Hack Your Program: University of Maryland (2021 Update)

The following post reflects my own experiences with the University of Maryland’s iSchool and the MLIS Program. These opinions do not reflect the opinions of all UMD iSchool students, the college, or the university. This post was also written at the end of the Spring 2021 semester, while many COVID-19 protocols are still in place. Some of this information is subject to change and, for the most up to date information on the program, please visit the iSchool’s website.

Overview

The UMD iSchool currently offers the following degrees:

The MLIS program can be completed entirely online or in-person. “The admission requirements and curriculum are the same for both online and in-person students.” The program requires all students to complete 36 credit hours, with 24 of those credits from iSchool courses (INST, INFM, LBSC). All students, regardless if they are online or in-person, must take the four core courses, and complete either a field study or a thesis. A full-time student can typically complete the program in four semesters, or two years. The MLIS Program FAQ goes over a lot of basic information about the program. 

Curriculum

The majority of the courses that MLIS students take are 3 credit hours. A full time student typically takes 3 courses per semester, or 9 credit hours per semester. Of the 36 credits that you need to complete in the program, 12 of those credits will be from the core courses. The MLIS core courses are:

  • LBSC602: Serving Information Needs (to be taken within the first 18 credits of the program)
  • LBSC631: Achieving Organizational Excellence (to be taken within the first 18 credits of the program)
  • LBSC671: Creating Information Infrastructures (to be taken within the first 18 credits of the program)
  • LBSC791: Designing Principled Inquiry (to be taken after completing 18 credits)

The program offers two capstone options for students: the field study and the thesis. The field study is designed for students to explore the field through an internship. Students completing the field study will enroll in one of the following courses after completing 18 credits of coursework:

  • LBSC707: Field Study in Library Science (online)
  • LBST703: Field Study in Archives, Records and Information Management (in-person)

Students may also opt to complete a thesis if they are interested in research. The thesis requires students to take a research methods course, and two semesters of INST799: Master’s Thesis Research. More information about the field study and the thesis can be found in the MLIS Student Handbook.  

Specializations

As of Fall 2019, MLIS students are no longer required to declare a specialization, unless they plan on pursuing the School Library Certification. While declaring a specialization is no longer required, there are still some specializations available should students want to pursue them. They are: Archives and Digital Curation, Diversity and Inclusion, School Library Certification (you must declare if you want to pursue this one), Youth Experience, Intelligence & Analytics, Legal Informatics, and the Individualized Program Plan. See the Specialization Guide for the recommended courses for each specialization.

Tuition & Fees

Tuition for Maryland residents is $731 per credit hour, meaning that if you take a full-time course load of 3 courses at 3 credit hours each, for a total of 9 credit hours, a Maryland resident would pay $6,579 per semester in tuition. 

Non-Maryland residents pay $1,625 per credit hour, meaning that if you take a full-time course load of 3 courses at 3 credit hours each, for a total of 9 credit hours, a non-Maryland resident would pay $14,625 per semester in tuition. 

The iSchool charges a $50 course fee per credit hour, so a full-time student taking 3 courses (9 credit hours) would pay $450 per semester. There are also graduate student fees. Part-time students taking 6 credit hours or less pay $417.50 per semester, while full-time students pay $817.50 per semester. 

The grand total of tuition and fees for a full-time student who is a Maryland resident is $7,846.50. For non-Maryland residents, the total tuition and fees for a full-time student is $15,892.50. 

See the Tuition & Fees page for more details and the most updated numbers.  

Funding

The iSchool offers Teaching Assistantships to two incoming students per semester, and there are other Graduate Assistantship opportunities across campus. Many students have graduate assistantships or hourly positions on campus. Other funding opportunities are available through the Office of Financial Aid and the Graduate School

Weaknesses

The core courses are due for a revamp. It is difficult for any MLIS program to create core courses that will be relevant for students with diverse interests, and this program is no different. With some of these courses, it feels like they try to squeeze in as much as possible to be relevant to different students, but it isn’t always successful. However, it is nice to come to these courses and interact with other students who you may not see on a regular basis, and have interesting conversations about how different concepts can apply to different areas of librarianship. However, rumor has it that a revamp of the core courses may be in the works!

While the iSchool does have some really interesting course options, the scheduling of these classes is sometimes an issue. There are situations where a certain course may only be offered for one semester every two years, and that is a problem. The MLIS program can be completed in just two years, so that means that a student may only have one opportunity to take a specific course. Say, for example, that a certain course is only offered in a student’s final semester in the program, but it conflicts with the scheduling of that student’s final core course or their field study class, then they will not be able to take that course at all. 

As with many other programs, the cost is a weakness. While the program is more affordable for Maryland residents, the out-of-state tuition may not be worth it if you aren’t able to get funding or other financial aid. As mentioned above, the iSchool does offer two assistantships for incoming students, but considering that the MLIS program is the biggest program in the iSchool, and there are other Master’s students who may also be considered for the positions, funding from the iSchool is not guaranteed. While there are other graduate assistantship positions across campus, they are not posted regularly (GA positions are usually only vacated when the student currently in that position graduates) and are highly competitive. If you’re interested in the program and want an assistantship, start looking and applying early. These positions fill quickly.

Strengths

The MLIS program is ranked highly, if that is something that matters to you. The online MLIS program is ranked #2 in the U.S., and the MLIS program in general is ranked #4. 

The program’s flexibility is also a plus. Students who work full-time or part-time are able to complete the program on their own schedule, and the plethora of classes available online are great for students who want or need to complete the program remotely. 

UMD’s proximity to Washington D.C. is another major strength. For students who aren’t sure how they eventually want to apply their MLIS, the proximity to D.C. allows plenty of opportunity to explore your options. There are a ton of public library systems in and around D.C., there are plenty of colleges, universities, and K-12 school districts, of course, government opportunities, including the National Archives, and more. If you aren’t sure what you’re interested in, you’ll have the opportunity to explore a ton of options in the area. 

I may be a bit biased with this last one since I’m an alumna of the program, but the Research & Teaching Fellowship was one of the best experiences I had during the MLIS program. This is a Fellowship through the Teaching and Learning Center at the university’s library with corresponding courses in the iSchool that count towards your degree. In this program, MLIS students accepted to the Fellowship have the opportunity to gain on-the-job experience in an academic library by teaching information literacy sessions to first-year, undergraduate students, and performing other reference duties, such as (pre-pandemic) working at a reference desk or undertaking on-call online chat reference shifts. While getting into the fellowship is competitive, it does provide incredible experience and opportunities and, especially if you want to apply for positions in academic libraries, will give you an edge when it comes time to apply for jobs.


Jane Behre is a MLIS student at the University of Maryland. (As of this post’s publication, she will be graduating from the program at the end of the week!) At UMD, she is the coordinator for the First Year Book Program and a Research & Teaching Fellow. Her academic and professional interests include information literacy instruction and health literacy. She will be continuing on to pursue her Ph.D. at the University of Maryland after graduation.

Photo by Bgervais, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

1 reply

  1. I graduated from the program in 2018. I definitely agree with the revamp needed of the core! And I definitely wish the iSchool had more graduate opportunities like GA’s and fellowships.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s