Becoming a Medical Librarian: Job Description & Salary Information

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What are the pros and cons of a career as a medical librarian? Get real information on salary, educational requirements and job duties to see if becoming a medical librarian is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Medical Librarian

A career as a medical librarian allows you to help health professionals, students and researchers find reference materials. Take a closer look at the pros and cons of becoming a medical librarian to see if this is the right career for you.

Pros of Becoming a Medical Librarian
Good median annual pay (around $56,000 as of May 2014)*
Help heathcare professionals, students and patients gather important information*
The skills learned may be valuable for other occupations (research and analytical skills may be used across many industries, such as market research and computer information systems)*
May work in different settings (hospital, university, medical schools)*

Cons of Becoming a Medical Librarian
Slow job growth expected (seven percent from 2012-2022)*
Advanced degree required, usually a Master's in Library Science*
Competition for jobs may be high*
Licensing or certification may be required*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Essential Career Information

Job Description

Medical librarians are responsible for finding and distributing health and science information for those in the healthcare field. Healthcare professionals, students and patients may look to you to provide up-to-date and accurate health information. You'll do research as well as organize information. You may be involved in developing entire library collections. If you work in a hospital, you may handle more than one library collection, such as one for the patients and another for the staff. You may find work in a university, hospital, clinic or medical school. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that as a medical librarian, you may be involved in gathering information for clinical trials and treatments. Additionally, you may also be able to teach medical students the proper way to locate information.

Salary Information and Career Prospects

The BLS reported that the median annual salary for all librarians was around $56,000. According to, the majority of medical librarians earned between $40,000 and $66,000 annually, as of May 2014. The BLS predicted slower-than-average employment growth of around seven percent between 2012-2022 for librarians. However, because electronic information is becoming increasingly available, research and specialty librarians were expected to be needed to help sort through the large amount of information.

Education and Training Requirements

A career as a medical librarian requires that you complete a master's degree program in library science. Most programs can be completed within 1-2 years beyond the bachelor's degree, but some schools offer accelerated programs. If you're interested in becoming a medical librarian, a bachelor's degree in biology or a related field may be an advantage. In a master's program, you'll learn information technology, organizational methods, research strategies and how to use various search engines.

Additionally, if you decide you'd like to work as a librarian in a public school or in a public library, you'll typically need certification or licensing from the state. Requirements may vary, so it's a good idea to contact the state for specific information.

What Employers Are Looking for

Most employers require you to be proficient with computers. Some samples of real job postings from May 2012 reflect the following requirements:

  • A healthcare system in Florida is seeking a medical librarian that is able to help link patient information, resources and also train others on using research portals. This job does not require a master's degree, but it is preferred.
  • In Florida, a college is seeking a medical instructor librarian to work on campus. This career requires that the applicant maintains all electronic resources and can provide one-on-one instruction on the usage of all library materials. This job requires previous experience working with online medical databases as well as a master's degree.
  • A research facility in Virginia is looking for a librarian that is able to manage an extensive online database and help develop research strategies for fellow employees. This career also requires that the applicant maintains all records, both print and electronic.

How to Make Your Skills Stand out

Medical librarians need to be detail-oriented, demonstrate strong interpersonal skills, be tech savvy and also know how to prioritize. This position requires that you know how to find information in both print and electronic forms and do so in a quick and efficient manner. Consequently, keeping your computer skills up to date may be beneficial in this career. This specialization may also require that you have some background in healthcare or science, so being familiar with healthcare terminology may also give you an advantage. Good communication skills will also help you train others on research methods, work closely with those seeking information and enable you to ask for information when you need more for your research.

Other Careers to Consider

Perhaps you're looking for a similar career that doesn't require a graduate degree. In that case, you may wish to consider the following alternatives.


One potential alternative career that you may want to consider is that of an archivist. Archivists usually only need a bachelor's degree in history and are responsible for maintaining permanent records and important historical documents. Archivists typically work for museums, governments or universities. The BLS reported that the median annual salary for this career was around $47,000 as of May 2011. The job growth was expected to be around 12% from 2010-2020, which is about as fast as the national average.

Library Technician

Another career to consider is that of a library technician. This job requires only a bachelor's degree. However, the pay is significantly lower than that of a medical librarian with a median annual wage of around $30,000. This position handles the day-to-day customer interaction and requires supervision by a librarian. Technicians help patrons check out and return books, restock shelves and help patrons find what they are looking for upon request. The BLS reported that employment growth was expected to be about 10% from 2010-2020, which is about as fast as average for all occupations.

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