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The Worst Master’s Degree for Jobs

For those of you in or contemplating library school, this ranking of master’s degrees from Forbes sent in by a kind reader might give you food for thought. It ranks the 10 best and 10 worst master’s degrees based on mid-career median pay and projected employment increases. Guess where the MLS fell in the list?

The No. 1 Worst Master’s Degree for Jobs: Library and Information Science. Ouch.

That’s based on: Mid-career median pay: $57,600. Projected employment increase for common jobs associated with this degree: 8.5%.”

But, some of you are saying, $57,600 is nothing to sneeze at! However, you’re only saying that because you’re used to living by librarian standards or worse. That’s not much more than the median household income in the U.S., and at mid-career in a job requiring a master’s degree.

Good thing we’re doing this for the public good instead of private gain!

The second worst is English, the third music, the fourth education, and the eighth history. Just think about all those librarians you know who probably combine one of those with an MLS. They don’t stand a chance. I mean, unless combining them makes them better. The literature and music librarians I know do seem pretty happy.

Lest you think it’s just the humanities that suck for jobs, biology and chemistry also make the list (at 5 and 6 respectively). Jobs counseling and human resource management also make it, which is sort of ironic. You train to help people get jobs and you can’t get a job. I bet you feel like a loser now.

Among the 10 best master’s degrees are physician’s assistant, occupational therapy, nursing, and healthcare administration, so if you really want to spend your life around sick people, your future is all but assured. I’d rather work in a library.

There’s also physics, electrical engineering, mathematics, computer science, and economics. Buy let’s face it, the sort of people who become librarians usually aren’t great at math and science, so assisting physicians is looking better and better.

Granted, this might not be a scientifically valid study. Any article that wants you to click through 20 pointless pictures instead of just giving you a ranked list is pretty far removed from intellectual respectability. 7 of the 20 pictures have people sitting in front of computers, and if anyone can tell me how the picture for history has anything to do with history, please do.

And as the article acknowledges, “it’s also important to think about work-life balance and employee satisfaction for the common jobs associated with these degrees.”

Those people who make a lot of money work really long hours, sometimes at stressful jobs where mistakes can cause actual harm, either physical or financial. People die. Companies go broke.

Does that really describe many library jobs? How many librarians are really working 60-80 hours a week? And how many librarians have jobs where if they make mistakes it costs lives or significant amounts of money?

Not many, I’d bet.

So that’s the silver lining to pursuing the No. 1 worst master’s degree for jobs in the U.S. You might not get a job, but if you do, think how relaxing your life will be compared to all those people who work stressful  high paying jobs.

We librarians aren’t in it for the money. We’re in it for the relaxation and the goodwill. That should be the new advertising slogan for library schools. Someone should tell that to Forbes. And if we don’t get jobs, we don’t get jobs. At least we’ll know a lot about using libraries.


Please note that new comments for all posts on this blog have been closed.


  1. As I told my Dad last night, professional librarians that take underpaid and non-degree library jobs are watering down the profession, the degree, and selling themselves short; it’s heartbreaking to watch. He replied, at least their in a library and not flipping burgers at McDonald’s. Yes, my husband (Stephen Flynn) and I took jobs apart from each other to gain needed relevant experience out of grad school, which has it’s own down-sides. My graduating class of 2011 and the ones to come are having a difficult time finding “entry level” professional jobs and we are trying to make the best. But will it be enough to even achieve the mid-level pay in this article if we start off at a lower position because it’s all some people could get in a library after grad school?

  2. *they are

  3. Christopher Elliott says:

    “Among the 10 best master’s degrees are physician’s assistant, occupational therapy, nursing, and healthcare administration, so if you really want to spend your life around sick people, your future is all but assured. I’d rather work in a library.”

    Love this.

  4. In the past 9mos or so, the AL and commenters have done a good job exploring/articulating the weaknesses of a Masters in LibSci in terms of rigor, economic payback, pertinence for today’s info/knowledge landscape and preparation for actual library work.

    The problems seem pretty well understood. Is anyone aware of a forum where people in the profession are addressing these issues?

  5. The Librarian With No Name says:

    I don’t know that librarians working 60-80 hours a week are all that rare. For example, I’m still working 25 hours a week at my old retail job in addition to my 40 hours at the library. The bulk of both paychecks go toward paying off my MLIS student loans and saving up for a down payment to get me out of my rathole grad student apartment. I’ve doubled my income over working retail alone, but the only changes to my lifestyle are purely theoretical.

    When I was a fresh-faced Catholic lad, the priests and nuns emphasized the idea that holy orders weren’t for everyone. They’d tell prospective seminarians “If you can imagine yourself being happy doing anything else at all, do that instead.”

    Maybe we should be telling incoming MLIS students the same thing.

  6. Heh. My wife and I have combined for three of those bottom ten (LIS, music, and history). We’re doing pretty well but there’s a reason I’m currently aiming for one of the top ten.

  7. gatoloco says:

    Well the Forbes list is a fairly simple assessment made on a few quantitative measures and a bit of artistic license, but it stings nonetheless. A serious qualitative study could, I think, could show that levels of job satisfaction are very different in this group. I know from my good spouse that things in health care can be both good and bad, depending on your position and organization. There can still be high levels of dissatisfaction in health care, however I am jealous of the opportunities people have. I often feel like I have so much wasted talent, and little hope for advancement or change. It reminds me of my mother, who as a homemaker, did not always have good outlets for her considerable talents. Not the same, but still a mental comparison I make. What is truly scary is being in ones middle thirties, not yet competitive for many of the director level positions available, but not suitable for entry level positions either. As I get closer to forty, the energy to reinvent myself is not the same as it was, and feels more like diving into an empty pool, rather than the beginning of a new adventure.

  8. JW Librarian says:

    And considering that humans have aggressively pursued the goal of doing as little work as possible, then I’d say that being a librarian is probably the No. 1 job you can get with a Master’s Degree. We have reached the zenith of human achievement!

  9. I find this post offensive.
    I work part time as a reference librarian at an urban public library. Sure, I get the rewards of helping people, but I also see people at low points in their lives–asking for medical information, needing help filling out forms for social services or trying to learn to use a computer so they can apply for jobs.

    I feel like a cross between a social worker, therapist, and medical assistant at my job lots of times. No, my job may not cost lives, but someone could become homeless without my help. This is not a relaxing job.

  10. Wow, what a mighty shift–5-6 years ago the Occupational Outlook Handbook stated that the MLS was one of the most lucrative degrees–now it is the least. Makes me wonder if it’s all perception (Forbes v. OOH), or if we’re finally lifting the veil of denial off our eyes and seeing the MLS for what it really is. I also hear all the time that people with an MLS degree are encouraged to get a second degree, especially if they work in an academic library. But how can one do that on a salary of 56,000 (before Social Security and taxes)?

  11. Steam-powered Cybrarian says:

    I have two friends who are asking for references for entrance to MLIS programs *facepalm*. Then again, they’re both on the library staff, but they want to move up into the next pay grade.

    I love my work, but I went into it knowing how useless my undergrad degree was and that my pay would be better that my current career path, but still low. Right now, I’m a librarian for a small specialized college and it’s a lot of fun.

    If these friends weren’t already so good at what they do and loved the field, I’d tell them to consider something else. Already I’m thinking I need to tell them to go into the medical side, cataloging, or digitalization.

  12. Science, medical and anything specialized with a second master’s is good right now. I wouldn’t suggest cataloging unless they have supervisory experience or years already in cataloging–I’m finding it hard to break into as a young cataloger. Most of cataloging positions are now para, and professional catalogers are the heads of tech services, fyi.

  13. Cut Both Ways says:


    Zack over at Wild Book Chase wrote a bang-up response to the Forbes article:

  14. Sally – thanks for highlighting some important aspects of this situation. Taking a cold, hard look at it, I’d ask these questions:

    1) What part of the MLS coursework prepares & qualifies someone to be a combo social worker, therapist, medical assistant, workforce labor consultant, computer trainer?
    2) How can a library provide support & training for these services when (as discussed here) many libraries can’t even support staff going to conferences – let alone any other type of professional training?
    3) What societal dialogue do we need to generate (nay, agitate for) to repair our national safety net so people who need essential health & economic services aren’t slipping thru the cracks and coming to libraries for this type of support?
    4) What dialogue do we need to generate about the serious, structural employment problems in this country so people aren’t coming to libraries to apply for jobs they have very little chance of getting or keeping for more than a few weeks or months? This is an enormous waste of human capital for the unemployed and library staff (not to mention the stress).

    I continually bang the drum for re-structuring our library ecosystem to support/house/require leadership, productivity, advocacy, etc. It can’t happen in a system of roughly 140,000 autonomous units (122k academic & special libraries; 17k public). It’s crazy. It’s a shame too because there’s so much need and so much talent/money sloshing around within the system that is going to waste.

  15. The reason we need to re-structure our library system is because as long as the floor and ceiling remain low in the 140k independent units I mentioned above, folks trained in librarianship will forever be scurring around for weak positions.

    We need to restructure our library systems nationally so that it creates and supports new positions that have a variety of depth and breadth. The system needs to build in training, education, certification & continuing professional development to support these positions and continue growing the field as information needs change and increase (as they surely will). Lots of other professions have already done this and there are great models out there.

  16. Useless blog post. I don’t get why he is railing on MBA and MA journalism degrees. Forbes didn’t list them as the “Best Master’s Degrees” did they? He also didn’t refute Forbes point regarding the low job growth and low salary. Those are facts.

  17. History: The old guy (blue shirt) is showing the young guy (green shirt) his photo album of when he used to be a librarian. Both are getting a good chuckle out of it. Next picture: both are weeping.

  18. It should also be pointed out that all of these other degrees spent at least some time in a library or where information was aggregated to get to where they are. We may be the worst, but they still need us.

    Here’s the advice I always give to the healthcare professionals that want to be librarians: If you don’t have to take out student loans to get your MLIS, go right ahead. Otherwise, keep your money and dear god please get me to the hospital.

  19. pt frawley says:

    … Where I live, looking at specifically library-related job-sites anything to do with archives is big as well as computer applications.
    Archival work requires knowledge of specialized materials and procedures – dirty-hands, techy stuff – not a feature of earlier (1990’s) librarian training just before computers took over for good.
    As the book form disappears the urge to preserve it has increased, it seems. There was always a need to take care of old photos and docs but now books, too.

  20. Right here in the blogosphere is the answer, I’m afraid. Which I guess is better than “nowhere”. I’m cynical enough not to expect the deans and directors of MLIS programs to participate honestly in the discussion, since the admissions process in so many of their programs is a cattle call, and where making money off of student gullibility trumps creating employable grads.

    Nor do I expect it to come from the ALA, though this is perhaps a little more puzzling, since they accredit schools, and should theoretically have a vested interest in the viability and attractiveness of the degree. Oh well.

  21. Development Arrested says:

    I know from my experience in getting a bachelor’s degree that combining two bad degrees does not equal a good one. It just gets you a job in a library.

  22. frazzled mom says:

    Looks like at least one MLS program has figured out a way to make librarians pay even more to gain the skills to make them employable: The Post-Masters Certificate Program

  23. Dagny Taggart says:

    We’ve made a huge mistake…

  24. Blazing My Own Trail says:

    There are a LOT of problems right now which likely does affect the value of the MLIS: State & City Budgets (how man public libraries are closing?), the general economic downturn (how many years without raises?, less retirements), the market saturation (library school grads vs. number of positions available), and Ph.D.’s who are not able to get professorship positions (or just don’t want them for one reason or another) taking academic library positions sans library degree. I don’t agree with the Forbes article, per se – but keep in mind, it’s not attacking our profession, it’s attacking the growth potential and the pay scale:

    “The low pay rank and estimated growth rank make library and information science the worst master’s degree for jobs right now.”

    I enjoy my work, and have been fortunate to make the most out of my academic background and I make enough money to get by. I don’t expect to be rich (none of us do), and there indeed are library jobs where the pay is clearly not reflecting the amount of work being done or the person’s skill. We aren’t the only ones in that predicament either – think teachers (having to buy their own supplies for pete’s sake).

    For new MLIS grads I recommend that they not be wedded to a geographic area (makes it far harder to find a job, and the pay scale in that area may not be fantastic). Take advantage of special niche skill (social media, data skills, teaching abilities, etc.). YOU have to make the most of your career.

  25. I’m one of those people. May 2011 MLS working as a reference assistant.

    I have more time at the reference desk than any subject librarian. I have achieved so many skills I didn’t have out of library school, such as thoroughly learning the landscape of databases & how to search them, and improving my reference interviewing skills. I have volunteered in several departments & am lucky enough to work at a library that gives me the opportunity to teach information literacy classes, make subject guides, participate in library committees, and much other work. Now, my resume is far more impressive than it was, and I am in a far better position to achieve a professional position sometime in the next year. I look at this as a sort of residency, in a way.

    I was having such a tough time finding a job, I started applying for technical writing jobs and even considered working in manufacturing, so I am very thankful to be where I am. I love my job and I am actually doing professional library work, even if it is labeled (and pays as) “paraprofessional.” I’m feeding and housing myself, I have health insurance. In other words, I don’t think the situation is as dire as people make it sound.

  26. Just my experience…after I discovered that I was in an all-but-dead-end graduate program, I brought my concerns to the attention of faculty members that I felt like I had rapport with. Only one professor took the concerns remotely seriously, but we didn’t really discuss the matter at length at the time, and we never got the chance to continue the conversation because she passed away unexpectedly.

    Otherwise, the reactions I got to my concerns included, “No one goes into librarianship to become rich,” and “Oh, but you’re learning portable skills that lots of employers want!”

    I get the sense that people in positions of authority are sticking their heads in the proverbial sand, rather than confront the distasteful possibility that – given the march of progress and the current political climate – public, school, and academic libraries may be doomed.

  27. gatoloco says:

    This is precisely one of the major problems facing many librarians right now. Many must operate similar to freelancers, with little pay or security, which is very difficult to sustain. Look at all of the young “movers and shaker” types, many have found that consulting is the only rational way forward for their career, which is sad. Given the opportunity, I am certain that many would like an institutional home that would allow for their travel schedule. They are definitely the “YOU”, who have taken on great personal responsibility in their careers, and it’s still very tough.

  28. Mercenary Librarian says:

    I could probably write a book on everything that I see as wrong in the Library world at the moment. Here are some bullet points on my own experiences:

    -This has been a topic of discussion in my library system, even before the Forbes piece
    -I too went back to school to get my MLS shortly after all the talk of the impending need for librarians. I did it because I’d always wanted to be a librarian and I hated the corporate inventory control gigs that I had been doing since college.
    -I graduated with a 4.0 from my MLS program. I didn’t find it challenging. I also felt that the classes offered (and encouraged) were geared more towards general administration and not towards specific librarian skills. Well, that and a healthy dose of learning how to cheerlead about how much the world needs librarians and that the internet is not a suitable replacement. Cataloging WASN’T EVEN REQUIRED to get a degree, a fact that I find utterly appalling. My cataloging classes were some of the smallest classes in regards to number of students. Archiving, rare books, special collections, preservation… these have become the special ops skills of librarians and they are going to become more and more rare.
    -The consensus of most of my fellow alumni from the program I went through is that the school is just using it as an assembly line degree machine designed more for bringing in large numbers of students and large amounts of cash.
    -The only job I’ve managed to get since graduating in 2008, is a part time position in a city library that doesn’t even have a title that includes the word “librarian”… I’m a “Customer Service Associate”
    -I’ve applied to countless other positions around my area. Haven’t even gotten an interview.
    -I keep having the problem of not having the “required” experience for positions. But how am I supposed to get the experience if I can’t even get jobs that I’m overqualified for?
    -My city library system is disgraceful. They aren’t replacing people that leave, trying to cut hours and replace them with volunteers, and have gone so far as to remove the librarian ranking system. We had some Librarian IIIs and now they are just librarians and actually had to take a pay cut. In the 18 months I’ve been there, there have been zero opportunities to move up. And apparently, no one has gotten a raise in years.

    I’m pretty ticked off at the moment.

  29. crankylibrarian says:

    What planet do you live on Jean? Really…

  30. Hey Cranky – I LOVE THE COMMENT!

    I live on the same planet, but outside the library ecosystem where, as Spekkio described, most “people in positions of authority are sticking their heads in the proverbial sand, rather than confront the distasteful possibility that – given the march of progress and the current political climate – public, school, and academic libraries may be doomed.”

    I realize how overwhelming and discouraging things can look from inside the ecosystem. I also know the problems libraries face aren’t anywhere as unique as people inside the system perceive. I’ve seen them successfully addressed in other industries and have contributed to some of those successes in my 30 year career. And, I personally know lots of people who are way more talented, experienced and accomplished than I am.

    Wanna know something odd? Here’s the reaction I get when I speak to those talented people outside the ecosystem about my interest in libraries & believe in their value:
    – Hmmm, I never thought much about libraries before.
    – Wow, I think you’re really onto something here.
    – And, what about this, this and this. I can’t tell you how many spirited discussions I’ve had with non-users who quickly turn on to the topic and begin offering valuable insights and ideas.

    Here’s the reaction I get from people within the library system:
    – We love patrons like you who support libraries. Have you tried connecting with your local Friends group?
    – You don’t understand libraries because you don’t work in one.
    – What planet are you from :)

  31. Tired Librarian says:

    “We need to restructure our library systems nationally so that it creates and supports new positions that have a variety of depth and breadth”

    Jean, you’re no better than a commie! ;-) Maybe you and Obamacare should move back to Russia.

  32. crankylibrarian says:

    Jean – it would be nice if we were some other industry – with emphasis on the word industry – if libraries were an actual profit making business we could have Bain Capital come in buy us out, get rid of the dead wood and flourish. Yeah right.

    Prior to becoming a librarian I worked in the sport of local politics. As an outsider you can think you know how polics and funding and lobbying work. However, from the inside there is no way in hell that there would ever be a nationalized library system so everyone can have excellent public libraries and fabulous college libraries. The tiny bits of “power” that the “leaders” of the public libraries and academic libraries are so miniscule that those “leaders” have to struggle just to keep their libraries functioning.

    I consider a radical patron one who does not steal library materials or complain loudly about a nickel fine.

    I’m a second generation librarian. The business sucks and the AL points out the suckitude of our self importance. I can talk about libraries being a third space and Bowling Alone and information literacy to business leaders til I’m blue in the face. They don’t care, get it or even want to waste time thinking about it. However libraries will continue to exist as long as they are required by law (state university systems) or in communities with a lot of little kids and little old people. That’s the reality.

  33. Cranky – I’m with you on the challenges. There are lots of interested parties that would stand in the way of change, even if such change meant stronger libraries, communities and marketplaces for library-related products & services.

  34. Say it Sista – look at the grief the folks at CPPB and NPR have to put up with from “the Right”.

    Then again, look at the great products and services delivered by PBS, NPR and member stations around the country. It’s rather amazing that technology enables me to access great work produced from around the country and folks elsewhere can access great stuff produced in my back yard. I support my local stations and people across the country benefit — and they do the same for me. Through this “local support extended via a strong network” we’re all part of a larger community that supports good work and one another.

    This is a good, proven model. It’s got its challenges, to be sure, but it’s a great model nonetheless. I believe libraries would deliver & receive amazing benefits by adopting a similar model and working in concert with outstanding organizations like PBS and NPR.

    Yikes – given the enormous reach of the AL blog, now that I’ve put my proposal out there so directly … do I need to worry about the government tapping my phone and hacking into my computer?

  35. Oops, CPB, not CPPB.

  36. I see I am not the only one that refuses to click through Forbes’ picture lists. How annoying.

    Let’s not kid ourselves, folks currently working on their MLS are going to have a difficult time finding a job as a full-time professional librarian. It took me a few years (librarianship is my second career) and I was about to give up ever finding a job because I was not willing to work a part-time job with no benefits just to work as a librarian. Not to mention that pay would not have bought groceries for me, let along paid my mortgage.

    I’ve seen recent comments within the blogsphere that the world needs us, we have such special skills, no one can replace a librarian, blah, blah… Librarians better get overthemselves. Yes, people are retiring, but often those jobs aren’t being replaced by another full time replacement-it’s replaced with someone part time, or not at all. In addition, how much of the work that used to be performed by librarians (reference, cataloging for example) is now performed by paraprofessional staff? Lots of recent grads went to an ischool and took technology related courses. How many of those grads could get a job as a full scale web designer, developer or web master running a large commercial website based on the courses they took getting their MLS? Probably not many.

    I enjoy what I do, but if my job is eliminated, I’m going to get a job that is going to pay me a better than decent wage with reasonable benefits. If that job is outside of the library profession, so be it. Any profession that does not control the methods of their financial support is dependent on the whim of those that do. Look for more public libraries to reduce hours or close branches and state university libraries to reduce collections budgets and reduce staff, all the while we keep saying that people need us. Apparently not as much as we think.

  37. I hate to say it but I think part of the issue is the large amount of people choosing librarianship as a second career. I know I had a large amount of people in their late 30s and 40s, some with established family when I went for my MLIS.

    These individuals can’t move because of a spousal job or family roots. That makes it much more difficult for them to find a job. Honestly, I also think it is a bit of ageism. Directors and hiring personnel look at a 24 or 25 year old compared to a 40 year old with the same amount of library experience and choose the former.

    Personally,I had no trouble finding a library job following graduation last year. I had several interviews before I graduated and was employed as a professional librarian within two months. That said, I moved over 2000 miles away from where I went to library school. It’s all about being flexible.

  38. There are many more besides SJSU – try Wayne State, UCLA, Drexel, nearly every ALA-accredited program – and it is to increase revenue. No one ties it to demands from employers. In addition ALA is offering a paraprofessional certification that only costs – grab this – around $2900 (7 courses plus application fee). Of course , you can do a portfolio instead. All you need is a high school degree and 1820 hours of library service. They also offer a manager’s certificate for public librarians – about $2700 (for members). For that much you can get an associate’s degree from a community college that will stand you in much better stead overall.
    Most post-MLIS programs are 15 credit hours – and come from – you guessed it – the same course listings that you’d have taken for your MLIS. Come back come back – buy more!
    My new favorites? The 30 credit hour Post MLS Specialist Certificate from Wayne State. Or try the same thing – PM Certification of Specialization in Information Studies from UCLA….9 classes. Did I mention that both of these come from the same offerings as well? Try 16 – 19 K for in-state and 37-39K for out…did I mention that is AFTER paying for your MLIS????

  39. Sheryl Kron Rhodes says:

    Unfortunately not everyone has the flexibility that you & your husband do. I’m tied to one urban area due to family commitments, & it’s not in an area of high job potential. While I would love to have a job as a “real” librarian, I’ve so far done a post-MLS internship to get the reference experience I didn’t get during my MLS studies, & had a one-semester reference & instruction librarian position. If a part-time reference job comes up, I’d definitely consider it. It’s far better to be working than not, & frankly, more & more employers, academic or otherwise, are looking for make positions be part-time to save money on benefit costs. (And I’m not trying to be snarky here; I worked as an editor for almost 20 years & where you used “it’s” should be “its.” This is one of the most common grammatical errors I see. Using proper grammar will add to your professional look.)

  40. I do not understand anyone who goes to graduate school in a profession where there is little probability of a job and than puts down people who take non professional jobs in a library. Swallow your pride…maybe 4 years into the search you’ll see the light when a pile of bills falls on your head.

  41. Sorry, I can’t attribute the difficulty in getting a professional librarian position due to ageism. I get tons of applications from recent LIS grads with almost no work experience; they’ve gone directly from undergrad to an MLS program-these are not 40+ year old people.

    I did have to move a great distance to get my current job. People are reluctant to move for a job (and paying their own expenses) because they don’t want to have their job eliminated (huge in public libraries)and they end up not stuck in a city (with limited job prospects) they wouldn’t have chosen to live if not for the job.

    You had no trouble getting a job after graduation. You are one of the few.

  42. Like I said, this is when comparing a 25 year old and a 40 year old with the same amount of library experience. Which is to say at the very least, working in a library during the 2 years they went to graduate school (As I did).

    People who don’t gain experience when they are in school are simply naive regardless of age. I worked two jobs (even three for one semester)while in graduate school. I went straight from undergrad to an MLIS program, it’s all about what you do along the way.

    The AL’s latest blog post even points to this when a recent hire was told she got the job from a large stack of applicants because she was “young and tech savvy”.

  43. Sheryl, it’s unfortunate that a comment made at an early hour in the spur of a moment cannot be edited to have its errors eradicated by its writer. Keep in mind that many of us librarians have English degrees, myself included and I’ve taken an linguistics course. Typos happen to everyone eventually.

  44. I understand (and appreciate) the sentiment here, but as a medical librarian I can assure you that I *am* one of the few who could cost someone’s life with a mistake, or even cost the hospital significant amounts of money because of an error. In many ways the work that I do at a hospital shouldn’t be considered any different from what pharmacists, nurses, or even physicians do. Mistakes in healthcare do matter. It is my job as a librarian to do my best to assure they don’t happen because of information that I have provided. Imagine having to live with that. Additionally, I do spend my life around sick people. That’s what most clinical librarians do by actually going on rounds with physicians. Again, I don’t have much room for mistakes, and clearly I’m not in this line of work for the relaxation. I’m not in it for the money either, but that doesn’t even need to be discussed. Also, I fully realize that the type of librarianship I do is vastly different than most others, but I felt it was important to address the importance that my work holds, even if the article was written tongue-in-cheek.

    When the Forbes article came out I shared it with many people and in turn received many reactions. Personally, I put very little stock in anything that Forbes publishes, but I do feel it is important to keep the conversation going about where we stand as a profession. I’m not happy being identified with the #1 crappy job to have with a master’s degree, but I certainly wouldn’t discourage someone from entering the field either. There are lots of opportunities outside of being an actual “librarian” (whatever that is these days, but that’s another article to be written) that people who earn an MLIS can – and do – take. The article did say the projected low growth was for common library jobs. I wouldn’t hesitate to encourage anyone from pursuing a career in Informatics, in fact I often suggest it.

    I always enjoy the Annoyed Librarian column, I’m happy to have finally contributed to the discussion.

    Heather N. Holmes, MLIS, AHIP
    Clinical Informationist
    Library Journal Mover & Shaker, 2011

  45. Elizabeth Yates says:

    One quick point:
    Librarians who work in librarians and other health-care facilities DO have the potential to affect people’s health in significant ways, by ensuring their practitioners have access to the best quality, most recent health care information to inform their care decisions. Imagine doing a faulty lit search and missing a vital article that could negatively affect a patient’s health!

  46. Elizabeth Yates says:

    Sorry, Sheryl Kron Rhodes, but Emily Flynn’s original use of “it’s” in “it’s heartbreaking to watch” is indeed correct. “It’s” is the contraction of “it is”, which is grammatically appropriate for this subject/verb sentence construction. I also used to be an editor :)
    Unless you were referring to another sentence?

  47. “me” is absolutely right about one thing: the average MLIS student is naive. Many think they can just wait until they get their piece of paper before looking for a library job. What they should be doing is attending conferences and volunteering. These are more important for networking purposes than taking some elective on digital libraries.

    I’m a recent 2010 graduate who easily transitioned to a full-time librarian position because I had two years of doing internships, practicums, and volunteering at an academic library while completing my degree. In that time I went to conferences, workshops, and established a network of colleagues. That’s how you get a decent library job after graduate school, not banking on your MLIS to be the magic ticket to employment.

  48. Annoyed Librarian says:

    Drat, I always forget about the medical librarians. Good point, Heather.

  49. Elizabeth, thanks for the defense but I think Sheryl was referring to “which has it’s own down-sides” which should be “its”. Where oh where are the edit buttons for comments?

  50. bibliona says:

    The MLIS is by no means the only degree that attracts more students than there are jobs for. I remember the first years after my husband had his PhD in oceanography. After his post-doc ran out of funding, he had to move to another country to work in his field. I couldn’t join him because that country had a surplus of librarians. (we finally found a place that suited us both) Fast forward twenty years. My daughter is one of hundreds with a master’s degree in Environmental Science. After three years of competing for the few jobs advertised, she is now happily employed with a pet insurance company.

  51. @me-hiring is so much more a subjective process than most people (who aren’t in positions to hire) can understand. Many a hiring manager will tell you they hire by “gut” and that decisions can’t always be quantified. That being said, the person who made the comment about an applicant being “young and tech savvy” should be careful of her language-that person could find themselves spending a lot of time answering a discrimination complaint. (Note: I didn’t say it was a valid complaint-but one that could cause someone to spend a lot time responding.)

    I agree with you-a position as a student worker in a library (I work in an academic library) or paraprofessional position will probably put your resume higher in the pile than those that don’t have the work experience. That being said, for every single position I post, I get tons of apps from recent grads, some that have library related work experience and some that don’t. There are plenty of MLS grads with work experience that still don’t have professional librarian jobs.

  52. Daniel Stuhlman says:

    The deans at my college on a per hour basis earn less than the part-time librarians. The deans work 50-60 hours a week and do not get time off between semesters. They also have a never ending battle with resources, personnel, students, and community.

  53. The second master’s degree notion gets under my skin. The problem is collectively as librarians we have bought into it.

    What other profession or graduate program tells its students that their degree is not good enough to fill the needs of the job?

    The fact that organizations want librarians with additional graduate degrees tells me that our MLIS’s are substandard or at least perceived as such compared to other degrees.

    I think it has a lot to do with the programs at library schools. Organizations would not request a second degree if library schools turned out highly qualified candidates.

    So how do we (they) change that?

    Do they admit fewer students to MLIS programs? Do they increase the standards for admission? Do they expand the curriculum to require more credits to graduate?

    For example, I took 36 credits to get my MLIS. My wife needed to complete 60 credits to get her MBA. Nobody tells her that she needs a second master’s degree to get a job.

  54. timepiece says:

    “the sort of people who become librarians usually aren’t great at math and science”

    Now, now, librarians should know better than to make sweeping statements like this. Systems and medical librarians would beg to differ.

  55. academictech says:

    I’ve served on search committees in the mid-west and on the east coast. I’ve heard negative comments about older applicants having outdated technology skills, I’ve heard negative comments about young single applicants being job hoppers who will leave after a year. I’ve also heard negative comments about men and about Ph.Ds. That is why we have committees instead of letting one biased person do all the hiring.

  56. Don’t get me started on the value of search committees…

  57. Really appreciate your comments about the “watering down” of the profession. I agree with this thought; I also agree with lareck’s view of working a para library job as a “residency”. I consider my own similar job as a “paid internship”. Whatever gets you through the night, right? I do think it’s very difficult to get a ROI for an MLS, but I’d still rather be undertaking this challenge over any other.

  58. Jean, love your thoughts on restructuring the library, and your elegance in addressing naysayers. Keep on posting!

  59. This article ranks MLS at the bottom. However it still says the jobs will more not less in the future. I think that is worth remembering.

    This article also refers to job prospects in the US. Assuming I get my visa, I am will be a librarian in a (very) foreign country and the pay is more than the median including major benefits.

  60. Frog the Librarian says:

    “I also hear all the time that people with an MLS degree are encouraged to get a second degree, especially if they work in an academic library.”

    Well, I was doing some research for a reading course (I’m in library school right now), and while looking at library staff handbooks from the 1960s, and the ’70s, I found that a second master’s degree was not a requirement for work in an academic library.

    My guess is that the MLS was more respected back then academically. The old calendars from my school indicated that the program was much more rigorous and challenging intellectually.

  61. I currently have a student employee who majored in Math and is getting their masters in Library science. Who da thunk?

  62. gatoloco says:

    I think your background in math will help out quite a bit, especially if you can help libraries with metadata or other electronic projects. There not a great number of librarians with math majors, and your skills are in demand.

  63. Elena, as folks have noted here, investment in a library education does not carry a high return in terms of:
    – success finding employment
    – employment security
    – compensation
    – professional mobility

    Given that math can be leveraged well in a number of careers, does it make sense to encourage your student to also consider other options?

  64. Let me start off by saying that I am one of the lucky ones. I graduated with my Library Science degree two months ago, and I had an interview with a large state university a few days after graduation. I was just offered, and I accepted, this position a few days ago.

    The only library experience I have consists of the two practicum experiences I had while I was enrolled in the program. I do have another graduate degree (MBA), and a lot of customer service experience. I started applying for professional positions (and a few paraprofessional positions) about six months before graduation. I had several phone interviews, and two on-campus interviews. Not a single one of these was in the state where I earned my degree. You. Must. Be. Willing. To. Move. Simple as that.

    Now, do I think the job market is crazy? Absolutely. Do I think it is worthwhile to pursue an MLS/MLIS/MSIS? Of course I do. I think there are several issues in our field, but no more than other fields are dealing with. I think one of the biggest issues is that (at least in my experience) many of the instructors in the program do not have real world library experience. Many of them got a PhD in a related field (one of my instructors has a PhD in Political Science, one has a PhD in Information systems, etc.), and they are now teaching library classes. This gives the program a nice interdisciplinary feel, but it doesn’t really help those who want to be traditional librarians. I think library schools need to focus more on real world skills like customer service than enlightening-but-not-so-helpful theory. Just my take.

  65. As a reference librarian and assistant director of a small academic library, I say AMEN about this Forbes article, based on the fact that the majority of people graduating with an MLIS degree will not be able to find a professional position.

    I also had a problem with Maureen Sullivan’s (ALA president) response to the article. While nicely written, ALA is in no way acknowledging the great paucity of job openings in libraries for recent MLIS graduates. There are literally thousands of bright students graduating every semester from MLIS programs, many now paying thousands of dollars to attend online (receiving little real world experience that way), and yet there is no where near that number of job openings!

    Jobs simply are not available for these recent MLIS graduates. We had an opening in our library recently for a NON-professional position with an extremely low pay scale, and we had literally DOZENS of MLIS graduates applying. They were all over-qualified and we did not hire any of them, and yet looking at Georgia Library Jobs website, I see why so many would apply. In the last two months there has only been 4 postings for professional librarians that *might* hire a new librarian. It made me truly sad, knowing all those people had spent money and years of their time for a master’s degree, and yet they were begging for crumbs, so to speak, trying to get any sort of job in a library.

    Please, ALA, do your part and acknowledge to the world that there are VERY FEW JOBS open for librarians. Please, stop telling people that there are so many great opportunities for library positions. You are costing individuals thousands of dollars on these degrees, and you are also helping expand the degree racket known as online MLIS programs. Certainly we have a wonderful profession, but it is a small profession with limited openings.

    I tell every person I know that is considering an MLIS to think twice about it because of the reasons I have poorly presented here in my comment. I am a fairly recent graduate of top-three nationally ranked MLIS program, and I have a number of friends from that same program who were never able to find a library position. Please stand up, ALA, and tell the facts about the availabilty of library jobs.

  66. Laura, great reply. Wish there was a “like” button!

  67. carol90403 says:

    “I think it has a lot to do with the programs at library schools. Organizations would not request a second degree if library schools turned out highly qualified candidates.”

    Actually, one issue, and this may be more the issue, is that so many humanities grads get the MLIS as a second degree, after finding out how hard the path to PhD is in English/History, etc. There is also encouragement for this path in that you’ll have a ‘subject background’ for whatever area you already have an MA in.

    As a Bythe way, this seemed to be once an informal, slightly unorthodox practice, perhaps in the beginning. Now it’s become standard, almost, to the point that if you *don’t* have a second MA, you are advised to get one, just because there are so many MLIS grads who already have one. And this is not just restricted to MA but PhD’s in humanities fields who also cannot get jobs teaching and turn to librarianship as a way to stay connected to the academic setting —

    So it’s more an issue of overqualified [already] more educated choosing MLIS as a second degree.

  68. Suresh D Nair says:

    Librarians’ is a noble profession. If you are looking for money there are many other places to look at. Many may rate this profession as worst.. but its important as a working Librarian, he/ she should not to be looking low at this profession. Ours is a supporting role and we are here to build other professions. If one of your user grows, your work is done.

  69. Interestingly, try and find any useful information on the Future of Librarians in the Workforce website – all the report PDFs and PPT presentations are gone or wont open

  70. Sheldon Giles says:

    My MLS is……… nevermind it isn’t worth mentioning.

  71. LibrarianGirl says:

    You’re absolutely right.

  72. I find it extremely frustrating that a year after graduating with an MLIS from the University of Oklahoma I am still stuck at a customer service job that someone without even a bachelors could get. On the one hand I suppose the degree doesn’t entitle me to anything but on the other I would like to get something back for the three years and 24,000 dollars I invested. Seem every time I meet someone they assume that having a Masters means I should automatically have a better job and wonder whats wrong with me, which makes it worse. Having obtained a Masters is something I should be proud of yet it feels like I’ve failed

  73. As a paraprofessional (13 years experience) who was laid off this year – I can’t even get an interview for a new job. I am sick of competing with people with MLIS for paraprofessional jobs (the few that have been available). I know because I finally talked to the person who signed my recent rejection letter. I found out about the people with MLIS who are getting interviews for a job that pays half of what I was making when I was laid off!! Unemployment will be running out at end of year and I am totally disgusted and frustrated.

  74. Roger From OZ says:

    My wife and I are librarians, 16 years. My credit rating is 831. I have gobs of money in the bank. Our daughter is spoiled, and I have already paid for college with 300 get units in washington state, she is all of 11. Why do people who live off public taxes expect so much? what are you spending that 57k on? That is what my daughters excellent teacher gets, and works much harder than any librarin inworld history who did not die on the job. Why are poeple with master degress so bad with money? We have managers here pulling in a 100k. The average FAMILY income is around 50k now, and they have miserable jobs with little in benefits. The chinese were correct when they made all the acadamians and related folk dig ditches for a few years. If you are employed and have money problems, blame yourself, not your paycheck. Typical librarians, as a group you weep.

  75. Roger From OZ says:

    Sorry to those who have to compete with libarians for para-work; smarter managers (rare in our field!) would not hire a librarian for that, they would be ungrateful and looking to move at first chance.

  76. scottishlibrarian says:

    Anyone looking to find an opening as an entry level librarian today is kidding themselves and wasting their money. I worked as a part time library associate for 4 years (3 of which I was in library school) in a large urban system in TX, and had no trouble being promoted once I graduated at age 26. Rare? Lucky? Perhaps…but I assumed going in to this profession that A. library school and B. finding a librarian position after would be much easier if I had established myself in a library system beforehand. I also had no problems getting interviews for positions outside of the system I’m currently in – because I had the professional exeperience going in.

  77. FormerMLISStudent says:

    I left library school after I realized I would likely never set foot inside of a physical library to conduct research.

    It was a sobering moment, but one I was glad I experienced only 6 classes into the program.

  78. FormerMLISStudent says:

    ETA: 6 hours, rather.

  79. *Results Not Typical says:

    I realize that if I was an infomercial, I know there’d be fine print saying that “Results are not typical.” However, that said my opinion is that there are jobs out there, you simply must be willing to go to them. Don’t expect the Mountain to come to you.

    I was a paraprofessional cataloger at an academic library for three years, before starting my MLS degree. I did not secure a position at that institution because I graduated on 12/15/07 and the position closed on 12/12/07. HR would not forward my application and resume to the library director. Because of that I ended up at a very small community college in East Texas. That position paid $11,000 more than my paraprofessional salary. After working there 4 1/2 years as the Technical Services Librarian, I leveraged the professional and management experience that I gained there into a position as Cataloging Supervisor for a major metropolitan ISD. I now manage the cataloging and processing of materials for 67 campus libraries. This position pays $20,000 more than I was making after five years at the community college. It puts me well over that Forbes’ median. My current position will give me that experience in multi-branch institutions that is a requirement for the Assistant Director and Director positions of the major public libraries. I’ve been doing part-time positions at public libraries since 1997.

    While I realize that a $31,000 increase in salary, within five years of graduation, is not always typical, it is not impossible. You simply must be willing to go where the jobs are. Don’t discount the podunk towns when getting your professional experience.

    P.S. Just don’t buy a house unless you’ve fallen in love with the place and plan to spend the next 40 years living the podunk life. We’re still trying to sell ours.

  80. mrnotalibrarian says:

    I am new here. I am reading so many poor opinions of the BIS degree.

    Personally I do not want anything to do with a library. I graduated from a tech college and received my A.A.S. Visual Communications. At or near my graduation I was “sought” by our state college and sold with a transfer program. The SOIS took my associate degree as a 60 credit transfer and a junior standing. It sounds good.

    I am going to do a computer science minor and push in that direction.

    I am not one that digs school. I am committed to finish my degree though (turning 40). This place almost makes me second guess myself.

    Is it really that bad? I need 36 credits to graduate with my BAS. It has got to be better then just my AAS!?

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