How to Become a Librarian

How to Become a Librarian: Career Path Guide

Although there are other paths you can take, a very effective route for becoming a librarian is to follow these general steps:


1. Excel in coursework in Business Administration, English, Finance and IT in high school

2. Determine if this occupation is suited to your interests and qualities

3. Pursue a bachelor’s degree in virtually any field

4. Pursue a master’s degree in Library Science

5. Get work & volunteer experience as a student

6. Find a suitable job (it may not be local)

7. Move into roles of greater pay and responsibility as you gain experience


Below we've expanded on these points, to give you a more complete idea of what you'll need to begin a career as a librarian in the United States or Canada.



How Can I Prepare for a Career as a Librarian in High School?

While you’re a high school student, take advanced coursework in areas such as Business Administration, English, Finance and IT o get a good head start on a career as a librarian. Excelling in these areas will help you learn core competencies that will be valuable once you're working in the field.


Also, talk to as many librarians in your community as you can. Ask them questions like how they got into the field, how they found a good job, what they like and dislike about the work, and if they can point you in the direction to learn more, or even if they have any student job/volunteer opportunities available. 



What Formal Education Will I Need?

To be hired as a librarian, you need a master's degree from a Library and Information Studies program accredited by the American Libraries Association (ALA). ALA-accredited master’s programs can be found at colleges and universities in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico. 


Fun Fact: A Master of Library Science (MLS) may also be known as a Master of Arts, Master of Librarianship, Master of Library and Information Studies (MLIS), and Master of Science in Library Science.




Work/Volunteer Experience You’ll Need

While work experience may not be a formal requirement for getting a job as a librarian, the more experience you can accumulate, the better. Not only will it help you stand out from the competition, it will help you get an idea of what working in the field actually entails. Volunteer experience is also very, very helpful, for the same reasons.


Success Tip: Try getting work experience/volunteer as a library assistant in your school’s library. Speak with the career office or guidance counsellor and see if they can facilitate a work opportunity for you.



What is a Librarian?

A librarians is an information science professional that's responsible for finding literary and media resources to suit the informational, educational, cultural and recreational needs of the community, school or organization that employs them. They enable this information to become available to the public by selecting, purchasing, organizing, maintaining and retrieving these materials. 



What Does a Librarian Do?

Although their duties can vary, librarians are typically responsible for performing the following tasks: 


• Assisting library patrons with finding the information they are looking for

• Evaluating and selecting materials to be purchased for the library

• Purchasing materials and negotiating software licensing agreements for media materials

• Recruiting, hiring, training, supervising and supporting library staff

• Developing and implementing library policies and procedures

• Performing public relations functions on behalf of the library

• Planning and coordinating newsletters, public lectures, or programs for seniors, young adults or special groups

• Developing access and instructional resources such as indexes, bibliographies, web pages, electronic pathfinders and online tutorials



Should I Become a Librarian?

Determining if a career field suits your personality as well as your professional ambitions is just as, if not much more important than meeting its formal requirements, such as earning a relevant degree. If you have the following traits, qualities and interests, a career as a librarian might be an excellent fit for you:


• You enjoy connecting people with information

• You enjoy organizing and locating information, instructing and helping people

• You enjoy, or are at least willing to supervise and co-ordinate the work of others

• You have good interpersonal skills, and a customer service-oriented attitude

• You have excellent organizational skills

• You’re willing to obtain a master’s degree in Library Science

• You’re interested in working both as part of a team and with the public or with researchers

• You’re interested in a career that involves a variety of responsibilities, and ‘wearing different hats’

• You’re willing and able to keep up with ever-changing technology, resources and information in the field

• You enjoy the idea of a profession with clear and established methods to guide your work

• You’re okay with working in a field that pays a relatively modest salary



What is the Salary of a Librarian?

Salary in the United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers in the “Librarians” occupational group earn a median salary of $57,680 per year. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $57,680, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $90,140.


Salary in Alberta: According to the 2015 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working as part of the “Librarians” occupational group earn an average starting wage of $23.99 per hour, and an overall average wage of $33.85 per hour. 


The salary level you could earn as a librarian can vary quite a bit, and typically depends on the following factors:


• Your level of education, experience and certification

• The level of responsibility involved in your job

• The size and type of your employer

• The region in which you work

• The industry in which you work

• Many other factors



Who Creates Jobs for Librarians?

Librarians are typically employed by…wait for it…libraries! However, there are many different kinds of libraries that can employ librarians. In addition, they can also be employed by non-profit and research institutions. Jobs for librarians can typically be found with the following types of organizations:


• Public libraries

• Public and private schools

• College, research and university libraries 

• Corporate, government, hospital and legal libraries

• Publishers and broadcasters

• Museums and archives

• Not-for-profit organizations

• Information brokerage firms

• Information technology (IT) firms

• Prison libraries



How to Get a Job as a Librarian

Getting a job as a librarian doesn’t involve any special tricks; it’s simply a matter of being able to demonstrate that you have relevant education, work experience, a well written cover letter and resume, exemplary communication skills, and a sense of humour. And like with finding a suitable job in any field, it can also take a bit of luck.



Librarian Jobs

Our job board below has a listing of "Librarian" postings in your area of Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom or Australia.

What are Careers Similar to “Librarian”?

Listed below are careers that may be in the same field, or they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and/or responsibilities as “Librarian”:


Bookstore Manager

• Elementary School Teacher

• High School Teacher

• Library Assistant

• Map Librarian

• Medical Librarian 

• Publisher

• Webmaster



What Scholarships Are There for Aspiring Librarians? 

The “Majors in Our Database Relevant for this Career” section below lists fields of study that are relevant to becoming a Librarian. You can search for relevant scholarships by finding those majors on our "Any Field of Study Scholarships” page.


Success Tip: Apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!




The following resources were used to gather information for this “How to Become a Librarian” career path guide:


• Occupational Profile: “Librarian.” (n.d.). Alberta Government - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved December 30, 2019.

• Occupational Outlook Handbook: “Librarians.” (n.d.). United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved May 2, 2017.

• Career Paths: “Becoming a Librarian.” (n.d.). American Library Association. Retrieved May 2, 2017.

• Articles: “Becoming a Librarian: My Journey.” Joe Hardenbrook (March 2, 2011). Retrieved May 2, 2017.

• Articles: “Why Do You Need a Master’s Degree to Become a Librarian?” Alexis Waide (April 21, 2014). Retrieved May 2, 2017.



Majors in Our Database Relevant for this Career

We have career guides for over 60 university majors in our database. Below we've outlined those that are most relevant to becoming a librarian. Click on the links to see what else you can do with these majors!


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