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Where the money is
Geography continues to play a key role in determining the level of salary new graduates can anticipate. Graduates landing jobs in the West fared the best: 2012 grads working in the West saw the average salary of $54,454 climb 9.3* percent above 2011 levels ($49,819) and seven percent beyond those achieved in 2010 ($50,792). This included healthy increases in salaries for public librarians (up 13 percent), academic librarians (up 7.2 percent), and school librarians (up 6.8 percent). Not surprisingly, many jobs in the West had an information technology industry focus, especially in the areas of user experience design and software engineering.
Southwest salaries continue to be soft at $41,730, falling 6.6 percent below the overall average of $44,503. This was a 1.9 percent drop from 2011, when new graduates earned an average of $42,543 in the Southwest. Salary losses by public librarians and academic librarians (down 2.3 percent and 3.8 percent, respectively) contributed to the disappointing setback in 2012.
While reported earnings generally dropped in the Southeast (1.2 percent below 2011), the best overall salary growth in the region was reported by graduates who self-identified as members of a minority group. Between 2011 and 2012, such librarians’ average salaries grew by 26 percent, from $45,271 to $57,042. The biggest surprise, however, came in the form of a 12.2 percent improvement in public library salaries in the Southeast. Though their salaries remained below the overall average, public librarians received an average starting wage of $36,759, pushed up by minority salaries in public libraries of $40,411 in the same region.
It’s not only the overall average salary that didn’t change: salaries for women ($44,061) and for men ($50,339) also remained flat, with less than one percent movement up or down compared to 2011 levels ($42,990 and $50,500, respectively, in 2011). Women accepting jobs in the West experienced the healthiest increase, with beginning salaries averaging $51,871 (7.3 percent growth), while women in the Southeast saw a slight dip of 1.3 percent with an average starting salary of $41,492 (compared to $42,035 in 2011). Likewise, men finding placements in the West enjoyed another year of salary growth, jumping 7.7 percent from $55,866 to $60,211 in 2012. However, the men also experienced a serious drop of 6.2 percent in wages in the Northeast, landing at $50,760 compared to the high of $54,163 for the 2011 graduating class.
While the gender gap is wide, the salary differential between women and men remained stationary at 14.5 percent. Some of this gap is evidenced in the types of positions that women accept compared to men. For example, in public libraries, women reported accepting almost all of the positions in children’s and young adult services (95.4 percent), which are among the lowest paying jobs ($35,586 for children’s services and $35,991 for young adult services). The gender gap has been much narrower in academic libraries and public libraries and closed slightly between 2011 and 2012. Male academic librarians in 2011 made 6.6 percent higher salaries than women in the same position; this gap decreased to 5.5 percent in 2012. A similar situation occurred in public libraries, with men making 4.5 percent more in 2011, decreasing to a 3.5 percent difference in 2012. The widest gap appeared in private industry, with a 15.4 percent variance.
Region also played a role in the salary differential: proportionally, men made up 19 percent of the overall respondents; however, they made up 30 percent of the reported placements in the West, where salaries are on average 21 percent higher than in the other regions. Regional gaps range from 14 percent to 19 percent.
Minority status offered slightly different trends in salary and placement. Following patterns of previous years, graduates reporting minority status earned 15.9 percent higher salaries than all of their counterparts ($52,931 compared to $44,503 for all LIS grads), with salaries 8.3 percent higher than they were in 2011 ($52,931, compared to $48,841). The most significant increase was in the Southeast, where salaries grew slightly more than 26 percent between 2011 and 2012 ($45,217 to $57,042).
Region and job type offered the highest impact on salary levels for minority graduates. Approximately 38 percent of minority graduates accepted jobs in the West, particularly in the area of user experience (UX) design in private industry, where they reported an average starting wage of $62,909. Going into private industry UX raised minority salaries across the board by approximately 11.1 percent. Without the private industry component, minority starting salaries were, on average, 6.4 percent higher than the overall average ($47,525 for minorities compared to $44,503 for all grads).
Women self-identifying as minority graduates enjoyed a significant rise in fortunes in 2012. Their starting salaries soared by 12.6 percent from $45,775 in 2011 to $51,554. While the gender gap continued among minority graduates, mirroring the overall trends, the salary differences ($51,554 for women; $57,504 for men) narrowed considerably, from 25.5 percent in 2011 to 11.5 percent in 2012. This tightening was owing in part to a 6.5 percent decrease in minority men’s earnings ($57,504 compared to $61,482 in 2011).
On the whole, minority graduates experienced the greatest improvement in salaries in academic libraries, with a strong 7.9 percent gain ($44,659 in 2011 to $48,174 in 2012). This was contrary to the general trend for academic libraries, which had an overall decrease of 2.2 percent. (Special libraries fell even further, by 6.7 percent.) Among other positions, they accepted jobs in the areas of emerging technologies, information technology, instruction, and reference services in academic libraries.
Who works and for how long
Approximately 85.6 percent of the respondents reported that they were employed in a job of some sort. This encompasses jobs within the LIS professions and outside of the field, professional and nonprofessional placements, and permanent and temporary employment.
Full-time placements rose slightly for current graduates, from 75.4 percent in 2011 to 76.5 percent in 2012, a significant improvement over earlier lean economic years, when reports hovered near 70 percent. For some, this still proved disappointing, if they were unable to find a position representative of an earned master’s degree. Graduates spoke of “not being able to break into the library field without prior experience” and the frustration of having to take “contract jobs while waiting for permanent positions to become available.”
The percentage of those having to take contract jobs is down, though: permanent professional positions rose to 61.2 percent of the reported placements. The availability of permanent professional positions had fallen off between 2009 and 2011, slipping from 61 percent to 56.8 percent, making this increase welcome news. Further augmenting the increase in the number of permanent professional positions was a reported decline in positions falling outside of the LIS profession, dropping from 18.3 percent of the placements in 2011 to 9.5 percent of the current graduates. It is noteworthy, however, that 20.6 percent of the graduates describe their jobs as “other,” suggesting they are using LIS skills on the job but doing so in environments not traditionally identified as libraries or information organizations, such as government agencies or academic units outside of the library.
Approximately 35 percent of the participants remained with an employer while completing the degree program. This continued a steady downward trend, dropping from a high of 47 percent in 2010. As in previous years, for some, continued employment was contingent upon earning a master’s degree. This was most notable among school librarians, who were required to obtain state endorsement and teacher certification, but encompassed public and academic librarians as well. LIS graduates noted some payoffs upon receiving the master’s degree while remaining with an employer. Of these employed graduates, 38.2 percent were able to capitalize on the earned degree in the form of salary increases, paid vacation and health insurance, and promotions. Some did not reap the rewards immediately but became eligible to apply for higher-level positions within the organization. Similarly to the previous year, public librarians were the most successful in obtaining salary increases and promotions (32.9 percent), but this was counterbalanced by having to wait for opportunities to become available, which could take several months. Academic librarians once again struggled with obtaining professional status upon graduation, with 17 percent receiving a raise or a promotion. New academic librarians suggested that due to tightening academic budgets and staffing cutbacks, many institutions are unable to promote existing support staff to professional positions. This may explain some of the decreases in academic placement and declining salaries experienced by the 2012 grads.
*Due to an error in calculations, percent change numbers in this article have been corrected as of December 13, 2013.