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If you’re preparing for a career in library science, you need to have realistic expectations about your job opportunities. The field is highly competitive, which may surprise some aspiring librarians in even the top library science graduate degrees. Understanding how fierce the competition may be can help you plan ahead and make smart choice that will give you an edge in the job market.
Opportunities for Librarians
Across all industries and roles, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts only single-digit growth in job opportunities over a decade. The BLS expects the overall growth rate for all occupations to be seven percent, but for librarians in particular, the bureau predicts a job increase of just two percent.
What’s the reason behind this slower than average expected growth rate? The BLS pointed to budget limitations that will prompt municipal governments in some areas to cut funding for local libraries. If this occurs, some libraries may close altogether, while others will hire fewer workers or opt to employ more library technicians and assistants – with less education and a lower earning potential – instead of increasing the hiring of qualified librarians.
This doesn’t mean that it’s time to panic, or that you should give up on your dream of becoming a librarian for a career that offers a better job outlook. Though the increase in new opportunities is likely to be small, any growth is better than a decline in librarian jobs. The BLS reported that, despite a less optimistic job outlook, “there will continue to be a need for librarians to manage libraries and help patrons find information.” Librarians will still serve an important role in helping children, in particular, find information as well as in settings such as research libraries and specialized libraries. Many current librarians who are older will soon be contemplating retirement, which will free up more opportunities for early-career and mid-career librarians.
Job Outlook for Other Careers With a Library Science Degree
If you find yourself focusing on job outlook, using your library and information science degree to find work in a different field might be an ideal choice for you. A degree in this field can prepare you for more than 60 different career paths other than traditional librarian, according to the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University. In many of these roles, you can still put your excellent research and organizational skills to work, but you may find more job opportunities available. For example, archivists, who examine, organize and preserve historical documents, can expect a seven percent increase in job opportunities over a decade, the BLS reported. That job outlook on par with the average for all occupations. Database administrators, who organize and protect information stored in database software, can look forward to a faster than average rate of growth at 11 percent over a decade, according to the BLS.
Improving Your Career Opportunities
There are steps you can take now to give yourself a career boost later. Looking for an American Library Association-accredited Master of Library Science (MLS) program can improve your job prospects, the BLS reported. Gaining relevant work experience now, even in lower paid positions like library technician or assistant, can also help distinguish you from the competition. Finally, the prevalence of electronic and digital information means that tech-savvy librarians will be the most in demand.
While librarian and related careers may not have the most exciting job outlook, there are still jobs out there for the most passionate, dedicated and resourceful candidates entering the field.