MA or MCLIP?

Every so often someone asks me if I think they should consider pursuing an MA/MLIS or MCLIP, so it feels like it may be worth sharing my thoughts here. The tips below are amended from my latest email about this topic, to someone who already works in libraries:

1. Masters. I think the main thing to consider is what qualifications you may need for future roles, or what your other motivations for doing another degree are (and yes, just for fun is fine). Assuming you are considering this for career reasons, I suggest that you look a LIS Job Net and similar sites to see what kind of jobs are of interest to you. That will give you an idea of what you need to show when you apply. Existing library and life experience may already get you places without further completed qualifications (which you may be able to complete alongside a new role). I cannot comment on content of a LIS MA but I suggest you choose one that is likely  to sustain your interest, meaning one that allows you to choose subjects that you are  interested in/that are relevant to your career plans. Would another degree be more enjoyable and still relevant to your career plans? Will the degree you choose be relevant in other countries (if moving abroad is something you are looking at), and how do their library systems work?

2. MCLIP. This is a professional registration, not a qualification, meaning that you lose the letters after your name when you leave CILIP. (In contrast, a qualification is for life.) But: CILIP registration shows commitment to CPD, and you have a ready-made network of professional contacts to draw on. Also, consider whether the future roles you are looking at are based in sectors that value/know of CILIP. I get the impression that school libraries are fairly keen on CILIP, while more specialist libraries may have other organisations they are keen(er) on. Think SLA, BIALL,… If you are interested in using your MCLIP abroad, check out CILIP’s website. (And if you want to read my initial thoughts on the chartership process, click here for an old post about this.)

3. Time. An MA will take you at least a year, with approx 5 essays (= approx 36,000 words) and a formal structure. CILIP registration is a portfolio (= approx 2,000-3,000 words) and can take as long as you like – you have to organise your own structure though.

4. Money. How much do you have and what other aims do you have? Is it realistic to spend several thousand £s(*) on an MA if you cannot be sure to benefit from having it (or is the joy of having learned stuff enough, and could you do that cheaper?)? Or is it better to invest that in a mortgage/deposit/life generally? How quickly can your earn the invested money back in a new role that you get after qualifying (if that is something that you are interested in)? Are there ways of getting funded (which may add another motivator)?

5. Over to you. Good luck with your decision! You could aways do both, as they can complement each other. 🙂

PS. If you can access careers advice anywhere, do so. For example, CILIP members can access careers support via the Careers Hub. Also, aspiring and new professional may want to check out the NLPN blog.

*Note: Slight amendments were made to this post on 22 February 2017, concerning MA fees. Initially I estimated approx £6,000 based on Aberythwyth University fees, but have been informed since that you can do it for as little £2,000 if you already have a PGDip.

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