A B.A. (Bachelor of Arts) degree and a B.S. (Bachelor of Science) degree are both Bachelor’s degrees requiring a minimum of four years of undergraduate education, so what is the difference between the two?
As many students embark on their journey through post-secondary education they have to decide what type of degree they are seeking and why. There are hundreds of options for degree emphasis and they fall under one of two categories either a B.A. or a B.S. Oftentimes students decide on a college major without even considering the category that major falls under. While both may be four-year undergraduate degrees there is a difference. To fully understand the scope of the differences look at what the focus of each degree provides.
What is a Bachelor of Arts degree?
Students seeking a Bachelor of Arts degree typically have a broader education with a variety of courses and less requirements directly focused on their declared major. When people hear Bachelor of Arts they tend to limit their thoughts to the arts, literally. This degree is not limited to the arts, though it does encompass them. Even accounting degrees can be B.A. degrees depending on the emphasis and courses required for the program. Students that take this route will have a larger foundation of English, writing, humanities, cultures, social sciences, and foreign languages. Students that take this route will generally find they have more freedom to choose what courses they desire to take to fulfill requirements and hence receive a more customizable education of their own personal design. This also allows them to take more courses that interest them and helps them achieve their goals. Majors that typically fall under the Bachelor of Arts umbrella are English, humanities, art, music, dance, social sciences, history, languages, advertising, and communication. There are many others, the institution for higher education you choose to attend will greatly enhance or limit your options, Liberal Arts colleges or universities tend to have more options.
What is a Bachelor of Science degree?
Students seeking a Bachelor of Science degree will find their degree will be strictly focused on the courses of their chosen major with little room for variation. The required credits to earn their degree are directly linked to their major and need to be taken in a more specific order. Students of this degree option will have less of an opportunity to explore other field options as they will be focusing their efforts on courses directly related to facets of their field. Students instead spend their efforts understanding and mastering technical and analytical skills required by their field. Majors of study under the Bachelor of Science umbrella include but are not limited to mathematics, physics, chemistry, biochemistry, nursing, engineering, and computer science. Students that take this course will find they will sharpen their analytical and logistical skills and will need to have a very detailed understanding of the particular subject they choose to major in. Degrees under the Bachelor of Science umbrella are often referred to as the “hard sciences” due to the rigor and exactitude required by these sciences.
What are the main differences between a B.A. and a B.S. degree?
The first and most obvious difference are the majors of focus found within each type of degree. Less obvious differences are the skill set that each degree requires, the flexibility of courses required, employment opportunities that come as a result from earning the degree, and each degree will hone different skills. A degree in Bachelor of Science will require at least 54 units in the major with 27 of those units being at the 300-400 level, while a Bachelor of Arts will only require 36 units in the major with 18 of those units being at the 300-400 level. Students that go the route of a B.A .will hone their writing, speaking, and language skills. The path of most B.S. degrees will require more higher level math courses and science courses. Whereas a B.A. degree will have more requirements in the Liberal Arts. Students that go the route of a B.S. hone their analytical and logistical skills. Employment opportunities are plenty for each degree type but it is imperative that students understand the type of work they will be doing under each degree, a degree in history is typically a B.A. but if the student plans to teach history they need to earn a B.S. with different courses. Students need to have an idea of what they plan to do with the degree once they graduate as it will prove vital for what path to choose, a B.A. or a B.S. The major a student chooses to pursue will be the main defining factor in what type of degree they earn.
Can a B.A. and a B.S. degrees overlap?
There are certain fields in which these differing degree umbrellas will overlap and provide different employment opportunities in the end. Some educational areas in which this can be the case include but are not limited to psycology, accounting, computer science and business. More colleges and universities are offering this choice. Students that take the Bachelor of Arts track to these majors will have a broader sweep of courses whereas students that take the Bachelor of Science approach will have a more focused and tightly structured course to completion. Still other institutions of higher education offer a third approach where students earn both the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science for the major, but students are required to fulfill all requirements for each track.
Is one degree better than the other?
At the end of a student’s undergraduate journey both paths award him or her with a Bachelor’s degree, they are both of equally valued. Neither path is inherently better than the other, both allow for post graduate work and offer a springboard for Master’s degree programs and even future Ph.D. programs. Employment opportunities are plenty for each type of degree, the type of employment will differ but the amount of possibilities does not. The most important thing is not the type of degree earned but rather what a student chooses to do with the degree after graduation.
How does a student choose which type of degree will be best for him or her?
Most will get the type of degree their major is in. For instance, a chemistry major will always be under the Bachelor of Science umbrella. Do your research! What field of employment do you wish to be in? What do you want to do specifically in that field? What are you good at? A student that enjoys writing and is good at it but struggles with higher levels of math would find a better fit in a Bachelor of Arts degree. A student that enjoys chemistry and desires to work in a chemical engineering lab designing chemically safe products would go the route of a Bachelor of Science degree. The best research a student can do is asking those currently employed in their field of choice with a career they want to be in, what steps they took to get where they are and then make those steps part of their educational and career plan. Some areas of employment will require Master’s of Science degrees, it would be best to know that early on so you begin with a Bachelor of Science degree.
To what extent does the degree choice impact future employment opportunities?
Some employers will only hire those with very specific experience and courses under their belts, this is typical of many sciences such as physics, chemistry, biology, and microbiology. Other employers are less specific and the degree will speak for itself, they may ask more for current samples of your personal work such as writing samples, art pieces, research you have completed etc. With a variety of employment opportunities the degree choice is not as important so much as your ability to demonstrate what you learned in your chosen major and how that is going to benefit your future employer. As mentioned earlier find out what is required for particular employment opportunities in your chosen field and take those steps necessary to achieve your goals. By starting on the right path to begin with students will have greater opportunity for success and more personal satisfaction by studying what interests them while working towards a career path of their choosing.
In the end neither degree path is inherently better than the other, both are necessary and important to create educated and employable candidates of the future. Both are equally important and valued; both are needed to create well rounded and educated society.