Library Science majors face high unemployment and low wages
You might have seen some news articles recently that highlight the unemployment rate among college majors and been dismayed at the numbers you saw for Library Science. As often seen in news reporting, sources offer just a quick rehash of a headline with the focus to shock readers. In this case the numbers to back it up are pulled from the 2010 Census data.
"Library Science majors have the fourth highest unemployment rate - 15.0%" or "Library Science graduates have the fifth lowest median income - $36,000". Yes, that does sound bad. High school drop outs average better numbers than that. So right about now you are thinking to yourself, "Why in the world would I want to become a librarian?"
Well, let's clear some things up. Library science majors are not librarians. As many librarians know, you need a master's degree to become a librarian and in many cases from an ALA approved college or university. According to the Department of Labor, more than 84% of librarian jobs have a master's degree as a minimum requirement. Just because you majored in medicine as an undergraduate doesn't mean you're a doctor. Maybe these people in the census are getting their graduate degrees, maybe some are putting it off or maybe they'll never fully pursue the career as a librarian. But, that is not to say there are no jobs for librarians.
Statistics also vary greatly based on the program taken. While I'm sure it is a fine school in its own right, the community college in Booneville, Mississippi can't quite promise the same education in information science as the University of Washington. The job potential between these two programs are about as far apart as can be possible. But, that's not a problem that solely lies with that community college or for the field for that matter. There is a growing problem with schools that promise an education with the hopes of landing a job, but have no ability to fulfill that promise. Choosing the right school is often just as important as choosing the right major.
Library science is not what it used to be. There is a growing shift in what is important and relevant in today's world and that includes libraries. Most respected school see this and have changed their courses appropriately. What was formally library science is often now called information science. The University of Washington has the "Information School" and offers a graduate course in "Library and Information Science". In fact, very few schools even offer classes under the distinct classification of "Library Science" these days. Information science, which strongly relates to the librarian position is a growing and popular field.
So what happens when you look up "Information Sciences" from the same census data that we get the hugely negative numbers of "Library Science"? 5.9% unemployment rate and a medium earning of $71,000. That salary happens to be the 23rd highest out of the 200 fields listed, right up there with computer science and engineering. Hmm, not too shabby.