Accreditation Frequently Asked Questions

Accreditation Glossary

We are often asked:

Potential students often ask:

Employers often ask:

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   Q: What programs are accredited by ALA?
A: ALA accredits 63 programs at 58 institutions in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico. Please see the directory for the complete list.

   Q: What is accreditation?
A: Accreditation is a voluntary system of evaluation of higher education institutions and programs. It is a collegial process based on self-evaluation and peer-assessment for improvement of academic quality and public accountability. Accreditation assures that higher education institutions and their units, schools, or programs meet appropriate standards of quality and integrity.

Accreditation is both a process and a condition. The process entails the assessment of educational quality and the continued enhancement of educational operations through the development and validation of standards. The condition provides a credential to the public-at-large indicating that an institution and/or its programs have accepted and are fulfilling their commitment to educational quality.

   Q: How do I volunteer to serve on an accreditation review team?
A: We ask that you complete the External Review Panel member information form and send us a copy of your resume. You will then be added to our pool of volunteers and receive information about training sessions. Trained panelists for specific reviews are selected by the Committee on Accreditation (COA) about 18 months prior to the actual review visit, so it may take a two or more years in the pool before you are placed on a panel. Please see ERP service information for timeline, responsibilities, and typical activities.

   Q: What is the appropriate degree to be a professional librarian?
A: ALA policy 54.2 states: "The master's degree from a program accredited by the American Library Association (or from a master's level program in library and information studies accredited or recognized by the appropriate national body of another country) is the appropriate professional degree for librarians."

For school library media specialists, ALA policy B.9.2.2 (formerly ALA Policy 54.2.2) states: "The master's degree in librarianship from a program accredited by the American Library Association or a master’s degree with a specialty in school librarianship from an ALA/AASL Nationally Recognized program in an educational unit accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation is the appropriate first professional degree for school librarians."

   Q: What is the difference between the MLS, the MILS, the MLIS, etc.?
A: The master’s degree in library and information studies is frequently referred to as the MLS; however, ALA-accredited degrees have various names such as Master of Information Studies, Master of Information, Master of Arts, Master of Librarianship, Master of Library and Information Studies, or Master of Science. The degree name is determined by the program. The Committee for Accreditation evaluates programs based on their adherence to the Standards for Accreditation of Master's Programs in Library and Information Studies, not based on the name of the degree.

Some institutions offer more than one information- or library-related degree, but not all degree programs are accredited by the ALA. Only those specific master’s degree programs that have been reviewed and approved by the Committee on Accreditation are considered to be ALA-accredited.

   Q: I graduated from an non-accredited program. Are there courses or tests I can take to be accredited?
A: Unfortunately, there is no set of courses or tests that can be taken to "receive" an accredited degree. You would need to attend an ALA-accredited program for another master's degree.

   Q: I have a degree from a foreign institution. How can I find out if it is equivalent to an ALA-accredited master's? What courses or tests can I take to be accredited?
A: Ultimately, it is up to the employer to determine whether or not to accept a foreign degree as equivalent to an ALA-accredited master's. There is no set of courses or tests to take to be "accredited." The ALA Office for Human Resource Development and Recruitment has identified agencies that, for a fee, will evaluate foreign credentials.

   Q: Why should I go to an accredited program?
A: Graduating from an ALA-accredited program provides greater flexibility in the types of libraries and jobs you can apply for and enhances your career mobility. Most employers require an ALA-accredited master's for most professional level positions, and some states require an ALA-accredited degree to work as a professional librarian in public or school libraries. ALA accreditation indicates that the program has undergone a self-evaluation process, been reviewed by peers, and meets the Standards established by the American Library Association and Committee on Accreditation.

Please see the "Guidelines for choosing a master's program in library and information studies" for more information.

   Q: I want to get my degree on-line. What accredited programs provide distance learning opportunities?
A: Please search for distance learning opportunities in the online directory of ALA-Accredited LIS Programs. Because distance education offerings change frequently, you should contact the programs you are interested in for the most current information on distance education offerings and requirements.

   Q: What is the "best" program?
A: Accreditation does not result in a ranking or comparison of programs. The decision about what program is "best" is up to the individual student. To help in your decision we suggest that you review the program's website; talk to the faculty, students, and alumni; ask librarians in your area to answer questions about your specific interests and concerns. Please see the "Guidelines for choosing a master's program in library and information studies" for more suggestions.

Surveys that result in rankings of LIS programs are published in both professional and popular journals. Please keep in mind that your questions and criteria may not be the same as those used for these surveys.

   Q: Where can I get information about scholarships and financial aid?
A: ALA maintains information about scholarships for library and information studies. You should also contact the programs you are interested in to learn about scholarships and financial aid offered by that institution.

   Q: What are the requirements to enter an ALA-accredited program?
A: Entry requirements are established by the individual programs and institutions. All programs require a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution and many require you to submit GRE or other standardized test scores. Contact the programs you are interested in for their specific requirements.

   Q: What institutions offer undergraduate or associate's level programs in library and information studies?
A: The ALA Office for Human Resources and Human Development maintains information about undergraduate or associate's programs. Many of the schools that have ALA-accredited master's programs also offer undergraduate majors and minors.

   Q: Are the undergraduate or associate's level programs accredited?
A: ALA accredits only programs leading to a master's degree. At present, there is no agency that accredits undergraduate or associate's programs in library and information studies.

   Q: We have a candidate from a foreign institution. How can I find out if it is the equivalent of an ALA-accredited master's?
A: The ALA Office for Human Resource Development and Recruitment has identified agencies that, for a fee, will evaluate foreign credentials. Ultimately, it is up to you to determine whether or not to accept a foreign degree as equivalent to an ALA-accredited master's.

   Q: We have a candidate from a specific program or one I don't recognize. Has it been, or is it, accredited by ALA?
A: The Office for Accreditation maintains a list of all programs that have been accredited by ALA.The dates on this list indicate the effective dates of accreditation for that program.