All About the MARA Program: Courses and Careers in Information Governance

iStudent Blog

If you are excited about a career managing information, you may be considering the MLIS program at the SJSU iSchool. But there’s a second master’s program you might want to consider – the Master of Archives and Records Administration (MARA) program.

A MARA degree is an exciting way to be part of the world of information governance and corporate archives. Employers who value the skills MARA graduates gain in the program include financial institutions, health organizations, and government agencies. These types of employers are looking for job candidates with the expertise to follow strict records management guidelines and organize sensitive digital materials.

As government security commissions start tightening up regulations regarding how companies manage their records (due, in part, to various security breaches over the past two decades) there is a growing demand for people who understand how to comply with those regulations. That’s where an information professional with a MARA degree becomes essential, especially in highly regulated fields, such as the oil and gas, finance, and health industries.

According to MARA instructor Dr.Lisa Daulby, “These companies need people who know the guidelines and can do the work correctly. They have to comply with government regulations regarding data management and be ready to respond when new regulations are issued.”

According to the school’s surveys of MARA alumni, graduates work in a wide range of job environments. In the most recent survey of MARA alumni all survey respondents said that ‘the skills and knowledge they learned in the MARA program prepared them for their job.’ After earning their degree, some alumni also report being able to negotiate a promotion and a salary increase, staying with the same employer after graduation.

And if you want to know how recent MARA graduates feel about the program, check out the MARA exit survey findings. All, as in 100% of survey respondents, completed the program within 3 years, were working at the time of graduation, and felt that MARA instructors were the program’s biggest strength, making coursework relevant and engaging.

MARA students can look forward to active research projects, group work, and case studies focused on teaching them job-related skills. Listening to and discussing presentations by guest lecturers are another part of the MARA coursework.

MARA students also can choose three electives from MLIS courses, in order to customize their degrees. For example, they can take LIBR 284 seminar courses, which cover a range of topics, including digitization, digital curation, and photographic archives.

At the end of a student’s coursework, learning and practice really come together in the MARA professional experiences, which include internships and professional projects (MARA 293, 294 or 295). As part of their coursework, MARA students are required to gain hands-on experience applying what they are learning as they work for an organization under the direction of a professional archivist or records manager.

According to Daulby, through these professional experiences, “students learn to be flexible and see how their knowledge is shaped and grows during their projects.”  Past MARA students have completed projects and served as interns for a wide range of organizations, including the National Archives and Records Administration, the FBI, and tribal organizations. Daulby says not to worry if you’re already working full-time during your graduate studies, as MARA faculty can help you shape an organizational consulting project with your current employer (as a MARA 295 course).

Although the MARA program is only five years old, it has grown by leaps and bounds. “The program has quickly gained a strong reputation in the profession,” says Daulby.

Once a program enrolling primarily professionals looking to strengthen their resumes, today’s MARA students now represent individuals who just completed their undergraduate studies, as well as current information professionals looking for a degree program to increase their knowledge in the field. Daulby stresses the excellent combination of both theoretical and practical knowledge, and she knows how it should be mixed, since she is both a PhD student and an archivist in the world of finance.

Since its inception in 2008, the MARA program has continued to grow and expand, allowing for more flexibility when choosing electives, as well as added flexibility regarding how many courses to take each semester. Its exclusively online format already makes it a great program for those looking to keep their current jobs while earning their degrees, or in need of a more flexible schedule.

Why did you choose the School of Information’s innovative MARA program? If you’re planning to enroll in the MLIS program, are there any MARA electives that interest you?

For related content, check out:
Fall is in the Air and the Spring 2015 Course Schedule is Here!
MARA Spring 2015 Course Schedule
Community Profiles of Current MARA Students and Alumni
Archives and Preservation Career Pathway in MLIS
MARA Advice from iSchool Associate Director Linda Main
MARA Instructor Jason Kaltenbacher
MARA Program Coordinator Dr. Patricia Franks

image courtesy of renjith krishnan