With near-record low unemployment in the United States, the current job market for new graduates is better than it has been in over a decade. This especially holds true for MLIS graduates. The Class of 2018 is in an enviable spot.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 138,200 librarian jobs nationwide in 2016 and the profession is expected to grow at a 9% rate for the next decade, about the same as other occupations.
The current median hourly wage for a librarian is $28, or $58,500 per year, with the highest-paid 10% earning over $90,000. (These figures don’t include library assistants or technicians.)
Most librarians work in local government: primary, secondary and post-secondary education, and “other” information services. Elementary and secondary schools employ about 34 percent of working librarians, while 30 percent work in local government. Public schools may require librarians to have a teaching certificate.
The top-paying industries for librarians are the executive branch of the federal government, computer technology, legal services, financial/investment services, and scientific research and development, with average annual salaries ranging from $74,600 to $87,000.
The five states with the highest employment of librarians are New York, Texas, California, Illinois and Florida. On the other hand, new librarians might want to avoid seeking jobs in Nevada, Vermont, Maine and the Upper Midwest.
The New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles and Boston metropolitan areas employ the most librarians. Unsurprisingly, librarians earn the highest pay in the District of Columbia, home to the federal government.
As with many other professions, newly-graduated job candidates who can adapt to rapidly changing technology will have the best job prospects.
Job search tips
New graduates in any field face the age-old predicament: You can’t get a job without experience, but you can’t get experience without a job. Then there are student loans and other financial pressures that can curtail your options. However, there are some things you can do to boost your chances of getting a job offer in your desired area of work.
- Find a mentor or role model, whether at your school or in the professional community. Professors can provide letters of recommendation and are often aware of employment opportunities in the field they teach.
- Leverage your LinkedIn connections. LinkedIn can be a good resource for finding contacts within an organization you want to target or contacts who do what you want to do. If you don’t already have a professional LinkedIn profile, create one. The site offers free and paid options.
- Do an informational interview with someone who works in your chosen area or for an organization you want to target. Invite them to lunch or coffee and ask them about the employer’s culture, opportunity for advancement, career paths, and benefits. Find out how they got where they are. In the best-case scenario, they may know of current opportunities and contact people.
- Join professional associations. Many offer discounted membership to new graduates and opportunities for networking, volunteering and continuing education.
- If your financial situation allows it, consider service-oriented post-graduate work that pays a stipend. Programs such as AmeriCorps and teaching English abroad are great ways to gain work experience and enhance your resume. You can sometimes get student loan repayment deferred while pursuing this work.
- Be willing to relocate to a different area for the right opportunity.
- Be prepared to fail. Many highly successful people failed at their first job or first professional efforts. Recognize that it could take several years for things to fall into place professionally, and value what you learn along the way. You rarely get your “dream job” right out of school.
Once you get the job offer, do your homework before you negotiate pay. Research appropriate salaries for your job title. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is a good place to start.
Finally, accept that your field of study may not be where you ultimately end up. Be open to other career paths; you can do many different things with your major. Keep in mind the old saying, “Life is what happens while we’re making other plans.”