Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Alphabet Soup, Or "What Should I Get for My Second Master's Degree?"

Someone recently polled the members of the LIBREF-L listserv for our advice about a second master's degree. When the answers started coming through, I was gratified to see my opinion mirrored back to me again and again. The simple answer is this: It all depends on what you want to do with your career.

Back when I was thinking about what to do for my second master's degree, I narrowed it down to two choices: business administration or education. There are a lot of other fields that interest me, but I wanted my second master's to serve multiple purposes. Both an MBA and an MAEd can serve as a subject master's, but both can also help a librarian do his or her job better. I finally settled on education because one of the things about my job about which I am most passionate is teaching. I'm fascinated by good teachers; I read pedagogical and epistemological research for fun; but most importantly, I love helping students get students to the "Aha!" moment.

That's what works for me, an instruction librarian at a small liberal arts college. What works for you will probably be different. Some people get a subject master's first and discover a love of librarianship through that process. Others get a Master of Public Administration (MPA), and that's a fantastic idea for public librarians. Still others decide not to get a second master's degree - it might be required for some academic librarian positions, but not all.

Again, it all comes down to where you see yourself in five to ten years. On the surface, that is probably the corniest piece of advice I've given yet, but if you give it a chance and really let your imagination go, it just might help. (I know it helped me.)

What about you: do you have a second master's? Why? Why not? If you do, how did you pick?


  1. One of the biggest misconceptions about Academic libraries is that you need a 2nd Masters to work in one. I know this used to be true and there are still some that require it, but it's definitely not the case in all or even most. If you're interested in academic library work, don't assume you need a 2nd masters. Read the job description.

  2. I'm planning on another master's, when I catch my breath/pay off some of this debt (I've only been out of school since May). Definitely hoping to do the second one in anthropology. I don't have ambitions to work in an academic library; I just love the subject.

  3. My library degree is my second master's degree. I got my first master's (English lit) right out of undergrad, when I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. It took me many years to figure out that I wanted to be a librarian . . . but who knows, maybe a third master's degree is somewhere on the horizon! I wouldn't know what to do if I didn't have student loan payments.

  4. @Unknown - exactly. I got my first job with just the MLIS. I didn't think about a 2nd one for a few years after that.

    @Diana - If I were to do a master's just for fun, I'd love to study folklore. Fascinating stuff.

    @Helgagrace - I'm with you on that. It took me 8 years after undergrad to figure out that I wanted to be a librarian.

  5. Very reasonable! While its a long cry from your situation- when I first went to college I learned classical analysis because I was fascinated by music. It was only after I got my degree that I realized I hadn't considered my career at all. I'd pidgeonholed myself into... Having to get a masters / pHd to do anything with my bachelors. The career path I'd wanted did not reflect my schooling and I'm still playing catch up.

    So I couldn't agree more with your point of view.

  6. I'd love to get an MFA, but that would be purely selfish - probably wouldn't do much for my career. I am auditing a writing class at your institution in the 3 week, though!