Skip to Content

College of Information and Communications

What Matters: What is Information Science

Posted July 23, 2014
By Chrysti Shain, '85, journalism

If you need information on just about anything, it's at your fingertips these days. A two-minute Internet search can make you feel like an instant expert on rain boots or dorm room furniture or college football stadiums.

But far beyond the typical keyboard search, companies and institutions are depending on a growing group of professionals to sort and analyze information that's crucial to success. The information science major at USC is one of about 10 programs in America that trains students for these careers in one of the fastest-growing professions.

"With this degree, you can be in charge of the information and knowledge that an institution needs to survive," says Dr. Samantha Hastings, director of USC's School of Library and Information Science.

Information science is a major with exploding possibilities. Students can combine this program with other majors, such as psychology, social work, health informatics, media design, visual communications — really anything that focuses on a student's interests and job aspirations.

We basically act like the stage managers in a play," says Austa Joye, a 2013 graduate with a minor in Japanese who aspires to work in Hollywood. "We don't act like actors or make the props. We know where the things need to go to make things run smoothly."

People with the skills to organize, analyze and present information are in high demand, and this program is part of a commitment to the state's future.

"If the state wants to attract high-tech companies, this workforce will make it highly attractive for them to be here," Hastings says.

Information is powerful, but only if it's organized. Students in this program learn to create databases and refine existing ones. They analyze market information. They build websites and do web research. They can be the secret weapon behind a company's success.

"Most of it revolves around the notion that information makes a difference, and more of the right information makes a big difference," Hastings says. "How do you find and analyze the set of data that will have an effect on your client?"

Our graduates help companies find new markets, improve workflow and understand where strengths lie. They dive deep in data and explore topics that make a huge impact on everyday life. And they're in high demand, especially in the fast-growing world of social media.

"They're able to rake through network analyses and see who's talking to whom," she says.

How do you know if this is right for you? Ask some more questions: 

  • Are you fascinated by what you can find out by searching through records?
  • Do you love discovering secrets through research?
  • When going on a trip, do your friends always ask you to organize the logistics, create the website to upload the photos and figure out how to best tell the story?
  • Are you always searching for a larger truth and meaning in numbers?
  • Do you wonder why certain ads appear on your Facebook feed, and why companies you're interested in start following you on Twitter?

Is this just about computers?

No, information science is much more than that. It's based on three foundations — content, people and technology. Our students learn to organize and analyze the content, deliver the results to people in ways that are easy to understand, and use technology to develop paths to share information and analytics. 

What are some of the career path prospects?

Recent graduates include data managers for private companies; records managers for public utilities and analysts for the Department of Justice, just to name a few. Other possibilities include web and database developer, information architect, network administrator, data mining specialist, systems analyst, web content manager and competitive intelligence consultant for private companies or government agencies like the Department of Justice and the Central Intelligence Agency.

Can I combine this with my existing major?

Yes, we offer a minor in information science, and students often combine it with their majors to strengthen their data research skills. 

There also are pre-designed programs that combine information science with several other fields:

  • Visual communications in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications.
  • Public relations in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications.
  • Media arts in the College of Arts and Sciences.
  • Integrated information technology in the College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management.

Will I get real-world experience?

Yes. Students are encouraged to take at least one internship, usually in the junior or senior year. Also, we offer a study abroad option for students interested in working in other cultures.

How do I get more information?

If you'd rather talk to someone in person, contact Andy Thomas. He's the main advisor for this program and has all the answers.  803-777-4028;