordinator
  • Director of Technical Services
  • Professor
  • Curriculum Developer
  • Documentation Specialist
  • Content Production Manager
  • Archivist/ Digital Collections Librarian
  • Museum Collections Manager
  • Records Manager
  • Digital Assets Manager
  • Insurance Forms Research Librarian
  • Acquisitions and Copyright Manager
  • Technology Consultant

And so much more[3]. In 2018, Jobs such as Public Affairs Specialist for the Smithsonian, Development Services Manager, Material Research Specialist, and many more non-library jobs were filled by MLIS Degree holders[4]

The LibGig[5] article here lists the numerous ways MLIS Degrees are useful, breaking it down less by jobs and job types but through the category, many of the skills give way to.

“But, Do I really need an MLIS Degree? That’s expensive, I have to go through four years of undergraduate first before I can even try to apply-“ Ok, I hear you, and your right. Master’s degrees are expensive, and not feasible for everyone. I don’t blame you if you stop at undergraduate.

Depending on the job, state, and library size, you might not need an MLIS, just the experience- even in other degrees.

Small libraries often have trouble filling positions, so they’ll take what they can get. State requirements might not even require you to get an MLIS. There might just be a population requirement on it, such as Michigan requiring an MLIS if the population being served is 25,000 or more[6].

“Library” by Geoff Coupe is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Where can I get an MLIS Degree?

There are many places to get an MLIS Degree, and most of them are fully online as well.  I recommend looking for one that is in your state or the state of your preferred library.

In some states, there’s only one program that is ALA Accredited- such as Ohio. In Ohio, the only ALA Accredited school is Kent State University.

Why is ALA Accreditation Important?

Excellent Question! It might not seem important for a program to be ALA Accredited, especially if you can just work your way up.  ALA- or American Library Association- accreditation enhances your career mobility and provides greater flexibility in the types if jobs for which you qualify.

Or, as I once told a friend, imagine a powerful group of Wizards, and everyone is trying to become a powerful wizard, but the Wizard’s cult decided that only certain programs get their approval. If you attend the approved program, you can work your way up to whatever you want much faster.

Or you know, insert any Dungeons and Dragons class in there that you want.

Returning to the question of where can I get my MLIS Degree? Kent States Program is completely online, with no set schedule, they even have a Ph.D. offered online and on campus[7].

That being said, if you don’t mind ALA accreditation, here is a list of schools in Ohio, and throughout the county.

What’s after the MLIS Degree?

There are numerous jobs you can take after securing your graduate degree10, however, if you wanted to continue your education, your able to a PhD in Library and Information Science.

Getting a Ph.D. in Library and Information Science can help you secure high-ranking jobs- such as a university library director or head archivist, analyst, professor even! Of course, it’s not necessary, and it should be something you get if you want to. It’s not always feasible to go after a PhD, especially if you struggled to get your masters.

Here is a list of schools that offer PhD Library Science Studies

“Mediencampus Dieburg: Library” by Steven Wolf Photography is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.


Getting an MLIS Degree is an excellent opportunity to pursue your career and expand your knowledge. It can lead to a variety of careers, even if you don’t want to be a librarian.  With the constant intake of information and knowledge, it is quite valuable to be able to understand how to swim through it.

There are a variety of options for getting your MLIS degree, many of them online and flexible, so you may work and learn at once. Depending on the library you start to work in, you may not need the degree- just the experience. It’s important to know what you want before you go forth toward your degree.

Go forth and chase your dreams and goals. Library work is a required part of this world, and the rumor that ‘libraries are dying’ are just rumors with no backing.

[1] https://www.mastersindatascience.org/programs/masters-in-library-science

[2] https://www.mastersinlibraryscience.net/what-is-a-mlis-degree/

[3] https://onlinegrad.syracuse.edu/information-science/mlis/library-science-careers/

[4] https://ischool.syr.edu/45-more-non-librarian-jobs-for-mlis-grads/

[5] https://www.libgig.com/what-to-do-with-your-mlis-degree/

[6] https://www.ala.org/educationcareers/careers/librarycareerssite/whatyouneedmaster

[7] https://www.librarysciencedegrees.org/schools-by-state/ohio

10 https://www.ala.org/educationcareers/libcareers/become#:~:text=A%20master’s%20degree%20in%20library,must%20meet%20state%20teaching%20requirements.