Making your MLIS Degree a Great Investment

You may have seen the Forbes article of the 10 Best and Worst Masters degrees for Jobs, and they ranked  an MLIS degree rather unfavorably. Forbes used median career pay and the projected outlook for increase in the market for jobs “typically associated with this degree” to produce the ranking. Thankfully, this is only part of the story of what makes a great career, and it leaves you plenty of room to find or create a great job that uses your information management skills. Your MLIS degree from the UW iSchool will be a great investment with the right approach to your employability, because every degree is what you make of it.

First, you came to the right place. Our degree is ranked #4 in the nation on US News and World Report, and our MLIS graduates are seen by local professionals in the field as being of the highest quality. Among MLIS degrees, yours is one of the best out there.

The Forbes piece assumes that MLIS graduates are seeking work in libraries, which limits the employment outlook. However, while we have many alums in the library system, our grads are increasingly going into nontraditional jobs, holding job titles such as Information Architect, Taxonomy Specialist, Information Officer, or Program Manager, in organizations ranging from local and national nonprofits to legal firms to Fortune 500 companies. Use a Directed Fieldwork as part of your degree to build connections in innovative organizations where your information management skills will help solve information organization problems, or take on an internship outside of your coursework to build connections in organizations that interest you. The UW iSchool’s dedicated Career Services Advisor can help you think outside the box if you get stuck, and this fantastic post on alternative library careers can help you think about creative job options as well.

Many of our MLIS grads are taking the skills they are learning and getting jobs in Information Technology, which is ranked #4 in the Best Master’s Degrees for Jobs  in this same article. Supplementing your education by taking courses outside of those with a specific library focus, such as classes in Organization of Information, Management of Information Organizations, XML and relational databases, will make you highly marketable in a variety of industries. Conduct informational interviews with professionals who work in nonprofits, private companies, government, or library-serving organizations that interest you, to determine what are the most-needed skills in their work, and what they would recommend you develop as a skill set while you are in your MLIS program.

Want to make your MLIS degree a great investment and find a stellar job when you graduate? Here’s how to create your own success story while you’re here at the iSchool:

  • Build a network and make connections with professionals in the field who are doing work that interests you. Connect with your classmates, your faculty, your internship supervisors, or speakers at events, and at every turn ask the question “who else should I be talking to?”.
  • Build broad-based skills and explore a diverse range of information management topics by taking a range of courses while you’re here. Use information gleaned from your conversations with professionals to decide what skills to build.
  • Get experience and build connections by participating in Directed Fieldwork, internships, or completing a capstone project that will give you real examples and work experience to build out your resume and skills to apply to your future job.
  • Think creatively about where you can make an impact. For example, are you motivated by public access to information? What skills allow you to advocate on behalf of diverse populations, and what organizations or jobs in addition to libraries and librarians have this value as their mission?
  • Clarify and articulate your value to potential employers. The UW Career Center offers a regular Dependable Strengths workshop that will help you with this, and your iSchool Career Services Advisor offers various workshops and advising sessions that can help you clarify your strengths and skills and how to build these into your job search and networking strategy. Take advantage of the support provided while you’re here!

Janet Matta

Career Services Advisor

The Information School

University of Washington

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