We live in a continuously globalizing digital information environment and emerging careers in libraries and all types of information agencies are on the rise. With an MLIS, there are the traditional paths of librarianship in public, academic, or K-12 school libraries, but there are also other exciting and diverse tracks such as positions in libraries and information centers in colleges, schools, communities, corporations, medical, legal, and nonprofit settings. Emerging employment areas that are working with LIS skill sets in different ways, in both libraries and other organizations, including work in social media, data curation, data analytics, content strategy, e-learning, organizational development (fundraising), user experience (UX), and competitive intelligence. Employment opportunities in the information professions vary greatly according to educational qualifications and areas of expertise so prospects for the future are looking bright for graduates holding a master of library and information science. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2014 the median professional librarian salary is $56,170, compared to $27,420 for library paraprofessionals. Moreover, this exciting field produces a high level of job satisfaction: over 85% of information professionals questioned in a survey said if they had the choice, they’d do it again.
The field of information management/systems blends information using cutting edge technology to develop systems for acquiring, organizing, storing and delivering information. Basically, graduates in the field are concerned with how people receive and understand information so the role of information professionals is also to help connect people with information and technology. Additionally, developing communication and interpersonal skills for determining the information needs of all users is an inherent part of the job. An MLIS program will provide you with a strong understanding of general knowledge of the profession and the opportunity to explore individual areas of interest as related to career choices. Additionally, graduates will accumulate a solid set of LIS skills particularly needed to function in the increasingly technical environment of information storage and retrieval. An MLIS program will prepare you well for working at the center of information-rich environments and cover computing tools, database structures, and retrieval systems and strategies. For your convenience, we have prepared a list of the 10 best online MLIS program based on affordability, flexibility, and prestige.
- Affordability (1/3): Combined analysis of overall tuition of the program, financial aid or scholarship assistance programs, and estimated cost per credit hour for out-of-state students.
- Flexibility (1/3): The number of flexibility-enhancing elements specific to the degree program including teaching philosophy concentrations, degree specialties, prior learning or life experience crediting options, accelerated or self-paced courses, personalized student advisement/guidance, and competency-based credit options.
- Academic Prestige (1/3): The academic prestige of the parent institution operationally defined through the score of combined rankings and/or reviews of prominent education review entities such as US News & World Report and The Princeton Review.
The University of Wisconsin–Madison (UW-M), established in 1848, is a highly-respected public institution that ranks in the top 10 for schools that produce Fortune 500 CEOs. Additionally, the school is considered a “public ivy” and is known for the quality of its research, teaching, and service. The school occupies an urban 936-acre campus, about a mile from the state capitol building in Madison, WI, and this flagship campus includes four national historic landmarks. Notably, Travel+Leisure named the Madison campus as one of the most beautiful college campuses in the country. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, UW-M is ranked #11 Best Public College and #44 Best National University by U.S. News & World Report. The University of Wisconsin–Madison matriculates approximately 31,662 undergraduate students, guarantees a student-faculty ratio of 17:1, and 45.1% of classes cater to fewer than 20 students.
University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Master of Arts in Library and Information Studies (MALIS) is a generalist degree that will prepare students for a variety of information careers within Academic, Public, or Special types of library systems. UW-M’s program includes a highly-regarded career services department that is known for its professional placement rates. The 39-credit-hour program requires 3 core courses, then students are able to create a personalized plan of study and choose from five different concentration areas including Librarianship, Digital Archives, UX & Information Technology, Data/Information Management & Analytics, and Organization of Information. UW-M’s MALIS also requires a field-based practicum course that gives students real world experience opportunities and can be taken where you live. The program promises prestige because of small class sizes that guarantee individual attention from world-class faculty and researchers–19 Nobel Prize awards winners amongst faculty and alumni–and an accreditation from the American Library Association (ALA) since its inception. Moreover, the program promises affordability with a $800 credit-hour cost. Finally, the program offers flexibility due to the many concentration offerings and enhanced certificate options.
- Estimated Out-of-state Tuition: $800
- Flexibility-Enhancing Components: Number of concentrations
2.) Florida State University
Florida State University (FSU), started in 1851, is a public space-grant and sea-grant research institution. The establishment sits on an urban 476-acre campus in Tallahassee, FL. Accredited by the Southern Association Of Colleges And Schools (SACS), FSU currently ranks #92 Best National Universities and #38 Top Public Schools by U.S. News & World Report. Florida State University registers about 32,706 undergraduate students, offers a student-faculty ratio of 25.1:1, and 32.7% of classes cater to less than than 20 students.
Florida State University’s Master of Science in Library and Information Studies (MSLIS) classes meet weekly on a synchronous schedule so students have to be available for evening classes. With this schedule, the expected completion time is 2 years or 6 semesters at 2 courses per semester. The basic 36-credit-hour curriculum option requires 6 core courses and 6 electives courses where the MSLIS offers 2 tracks: General Information Studies and School Library Media Track (up to 48 credit-hours). Core coursework covers Professional Foundations, Information Organization, Policy, Research Methods, User Needs Assessment, and Management for Career Planning Purposes. Additional courses can be selected from different concentrations offered or customized to meet your individual professional goals. Concentrations are available in three broad areas: Information Architecture &Technology, Information Needs & Services, and Youth Information Needs & Services. The program provides prestige because the FSU School of Information is ranked #3 nationally and is accredited through the ALA. Moreover, the program is relatively affordable at a $1,110 credit-hour cost combined with a reduced tuition option for out-of-state students. Additionally, the program promises flexibility because of its 2 curriculum tracks and wide selection of electives.
- Estimated Out-of-state Tuition: $1110
- Flexibility-Enhancing Components: Two tracks
University at Buffalo (UB), established in 1846, is a premier, research-intensive public university, the largest public university in New York state, and one of the top “green” colleges in the country with an emphasis on service, experiential learning, and leadership. Notably, UB earned 1st place for Best Public University in New York and 28th best in the nation based on the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education 2017 inaugural ranking of top institutions. The establishment occupies a suburban, historic, and state-of-the-art 1,350-acre campus in Buffalo, NY–ranked #4 “best campuses for out-of-state students” according to College magazine–with another campus in Amherst, NY. Accredited by the Middle States Commission On Higher Education, UB is currently ranked #99 Best National Universities and #64 Best Colleges for Veterans by U.S. News & World Report. University at Buffalo registers approximately 19,951 undergraduate students, guarantees a student-faculty ratio of 13:1, and 35.9% of classes cater to less than than 20 students.
University at Buffalo’s MS in Information & Library Science (MILS) is for graduates seeking to work in the information field; part-time and full-time options are available allowing flexibility for working professionals. The program has an expected completion time of 2 years, and the 36-credit-hour curriculum requires 5 core and 7 elective courses where core courses include: Information Life Cycle, Information Users and Uses, and Research Methods. Elective concentrations include: Collection Development, Information Organization, Information management, Law Librarianship with a concurrent JD degree, Music Librarianship with concurrent MA in Music, Public or Academic Libraries, Reference Services, and Special Libraries (archives, museums, health science, corporate, etc.). Students must also complete a practicum based on your area of interest. The program promises prestige with a full accreditation from the ALA, membership in the prestigious Association of American Universities, and top-ranked and award-winning faculty. Furthermore, the program is relatively affordable at a $1,087 credit-hour cost–UB ranked top 20 nationwide by U.S. News & World Report for graduating students with the “least debt”. Finally, the program promises flexibility due to a number of concentrations.
- Estimated Out-of-state Tuition: $1087
- Flexibility-Enhancing Components: Number of concentrations
The University of Washington (UW), started in 1861, is a public, research university with a state-of-the-art medical center where diversity, leadership, innovation, and sustainability are integral parts of the institution. The school sits on a 703-acre flagship campus just north of downtown Seattle, WA–UW maintains other campuses in Tacoma and Bothell. Accredited by the Northwest Commission On Colleges And Universities (NWCCU), UW is currently ranked #54 Best National Universities and #16 Top Public Schools by U.S. News & World Report. The University of Washington enrolls roughly 31,063 undergraduate students, promises a student-faculty ratio of 21:1, and 37.6% of classes cater to fewer than 20 students.
University of Washington’s Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) equips students with a broad and strong background in important aspects of the library and information science field. The core curriculum emphasizes a theoretical foundation in systems design, information literacy, information architecture, usability, and similar disciplines. Students have the flexibility to elect independent study, directed fieldwork, and/or research projects. The 32-credit-hour program requires 8 core courses and then electives offer the flexibility to select among advanced LIS courses that lead toward a Law Librarianship track, other iSchool graduate courses, directed fieldwork, independent study, or relevant upper-level coursework in other academic disciplines. Also required is a final project or capstone. The program promises prestige as it is one of the most extensive ALA-accredited graduate degree programs in the nation, with world-class faculty and renowned lecturers. Moreover, the program is very affordable at a $785 credit-hour cost. Finally, the program offers flexibility because of the Law Librarianship option.
- Estimated Out-of-state Tuition: $785
- Flexibility-Enhancing Components: N/A
Drexel University, founded in 1891, is a private research institution with an interdisciplinary and global perspective on education that operates 3 campuses in Philadelphia. Drexel focuses on experiential learning and operates one of the country’s oldest, largest, and most renowned cooperative education programs. Students have the opportunity to network with more than 1,600 employers worldwide–including industry leaders like Amazon, Google, etc.–and may earn up to 18 months of paid, full-time work experience in their chosen field. The school sits on a lively, urban 96-acre campus in Philadelphia, PA–just minutes from the downtown Center City district–conveniently located between New York City and Washington, D.C. Fully accredited by the Middle States Commission On Higher Education, Drexel currently ranks #96 National Universities and #65 Best Value Schools by U.S. News & World Report. Drexel University registers approximately 14,138 undergraduate students, and 57.8% of classes cater to less than than 20 students.
Drexel University’s MS in Library and Information Science (MSLIS) is a fully-online, award-winning program that is recognized as an industry leader in digital information management. Designed for working professionals, the curriculum emphasises career skills in all the aspects of information management. Graduates will acquire a strong technological background in order to be leaders and manage information in various communities from academic institutions, local neighborhoods, and workplaces to schools and more. The MSLIS is organized into four 10-week quarters per year and requires 45 credit-hours–6 core courses, including a capstone, and 9 elective courses that are linked to your professional interests and available in the following areas: Digital Technology Services, Information & Data Services, and User & Community Services. The program offers prestige because Drexel’s College of Computing and Informatics was named one of “America’s Best Graduate Schools” by U.S.News & World Report (2014) and the MSLIS ranks in the top 10 among library science programs in the country. Moreover, Drexel’s MSLIS is fully-accredited by the ALA and employs recognized faculty. Furthermore, the program is relatively affordable at a $1,128 credit-hour cost. Finally, the program provides flexibility thanks to a number of concentrations.
- Estimated Out-of-state Tuition: $1128
- Flexibility-Enhancing Components: Number of concentrations
The University of Alabama (UA), established in 1831, is a public research institution and the flagship university of the Alabama System. The establishment sits on a suburban 1,026-acre campus in Tuscaloosa, AL–about 60 miles from the urban epicenter of Birmingham, AL. Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, UA is currently ranked #103 Best National Universities by U.S. News & World Report. The University of Alabama enrolls about 31,958 undergraduate students, guarantees a student-faculty ratio of 24:1, and 38.7% of classes cater to fewer than 20 students.
The University of Alabama’s Master of Library and Information Studies (MLIS) is designed for self-disciplined working professionals and will prepare students for leadership roles in library and information service careers. Courses are delivered synchronously, students usually meet once per week, and the program has an approximate completion time of less than 2 years when taking 2 courses per semester. The 36-credit-hour program requires 6 core and 6 elective courses where the core curriculum focus is on: Organization of Information, Introduction to Library & Information Studies, Research Methods, User Center Information Services, and Information Technologies. Areas of emphasis include: Academic Libraries, Digital Stewardship, Public Libraries, Special Libraries, Social Justice, Youth Service, and 2 specializations in Archival Studies and School Libraries. The program provides prestige with an accreditation from the ALA. Furthermore, the program is one of the most affordable on the list at a $375 credit-hour cost. Finally, the program promises flexibility with several areas of emphasis available, a thesis and a non-thesis option, and a generous 9-hour transfer-credit policy.
- Estimated Out-of-state Tuition: $375
- Flexibility-Enhancing Components: N/A
7.) University of North Carolina Greensboro, School of Education, Department of Library and Information Studies
The University of North Carolina–Greensboro (UNC-G), founded in 1891, is a public, liberal arts and research university, which the Princeton Review ranks #2 in its list of “Best Values” in public universities in the nation. The school sits on an urban 220-acre campus filled with historic and architecturally diverse buildings in Greensboro, NC–halfway between Washington, D.C. and Atlanta, GA. Accredited by the Southern Association Of Colleges And Schools Commission On Colleges, UNC-G is currently ranked #220 Best National University and #125 Top Public Schools by U.S. News & World Report. University of North Carolina–Greensboro matriculates roughly 15,951 undergraduate students, offers a student-faculty ratio of 18:1, and 25% of classes cater to fewer than 20 students.
University of North Carolina–Greensboro’s Master of Library and Information Studies (MLIS) is a challenging and relevant curriculum with a focus on research, teaching, and service. This MLIS is the oldest accredited LIS program in North Carolina and is offered fully-online using a blend of synchronous and asynchronous instruction resulting in an approximate completion time of 2.5 years. The hands-on program that will prepare graduates for library and information education in traditional library, archival, and museum settings but also for emerging technologies, information architecture, database management, social media, web management professions, and others. The 36-credit-hour MLIS requires 5 core courses, one technology course, and a capstone; students then complete the remaining hours with 7 elective courses that support their professional goals. Students working on school licensure take more core courses and fewer electives. The program provides prestige thanks to a accreditation from the ALA. Additionally, the program is highly affordable because of a $534 credit-hour cost and a “Best College for the Money” ranking from College Factual. Finally, the program provides flexibility due to multiple options for program specialization, certification, and licensure.
- Estimated Out-of-state Tuition: $534
- Flexibility-Enhancing Components: Synchronous or asynchronous
Clarion University of Pennsylvania, founded in 1867, is a public, coed institution where students can benefit from outstanding student-centered faculty and a small college experience. The establishment can be found on a rural 201-acre campus in Clarion, PA–located in the Appalachian Mountain region, 77 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, PA. Accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, Clarion is currently ranked Tier2 Regional Universities North by U.S. News & World Report. Clarion University of Pennsylvania registers approximately 4,555 undergraduate students, guarantees a student-faculty ratio of 18:1, and 22.6% of classes cater to less than than 20 students.
Clarion University of Pennsylvania’s Master of Science in Library Science (MSLS) was the first of its kind in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and it prepares graduates to work in all types of information agencies and use, analyse, manage, communicate, and adapt to the fast-moving global information environment. The 36-credit-hour program requires 4 core courses–including a capstone–6 elective courses, and 1 management course. Further, those who wish to become specialized in a particular area of the field can choose from among different concentrations: Management of Information Agencies, Information Access, Reference, and User Services. Concentrations provide students with knowledge in general reference sources and services, instructional design and delivery, and specialized sources and services such as business sources, government information, resources in the humanities, and resources in the social sciences. The program provides prestige because the Department of Information and Library Science is accredited by the ALA. Additionally, the program is highly affordable at a $432 credit-hour cost. Finally, the program promises flexibility with a certificates, two available online programs, and a 6 hours transfer-credit policy.
- Estimated Out-of-state Tuition: $432
- Flexibility-Enhancing Components: Two available online programs
The University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign (U of I), established in 1867, is a public research institution. The school sits on a rustic and lush, 1,783-acre campus in the twin cities of Urbana and Champaign, IL. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, U of I is currently ranked #44 Best National University by U.S. News & World Report. The University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign enrolls approximately 33,400 undergraduate students, offers a student-faculty ratio of 18:1, and 41% of classes cater to fewer than 20 students.
The University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign’s MS in Library and Information Science (MSLIS) is the most prestigious master’s program on the list. Graduates will acquire the skillsets they need to be efficient at managing, analyzing, and preserving information settings in public, academic, and school libraries as well as in healthcare, business, and science-based industries. The 40-credit-hour curriculum is highly customizable as it requires only 2 core courses, after which students are encouraged to select elective coursework based on their personal and professional interests. The program guarantees prestige due to a world-renowned faculty including Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize, Guggenheim Fellowship, Tony Award, and MacArthur “genius” award winners. Finally, the program offers affordability because of a $1,000 credit-hour cost and competitive financial aid packages in the form of assistantships, scholarships, fellowships, and merit- and need-based tuition waivers.
- Estimated Out-of-state Tuition: $1000
- Flexibility-Enhancing Components: N/A
The University of South Carolina (USC), founded in 1801, is a public, coed research institution. The establishment can be found on a 444-acre flagship campus–listed on the National Register of Historic Places–in downtown Columbia, SC with seven satellite campuses across the surrounding area. Also accredited by the Southern Association Of Schools Commissions On Colleges, USC is currently ranked #107 Best National Universities and #69 Best Colleges for Veterans by U.S. News & World Report. University of South Carolina registers roughly 25,237 undergraduate students, guarantees a student-faculty ratio of 18:1, and 34.1% of classes cater to fewer than 20 students.
University of South Carolina’s Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) prepares students to work in leadership and management positions in a variety of library settings such as universities, schools, communities, industries, businesses, and other institutions. The 36-credit-hour program requires 3 core and 9 elective courses where students select electives based on their interests including: Storytelling, Children’s Literature, Music Libraries, Digital Archives, Government Documents, and Planning Library Facilities. Students also have the flexibility to take classes in other USC departments and from other institutions upon department approval. Students also complete an end-of-program portfolio to show mastery in the competency areas of information and its organization, provision of information services, leadership and management, research, technology, and professional development. The program promises prestige with a faculty involved in the highest level of teaching, research, and service. Additionally, the program is relatively affordable thanks to a $1,142 . Finally, the program offers flexibility due to a 6 transfer-credit policy and an accelerated option.
- Estimated Out-of-state Tuition: $1142
- Flexibility-Enhancing Components: Can be accelerated