When starting college as undergraduates, incoming freshmen must choose between a bachelor of arts (BA) and a bachelor of science (BS) degree. Various institutions grant both bachelor’s degrees in science and art, but are there significant distinctions between a BA and a BS?
Colleges typically award BA degrees in the humanities and social sciences. For instance, BAs are generally earned by students with majors in English, History, and Communications. A BS, on the other hand, contains majors in science and math, including chemistry, computer science, and environmental science.
Both BA and BS students need to accumulate at least 120 credits to finish their undergraduate degrees. Students enroll in courses for their major, general education requirements, and electives in both options.
For a BA vs. a BS, different general education courses are required. Students pursuing a BA study general education courses in communication, English, and history. There should be more math and science courses for BS students.
In this article, we examine the distinction between a BA and a BS.
Bs vs BA: Overview
Before we dive deeper into our comparison, here is a quick overview of BA and BS.
|Common Areas of Study||Biochemistry, environmental science, information technology, computer science||Art, communications, music, English, education|
|Common Requirements||Analytical reasoning, technical know-how, mathematics, problem-solving, work habits||Communication, writing, language, critical thinking, leadership|
|Skills Honed||Science-based courses, science labs, information technology, mathematics||Foreign language, English, humanities, liberal arts|
Bachelor of Science (B.S.)
A BS degree often takes twice as long to complete as a BA degree; nevertheless, this option provides a more specialized education. BS programs prepare students for graduate school or entry-level work in their major by providing them with detailed information and skills. As a result, students often have less leeway to explore academic interests outside of their major.
BS programs are more focused on technical and scientific subjects, with possibilities such as chemistry, electrical engineering, mathematics, and business management. BS students, like their BA counterparts, can pursue multidisciplinary programs in fields such as management information systems, and biotechnology. A bachelor’s degree is the most prevalent for healthcare professionals such as nurses, dietitians, and kinesiologists.
Typically, BS students take fewer open electives while taking more mandatory subjects and technical electives. Students are often required to take a significant number of laboratory classes as well as other practical training as part of the curriculum.
Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)
A BA is a traditional liberal arts degree that allows students to take coursework outside of their major. To get a bachelor’s degree, students need to complete a minimum of 120-semester credits (or 180 quarter credits). This procedure typically takes 4-5 years, while some universities offer accelerated online degrees that can be completed in less time.
History, sociology, journalism, religion, and anthropology are all popular BA majors. Universities often provide multidisciplinary degrees in subjects such as foreign studies. Some colleges allow you to create your program, which leads to a BA in liberal studies.
BA programs, regardless of major, often emphasize soft skills like interpersonal communication, innovative thinking, cultural understanding, and empathy. Students also learn to examine information critically for authority, context, and prejudice. BA graduates frequently find success in a variety of professional situations since these skills are highly transferable.
BA vs. BS degrees: What’s The Difference?
Depending on the organization or recruiter that reviews your resume, the apparent distinction between a bachelor of arts and a bachelor of science might be highly subjective. In addition, the distinction between a BA and a BS varies greatly from institution to institution. Even within a school, curriculum differences can be vague, and there is frequently considerable overlap.
Additionally, you rarely need to choose between the two. Many colleges only offer one or the other in a certain discipline. Thus, the only true decision you must make is which field to study. This is not always the case, but even when it is not, there is no reason to worry about this.
The major difference between a BA and a BS is the subject at hand. The coursework for a BA degree generally focuses on critical thinking, interaction, and learning as a whole, while the coursework for a BS degree tends to concentrate on logic, rational argument, and numbers. Other than that, the two are not that separate. Most of the time, you’ll choose a major, which is the main subject you’ll study for your degree. This will determine the type of degree you get.
But in some cases, you may be able to choose between two degrees, such as a BA or BS in Psychology. In that case, the degree you choose will affect the focus of your program and, to some extent, the classes you take. Students who major in psychology can get a BA if they want to do social work or counseling or a BS if they want to do lab research.
Furthermore, getting a bachelor’s degree is usually more important than what kind of degree you get. By 2030, at least a bachelor’s degree might be needed for 70% of open jobs.
Are There Areas of Overlap Between the Degrees?
Both a B.A. and a B.S. degree are similar in several ways.
First of all, both degrees are bachelor’s degrees that take four years to finish. Both types of degrees will be made up of courses from general education, electives, and major course categories. What’s different is how many credits are needed in each category.
Many subjects can be used for both a B.A. and a B.S., like psychology, computers, public speaking, accounting, and business courses. Both types of degrees are usually given the same amount of respect after you finish them, and you can use either one to go on to get a master’s or doctorate.
Which Degree Do Employers and Grad Schools Prefer?
Employers are typically more interested in an applicant’s major relevance and the prestige of their university than if they have a bachelor of arts or bachelor of science degree.
Furthermore, an individual’s academic specialty has a substantial impact on both their work prospects and their earning potential. According to NCES data, professionals with a bachelor’s degree in engineering or computer science make roughly twice as much as those with degrees in fields such as elementary education or social work.
Similarly, graduate institutions prefer students who have the necessary academic training to thrive in their program. As a result, students with BA degrees are more likely to enroll in a master of arts program, whereas BS students are more likely to enroll in a master of science program.
BA vs. BS degrees: Which is The Right Fit For Me?
Both B.A. and B.S. degrees are just as valuable in the classroom and the workplace, so the answer to which is better depends on the person getting the degree. One of the simplest methods to pick between the two-degree kinds is to consider your educational and professional goals, as well as how each degree type will help you reach those goals.
For example, if you want to learn more about your major, take more classes that aren’t related to your major, and go into a field like teaching that requires more theoretical knowledge, then a B.A. would probably be better for you. If you want to work in a highly technical field like nursing after you finish your degree, a BS degree is probably a better choice for you.
How to choose between a B.A. and B.S. degree?
Follow these steps to help you decide whether you should get a B.A. or a B.S.:
- Consider your Past Interests.
You can decide whether you would do better getting a B.A. or a B.S. by thinking about the classes you liked best in elementary and middle school. Because this choice will have a big impact on the classes you take, it’s important to think about the kinds of classes you’ve always been interested in, liked, and done well in during your schooling. For instance, if you’ve always liked classes like English, Arts, Languages, and Humanities, you might want to get a B.A. On the other hand, if you have always done better in classes like math and science, a B.S. degree might be better for you.
- Determine your Current Interests.
The type of degree you can earn might be significantly influenced by the major you select. Because they lead to professions in highly technical fields like nursing and engineering, several majors are only offered as B.S. degrees. Additionally, you should think about if you want to pursue a graduate degree and, if so, what kind of graduate degree you want to pursue, as certain graduate programs may have particular requirements for the type of undergrad degree you need to be recognized for the program.
- Determine your Career Path.
Some students go to college knowing exactly what they want to do after they graduate, while others don’t even know what they want to major in or what career path they want to take. For example, if a student already knows what career they want to go into, a B.S. degree may be a better choice because it will give them a deeper understanding of the technical and practical parts of that career. Similarly, students who know what kind of career they want or are interested in but aren’t sure what they want to do after they graduate may find that a B.A. degree is a better fit because it will give them more freedom to explore during their studies.
Conclusion: BS vs BA
The difference between the two degrees may just be a few classes, typically a swap of electives for a concentration, specialization, or emphasis, if you compare the courses and prerequisites of the two degrees. Additionally, you might be able to use your electives to convert a BS program into a BA program or vice versa, depending on what you need to complete.
It’s also possible that a school’s two degrees are offered backward, with a BS having many humanities courses but no specialties while a BA offers specializations.