What should I study as an undergrad in preparation for a Master’s in Information Science?

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To create a better understanding of the present, it can be beneficial to be familiar with the past.

On March 13, 1937, individuals from the scientific community, professional societies, and government agencies established this organization to advance the development of microfilm. Commercial microfilm had existed since the 1920s, invented by a New York banker, George McCarthy. He secured a patent on his Checkograph machine, designed to make copies of bank records onto film. In 1928, Eastman Kodak bought the patent. Many libraries and archives still have microfiche or microfilm machines to search for articles.

In 1968, the ADI changed its name to the American Society for Information Science (ASIS). Another name alteration occurred in 2013, with the addition of – and Technology tacked on to it. It was now the American Society for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T). Stemming from the days of microfilm as the quintessential means of storing information, information science is the collection, management, storing, preserving, organizing, classification, and dissemination of information.

It is multidisciplinary as it involves computer science, mathematics, cognitive science, library science, psychology, linguistics, and more.

Matching the title of the ASIS&T is the University of Wisconsin (UW). Their Bachelor of Science in Information Science and Technology is available under their Flexible Option study plan. This format refers to an online, self-directed, competency-based learning system. Upon graduation, this is a short list of the skills after completing the 120-credits program:

  • Data Science
  • Network Systems Administration
  • User Interaction Design
  • Web Design
  • Data Visualization
  • Systems Analysis

How would the UW undergraduate curriculum prepare you for a master’s in information science? The M.S. in Information at the University of Michigan (UM) stresses library science, data science, analytics, and user experience. Therefore, the foundation in computer science at UW appears to be a stepping stone into UM degree.

A background in programming and systems analysis is advantageous to a master’s in this discipline. The School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina includes systems analysis, programming for professionals, and database on their required courses’ list.

Another recurring theme at the graduate level is Information Organization, Retrieval, Organization, and Access courses.  These topics examine the theories, methods, approaches to organizing and retrieving information, and the ethical and policy issues involved.

If your undergraduate is not in information science, a B.S. in Computer Science provides the hard skills of computer technology, programming fundamentals, business analytics, database theory, and ethics in computing. These courses are examples of the Bachelor of Science in Computer Science at Texas A&M University-Central Campus in Killeen. Another possibility is their B.S. in Computer Information Systems Management and Networking. Programming, database theory, system design and analysis, and network administration are also included in the curriculum. All are helpful at the next level in information science.

Individuals who prefer to minimize computer technology in the program may opt for a Master’s in Library and Information Science. Whereas programming and networking entail computer skills, library science deviates from the technological aspect. For example, the Master of Management in Library and Information Science at the University of Southern California (USC) has no computer courses – no programming or network systems.

The M.S. in Library and Information Science at Drexel University’s College of Computing and Informatics incorporates more technology than USC. Network analysis, metadata, data infrastructures, and managing digital records are some of the study areas at Drexel. Students applying to this program may want to take computer classes during their undergrad years.

The computer theme is evident by looking at the job titles for those with a master’s in library and information science versus information science.

Jobs with a master’s in Library and Information Science:

  • Digital Assets Manager
  • Digital Curator
  • Legal Information Librarian
  • Emerging Technologies Librarian
  • Medical Librarian

Jobs with a Master’s in Information Science:

  • Computer and Information Systems Manager
  • Data Science Manager
  • IT Risk Manager
  • Network Architect
  • Business Analyst

Even a cursory view of the two lists makes it apparent the need for computer science courses in preparation for a graduate program in Information Science.

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