What Is the Difference Between a B.A. and a B.S.?

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One of the decisions students face when choosing a college or university is deciding whether to get a B.A. degree or a B.S. degree. In some cases, a school offers both degrees. More commonly, a school offers either one degree or the other. Sometimes which degree is awarded depends on the college major. Here's a look at the similarities and differences between B.A. and B.S. degrees and how to choose which one is best for you.

What Is a B.A Degree?

A B.A. degree is a Bachelor of Arts degree. This degree offers a broad overview of all areas of a college education. A Bachelor of Arts degree is the most common type of college degree awarded in literature, history, languages, music, and other arts and humanities. However, liberal arts colleges award this degree in the sciences, too.

What Is a B.S. Degree?

A B.S. degree is a Bachelor of Science degree. This type of degree is common in a scientific or technical discipline. The primary difference between this degree and the B.A. degree is that more upper-division (300-400 level) major courses are required for graduation. Students typically take fewer core courses as a result. A bachelor of science is typically awarded for technical majors, such as engineering, physics, chemistry, biology, computer science, nursing, agriculture, astronomy, etc.

Comparing B.A. and B.S. Degrees

Whether you choose a B.A. or a B.S. program, you can be assured either selection will prepare you for success in an academic field. You'll take general university-level courses in math, science, arts, humanities, social sciences, and communication. With both programs, a student gets to choose electives to explore areas of interest.

The strength of a B.A. degree is that a student can gain proficiency in less-related disciplines (e.g., science and business or English and music), while sharpening writing and communication skills. The strength of a B.S. degree is that it hones analytical skills and lets a student more completely master a specific discipline.

Is a B.S. Best for Chemistry and Other Sciences?

If you're interested in a degree in chemistry, physics, or another science, don't assume a B.S. is the only or best degree option. You can get accepted to graduate school or get a job with either degree. Usually, the choice boils down to choosing which school you wish to attend, since the culture and philosophy of an institution is tied to its degree offerings. If you're seeking a broader exposure to ideas or wish to pursue a secondary degree in a non-technical field, a Bachelor of Arts degree may be your best choice. If you prefer to focus on a specific scientific or technical discipline, taking more courses in your major and fewer in the arts and humanities, a Bachelor of Science degree may work best for you. Neither degree is superior to the other, but one may be better-tailored to your needs and interests.

Keep in mind, while it's possible to get a job upon college graduation in engineering, most science and engineering majors continue education in graduate school, working toward Masters and Doctorate degrees. Choosing which type of degree to get or your college major is important but doesn't close off future opportunities.