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Career Preparation: Tips for Graduate Students and Career Changers
Why might you choose a career as a medical librarian?
- competitive library salaries
- diverse work settings: hospitals, academic health centers, corporate and special libraries, and consumer health resources centers.
- varied job descriptions
- positive effects on the quality of patient care
- opportunities to teach and participate in research projects and publications
- low burnout rate
View MLA’s "Competencies for Professional Success" for more information.
Position yourself for a career in health sciences information
People ask if a science background is necessary to be come a health sciences librarian. The honest answer is no, however any coursework or prior experience in the basic or applied sciences, health care, or computer technology will be an asset. For example, coursework in or prior experience with the following is helpful:
- medical terminology
- nursing or other allied health disciplines
- epidemiology or biostatistics
- computer science
- database structure, design, and searching
- website development, structure, design
- adult education or teaching experience
Carefully consider graduate programs
- Courses offered: Is there a health sciences track or minor?
- Graduation requirements: How long will it take to complete the program? Can the program be completed in a calendar year? Is a thesis required?
- Geographic requirements: Are you willing to relocate? Are there programs that can be completed mostly or totally via distance education?
Connect with recent graduates, mentors, and current practitioners.
- Visit MLA's "Library Schools with Courses in Health Sciences Librarianship" pages for an overview of U.S. and Canadian library schools.
- View the American Library Association (ALA) "Guidelines for Choosing a Master's Program in Library & Information Studies".
- If you're an MLA member, visit the MLA mentoring area to find a mentor that will talk to you about changing careers or an initial career in health sciences librarianship. Nonmembers can contact MLA staff and we'll find librarians in your area willing and ready to talk with you.
- Read librarian blogs: check out the "Letters to a Young Librarian" blog, especially posts by MLA members Alison Aldrich (So You Want To Be a Medical Librarian) and Nikki Dettmar (A Librarian’s Guide to Webcast Wrangling)
- Follow the #medlibs tweets and Thursday Tweetchats
Find a health sciences library in your area.
- Shadow a librarian or seek out a mentor and ask a lot of questions.
- Learn about the library's reference collection.
- Find a local health sciences library association, or go to an MLA regional chapter meeting
- Apply for a National Library of Medicine Associate Fellowship
- Pay attention to medical and health-related news.
- Take the time to learn more about the current health care environment.
- Look for opportunities to ask health care providers and researchers how they access and use health information.