Q: I’ve been accepted to several different LIS programs, one from the top ranked university in the nation. But I haven’t received money offers from any of them and I’m not sure I want to take on all of the debt from my first choice (it’s out-of-state). I could go to the in-state graduate program, save a lot of money, etc., but I’m wondering how much which graduate school I go to will affect my job chances after I graduate? I’m so confused and my adviser has not been much help, as she has no experience in this field. Any suggestions or advice?
SM: This is a tricky question to answer, because the school you go to will definitely, absolutely affect your future career and your job prospects after you graduate – but not due to its reputation or ranking (so much). And, a degree from a highly ranked library school, even the top-ranked one, will not guarantee you a job. Each school has different classes, different instructors, different opportunities, different specializations, and different locales. The things that will influence your library career will be just those: instructors, student jobs, internships, classes and projects, mentors, classmates, groups or clubs, career centers, and the educational, professional and social climate you will immerse yourself in, wherever you choose to go to school. You’ve probably heard from others that library school is just something you need to endure to get the degree in order to get the job. It makes me kind of sad to hear this (even though I understand the mentality), because if you are going to pay a lot of money for it, you should get something that will give you way more than a piece of paper. The program you attend should provide you with skills and experience and support and guidance and mentors and friends that will enhance your life, arouse your ambitions, and jump start your career.
As for the money issue — we are opposed to spending lots of it on library school, and we’ve said this before. It’s no secret that we (librarians) don’t make a lot of money, especially when just starting out, so… don’t put yourself in tons of debt (really, don’t). However, as you are probably aware, many of the higher ranking library schools are in public universities and out-of-state tuition for those programs may be (quite a bit) less than paying in-state tuition at a local private institution.
You will need to weigh your options and think about the different opportunities you might have at each of the colleges you are considering. If possible, you should visit the campuses and the departments and speak with the director and with instructors and students to get a better feel for the program and the environment. Ask questions about jobs and assistantships and internships at the college, and in the city. And ask yourself if you are willing to move out-of-state for school, and for jobs. Being geographically mobile will always help your job prospects, because you will be able to apply for more positions.
If you really want to attend an out-of-state program, I recommend calling the admissions department and asking about graduate assistantships and other financial opportunities. If you are an accepted applicant, they want you there and they should be willing to work with you to try to figure out how to make that happen. Best of luck!
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