The Difference Between a BS and a BA

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Bachelor’s of Science Vs. Bachelor’s of Arts

What is the difference between a bachelor of arts and a bachelor of science? Institutions award both bachelor’s degrees, but are there major differences in earning a BA vs. BS?

Colleges generally grant BAs in humanities and social sciences fields. For example, majors in English, history, and communications typically earn a BA. Alternatively, a BS includes science and math majors such as chemistry, computer science, and environmental science.

BA and BS students must both earn at least 120 credits to complete their bachelor’s degree. In both options, enrollees complete classes in their major, general education requirements, and electives. The general education courses differ for a BA vs. a BS. BA students take communication, English, and history general education courses. BS students need more math and natural science classes.

In this guide, we look at the difference between a BA and a BS.

What is the Difference Between a BA and a BS?

The differences between a BA vs. BS include coursework and general education requirements. A BA typically requires one year of foreign language coursework. BS majors do not need foreign language classes to graduate. Students pursuing a BA take more humanities and social science general education requirements. BS majors take more science and mathematics courses.

Both bachelor’s degrees also focus on different outcomes. In the humanities and social sciences, BA majors strengthen their critical thinking, writing, and research skills. BS majors in the sciences focus on problem-solving and analytical reasoning abilities.

Which is better: a BA or a BS?

A BA and a BS serve different purposes. Neither degree ranks as better than the other, but one might better suit specific career goals. For example, students interested in technical careers may need a BS for graduate school applications.

In some majors, undergrads choose between a BA and a BS. Many psychology programs, for instance, offer both options. BA and BS psychology students complete similar courses but take different general education requirements. Both degrees meet the requirements for graduate programs.

BA vs BS Overview

Common Areas of Study Art, communications, music, English, education Biochemistry, environmental science, information technology, computer science
Skills Honed Communication, writing, language, critical thinking, leadership Analytical reasoning, technical know-how, mathematics, problem-solving, work habits
Common Requirements Foreign language, English, humanities, liberal arts Science-based courses, science labs, information technology, mathematics

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Choosing a Bachelors of Science Degree

A bachelor of science degree typically centers on courses that help students understand the technical aspects of a field. A bachelor of science degree, in particular, is a four-year undergraduate degree with common majors such as science or psychology. Students with a B.S. degree often go on to work in more research-based fields. Readers should note that certain majors, like psychology, allow students to earn either a B.S. or a B.A. degree. Each degree can lead to a different career trajectory. For instance, a B.S. in psychology may require classes in biology, chemistry, and mathematics, and can lead students to a career working in a research lab. A bachelor of science may also prepare students for medical school or more technical graduate programs.

Common Majors

Career Opportunities for Bachelors of Science Degrees

Choosing a Bachelors of Arts Degree

A bachelor of arts degree commonly covers a wide array of humanities courses. Typical majors for a bachelor of arts are communications, English, and education. A bachelor of arts covers coursework centered in the liberal arts, and often offers a wide breadth of topics — although students still often need to complete coursework in science or math. A four-year, undergraduate degree, a B.A. prepares students for graduate school or even law school. Students who complete a B.A. in psychology can become counselors or enter a graduate program.

Common Majors

Career Opportunities for Bachelor of Arts Degrees

Other Common Types of Bachelor’s Degrees

In addition to a bachelor of arts and a bachelor of science degree, undergraduates earn degrees in fine arts, business administration, and applied science. This section introduces other common bachelor’s degree types.

  • Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA)

    A BFA trains students in visual and performing arts. BFA majors include dance, painting, theater, sculpture, animation, and film. Some schools offer a BFA in creative writing. Most BFA programs require different general education courses than either a BA or BS. Instead of humanities, social science, and natural science courses, BFA majors often take additional arts courses.

  • Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA)

    A BBA trains students in core business areas, including business communications, management, economics, and finance. BBA students often choose a concentration such as accounting, marketing, human resource management, or strategic management. Compared to a BA or BS, BBA students take more business courses and fewer liberal arts classes.

  • Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS)

    A BAS builds on technical associate-level training to offer advanced vocational or technical knowledge. Colleges typically offer BAS degrees in fields including engineering, construction management, and information technology. Some BAS programs require an associate of applied science to transfer into the bachelor’s program.

Portrait of Genevieve Carlton

Genevieve Carlton

Genevieve Carlton holds a Ph.D. in history from Northwestern University and earned tenure as a history professor at the University of Louisville. An award-winning historian and writer, Genevieve has published multiple scholarly articles and a book with the University of Chicago Press. She currently works as a freelance writer and consultant.

See articles by Genevieve

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