Professional Development: Career Resources

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, learn more about this rewarding, challenging profession.

Explore Health Sciences Librarianship:
Roles, Salaries, Educational requirements

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 

How much do health sciences librarians earn?

MLA surveys health sciences librarians about their salaries and benefits about every three-to-five years. In the 2017 MLA Salary Survey, we found that the average entry-level salary (that is, the salary of someone with less than 2 years of experience) was $54,014 per year. The average salary of all US full-time health sciences librarians was $71,543 per year. The top salaries reported to us in 2017 were in director positions, ranging from a low average of $71,543 to a high average of $140,700 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.

Career Tips and Resources

For High School Students

Thinking about becoming a health sciences librarian? Here are some things you can do now to get ready:

Medical librarians work with a variety of health care providers: doctors, nurses, occupational therapists, physical therapists, etc. The more you know about what they do and where they work, the better a librarian you’ll be.

  • Volunteer in a hospital to learn more about the daily efforts of these professionals.
  • See if your state has an Area Health Education Center (AHEC) program. If so, contact them about what they offer to teens interested in health careers.
  • Take any opportunity to learn about health careers.
  • Learn more about medical terminology online or from your local library.

Medical librarians use computers and mobile devices heavily in their daily work. Some librarians are systems librarians, responsible for fixing computers, for running local area networks, or for training others to use technology. Librarians frequently create webpages for their library or institution. 

  • Take a course in web design or web development. Find out about content management systems.
  • Look at health sciences library websites such as MedlinePlus or MayoClinic to learn more about style, presentation, and how they organize content.
  • Learn about health-related software and apps and their uses in medical settings.

Medical librarians are well-educated! They need to be able to talk comfortably and articulately with physicians and hospital administrators, professors, and university chancellors.

  • Take college preparation courses in high school. Join a debate, speech, drama, or other team or activity that will help you become familiar with speaking in public.
  • Plan to go to college! You don’t have to major in a health-related program, but the more you know about your customers, the easier it will be to do your job as a medical librarian.
  • Know the requirements for getting your master’s in library science. Ask your school librarian or counselor to help you identify schools where you can get a master’s in library science 
  • See the list of graduate library science programs below that offer health sciences courses.

Most librarians don’t actually fit the old stereotype of what librarians do!  That is especially true of health sciences librarians. Get familiar with the kinds of services they provide.

  • Call your local health sciences library—check a university medical school or a hospital—and ask if you can shadow a librarian for part of a day to see what they do.
  • See if you can get an internship in a local health sciences library.
  • Look at health sciences library websites to learn more about the work they do.

For College Students

If you are in college at the undergraduate level and are planning to become a health sciences librarian, prepare ahead! Know what various medical librarian jobs are, where they are, and what expertise you may need to develop.

Combine technology skills with service in a career that makes you part of the health care team and a leader at the forefront of technology!

Expect to earn a master’s degree in library and information sciences from a school accredited by the American Library Association (ALA) as required for medical librarian positions.

  • Programs generally require 1–2 years for completion; online and distance education programs are available.
  • Review the “Library Schools with Courses in Health Sciences Librarianship” site to find schools that offer health sciences librarianship courses; find out about the schools, including entry and academic course requirements.

Explore the diverse roles and settings in which medical librarians work.

  • Spend a day shadowing a medical librarian in a hospital or academic health center. There may be a medical school on your campus and a medical librarian willing to show you his or her working environment.
  • Volunteer at a hospital information desk.
  • Work in your college library or computer lab—library positions make excellent student work-study jobs!
  • Talk to your university librarian about education and skill requirements and job opportunities.

Inform yourself about available scholarships for library and information sciences programs.

  • Student scholarships are available from MLA for students entering or attending an ALA-accredited library school program; visit the MLA grants, scholarships, and fellowships area for more information and criteria.
  • Look for individual scholarships from institutions offering MLIS, MLS, or informationist degrees; state libraries, library systems, and other associations may also have scholarships available.
  • Look into post-graduate fellowships from the National Library of Medicine.
  • Consider a post-graduate internship at an academic health sciences library.

Explore sites and publications that profile health sciences librarians and their work.

In graduate school, take courses in scientific literature, biomedical communication, health informatics, electronic and print resources, database searching, organization and management, bibliographic instruction, online course design, and web development and design or systems design. Find out about the environment in which medical librarians work.

  • Positions for medical librarian include information services librarian, Internet services librarian, instruction librarian, digital archivist, web manager, cataloger, technology consultant, administrator or director, electronic resources coordinator, or many other fascinating positions.
  • Medical librarians work in academic health centers, hospitals, health information centers, government agencies, technology companies, pharmaceutical manufacturers, and other health care industries.
  • Medical librarians work with physicians, nurses, allied health professionals, pharmacists, medical faculty, health professions students, health care consumers, and even patients and their families.

For Library School Students and Career Changers

Why 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
  • anatomy
  • 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

Find a Health Sciences Library in Your Area

  • Volunteer!
  • 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

What Else?

  • 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.

Library Schools with Courses in Health Sciences Information

Listed, by state, are library schools in the United States and Canada that are accredited by the American Library Association (ALA) and may offer courses in health sciences information. For more information, contact Tomi Gunn or Kate Corcoran.

For information about a particular program, contact the school directly.

Last updated May 9, 2024.

US Library Schools

*also offers online LIS courses

^specifically lists health science concentration/career pathway




District of Columbia
















New Jersey

New York

North Carolina




Puerto Rico

Rhode Island

South Carolina




Old Dominion University*



Canadian Library Schools


British Columbia

Nova Scotia



Additional Resources