How To Become a Librarian

By Jordan Fabel •  Updated: November 15, 2021  •  8 min read  •  Education
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If you love books, you might want to learn how to become a librarian. There can be a bit of confusion with this career choice, however. Some think you will just be the person helping others check out books at a library.

Before you follow the career path of a librarian, it’s a good idea to understand the job duties. You want to make sure this is a career you will truly love. Let’s look at the job duties and how to become a librarian a bit closer.

How To Become a Librarian

Job Duties of a Librarian

Yes, checking out books might be a part of your job, but a librarian does so much more. You will be a manager of the library operations. This includes educational programs and much more. As a librarian, you will be in charge of the budget, the library materials, the equipment, and much more.

Librarians manage a staff of workers and volunteers. They may work in multiple settings, depending on where the library is found. Some of the common job duties include:

Your job duties may vary a bit, depending on where you work. Librarians can work as academic librarians, school librarians, law librarians, medical librarians, or public librarians. While the core job duties will remain the same, your actual duties may vary.

How To Become a Librarian in 5 Steps

Step #1 – Complete High School

The first step to becoming a librarian is to complete high school. You want to do well in high school so you can get into a good bachelor’s degree program. It’s also helpful to score high on the SAT or ACT. With a good test prep program, you can increase your SAT or ACT score.

Getting into a good bachelor’s degree program is where it all starts. The better the undergraduate program you can get into, the better chances you will have of landing a prime librarian job.

It’s also a good idea to shadow a librarian while you’re in high school. This will give you a look at what they do with their day. If you want to become a librarian, make sure this is the career for you by shadowing someone in the field.

Step #2 – Choose a Type of Librarian

There are several different types of librarian specialties. The one you choose will help to determine the educational path you go down. The most common types of librarians include:

Choosing the type of librarian you want to become will determine your education and training path. There are some specialties within some of these general options, as well.

Step #3 – Complete Your Bachelor’s Degree

A bachelor’s degree in education, English literature, or another field is common for a librarian. If you plan to become a law librarian, medical librarian, or another specialty, it might make sense to match your bachelor’s degree major to the specialty you’ve chosen.

For example, if you want to be a medical librarian, it makes sense to get a chemistry degree. Those seeking to become law librarians may want to study pre-law or criminal justice.

Step #4 – Get Your Master’s Degree

Most librarians will be required to get a Master of Library and Information Service (MLS) degree. Some employers may hire those with bachelor’s degrees, but this is rare. If you don’t get a Master’s degree, you will likely need the right certification and experience.

You can earn an MLS in a general area or in a specific area of concentration. Matching your MLS degree with the type of librarian you want to become makes sense. If you plan to work in a specialized field, such as law or medicine, you may need an additional degree.

Step #5 – Gain Certifications (Optional)

you don’t have to have certifications to work as a librarian. However, some states will require licensure or certification. If your state requires specific certifications, you will need these to work as a librarian.

You might need to be a licensed teacher to work in a school library, for example. Each state is a bit different. You can also earn voluntary certifications to help you land a higher-paying job. These include:

Both of these certifications can help you advance your career. They are offered by the American Library Association (ALA).

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Librarian

What type of salary will I earn as a librarian?

When you decide to become a librarian, you will likely start as an assistant librarian. This is the entry-level position for those with less than one year of experience. Assistant librarians make about $13.50 per hour, on average. This salary can be higher or lower based on your location and the type of library you work at.

After gaining at least one year of experience, you can work as a librarian. The average salary for a librarian is about $31 per hour. You can make more with more experience, or by working for the right employer. Some employers pay as much as $66 per hour for librarians and several will pay more than $45 per hour.

Senior librarians with even more experience can earn a higher wage. Some senior librarians will earn more than $70K per year, depending on your location and the type of library you work at.

What type of benefits do librarians often receive?

It’s common for a librarian to receive paid time off, health insurance with dental and vision, and loan forgiveness. In some cases, you will get other benefits, such as adoption assistance and an employee assistance program.

Can I earn my MLS degree online?

Yes. There are many accredited MLS programs you can complete online. Many librarians will work as assistant librarians while earning their MLS degree online. It’s common for this type of program to be offered, but an on-campus program is also an option.

What type of hours do librarians work?

It’s common, as a librarian, to work full-time. While there are some part-time positions, these are usually taken up by students working towards a Master’s degree. Public and Academic Librarians often work nights, weekends, and holidays. School librarians have similar work hours to teachers. If you work in a special type of library, your hours will likely follow normal business hours. Overtime is not common for librarians.

Becoming a librarian can put you in a very rewarding career. It is a good fit for many people and a higher-paying career than many others. If you want to work in a library, use the knowledge you now have about how to become a librarian. It might take a few extra years of schooling, but it will be worth it.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path.