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Explore a Career in Health Sciences Information

Whether you're a high school student looking toward your future education, a college student exploring the possibilities of a health-related career, or a health professional looking for a second career, working in health sciences librarianship might be the right career for you! Read on to learn more about this rewarding, challenging profession.

What is a health sciences or medical librarian? What do they do?

Health sciences librarians are information professionals, librarians, or informaticists who have special knowledge in quality health information resources. They have a direct impact on the quality of patient care, helping physicians, allied health professionals, administrators, students, faculty, and researchers stay abreast of and learn about new developments in their fields.

Using materials and tools that range from traditional print journals to electronic databases and the latest mobile devices, health sciences librarians use innovative strategies to access and deliver important information for patient care, research, and publication. Examples of how health sciences librarians work as part of the health care team include:

  • answering a surgeon's call from a hospital emergency room for rush information
  • helping a researcher develop a systematic review article for a prestigious journal by conducting an expert search of the literature.
  • connecting licensed electronic resources and decision tools into a patient's electronic medical record.
  • finding consumer health information in a patient's native language.

Health sciences librarians also work in the following capacities and roles:

  • reference and consumer health librariansweb managers
  • medical informatics specialists
  • chief information officers
  • embedded information specialists
  • copyright and licensing experts
  • data managers
  • educators
  • patient safety advocates
  • knowledge managers.  

What are general characteristics of professionals in the field?

  • ability to thrive in a constantly changing environment
  • innovative ideas
  • technological aptitude
  • creativity and curiosity
  • service orientation
  • excellent communication skills
  • teaching ability
  • public relations savvy
  • organizational and problem-solving skills 

Where do health sciences librarians work?

Anywhere health and biomedical information is needed! This includes academic medical centers and medical schools; hospitals and clinics; colleges, universities, and professional schools; consumer health libraries; research centers and foundations; industry, including biotechnology, insurance, medical equipment, pharmaceutical, and publishing; and federal, state, and local government agencies.  

How much do health sciences librarians earn?

MLA surveys health sciences librarians about their salaries and benefits about every three years. In the 2012 MLA Salary Survey, we found that the average entry-level salary (that is, the salary of someone with less that 1 year of experience) was $49,060 per year. The average salary of all US full-time health sciences librarians was $66,622 per year. The top salaries reported to us in 2012 were in director postions, ranging from a low average of $52,293 to a high average of $116,200 per year.

What education do I need to become a health sciences librarian?

To enter the profession, at least a master’s degree in library or information sciences is required. A background in sciences, health sciences, or allied health can be helpful, but is not necessary.

Interested? Find out more!

  • Watch YouTube videos of medical librarians talking about their jobs
  • Visit the "HackLibrarySchool" blog and read interviews with 4 medical librarians and their take on specializing in library school
  • Pearls of Wisdom: One of MLA's most revered leaders speaks about the health librarianship profession
  • Read about things of interest to a medical librarian in MLA President Michelle Kraft's Krafty Librarian blog
  • Read the post from the Wanna Be Librarian blog on the importance of networking and finding a mentor
  • Learn about MLA's Continuing Education Program including online learning and specializations!
  • Connect with a medical librarian:
    • to talk to those interested in changing their career to medical librarianship.
    • for an informational interview about the profession or aspects of medical librarianship
    • to host library school students for full- or half-day visits to medical library