BA vs. BS: What's the Difference?

Considering a BS vs. a BA starts with analyzing the differences between them. Learn more about how these undergraduate degrees compare.

Updated August 31, 2023 · 5 Min Read

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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, English, history, and communication majors typically earn a BA. Alternatively, a BS includes science and math majors such as chemistry, computer science, and environmental science.

Both BA and BS degrees require at least 120 credits for completion. In both options, you complete classes in your major, general education requirements, and electives.

What Is the Difference Between a BA and a BS?

The differences between a BA vs. BS include coursework and general education requirements. For example, a BA typically requires one year of foreign language coursework. BS majors typically do not need foreign language classes to graduate.

The general education courses differ for a BA vs. a BS. BA degrees usually center on liberal arts and social science general education courses, whereas BS degrees typically feature more math and natural science classes in the general education requirements.

Both bachelor's degrees also focus on different outcomes. A BA helps strengthen your critical thinking, writing, and research skills in the humanities and social sciences. A BS typically helps develop your problem-solving and analytical reasoning abilities.

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Which Is Better: BS or BA?

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, if you're interested in technical careers, you may need a BS for graduate school applications.

In some majors, you may 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
Features BA BS
Common Areas of Study Art, communication, 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

Choosing a Bachelor of Science Degree

A bachelor of science degree typically centers on courses that help you understand the technical aspects of a field. It is a four-year undergraduate degree with common majors such as science and psychology.

With a BS degree, you can go on to work in more research-based fields. Keep in mind that certain majors, like psychology, allow you to earn either a BS or BA degree. Each degree can lead to a different career trajectory.

For instance, a BS in psychology may require classes in biology, chemistry, and mathematics and can lead you to a career working in a research lab. A bachelor of science may also prepare you for medical school or more technical graduate programs.

Read on to learn more about some of the most common bachelor of science degrees.

Bachelor of Science in Biology

A bachelor of science in biology may require classes in mathematics, general biology, and chemistry. You also complete labs and other hands-on experiences.

You can explore many careers with a biology degree, such as environmental scientist. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that these professionals earned a median annual salary of $76,530 in May 2021. Typical day-to-day responsibilities include collecting data and preparing technical reports.

Bachelor of Science in Chemistry

With its emphasis on STEM, a bachelor's in chemistry program is typically a BS degree. You prepare for a career or graduate study with classes in descriptive, organic, and inorganic chemistry.

A BS in chemistry trains you to work as a chemical engineer, a career where professionals earn a median salary of $105,550 (BLS, May 2021). The job involves researching new manufacturing processes and safety best practices.

Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science

Environmental science programs are typically offered as BS degrees as these programs focus on natural science. Featured environmental science classes include pollution science, environmental science and sustainability, and soil science.

Workers with a BS in environmental science make a median salary of $76,530 (BLS, May 2021). These professionals write technical reports based on data they collect in the field.

Bachelor's in Environmental Science Programs

Bachelor of Science in Physics

Most bachelor's in physics programs are BS degrees due to their heavy emphasis on the sciences. The coursework in a physics program features many STEM classes. Classes may cover differential calculus, optics, and astronomical data analysis.

Your bachelor's in physics lets you pursue a career as a nuclear engineer, a position with a median salary of $120,380 (BLS, May 2021).

Bachelor of Science in Psychology

Knowing the difference between a BS vs. a BA helps you choose the right psychology major, as some schools offer both. This degree trains you for study at the graduate level with classes in statistics, research methods, and social psychology.

Career opportunities with a bachelor's include substance misuse specialist, a career with a median salary of $48,520 (BLS, May 2021). These specialists help clients identify and resolve problem behaviors leading to addiction.

Bachelor's in Psychology Programs

Choosing a Bachelor of Arts Degree

A BA degree commonly covers a wide array of humanities courses. Typical majors for a bachelor of arts are media, English, and education. A bachelor of arts covers coursework centered in the liberal arts — although you may still need to complete coursework in science or math.

A four-year undergraduate degree, a BA prepares you for graduate school or even law school. If you complete a BA in psychology, you can consider becoming a counselor or entering a graduate program.

Read on to learn more about some of the most common bachelor of arts degrees.

Bachelor of Arts in Communication

Understanding how bachelor of arts vs. science degrees compare means knowing that the former emphasizes a broader skill set. A BA in communication helps you develop many transferable skills with classes in English, linguistics, and writing in the digital age.

This degree prepares you to work as a public relations specialist. Specialists write press releases and respond to media questions. They earn a median salary of $62,800 (BLS, May 2021).

Bachelor's in Communication Programs

Bachelor of Arts in Education

Consider a bachelor's in education program if you want to become a non-licensed or licensed educator. You can select from many concentrations, such as primary, secondary, or special education.

High school teachers make a median salary of $61,820 (BLS, May 2021). Responsibilities besides classroom instruction include mentoring students and maintaining paperwork.

Bachelor's in Education Programs

Bachelor of Arts in English

Researching bachelor's in English programs can help you get a better idea of the type of degree a bachelor of arts is. The degree emphasizes transferable communication skills with classes in creative writing and literary criticism.

A BA in English can lead to a career as a writer or author, a job featuring a median salary of $69,510 (BLS, May 2021). These workers use their English skills to conduct research and apply editors' feedback.

Bachelor's in English Programs

Bachelor of Arts in History

A bachelor's in history lets you do more than explore the past. Classes in research and writing train you to contribute to this exciting field and prepare for jobs requiring developed analytical skills.

You can pursue a career as an archivist, curator, or museum worker with a bachelor's in history. These positions feature a median salary of $50,120 (BLS, May 2021).

Bachelor's in History Programs

Bachelor of Arts in Media

You can expect to take classes in media studies, technology, and research in your BA in media program. Many programs also require an internship, which is an excellent opportunity to gain hands-on experience and network with professionals.

Some media majors become news analysts, reporters, or journalists. You can earn a median salary of $48,370 in one of these roles (BLS, May 2021).

Bachelor's in Media Programs

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, you can earn a degree in fine arts, business administration, or applied science. This section introduces other common bachelor's degree types.

Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA)

A BFA trains you 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, you often take more arts courses.

Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA)

A BBA trains you in core business areas, including business communications, management, economics, and finance. If you're pursuing a BBA, you may be able to choose a concentration such as accounting, marketing, human resources management, or strategic management.

Compared to a BA or BS, BBA programs typically feature 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.

Frequently Asked Questions About Bachelors Degrees

What does BA stand for?

One of the differences between a BA and BS is that BA stands for bachelor of arts. A BA program lets you choose a major and specialize liberal arts, humanities, and social sciences. Coursework covers one of many liberal arts topics, such as English, history, or general studies.

These programs emphasize soft skills relevant to many different careers. You graduate ready to explore many job opportunities.

What does BS stand for?

BS stands for bachelor of science. Although BS degrees feature many of the same general education requirements as BA degrees, their majors emphasize STEM topics.

Typical graduation requirements may include intensive coursework in mathematics, chemistry, biology, or engineering. Some schools may award BS degrees outside of STEM, such as a BS in business administration. These colleges label degrees focused on one career path as BS.

Should I pursue a bachelor of arts or science?

Consider your personal goals and interests to narrow down your options and choose between a BA and a BS. Think about your personal and professional goals. Now that you know what the difference between a BA and a BS is, you can make an informed decision on which degree meets your needs.

Latest Posts is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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