October 20, 2017

Placements & Salaries 2016: Bouncing Back


The first placements and salaries after completing library and information science (LIS) programs reported this year provide a snapshot of a healthy job market characterized by rising salary levels and work that calls for both traditional and non­traditional skills and roles.

This year, 39 of the 52 U.S. LIS schools reported 4,002 graduates in 2015, with 29% participating in the LJ survey. Overall, 2015 graduates were successful in finding jobs, with 82% of those responding to the employment status question reporting that they had full-time employment. About 74% of these full-time professionals work in a library setting and an additional 13% use their library skills in a different environment. Full-time employment declined slightly from last year, when 2014 graduates reported 83% full-time employment, however it is still well ahead of 2013, when only 69.6% reported having full-time employment. The average starting salary is $48,371, up 2.9% from last year.

Members of the 2015 class tended to be younger and beginning a career for the first time. More than two-thirds were under 36 and more than half said that library and information sciences is the first career they pursued. About 46% of the graduates were working in a library before beginning the degree program.

While these graduates found full-time employment, it required hard work and patience. More than half of the graduates remained with an employer they were with during their program, and those who did not began their job search almost six months before graduation. A little over a third found jobs before graduation; those who did not took nearly five months after graduation to find full-time employment.

Respondents’ satisfaction with their placement is closely tied to full-time status and salary level. More than three-quarters of graduates who found full-time placements were satisfied with these appointments, as opposed to only 30% of those with part-time placements. One part-timer from the East Coast cited many reasons for dissatisfaction, among them scheduling issues and a lack of benefits. Among full-timers, a key to satisfaction may be salary, with graduates who are satisfied earning a salary 15% higher than those who were not.

LIS schools also reported an active market for LIS graduates, with an average of 634 employment postings, which translated into an average of 32.6 more positions posted than the previous year. About half of the schools didn’t have data to compare salaries to last year, but about 13% said salaries were higher, which is supported by the findings from the graduates.


In 2015, the salary level for full-time placements grew overall, and the story was much better for women than for men. The average salary was $48,371 among the 698 graduates who shared their salary information, an increase of 2.9% over last year, on top of a similar increase recorded for 2014. While the low and high salaries are far apart (ranging from $19,000 to $165,000), the average and the median are quite close ($3,371 apart), suggesting that the salaries are highly concentrated near this average. In addition, the substantial differences between the lowest and highest salary levels reflect that more than half of these graduates are entering their first professional position, while other graduates may be adding the master’s degree as further certification to an already accomplished career, or may be switching careers using prior experience as a springboard.

Women’s average salary showed a healthy 5.3% increase over last year, at $47,759. However, the situation for men was not as rosy, with their average salary declining by 3.2% to $51,602. This year, the 2015 graduates who responded to this question were 83.8% women and 16.2% men. Less than 1% of respondents identified as genderqueer. The ratio is similar to 2013 but quite different from last year, when men represented 22.2% of respondents.

Salary by Region

Similar to last year, there was considerable difference in salary level when viewed by region.

Graduates sharing salary information were identified as working in seven regions, with the largest proportion of respondents coming from the Southeast (20.2%) and Northeast (19.3%). Other regions were the Midwest (16.3%), Pacific (14.3%), South Central (12.6%), Mountain (4.6%), and international (1.6%). The Midwest, South Central, and Northeast regions had a higher proportion of women than the average, as did Canada or other international locations.

Graduates holding jobs outside the United States reported the highest average salary ($57,233), but this group represents only a small proportion (1.6%) of those who answered this question.

Within the United States, the pattern of salary levels by region was similar to last year. Graduates with jobs in the Pacific states reported the highest average salary of $56,548, 16.9% higher than the overall average salary. This difference is not as great as last year, when Pacific state salaries were 36.2% higher than the overall average. The Northeast is the only other region that reports a salary level above the overall average (+5.5%). Salaries in the other four regions fall below the overall average: Midwest (-3.3%), Southeast (-5.2%), Mountain (-7.8%), and South Central (-14.2%).

There is a substantial difference between the Pacific region, which reported the highest average salary, and South Central, which reported the lowest average salary. The gap between these two salary levels likely reflects more than the difference in cost of living for these two regions (25% difference between Portland, OR, and Louisville, KY), however it is much closer than last year ($15,033 vs. $22,914).

Women’s salaries are higher than men’s in the Mountain (+6.3%) and Southeast (+2.6%) regions. Men see much higher salaries than women in the Northeast (+18.8%) and South Central (13.1%) regions. This pattern is somewhat less pronounced in the Midwest (+8.5%) and Pacific (+5.9%) ­regions.

Salary by Library Type

Salary levels vary by library type, with several below the overall salary average, with all but private industry salaries recording an increase in pay over last year. In addition, several types of libraries have very strong regional performance. Given the variable cost of living for different parts of the country, this is an important consideration.

The gender ratio varies across library types. School libraries (93% female), nonprofit organizations (88.9%), archives/special collections (87.9%), and public libraries (87.8%) demonstrate a higher proportion of female placements than the average. Government libraries (20.8% male), private industry (20.8%), college/university libraries (21.6%), and special libraries (26.8%) demonstrate a higher proportion of male placements than the average.

While more than half of the graduates are finding jobs in either public libraries (29.9% of graduate placements) or college/university libraries (23.7%), these libraries have salary levels that fall below the overall average (-7.9% for public libraries; -3.1% for college/university libraries). This suggests that graduates are finding jobs but at lower salaries.

PUBLIC LIBRARIES  Similar to last year, public libraries have the lowest salary level ($44,565), but this represents the second year of an upward trend with a substantial increase (+9.7%) over last year and was nearly tied with the salary level of archives/special collections. The Southeast region public libraries’ salary was 14% below the region’s average. The Pacific was the only region that was marginally above the average (+.9%). Salary levels for public libraries continue to suggest a range of responsibilities with salaries reported from $19,000 to $100,000.

There are marked differences in public library salaries for men and women. Men account for only 11.8% of the public library placements, yet they report an average salary that is 8.45% higher than what women report. The range of salaries for women is also much greater (from a low of $19,000 to a high of $100,000) than for men ($32,000–$69,215), and the median suggests that many of the salaries fall on the lower side of this range.

ACADEMIC LIBRARIES  Salaries for college and university libraries averaged $46,850, up 9.4% over last year. Regionally, salaries in the Mountain states were 17.9% above the average. Unlike last year, the salary level in the Pacific region was well below the average for the region (-11.7%). The range of salaries reported is nearly as broad as those for public libraries, suggesting that there is a wide array of responsibilities.

College and university libraries employ the second highest proportion of men, and men report salaries that are 8.4% higher than women’s salaries. Low salaries for women and men are fairly close ($21,000/$24,500), suggesting that entry-level positions are similar.

Salaries in archives/special collections ($44,570) are also below the overall average (-7.9%), however they experienced a small increase over last year (+2.6%). About 4.8% of the graduate respondents are employed in this type of library. There were only a small number of these placements, making comparisons across regions difficult. However, comparing salary levels to regional averages does provide some interesting insights. Archival salaries in the South Central (-13%) and Midwestern (-19.4%) areas fell considerably below the regional average. Similar to other library types, salaries range from $25,000 to $97,850, which may reflect responsibilities or available resources.

SCHOOL LIBRARIES  The story for school libraries is heartening. The reported average salary of $52,848 is 9.3% higher than the overall average and up 8.8% over last year. School library positions in the Pacific (+19.5%), Northeast (+11.6), and Midwest (+11.2%) were compensated at levels well above their regional averages. No placements were reported in the Mountain states.

While this year school librarian/school media specialist showed a salary above the average at $53,478, note that last year the school librarian and school media specialist titles were separated and school librarians were paid below the overall average.

School libraries employ the highest percentage of women (93%), yet salaries for men exceed those for women by 2.7%. The differences fall at the low salary levels, while the highest salaries are at a similar level.

OTHER LIBRARIES  Government library salary levels are substantially higher than last year (+14.7%) but only slightly above this year’s overall average (+1.3%). The number of placements more than doubled over last year (53 to 26) and, interestingly, 45% of these placements were in the Southeast, where salary levels were 17% above the regional average. The five positions in the South Central region are at 15.6% above the regional average. Government libraries are tied for third in terms of the proportion of men employed (20.8%), yet salaries for women are 5% higher.

Private industry reported the highest salary level among the library types at $53,437, which was 21.9% down from last year but 10.5% above the overall average salary. Similar to last year, private industry salaries were strong in the Pacific (+11.1% over regional average). However, when examining regions with at least two placements, average salary levels against regional average were even stronger in the Southeast (+18.2). Private industry is tied for third in terms of the proportion of men employed (20.8%); salaries for men are 2.4% higher than for women.

Special library salaries ($51,606) increased over last year by 6.3% and are 6.7% higher than this year’s average. Special librarians in the South Central region are seeing pay that is 56.6% above the regional average, while Northeast special libraries are also paying well above their region’s average (+30.4%). Special libraries employ the highest proportion of men (26.8%) and also pay men at a rate that is 29.9% higher than it is for women. This disparity is clear at the lowest level and highest levels alike.

Nonprofit organizations were added as a library type last year and only represented 2.6% of the placements reported. However, the average salary ($52,562) is up 18.2% over last year. Nonprofit organization placements are held mostly by women (88.9%), with salaries for women 5.8% higher than for men. Interestingly, the low salary for women is markedly less than for men, but the high salary for women is higher than for men.

Graduates could also specify if they were employed by other organizations. This category accounted for the same level of graduates (4.8%) as archives/special collections and reported a 10.1% hike in salary level over last year.

This article was published in Library Journal. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Suzie Allard About Suzie Allard

Suzie Allard (sallard@utk.edu) is Professor of Information Sciences and Associate Dean of Research, University of Tennessee College of Communication & Information, Knoxville. She is PI or co-PI on grants funded by IMLS, NSF, and other foundations. She is a member of the DataONE Leadership Team and the Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations Board of Directors and the winner of the 2013 LJ Teaching Award.



  1. As a recent MLIS graduate who chose to “opt in” to receiving career surveys from my library school, the 29 percent response rate gives me pause when drawing conclusions from these studies — especially since these results diverge from what I have personally observed “in the field.”

    I suspect that those who have positive career developments to report are more likely to participate than those who will have to admit to having no job, or to finding only unfulfilling and/or part-time employment.

    Personally, my first impulse when alumni updates are solicited is to avoid admitting to or reflecting on my current situation and job prospects, and thus, to avoid these surveys. I suspect that I am not the only struggling graduate to have this thought process upon seeing a request for updates in my email inbox.

    • There seems to be plenty opportunities for those who are willing to move. I was hired in April and graduated in May. As a new graduate you have to be open to changing where you live. Once you do that then opportunities abound.

    • Thank you for sharing that thought. I am looking into pursuing my bachelors in library science and have been feeling very doubtful about the opportunities that will open up in the future. Reading this article and seeing your comment has given me some courage on pursuing what I would like to do. Thanks!