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How to Become a Librarian

Most librarians need a master’s degree in library science. Some positions have additional requirements, such as a teaching certificate or a degree in another field.


A bachelor’s degree is needed to enter a graduate program in library science, but any undergraduate major is accepted. Colleges and universities have different names for their library science programs. They are often called Master’s in Library Science (MLS) programs but sometimes have other names, such as Master of Information Studies or Master of Library and Information Studies. Many colleges offer library science programs, but, as of 2011, only 56 programs in the United States were accredited by the American Library Association. A degree from an accredited program may lead to better job opportunities.

A master’s degree in library science usually takes 1 to 2 years to complete. The coursework usually covers selecting and processing library materials, organizing information, research methods and strategies, online reference systems, and Internet search methods.

Librarians working in a special library, such as a law or corporate library, usually supplement a master’s degree in library science with knowledge of their specialized field. They may earn a master's or professional degree or a Ph.D. in that subject.

Licenses and Certification

Most states require certification or licensure for librarians in public schools. This often includes being certified as a teacher in that state. Many states also require certification for librarians in public libraries. Requirements vary by state. Contact your state’s licensing board for specific requirements.

Important Qualities

Active learning. New information, technology, and resources constantly change the details of what librarians do. They must be able and willing to continually update their knowledge on these changes to be effective at their jobs in the varying circumstances.

Communication skills. Librarians need to be strong communicators. They need to be able to understand other people’s written and spoken thoughts and to respond clearly.

Computer skills. Librarians use computers to help patrons research topics. They also use computers to classify resources, create databases, and perform administrative duties.

Interpersonal skills. Librarians must be able to work both as part of a team and with the public or with researchers.

Problem-solving skills. Librarians conduct and assist with research. This requires being able to identify a problem, figure out where to find information, and draw conclusions based on the information found.

Reading comprehension. All librarians must be excellent readers. Those working in special libraries continually read the latest literature in their field of specialization.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition