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From Library Jounal.com: "What's an MLIS Worth?"

Library Journal.com published an update on the job outlook for MLIS graduate. SI Careers contributes to their annual employment surveys, so our graduates' outcomes are included in this article's outcomes. Things sound pretty good to me: salaries are increasing and MLIS graduates are finding an increasing number of jobs outside of the library environment (which could be good or bad, depending on your perspective). Read the article for a glimpse of the good and not-so-good news about the job market.

What's an MLIS Worth? A picture of overall growth is marred by fissures in job outlook
By Stephanie Maatta -- Library Journal, 10/15/2007

It was a banner year for women in 2006. Their average annual starting salary finally cracked through the $40,000 glass barrier, increasing to $40,566 for all women and with a substantial gain of 11.3% for women in the Southwest. There was small, but solid, growth in salaries overall. Reported annual starting salaries for new graduates increased approximately 2.2% overall, from $40,118 in 2005 to $41,014.

Another surprise was the substantial leap in graduates reporting jobs outside of the library and information science (LIS) professions (up 43.7%). The number of LIS graduates participating in the annual placements and salaries survey increased by 12% for 2006. This year, 1,992 graduates submitted responses (approximately 37% of the estimated total graduates). The percentage of graduates reporting employment of any type has remained steady at 90.8% (totaling 1,809). Of these graduates, 89.9% reported placements in some type of library agency, down slightly from 92.9% in 2005, while those reporting placements outside of library agencies increased by 37.4%, continuing a trend from previous years.

However, fissures appeared in the job outlook owing to more grads in nonprofessional jobs, rising temp positions, more graduates taking multiple part-time positions, and a longer average job search.

Entry-level “gap�?

Over the last several years there has been speculation that an entry-level gap exists—that there are more graduates than available entry-level jobs. This is a complex situation. Approximately 37% of the LIS graduate programs responding to the institutional questionnaire reported a rise in the number of available jobs, while 16% reported a decrease. None of the responding institutions reported difficulties in placing graduates. In fact, few LIS graduates commented that entry-level jobs were not available. Instead, the graduates' concerns reflected salary levels that were not competitive with other professions or the inability to find a job in their area that fit their interests and skills.

It may be useful to examine some of the other factors that impact job placement. For example, there are heavy concentrations of LIS schools in some regions of the United States—the Midwestern and Northeastern programs combined produce over 50% of the graduates, thus providing dense pools of job applicants. For geographically bound graduates this makes the job search more arduous since more graduates compete for the same positions. Another factor is the hiring process itself. Graduates frequently discuss taking civil service exams and undergoing background checks and security clearances that all add time and, perhaps, frustration to the job search. Employers also go through a lengthy process of contacting references and interviewing. There is no doubt that employers look for experience; it may behoove LIS programs to be more proactive in encouraging students to participate in fieldwork or internship activities and service learning projects and volunteer at library and information agencies.

Some ups, some downs

Despite some good news, there were disturbing trends. An increasing number of grads reported taking nonprofessional positions. While they make up less than 10% of the overall placements, nonprofessional positions increased by almost 37.5% between 2005 and 2006 after declining between 2003 and 2005. Nonprofessional positions most frequently included titles such as technical assistant, clerk, or customer service assistant, suggesting that LIS graduates are accepting jobs typically filled by support staff without graduate degrees in order to gain experience or simply to find a job, any job.

Serious salary decreases in the Southeast in 2006 reversed multiyear rises in the region. This may be owing to the greater response rate from graduates in the Southeast. Placements in public libraries increased by 42% compared with 2005, and public libraries there offer the lowest pay—an average of $34,496 annually. It was quite the opposite in the Southwest, where public library placements increased by 53.3% and salaries were up 13.6%.

Jobs as school media specialists have fallen by 6.6% from 2005. Interestingly, those who say they work in school libraries remains steady. This suggests that graduates in school media centers may be redefining their job titles or accepting other types of jobs in school media centers. Average annual salaries for school library spots have changed little, except in the Southeast and the West. In the Southeast, you're better off working in a school this year; despite overall salary drops there, school library salaries rose by 7.7% to $40,526. But in the West, average annual salaries for those jobs dropped 11.7% to $47,257.

On the up side, placements with public libraries, special libraries, and vendors experienced salary growth and more jobs. A rise in the number of placements (up about 24%) in public libraries across the United States and Canada was complemented by 6% salary growth (up $2,268 to $37,875). Special libraries saw a healthy 6.1% increase above 2005 salaries, from $41,779 to $44,494, though the number of jobs remained steady. These findings continue trends for both of these types of libraries.

Work with vendors has seen steady growth since 2003. The average salary in that sector jumped from $38,273 in 2003 to $46,799 in 2006, with an approximate 28.5% growth in placements. Between 2005 and 2006, vendor salaries in the Northeast popped a whopping 19.5%, from $40,843 to $50,738. Vendor jobs vary and include cataloging and classification, reference/information services, and instruction.

More compromises

Part-time placements decreased slightly, but, on the flip side, more graduates are cobbling together multiple part-time jobs to approximate a full-time salary (29.1% hold two or more part-time positions). Nearly half of part-time placements were in public libraries, followed by 22.6% in academic libraries. Reference work had the highest rate of part-time employment.

As seen last year, some grads deliberately chose to delay the job search and seek part-time employment, whether to meet family demands or to go after additional certifications. Yet others chose to stay in current jobs while waiting for full-time professional positions to open up.

Just over 10% of respondents identified their jobs as temporary professional, up from 8.5% in 2005. Temporary status, of course, implies that employment is likely to end after a contractual period has expired, i.e., there is no guarantee that a position will remain in a budget. Many graduates said that they continued to job search while in a temporary position. One reported that lack of experience hindered her attempts to find the right job, resulting in her moving through several temporary roles—two months here, three months there—until she felt she had what it took to land a permanent spot. Graduates also accepted unrelated temp positions while searching for the “perfect� job within the LIS profession.

Seamless for some

The job search was relatively seamless for many grads. Of the 1,809 graduates who reported employment, approximately 36.9% remained with a current employer while getting the master's. For some this meant promotion upon graduation, with respondents noting salary hikes from the high $20,000's as a nonprofessional employee to the low $40,000's with a new professional title (LTA to Librarian I, for example). Additionally, of the 1,117 graduates who shared stories about their job search, 46% found employment before graduation, a jump from previous years (25.2% in 2005; 23% in 2004; 30% in 2003). Several said that they started to job search a semester or two before graduation, and many familiarized themselves with the potential job market before beginning to look.

The types of jobs graduates reported fluctuated in 2006. For example, spots in reference/information service had been slowly decreasing over the last couple of years; however, in 2006, the percentage of these positions came closer to 2004 levels (22.9%), with 21.1% of the full-time professional jobs in reference/information service. Positions in adult services decreased by 35% from 2005 (50 positions reported in 2005; 37 reported in 2006), while positions in youth services (teen librarians, young adult librarians) increased (80 positions reported in 2005 compared to 60 in 2004). This reflects a growing trend in many public libraries to serve the young adult population with dedicated staffing.

The biggest leap occurred in information technology, which saw a 57.8% rise (from 30 reported positions in 2005 to 71 in 2006). Along with the increased number of positions, graduates reported an 8.8% increase in the average annual salaries for positions related to information technology, to $53,083. “Information technology� is a bit of a catch-all, but graduates reported exciting positions within the category, including information policy analysis, software engineering, and training specialist. While 57% of the information technology placements were in outside agencies, graduates found IT jobs in all types of libraries, including academic, public, special, and government facilities.

Looking to other types of jobs, acquisitions saw the best salary increase (up approximately 16.7% to $38,894), while circulation salaries experienced the worst drop (down 10.8% to $32,334). In fact, the broader areas of access services and technical services continue to raise concerns. Cataloging and circulation continue to be among the lowest paid of the professional and nonprofessional positions, falling well below the average starting salaries for all LIS graduates (at $35,976 and $32,334, respectively, approximately 20% less). As in previous survey analyses, location and professional/nonprofessional classification in these jobs do not seem to factor into salary, though it is beginning to appear that the type of organization may impact salaries for both. For example, salaries for catalogers in public libraries average $34,864, 5% below the average salary reported for all catalogers, and positions in circulation and interlibrary loan/document delivery follow suit.

Other positions that saw strong salary improvements include administration (up 12.27% to $43,303), which encompasses all levels from assistant department head to library director, and government documents (up from $33,600 to $38,743) at the state and federal levels.

Diversity in the profession

The number of graduates reporting minority status continued to decline— from 12% in 2005 to 10.7% in 2006. This despite increased numbers of overall respondents and more graduates reporting race and ethnicity than in previous years. Salaries also took a step back. The 2006 minority graduates reported an average annual salary of $40,750, a 3.5% decrease from a high of $42,233 in 2005. In 2006, there was less than 1% difference between the salaries obtained by minority graduates and overall salaries—a reversal of past patterns when reported salaries for this group were an average of 6% higher. Increased placements in the Southeast (up by approximately 32.6% from 2005), where salaries are among the lowest, may be the culprit.

On a positive note, minority grads in special libraries reported significant improvement in salaries. These salaries recovered from a drop in 2005, gaining $7,246 to reach an average of $49,500. The trend in salaries for minorities mirrors the overall trend in special libraries, whose salaries rose 6.1%. It is important to note that special library placements reported by minority graduates declined somewhat over the previous year.

Salaries for minorities took the largest hits in other agencies and school libraries, dipping approximately 17.5% from 2005 in other agencies; however, salaries there are still 9% above the overall annual averages. School library salaries had a less dramatic reversal at approximately 3.9%.

Location continues to matter for graduates reporting minority status. On a bright note, this group experienced salary gains in the Midwest, up 7.5% to $42,080. Following the pattern of the rest of the Southeast, salaries plummeted there by 8.8%. Canadian graduates reporting minority status had significantly higher salaries than all Canadian graduates, which may be owing to the increased number of individuals claiming minority status.

Public libraries (36.4%) and academic libraries (29%) continue to be popular choices for minority graduates, and each type has seen modest salary growth. Salaries in public libraries rose by $1,368 (3.6%) for graduates reporting minority status, while average starting salaries in academic libraries surged 5.6% to $41,942 (approximately 7.1% higher than the overall average).

Gender inequity remains

Comparing average starting salaries for women and men continues to be an exercise in frustration, but with some glimmers of hope. While women have seen positive improvement in salaries, finally topping $40,000, their salaries continue to lag approximately 6.5% behind salaries for men.

Proportionately, women comprise approximately 80% of the LIS work force. However, smaller percentages of women found jobs in academic (73.6% women) and special libraries (76.7% women) and with vendors (66% women) and other organizations (46% women). Three of these four workplaces offer the top starting salaries (other agencies, vendors, and special libraries). So, fewer women are finding positions in the higher paying organizations. This was especially noticeable in the other agencies, where women's starting salaries ($47,163) were 12.8% below those earned by their male counterparts ($53,178). The exception appeared in special libraries, where women ($45,606) have achieved salaries that are 17.8% higher than men ($37,482), as well as the average starting salary for all women (11.1% higher).

Despite the salary differentials, in 2006 men did not experience the stellar salary growth of the previous year. The average starting salary for men grew only 2.5% from 2005 compared to a 4.3% rise the year before. They experienced unexpected success in public libraries, where salaries rose by 4.7%.

Regional boom or bust?

This year's sleeper was the Southwest. With the inclusion of LIS programs that had not participated in the previous year and an increased number of respondents, salaries and placements showed health across library types. While placements across Texas were high, there were more in Colorado and Utah than have been reported in past years, making up a combined 17% of the total placements in the Southwest in 2006. Women in the Southwest experienced enormous salary growth, up 11.3% to $39,793; men's average annual salaries rose by 9.5% to $40,587. Similarly, salaries for jobs in public libraries, school libraries, and special libraries had spectacular jumps.

In special libraries, average annual salaries grew to $40,167 from $32,800 (approximately 18.3%). Even though the actual number of placements remains low, reported placements in special libraries more than doubled among the Southwest cohort. Another area contributing to the spectacular increases is “other organizations.� Much like special libraries, while the overall number remains small, placements increased by 51% from the previous year, and salaries went up over 7.1% to $46,221.

Salaries in the Southeast suffered (down 3.2%) while reported placements increased (up 25%). Public and academic libraries had remarkable improvements in the number of jobs reported (increases of 42.1% and 38.6%, respectively). More graduates reported jobs in school libraries in the region also, increasing approximately 35% from 2005. Possible explanations for the salary dip include the continued fallout from the hurricanes and floods that have ravished the Southern United States over the last couple of years, eliminating jobs and funding for public institutions and negatively impacting tax bases in areas where the general population has shifted.

Defining the “other�

Over the past few surveys, there has been a steady rise in the number of LIS graduates who reported placements in other types of agencies and positions outside of libraries, with a spike this year, as noted. Graduates reporting these “other� jobs have found work in nonprofit organizations and agencies other than libraries, in private industry, and elsewhere, including bioengineering and independent consulting. This has implications for salary levels for these types of agencies. The nonprofit sector has the lowest salaries (at $42,117) on the scale, while, not surprisingly, private industry has the highest (at $59,025). In a follow-up survey, those who reported employment outside of the LIS profession in other agencies said that even though they are not in traditional library jobs, they do make use of the skills and competencies gained with the degree. One graduate described himself as being employed in the computer science field but applying information science theories and information organization principles. Another related her research skills to her responsibilities as a business analyst. The general consensus was that their education is transferable and has made them more flexible and in high demand outside of more traditional library environments.

LS or IS

There has been an ongoing suspicion that there is a significant difference between salaries for those individuals who find jobs in information science compared with those whose jobs are defined as library science. The 2006 graduates were asked to explore how they define their positions in terms of either library science (LS) or information science (IS). Of the 1,551 graduates who responded to the question, approximately 72% stated that their jobs were clearly LS, 12% claimed IS, and the remaining 16% described their positions as falling into other professional areas, such as business or higher education. Perhaps more interesting, 74% of the graduates describing their positions as IS are women, refuting previous assumptions that more men were accepting IS jobs.

The IS positions ranged from knowledge management and usability testing to information consulting and digital services. However, many of the more traditional positions, such as reference/information services and cataloging, fell under the IS moniker as well. Perhaps this is a function of the individual LIS program's philosophies (being an “I� school or an “L� school) rather than a function of the job itself. It may also be a product of the type of agency in which a graduate is employed, though many IS graduates landed in traditional library settings.

More significant than job title is the impact an IS or LS designation had on salaries. The average annual starting salary for graduates who identified their jobs as IS was $48,413 compared to $39,580 for LS jobs (an 18.2% variance). Salary differences were even more apparent when comparing women to men. In 2006, women who reported salaries for IS-related jobs had an average annual starting salary of $46,118, while men received $55,423 on average.

Is the master's enough?

A random sample of LJ survey respondents were asked to participate in a very brief follow-up survey. Among the questions, they were asked to discuss the challenges they faced in finding their first professional LIS position. The most common issue reported was finding a job when they had only limited professional experience in libraries. Being in a profession with many career-changers (approximately 51% of graduates said LIS was not their first professional career), many LIS graduates bring unique and specialized skills on their résumés. However, despite extensive backgrounds in other fields, they had difficulty convincing employers that their lack of practical library experience would not inhibit their job performance. This might explain the increasing number of temporary professional positions that LIS graduates reported as a way to gain experience while seeking permanent professional employment. This challenge may also be seen in the length of the job search. Graduates agree that students need to make the most of every opportunity to volunteer in libraries and other information agencies as well as seek out fieldwork and internships that will provide additional experience.

Graduates were also asked to discuss what best prepared them for their first professional position. As in the past they concurred that networking with professionals in the field was key, as was active participation in professional organizations. Some found working as a graduate assistant in the LIS department or the university library invaluable for gaining contacts and experience. Graduates readily discussed the relationship of their coursework to their first jobs, e.g., taking sufficient children and YA literature classes allowed them to be versatile in serving their young constituents.

The 2006 graduates generally felt knowledgeable about the profession as a whole and the specific positions they sought. For example, one graduate who wanted to become a cataloger took every cataloging/classification and information organization class available to build a strong theoretical background and participated in supervised fieldwork, which allowed him to garner practical experience as well. Another graduate summed it up this way: “I found that employers expected you to understand what they want you to do, and the more you know, the better you'll look. In other words, research doesn't stop with the degree.�

One final challenge that several graduates discussed in the follow-up survey was related to location. Approximately 16% of the 2006 graduates indicated a move outside of their home region. As a group, graduates said that finding the ideal location, one where they were willing to move their families and where salaries were acceptable, was tricky. Searching for the right place was especially lengthy for graduates who wanted to move cross-country and for those seeking nonlibrary jobs (the elusive “other�) in nonmetropolitan areas.

Advice to future graduates

A final question on the follow-up survey—for advice they would give to future colleagues—elicited responses from the philosophical to the practical. But in general, graduates stressed a need to be able to “parlay� personal background into professional experience. They emphasized the need for experience in a library or information agency even if it's in the capacity of a volunteer or page. Additionally, they suggested polishing the professional persona before entering the job market. One advised, “Be sure your MySpace or other social networking web pages are what you want future employers to see. The first thing a department head does when she gets a résumé is google the person.� For those going the corporate route, another advised, “No visible tattoos! Before going to an interview with a reputable firm, take out the face piercings and nose rings. Dye your blue (purple, mauve, or green) hair something 'normal.' Invest in a professionally prepared résumé.� Such professionalism extends to attitude, as expressed in the final piece of practical advice the 2006 graduates issued: “Show your administration that your job is more than just a 'job,' that it is your career.�

Link to a continuation of the article that shows graphs of the survey results here.

Posted by kkowatch at October 19, 2007 02:29 PM

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