Specialization in Data Curation

Note: iSchool specializations will be retired this fall. Specializations will not be an option for those starting the MS/LIS program in Spring 2017 and after. If you started a specialization(s) before Spring 2017, you have the option to complete them. If you have questions, please contact Karla Lucht, klucht [at] illinois.edu


Data curation is the active and ongoing management of data through its lifecycle of interest and usefulness to scholarship, science, and education. Data curation enables data discovery and retrieval, maintains data quality, adds value, and provides for re-use over time through activities including authentication, archiving, management, preservation, and representation. The Specialization in Data Curation offers a focus on data collection, representation, and management; digital preservation and archiving; data standards; and policy. Our program provides a strong foundation in the theory and skills necessary to work directly with academic, governmental, public, and industrial data.

Prospective Students

The iSchool is one of the top LIS school in the nation, situated within a world-class public research university with one of the world’s largest library collections. Library and information science (LIS) as a discipline emphasizes the use of information technology to support new approaches to the organization of and access to information. As such, the School is well suited to provide a specialization that prepares students to plan and manage data curation systems, create and maintain data collections, and evaluate and apply data and metadata standards for varied uses across the sciences, humanities, and social sciences.

The data curation specialization may be earned either as part of an ALA-accredited Master of Science in library and information science (MS/LIS) degree or, for students who have already completed their master’s degree, as part of a Certificate of Advanced Study (CAS). Students in the data curation specialization work with their advisors to select electives for an individualized program that will prepare them for either a general or specialized career path. In addition to the three required courses for the specialization, students must also complete at least two courses from the “Recommended Electives” list. For students who are not able to relocate to campus, we offer all courses for the Specialization in Data Curation through our Leep online learning option.

Careers in Data Curation

DC_chart_2.png?itok=7VkEgVtb Our graduates are employed across a range of institutions, including museums, data centers, libraries, institutional repositories, archives, and throughout private industry. In fact, organizations of all kinds increasingly need professionals to manage and utilize large bodies of data. Alumni hold a variety of positions such as data curator, research data librarian, data management consultant, data analyst, and junior data scientist. In a 2013 survey of data curation alumni, 40% of respondents reported annual salaries of $50,000-$59,000, and 38% reported earning $60,000 or more per year.

Several alumni have been featured in our news articles. To learn more about careers in data curation, hear what some of our alumni had to say at the 2014 Data Curation Alumni Panel.

Alumni Spotlight

Sep. 28, 2014

As a GSLIS master’s student, Heidi Uphoff appreciated the opportunity to complete her degree while working in Chicago. Now she is earning her Certificate of Advanced Study (CAS) in Digital Libraries while working at the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Research Library in New Mexico.

Why did you decide to pursue the CAS in Digital Libraries?

Previously Featured

Current Students

Currently enrolled students planning to complete the specialization are encouraged to complete the online declaration form and enroll in the data curation Moodle space so faculty and staff can stay in touch and provide updates about news, community events, and job opportunities. Students who have successfully completed the Specialization in Data Curation will receive a letter of acknowledgement shortly after graduation.

Course List

Required Courses

Required of All MS/LIS Students

LIS501 Information Organization and Access
LIS502 (2 hours only) Libraries, Information and Society

Required for the Specialization

LIS531 Foundations of Data Curation
LIS562 Metadata in Theory and Practice*
LIS586 Digital Preservation

Recommended Electives

Students must take two (2) courses from this list; taking four (4) is advised.

LIS452 Foundations of Information Processing in LIS
LIS453 Systems Analysis and Management*
LIS490DB Introduction to Databases
LIS560 Digital Libraries
LIS561 Information Modeling
LIS590OD Ontology Development
LIS590RO Representing and Organizing Information Resources

Additional Relevant Electives

LIS456 Information Storage and Retrieval
LIS490MU Museum Informatics
LIS503 Use and Users of Information
LIS522 Information Sources and Services in the Sciences
LIS530B Health Sciences Information Services and Resources
LIS530I Bio Informatics Problems and Resources
LIS581 Administration and Use of Archival Materials
LIS582 Preserving Information Resources
LIS590BDI Biodiversity Informatics
LIS590DE Design of Digitally Mediated Information Services
LIS590DH Digital Humanities
LIS590DP Document Processing
LIS590EP Electronic Publishing
LIS590II Interfaces to Information Systems
LIS590OH Ontologies in Humanities OR LIS590ON Ontologies in the Natural Sciences
LIS590SD Digital Social Sciences
LIS590TR Information Transfer and Collaboration in Science

*Students admitted prior to Summer 2013 may still complete LIS453 as a required course in place of LIS586. Students admitted on or after Fall 2013 must complete the listed required courses.

Field Experience

Students in the data curation program have pursued a wide variety of field experiences at a variety of institutions. In 2014 placements included projects at Oxford University and the National Center for Atmospheric Research. While we do not require students to complete an internship or practicum as part of the Specialization in Data Curation, pursuing hands-on, practical opportunities is highly recommended.


For general admissions information, visit the Future Students page. For more specific information about the Specialization in Data Curation or field experiences in data curation, please contact mfsense2 [at] illinois.edu (Megan Senseney). We are always interested in learning more about your careers and accomplishments. If you have completed the specialization, please take a moment to fill out the Alumni Update Form.

Initial development of the Specialization in Data Curation was supported by grants from the Institute for Museum and Library Services.