BA vs BS Degree – Difference in Bachelor’s Programs
Prospective college students often wonder: what is the difference between a BA and BS degree? This blog will explain BA vs BS degrees in detail. Further, we will explore which majors most frequently award BA degrees and BS degrees; and which academic disciplines often offer both options. The curricular differences are also explored.
What do BA and BS stand for?
- BA stands for Bachelor of Arts.
- BS stands for Bachelor of Science.
What is the difference between a BA and BS?
The BA is traditionally more focused on the humanities/the arts and is less specialized than a BS degree. The BA also usually offers more leeway to take a range of elective coursework. On average, a BS program is going to involve more STEM courses, more lab work, and provide less room for academic exploration than a BA program.
In general, certain majors typically lead to either a BA or a BS degree. Contrarily, some other majors commonly confer degrees of both varieties. Here are some examples of majors from all three categories:
Popular BA degrees
- Foreign Language
- Studio Art
- African American Studies
Popular BS degrees
- Computer Science
Common BS or BA Option
Which one is better?
Neither degree is inherently “better”. However, in certain fields, a B.S. may better prepare you for meeting prerequisites you will need in an advanced degree program. For example, a psychology major who wishes to one day pursue an advanced degree and work in research/academia, may find a BS program to be more beneficial.
Which degree is harder?
For students that are not mathematically inclined or strong in the hard sciences, a BS degree would likely be far more challenging. Further, a BS degree typically requires the completion of more major-specific credits than a BA degree. In other words, while the total number of credits needed to earn each degree is the same, the BS degree typically accounts for a greater percentage of those credits.
For example, at Cornell University, mechanical engineering majors complete 49-51 credits within their major. In contrast, history majors at Cornell only need nine courses for a total of 27 credits.
Examples of academic disciplines with BS and BA degrees
At Drexel University’s Lebow College of Business, students can choose between a BBA and BSBA degree. The BBA stands for Bachelor of Business Administration. The BSBA stands for Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. The BBA emphasizes liberal arts students and lets students take in a broad overview of a wide variety of subjects. Meanwhile, the BSBA focuses on STEM courses in order to “build a more analytical skillset”.
Typically, liberal arts schools offer a BA in economics. Many larger universities offer a BS in economics. Some schools offer both. For example, the University of Washington offers a bachelor of arts in economics as well as a bachelor of science in economics. Both degree programs are housed within the Department of Economics. Santa Clara University does the same. At SCU, the BS option through the Leavey School of Business and the BA option through the College of Arts and Sciences.
As we mentioned earlier in this blog, a BA or a BS in psychology could make a difference in terms of your grad school preparation down the road. Again, neither one is objectively better, but one of these degrees may be a better fit for your unique needs. A BS degree in psychology often involves coursework in statistics, neuroscience, and clinical psych. For example, Stony Brook University offers both options. The university specifics that the “B.S. program places relatively more emphasis on the natural sciences and mathematics.” However, SBU also states that, “Both the B.S. and B.A. programs provide excellent preparation for graduate school.”
BA vs. BS Degree Summary
|BA – Bachelor of Arts||BS – Bachelor of Science|
|Less math/science focused.||Often involves more math/science coursework.|
|Typically involves a lower number of credits within the major.||Typically involves a higher number of credits within the major.|
|Often has more room for electives.||Often has less room for electives.|
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Dave has over a decade of professional experience that includes work as a teacher, high school administrator, college professor, and independent educational consultant. He is a co-author of the books The Enlightened College Applicant (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016) and Colleges Worth Your Money (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020).