Library Career Disciplines – The Cost of Education

In previous posts, I’ve discussed the varying pay scale rates of different disciplines within the library profession. I would now like to delve into the overall costs of pursing a specific concentration in regard to time as well as money. If as a reader of this blog you are undecided about where to begin to focus your aspirations within the library field, it is my wish that this post will be useful to you. Alternately, perhaps you  have already devoted several years to a certain channel of library science only to be met with dissatisfaction or curiosity toward another end of the spectrum; as a result, you may be pondering how much time, effort, and money it may be to redirect.

(If the latter situation applies to you and you wish to return to library school, it’s difficult for me to postulate the exact amount of time and cost it would take for you to change focuses from a public librarian to a school librarian, for example. Some prior coursework could apply toward new coursework, so it is best to check with your local accredited library school.)

Of course it would be immeasurably difficult to detail nearly every library science concentration or give information on the exact cost of library science programs throughout the country – therefore for simplification purposes I am providing a general overview.

Public Librarian – Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS)

Time to Complete Degree: 1-2 years depending on part-time or full-time enrollment

General Number of Credits Required: 36; a combination of core and elective courses

Cost: an average of $22,000+ depending on whether you go through a public, private, or online university

Specializations: Young Adult Services, Reference, Children’s Services


School Library Media Specialist (K-12)

Time to Complete Degree: 2-4 years

General Number of Credits Required: 36-45 credits, plus possible observational hours and student teaching practicum; every state has different licensing requirements

Cost: the cost of tuition plus additional teaching examinations and workshops (again, varying by state). Teaching examinations generally cost upwards of $100; if edTPA is a requirement in your state the cost from Pearson is $300. In total, your teaching certification exams can run you a whopping $1500-2000 on top of your degree.


Academic/Research Librarian:

Time to Complete Degree: 2-3 years

General Number of Credits Required: Some states or employers require a dual Masters in Library and Information Science and Education

Cost: similar to MLIS


Archives, Records, and Information Management

Time to Complete Degree: 1-2 years; longer if pursuing dual degree

General Number of Credits Required: 36 credits plus 60-130 hour internship

Cost: similar to MLIS

Specializations: Digital Archives, Archive Management, Preservation, Museum Archives, Special Collections


Other concentrations such as law librarianship, medical librarianship, and art librarianship all generally mandate an undergraduate focus in these fields.

Overall, it’s best to follow your passion when determining what path to pursue. Projected job growth for all library science fields hasn’t fluctuated dramatically enough in recent years to be a determining factor. Like any skilled library professional, it is best to perform extensive research to decide which branch of the librarian career resonates most strongly with you.

For further information, a useful resource is ALA’s Directory of ALA-Accredited and Candidate Programs in Library and Information Studies.