Update on Salaries and Occupational Outlook

Whether you are considering delving into library science or contemplating a career change within the field, some of the concerns at the forefront of your mind are undoubtedly salary and job placement. Are there jobs readily available within your chosen field? Or are those employed within your specific focus underemployed or facing lay-offs? After all the time and effort (not to mention money!) you put into your library science education, it makes sense that you would want to be assured that it isn’t all for naught.

What are some websites you could check out to assess the most recent reported salary in a specific specialty within the library science field?

Pay Scale – Enlightening in terms of salary ranges (as of November 5, 2016) but only 194 professionals reported their salaries to the site. This hardly gives you more than a glimpse into what a few MLIS graduates make, but you are able to delve into more specifics such as public librarian, library director, library assistant, etc. By clicking “librarian,” for instance, you can see an overview of salary based on location (with San Diego being 34 percent above the national average).

Salary.com – Very basic overview of U.S. librarian salaries, with the ability to limit the results based on region.

Glassdoor.com – Offers the opportunity to browse librarian salaries based on employer (though you do need to create an account to view specifics). You can also browse by focus within the library science field.

Occupational Outlook Handbook – Though it was last updated in May of 2015, this resource presents an extremely accurate snapshot of the profession because their reports emerge directly from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Not only do they have charts for specialities within the library science field (school librarians, administrators, etc), there are maps of librarian employment rates by state, the annual mean wage of librarians based on geographic region, and top-paying metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas. Projected growth is also included in their reports. The conundrum? The Bureau of Labor Statistics only updates this data every other year, so the next update will likely emerge sometime in 2017.

Library Journal – In October 2016, Library Journal released an updated report on placements and salaries. According to this report, 71 percent of library and information science graduates are “employed in a library or information science institution” with only roughly 6 percent unemployed. Among all the concentrations within the field, three specialties emerged as the top-paying: information technology (tech-centric positions), those in the data curation and management field, and teacher librarians (i.e. school library media specialists).

What’s fascinating about this report is that there is a discussion of how long it took graduates to land a position after completing their MLIS/MLS – roughly 5 months on average, with graduates beginning their job search about 4 months prior to their graduation dates. It also conveys where graduates are finding jobs, with the majority relying heavily on their university’s listservs or through social media and many others supplementing their search with HigherEdJobs.com  and ALA’s Joblist. Lastly, graduates reported getting an “upper hand” over competitive by completing internships and professional development courses either during or directly after their schooling.

You can view all the nitty-gritty details gathered by LIJ based on 2015 graduates here.

As for job growth, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2014-2024 there is a projected job growth for librarians of 2 percent, which is slower than average in comparison to other professions in the U.S. In an article from August 2016, Forbes labeled library science “one of the worst Master’s Degrees for jobs right now” with a projected job growth of only 5 percent. Discouraged? 80 percent of those surveyed expressed job satisfaction.

In my humble opinion –  in a field that is quickly evolving to accommodate this technological era – it is very difficult to assess how the field will progress in the coming years. As long as we, as library science students, make a conscious effort to develop, retain, and constantly hone our technology skills, I foresee a steady growth in jobs with a diversified set of skills.