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Academic Library Careers

Academic Librarians: Partners in education, research, and discovery.

Welcome! You already know just how valuable the University's Library is, but what about the people who make it so? Academic librarians are partners in education, research, publishing, and discovery at the institutions they serve. Academic librarianship provides opportunities for leadership, creativity, innovation, technical expertise, and professional growth.

A university library's workforce represents diverse groups of academic librarians who possess education and advanced training in a wide range of disciplines. As a result, these professionals serve in a variety of university library environments - disciplines such as social sciences, the arts, engineering, and medicine; preservation; special collections and archives; access services; research data curation; scholarly communication, metadata, collection development; instruction; and research assistance; just to name a few.

Whatever the discipline or area of expertise, academic librarians are leaders in information management. In this digital age, such leadership, particularly in higher education, provides many creative career opportunities, a wealth of exciting challenges, and innumerable ways to support the members of one’s campus community. We invite you to explore the career of academic librarianship with the resources on this site.

Library Profession Demographics

According to DataUSA , the average age of librarians in 2017 was around 48, with roughly 22% of librarians working in an academic setting (college, university, or professional school). While DataUSA reported in 2017 that 82% of librarians were female, several years later, Zippia stated that 64% were women. While gender diversity is growing among the library profession, much progress remains in the area of ethnic diversity. According to Zippia , in 2021, the most common ethnicity among librarians is White (80%), followed by Hispanic or Latino (8%) and Black or African American (7%), which represents only a moderate change from five years prior. With this in mind, the UC San Diego Library’s Mentoring Committee welcomes aspiring librarians from all genders, ethnicities, and ages.

The Association of Research Librarians (ARL) publishes an annual salary survey. Here is a news article with the 2019-2020 results , where the median salary for professionals in ARL university libraries was $76,076. (https://www.arl.org/news/arl-annual-salary-survey-2019-2020-reports-data-on-professional-positions-in-member-libraries/)

To foster the best possible working and learning environment, all UC San Diego Library employees strive to cultivate a rich and diverse academic environment, inclusive of students, faculty, and staff of varying social, economic, cultural and ethnic backgrounds, and those with disabilities. The University of California is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer and UC San Diego’s Principles of Community are available online. The Library welcomes mentee applicants without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, age, protected veteran status, gender identity or sexual orientation. The complete University of California nondiscrimination and affirmative action policy can be found online.

Aligning Your Undergraduate Degree with Librarianship

According to DataUSA in 2017, the most common undergraduate majors for those in the library profession were education, English, and history. Generalists from the social sciences, arts, and humanities often choose a career in libraries, but many other majors can also prepare one for a graduate degree in library and information science (MLIS). Put your undergraduate degree to use in one of many specialties within the field of librarianship. Here are just a few examples:

Library Career Select Applicable Undergraduate Majors

Archivist/bibliographer

  • Social Sciences
  • Arts & Humanities
  • Literature
  • History/Geography

Health sciences librarian

  • Biological Sciences
  • Biochemistry
  • Psychology

Music librarian

  • Musicology
  • Music Performance

Art & museum librarian

  • Art or Art History
  • History
  • Cultural Studies

Law librarian

  • Legal Studies

Instruction and outreach

  • Education
  • Public Relations
  • Marketing
  • Speech
  • Communications

Area studies

  • Chinese
  • Japanese
  • Latin American Studies

Science & engineering librarian

  • Engineering
  • Chemistry
  • Computer Science

Access services

  • Professionals come to access services from a wide range of undergraduate disciplines; a focus on customer service and the customer experience is imperative

Digitization or digital media

  • Computer Science
  • Engineering
  • Mathematics

Data & geographic information systems (GIS)

  • Social Sciences
  • Mathematics
  • Data Science
  • Geography

Research data curation

  • Social Sciences
  • IT Information Systems/Management
  • Computer Science (programming, database mgmt, informatics), ideally with both people-facing and technical skills
  • Computing Arts
  • Cognitive Science
  • Other data -intensive fields, particularly with an emphasis on STEM fields and research in social science

Getting an MLIS Degree

The Master of Library and Information Sciences (MLIS) is the graduate degree which certifies recipients as professional librarians. Opportunities exist for completing an MLIS online or in-person. Explore and select the training option that is right for you.

Regional schools of library & information sciences include UC-Los Angeles, San Jose State University, University of Southern California, and the University of Arizona at Tucson. The Directory of ALA-Accredited Programs provides a full list of schools.

The Web-Based Information Science Education (WISE) is a collaborative distance education consortium of 10 universities, which includes Rutgers University, Simmons College, San Jose State University, Syracuse University, University of Illinois, and the University of North Carolina.

Financing Your Goals

The UC San Diego Library may provide some funding for its employees who are seeking an MLIS. Seek out national scholarships by consulting the American Library Association’s website for their list of Scholarships and Financial Assistance . Explore scholarship options offered through professional associations such as the ALA Scholarship Program, the ARL-Spectrum Scholarship, or those from the Medical Library Association/National Library of Medicine or Special Libraries Association.

Additional Resources

If you have further questions, we encourage you to email a UC San Diego librarian or complete the Request a Mentor application. You can see a list of subject librarians or other library administrators .

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Librarians Association of the University of California