What's the Job Outlook for Medical Librarians?

Research what it takes to become a medical librarian. Learn about job duties, education requirements, salary and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Archival Studies degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Medical Librarian?

A librarian acquires, catalogues and maintains books, magazines, videos and other relevant resource materials that will be accessed by library patrons. A medical librarian specifically focuses on acquiring and cataloguing texts and materials that are about healthcare and medicine. They may work in a library located at a medical school, a hospital or a research center. Their duties involve determining appropriate materials to acquire, locating and purchasing those materials, cataloguing new materials, updating databases and helping patrons locate relevant materials. They may assist physicians looking for information on a specific subject or patients who are seeing information about a condition they've been diagnosed with. They need strong communication and computer skills, and need to be highly organized.

Degree Required Master's degree
Education Field of Study Library science
Key Responsibilities Help researchers, physicians and patients locate and access healthcare information, answer health questions that patrons may have, provide information about new clinical trials and tests
Job Growth (2014-2024) 2% (for all librarians)*
Median Salary (2015) $56,880 (for all librarians)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Medical Librarian Job Description

As a medical librarian, your main goal is to help physicians, researchers and patients access authoritative information regarding healthcare. You are required to follow any new developments or breakthroughs in specialty medical areas, which allows you to communicate those developments to physicians in the field. For example, you may be responsible for providing information on new clinical trials, tests, equipment or treatments. You may also be responsible for showing healthcare providers how to access and evaluate new research in the medical field.

You might find a position as a medical librarian within a heath center library, or you might work for a university, research center, professional school, biotechnology center, government agency or pharmaceutical center. If you work within a traditional medical library, some of your other duties might include managing information technology systems, organizing fundraising efforts and maintaining digital libraries.

Education and Training Requirements

In order to obtain a medical librarian position, you will typically need to complete a Master of Library Science (MLS) degree program that is accredited through the American Library Association. These programs take one and two years to complete. They cover topics such as information resources, information organization and research methods.

While you are enrolled in an MLS program, you should also consider taking courses in research techniques, computer and information systems, education, statistics and Web development. You might also consider volunteering at the health information desk within a medical facility in order to gain some hands-on experience in the field.

Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not report salary data related specifically to the position of medical librarian. However, the BLS (www.bls.gov) did report that the median annual salary for all librarians was $56,880, as of May 2015. Salary.com reported that as of January 30, 2017, the median income for medical librarians was $59,573.

Job Outlook

The BLS (www.bls.gov) reported that employment of all librarians will increase two percent from 2014 to 2024. According to the Health Career Center, a division of the Mississippi Hospital Association (MHA), the employment of medical librarians will increase between three and nine percent in the next decade. Those individuals who have an understanding of computerized library systems will have the advantage when seeking jobs in the profession.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

The work that corporate librarians and law librarians do is similar to the work of medical librarians. Like medical librarians, corporate and law librarians specialize in a particular subject area. Corporate librarians acquire and maintain materials relevant to the businesses they work for. For example, a corporate librarian who works for an oil company may focus on materials related to oil drilling, environmental studies related to oil refineries, and other data relevant to that industry. A law librarian may work for a courthouse, law school or law firm, and will focus on acquiring texts pertinent to the needs of their clients. For example, a law librarian working for a law firm that specializes in criminal law will focus on acquiring materials relevant to that subject area. A master's degree is typically required for all librarians regardless of specialization or work setting.

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