What Should I Major in to Become a Librarian?

If your career goal is to become a professional librarian, be it in a public, academic, school or other type of library, one of the first questions you are likely to ask is about the educational qualifications. Specifically, what should you major in to put yourself in the best position to land a job as a librarian?

First, an undergraduate degree in librarianship is extremely rare, so that is not the common path. Instead, just about all librarian jobs will require a master’s degree in library in information science. This is a professional graduate degree that usually takes 2 years, and many schools offer online programs or other flexible options for those already working. Courework ranges from traditional topics such as reference and reader’s advisory as well as emerging technologies such as programming, web design and database management.

With that said, however, the question remains: what should you major in as an undergraduate to put yourself in the best position to snag a librarian position in the future after getting your master’s?

Officially, it doesn’t matter, as admissions at library schools do not require any specific major. But traditionally, the highest percentage of students applying to library school are drawn from the humanities and fields such as English. Applicants coming from other backgrounds such as Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) often stand out more and their candidacy might be given a boost. It is also a good idea, if you are able to plan ahead, to align your major with the type of work you hope to go into after receiving your master’s. For example, if you desire a job as a Social Sciences Librarian at a top university, you would major in something like sociology or anthropology. Job ads will often prefer or even require that candidates have a degree in that area.

But the majority of jobs do not require specific college majors, such as general reference and instruction positions as well as the majority of jobs in public libraries. Additionally, you should always be aware that your library career goal today might change dramatically once you are exposed to a new area through coursework or student work experience. Perhaps the best advice, then, is to simply major in something you thoroughly enjoy without thinking too much about how it could relate to a library career. There aren’t any firm requirements and it can be impossible to predict how those skills might translate into your future dream job.

Finally, it is also necessary to understand that not everyone who works in a library is a librarian. Library assistants and paraprofessionals play important roles as well and do not require graduate study. If simply working in a library environment is your goal, then you can often do so with a college degree in any major and the required training. In some cases a high school diploma will be sufficient. As with any employment , it is beneficial to start looking at job ads early on in the game so you familiarize yourself with common requirements while you still have plenty of time to achieve them.