February 17, 2018

Out of 173 Majors, Library Science Reportedly Has Fourth Highest Unemployment Rate

The Wall Street Journal today published a sortable listing of how college majors fare in the job market, based on 2010 Census data.  Unfortunately, library science fared as one of the worst majors.  Among the 173 majors listed, library science majors had the fourth highest unemployment rate at 15 percent.  The median salary of $36,000 was fifth from the bottom. And in terms of popularity it held the 159th place out of 173.

LJ’s in-depth 2011 Placements & Salaries Survey found pockets of optimism but generally it reported  similarly distressing numbers, particularly in the public library sector. For example, among reports from LIS programs, 34% indicated there was less demand for talent to fill positions than previous years. Employers described getting 200 or more applications for one available spot. Of the 1,547 graduates reporting a job of any type, a mere 59.2% described those jobs as being both permanent and professional.

Michael Kelley About Michael Kelley

Michael Kelley (mkelley@mediasourceinc.com) is the former Editor-in-Chief, Library Journal.



  1. Are these undergraduate majors? It’s hard to tell from the WSJ report or the center where they got the data. If it’s undergraduate majors … well, that’s quite different than employment of those with graduate degrees for jobs that typically require a graduate degree.

  2. Matthew Ciszek says:

    It would appear that the WSJ was using data from the Georgetown University Center for Education and the Workforce that focused on Bachelor-level results, so I think comparing this to MLS/MLIS holders is like comparing apples and oranges. Not saying that there might not be a “glut” of MLS/MLIS holders, but this data may not be the best to prove it.

    Here’s the original GU report: http://cew.georgetown.edu/whatsitworth/

  3. Yes, this is only reporting on those with an undergraduate degree. Given that the master’s degree is the entry-level professional degree, the surprise is that 85% of these people with a BS/BA actually have jobs.

    The Georgetown report referred to above also reveals that 65% of those with the undergraduate degree go on to earn a masters. It does not report on their employment.

  4. … the surprise is that 85% of these people with a BS/BA actually have jobs…

    I don’t think this is a surprise. Paraprofessionals are being given more work in libraries and it’s time for library education to reflect this. Entry-level librarianship should require something like a BLIS/BLS, with CE and certification requirements. If you want to advance further into academic librarianship/subject librarianship, etc. or into administration, then the MLIS (or a Master’s in Public Administration for public library administrators) should be the next step. Radical changes need to be made and implementation of a Bachelor’s in Library and Information Science is a great place to start.

  5. Ben Hansen says:

    Suzanne is right that a Masters is really the requisite degree to get in to the thick of LIS. Also the jobs that one can get with a Library Science degree are vast and varied, not just public branch jobs.

  6. The Information Sciences category has much better numbers!

  7. The WSJ article says the numbers are based on 2010 Census data.

  8. Actually, Jack T., my library has been replacing parapro jobs with professional librarian positions – with the efficiencies we’re realizing for technology, that is freeing up lines and allowing us to really concentrate on higher level work. Our entry level librarians do programming and management and subject work, thus why we require the MLS. (Note: a mid-size university’s academic library. Things may be different in public library world.)

    I was unsurprised at this, since the BA in LS doesnt qualify you to be a professional librarian, the MLS is usually the minimum requirement.

  9. What I have experienced confirms what Jack T. says, in public and academic libraries. I am an MLS holder with 20 years of professional experience, thrown back on the job market, and I have seen many position announcements for paraprofessionals and even library assistants (in both types of libraries) which admit that the person hired will be performing professional-level duties. Even when this is not stated outright, reading the list of expectations and duties for these positions makes it obvious that these institutions have been replacing librarians with paraprofessionals/library assistants in order to cut costs. Also, listservs such as AUTOCAT have been discussing this situation for several years.


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