The 5 Best Master’s in Library and Information Sciences Online

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We live in an age where information can be received just about anywhere from multiple sources. Never in history has there been more content, data — whatever you want to call it. This is all fine so long as you’re able to use that information, but that’s an increasingly difficult task. And without the ability to organize, synthesize, and evaluate information, it ceases to be information. It’s just stuff - worse, useless, and now endless. The organizations that are able to leverage all this information stand to make potentially unprecedented advances, and employers are on the look: according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs among Information Research Scientists are expected to grow 11% through 2024, faster than the national average. For those interested in the field, however, most employers are looking for professionals with a graduate-level degree in the area.

A Master’s in Library Science and Information Sciences is the most versatile and common of such programs, and is designed to prepare students for a wide variety of career tracks, including head librarian (public, private, academic, corporate, etc.), data curator, research specialist, consulting, finance, and much more. Further, most MLS/MIS degrees are highly customizable, with minimal core requirements in order to allow students to tailor a curriculum that fits a student’s professional interests. Below, find our top 5 online programs.

If you are looking for information of a more general nature on distance learning, visit our ranking of online colleges.


  • Affordability (1/3): the average out-of-state tuition per credit hour
  • Completion Time (1/3): minimum amount of course work required for certification
  • Academic Reputation (1/3): the rank of the school’s parent institution according to US News

Featured Online Schools

1. The University of Alabama

The University of Alabama, founded in 1831, is a public research university located in Tuscaloosa. Alabama is consistently ranked among the top public schools in the country, receiving high marks fromUS News,Washington Monthly, andForbes, among others; and, across the school’s 13 academic divisions, particular programs of note include Law, Business, Accountancy, and Communication. It is also the only university in the state to offer doctorate degrees in n anthropology, communication and information sciences, metallurgical engineering, music, Romance languages, and social work. Enrollment reached a record high in 2015, with a student body of 37,100, and graduates benefit from one of the largest, most loyal alumni networks in the world. They also might receive prestigious awards: Alabama has produced 15 Rhodes Scholars, 16 Truman Scholars, 32 Hollings Scholars, 6 Boren Scholars, and 47 Goldwater Scholars. In 2015-16, 11 Alabama students accepted Fulbright scholarships to study across the globe.

Alabama offers a Master of Library and Information Studies in either a 100% online format or hybrid, 75% online format, each of which are cohort-based in order to encourage an intimate and collaborative learning environment. Consisting of 36 credits, core requirements include Organization of Information, Introduction to Library and Information Studies, Research Methods, Information Sources and Services, and Information Technologies. From there, students take a management elective course and complete a combination of directed-research courses and internships. In particular, students will study the intersection of information management and organizations, and how to facilitate access to information. Alabama’s School of Library and Information Studies is ranked 18th nationally, and faculty are experts in the field with online education experience. Course work is typically completed in as little as two calendar years (6 semesters), though students with previous academic credit may transfer up to 9 hours into the program, accelerating the degree. This program is accredited by the American Library Association and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

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  • Estimated Cost Per Credit Hour: $360
2. University of Arizona

The University of Arizona is a public research university in Tucson with a student enrollment of approximately 42,000. Founded in 1885, it is the oldest university in the state, as well as Arizona’s sole Association of American Universities member. The school offers more than 330 different bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate, and professional degrees; particular programs of note include in Earth Sciences, Pharmacy, Architecture and Landscape Architecture, Middle Eastern and North African Studies, Rehabilitation Counseling, Social Psychology, Medicine, and more. UA is also a leading research institution, ranking 20th among all public universities and bringing more than $606 million in research investment each year. As one of the country’s top 10 producers of Fulbright Scholars, graduates have the opportunity to continue their studies around the world or go on to pursue wildly diverse careers. Alumni include astronauts and actors; Grammy, Tony, Emmy, and Oscar winners; Fortune 500 CEOs; Nobel scientists, and best-selling authors.

Arizona’s online Master of Arts in Library and Information Science consists of 37 credits. The 15 core credits include Foundations of Library and Information Services, Research Methods for Library and Information Professionals, Organization of Information, Ethics for Library and Information Professionals, and a capstone externship to gain valuable real-world experience. From there, students have the opportunity to tailor their degree through a wide range of electives, distributed electives, or concentration work in either Academic Librarianship, Archives and Special Collections, Digital Information, Health Science Librarianship/Health Informatics, Law Librarianship/Legal Information, and Public Librarianship. (Note that some concentrations are available as separate graduate certificates, for those interested.) Arizona also offers an accelerated master’s (a five-year undergraduate to graduate degree) and dual master’s degrees in Journalism and Middle Eastern and North African Studies. The degree is accredited by the American Library Association (ALA).

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  • Estimated Cost Per Credit Hour: $900
3. University of Washington

Founded in 1861, the University of Washington is one of the oldest colleges on the West Coast, located in Seattle on the shores of Union and Portage Bays, with additional campuses in Tacoma and Bothell. UW offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees through 140 academic divisions, ranging from Business and Engineering, to Public Health and Law. And with a budget that ranks in the top 5 of both public and private universities in the nation, Washington is a leader among higher education research institutions; in fact, it has ranked second overall in federal research funding every year since 1974. The student body totals over 40,000, and UW boasts 136 Fulbright Scholars, 35 Rhodes Scholars, 7 Marshall Scholars, and 4 Gates Cambridge Scholars. Among its distinguished and diverse alumni include Baskin & Robbins co-founder Irv Robbins, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Marilynne Robinson, martial artist Bruce Lee, saxophonist Kenny G, and MySpace co-founder Chris DeWolfe.

Washington’s online Master of Library and Information Science prepares working professionals to pursue careers in private, government and non-profit sectors. Consisting of 63 credits, core requirements include Information Behavior; Information Resources, Services, and Collections; Organization of Information and Resources; Information and Society; Instructional and Training Strategies for Information Professionals; Research, Assessment, and Design, and Management of Information Organizations, among others. Students then have the opportunity to tailor the degree through elected course work. In particular, the curriculum is designed to provide a broad-based foundation of how information is organized, stored, searched, and used, in addition to relevant technological, policy, research, management, and design concepts. All students must also complete a 5-credit capstone and direct field experience to apply classroom theory to real-world scenarios. As the degree is primarily for part-time students, average completion time is 3 years; full-time students, however, may complete the degree in as little as 2 years. (Alternatively, students may choose to take up to 6 years.) UW also offers an MS and PhD in Information Science.

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  • Estimated Cost Per Credit Hour: $765
4. University of Wisconsin — Milwaukee

The University of Wisconsin — Milwaukee, at 28,000 enrolled students, is the second largest university in the state, offering 191 degree programs, including 94 bachelor’s, 64 master’s, and 33 doctorate degrees. Classified by the Carnegie Foundation as an R1 research institution, well-regarded programs include Architecture and Urban Planning, Archives and Preservation, English, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, and Public Affairs, among others. UW Milwaukee also has an extensive online campus, developed and run in junction with the 13 other members of the University of Wisconsin System. Among the school’s diverse, distinguished alumni include Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft; Golda Meir, the fourth Prime Minister of Israel, and Alberto Fujimori, the 90th President of Peru.

UW Milwaukee’s online Master of Library and Information Science, among the top 15 best in the country, consists of 36 total credits. Core requirements include Foundations of Library and Information Science, Organization of Information, Information Access and Retrieval, and Research in Library and Information Science. From there, students have the opportunity to customize the degree through a wide variety of concentrations areas, including Archives, Public Library Administration, Information Literacy, and School Library Media, among others. Milwaukee’s flexible option allows for: earning credit for prior-learning, work experience, military training, or other learning experiences (up to 6 credits); self-paced course work; personalized academic advising through a success coach; start-and-stop degree progression, and pragmatic, professional-focused skills training. Applicants should have earned at least a 2.75 undergraduate GPA; students with a lower GPA may apply on a probationary status and submit GRE or Miller Analogies Test (MAT) scores.

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  • Estimated Cost Per Credit Hour: $263
5. Kent State University

Kent State University, founded in 1910, is a public research university in Kent, Ohio, with additional campuses in Cleveland, Independence, Twinsburg, New York City, and Florence, Italy. The university also has a robust online education presence, with more than 30 undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs available from a wide range of disciplines. (In total, the school offers 300 degrees, including 250 bachelors and 50 masters). KSU has received high academic marks from notable institutions: the Carnegie Foundation has ranked it in the top 80 public research universities in the country, and theTimes Higher Educationnamed it in the top 200 universities in the world in 2010. Further, as one of the largest higher education schools in Ohio (approximately 44,000 enrolled), Kent State boasts an alumni network of over 210,000 from all 50 states and more than 100 countries.

KSU’s online Master of Library and Information Science consists of 37-40 credits. Core requirements include The Information Landscape, Information Organization, People in the Information Ecology, Information Institutions and Professions, and Research and Assessment in Library and Information Science. From there, Kent State gives students the opportunity to tailor the degree in several ways: 14 specializations, concentrations from the MS program, or electives from Health informatics and/or Knowledge management. All students must also complete a portfolio and either internship, research project, research paper, or thesis to demonstrate mastery of course material. Graduates of the program will be prepared to: identify, assess, and implement new research methodologies; understand the changing cultural, educational, social roles, and responsibilities of librarians and information professionals; and connect individuals and communities with information that engages and empowers them. For those interested, KSU offers numerous dual degree opportunities for the MLIS. This degree is accredited by the American Library Association (ALA).

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  • Estimated Cost Per Credit Hour: $495


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