When people say they’ve earned their Bachelor’s degree, they’re using a blanket term which can refer to one of two courses of study. Knowing the difference between them can help guide you in your course selection and degree program. If you know what kind of career you’d like to enter once your studies are done, pre-planning the direction of your degree can help to avoid unnecessary courses, which might delay your projected graduation date and run up tuition costs.
Overall, Bachelor’s of Arts (B.A.) degrees are earned in the arts and “soft” sciences, and Bachelor’s of Science (B.S.) degrees are awarded for courses of study in STEM-related subjects. They are equal in the eyes of the academic world, but specific types of coursework separate them.
B.A. and B.S. Degree Similarities
Before understanding what the differences are between a B.A. and a B.S., let’s stipulate what they have in common. That will make it easier to distinguish between the two.
Most college freshmen are required to knock out some pre-requisite or “core” classes. These are designed to create a broad platform of knowledge. Such classes can also serve as testing grounds to ensure that a student is adjusting well to college-level coursework and the time management required to succeed in higher education.
In general, most colleges require the successful completion of at least one fine arts, writing, lab science, literature, and math course. Some universities which are faith-based also require certain theology courses. The options for these can vary widely, but freshmen in small colleges tend to see a lot of one another in these early required courses. At this stage, it’s entirely normal to see engineering students in music appreciation courses and English majors taking biology.
Many students who are in courses which do not apply to their eventual major will never see the subject matter again, unless they have a personal interest in the area and wish to study it further as an elective. Sometimes students can choose from a variety of related courses to satisfy these requirements – fulfilling a foreign language requirement, for example, with a choice of French, Spanish, Italian, German, or Chinese classes. However, if a student wishes to push on towards his or her degree, these pre-requisites must be completed before advancing to more specific and complex work.
For instance, a freshman art history major might be sitting next to a freshman future statistician in Western Civilization 101. At the end of the semester, the statistician has checked the box for a history class and may move on to another required course, such as Music Theory 101. The art history student, however, although she has also completed the university’s requirement for a history class, may have chosen this specific course because it’s mandatory to pass it before being allowed to enroll in Western Civilization 102, Art in the Middle Ages, and Masters of the Renaissance, all of which she needs to complete for her art history degree.
At graduation in four years, both students will have earned a Bachelor’s degree, but the statistician will walk away with a B.S. and the art history major with a B.A.
Choosing a Bachelor’s Degree That (Best) Suits Your Needs
It’s important to remember that the difference between a B.A. and a B.S. depends upon the institution which awards it; there is no official international designator which specifies what a B.A. or a B.S. must consist of. For the sake of consistency, however, many American universities have similar programs.
Especially where the soft sciences are concerned, students enrolled in a certain program must decide between pursuing a B.A. or a B.A. The soft sciences are those which deal with the scientific method, theorizing, and experimentation, but which also involve elements of observing animal or human behavior. More personal conjecture is involved with these than in the “hard sciences,” which are typically math-based and involve physics, engineering, chemistry, and the like.
Some students who wish to study psychology, for example, which is a soft science, have to decide between completing their Bachelor’s degree as a B.A. or a B.S. This decision must usually be made by the end of sophomore year and typically reflects the direction a student wishes his or her career to take. If a student wants to study a specialized field such as sports psychology, or who wants the degree to be as flexible as possible to allow for a career in teaching or counselling, a B.A. is the better option. On the other hand, those who desire to concentrate on research or continue to medical school might do better with a B.S.
Bachelor’s of Science (B.S.)
Students who are interested in any kind of technical career would do well do complete a B.S. Sometimes, admittance to schools where they will complete their advanced degrees strongly recommend this. Business majors who take a great deal of math courses such as accounting and probability usually graduate with a B.S. Students who earn a B.S. must usually tackle more science, math, and lab courses than those who complete a B.A.
Specialization in a scientific field is possible with a B.S. Fewer electives are usually available because pre-requisites are typically more rigid and students are required to take more time-intensive lab courses. Many students who learn well in structured situations prefer to pursue a B.S., since the path to the degree tends to be so clearly defined.
Bachelor’s of Arts (B.A.)
B.A. courses of study are typically thought of as more flexible and wide-ranging. A B.A. can encompass majors in writing, political science, history, the humanities, and such business concentrations as marketing. Extreme specialization, such as women’s studies and modern dance, might also be encompassed by the B.A.
BA students usually must complete two semesters of a foreign language, but less math and science than those earning a B.S. Many students who earn a B.A. complete a general course of study with their major (such as literature), then chooses to hone in one a particular area while earning a Master’s degree (such as Victorian Literature.)