What Is The Difference Between Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science?

By Kylie Ora Lobell · September 18, 2023 · 6 minute read

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What Is The Difference Between Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science?

Once you decide where you want to go to college and what you want to major in, you may still have another decision to make — whether to pursue a Bachelor or Arts (B.A.) or a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree. Depending on the school and program, you may be limited to getting either a B.S. or a B.A. With some majors, however, you may have a choice. Whether you should go with a B.A. or B.S. will depend on both your educational and career goals.

Generally, a B.A. is more focused on the arts and humanities, while a B.S. is more centered around science and math. Read on for a closer look at a B.A. vs. a B.S., including how it can affect your coursework and future job options.

What’s the Difference Between a B.A. and a B.S.?

A Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science are both four-year undergraduate degree programs. Students completing either of these degrees will typically need to take similar general education requirements, such as courses in English, mathematics, natural science, writing, history, and social science.

A B.A. focuses on traditional liberal arts subjects like history, literature, art, philosophy, the social sciences, and other topics in humanities. It will provide a student with a more diverse course of study and may require fewer credits than a B.S. degree.

On the other hand, a B.S. program emphasizes science, engineering, technology, and math, and is more focused on one subject. When looking into a B.A. vs. B.S., you’ll want to decide what kind of job or graduate school program you want to pursue after graduation.

For instance, if you have a choice of earning either a B.A. or a B.S. in psychology and know you eventually want to go into one-on-one counseling with patients, you may want to choose a B.A. degree.

If, on the other hand, your plan is to earn a Ph.D. and pursue a career in research, then a B.S. may be a better choice. Keep in mind that some colleges offer students the opportunity to earn a B.A. or a B.S. in the same major, while other colleges don’t offer that choice.

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Which Degree Is Better?

When looking at a B.A. vs. a B.S., you may be wondering which one is better and more attractive to employers. In reality, it may not make much of a difference which one a student earns, as long as they have a bachelor’s degree in general.

Some employers may want graduates with a broader view of liberal arts topics, while others might prefer candidates who honed in on a particular subject. However, a candidate would probably not lose a job opportunity just because they had the “wrong” type of bachelor’s degree.

When prospective employers and graduate school admissions officers are looking at candidates, they generally care much more about factors like a student’s grades, the courses they took, the major they enrolled in, and which school they went to.

They may also care about whether or not a student completed internships and work-study programs related to their major.

Recommended: Return on Education for Bachelor’s Degrees

Finding a Good B.A. or B.S. Program

Instead of getting hung up on the difference between a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science, you may want to instead dive into the content and quality of the curriculum you could be studying for the next four years. You can see if the curriculum sounds interesting to you and if it would be applicable to your future career.

You may also want to evaluate all the schools you want to apply to or have gotten into before making a decision.

It’s a good idea to research a school’s reputation through a site like College Board® or Niche to determine how hard it is to get into, who the alumni are, what kinds of opportunities their graduates have pursued, and the strength of their programs.

Of course, it’s critical to investigate the location, enrollment size, and cost of attendance as well. You may find it helpful to create a shortlist of potential colleges/bachelor’s programs and then rank what’s most important to you.

For example, if you want to go to a competitive grad school, you may want to emphasize selectivity for your undergraduate program.

If you’re concerned about how you’re going to pay for college, you may also want to look into programs that are less expensive or that tend to offer scholarships to students. You can also research your options for private and federal student loans to pay for school.

If it’s feasible, it can also be helpful to visit and tour potential schools. This gives you a chance to get a feel for the school and student body, and get all your questions answered. For example, you may want to ask about job and career support, including job fairs and on-campus interview opportunities, so you know you will have support and be set up for success after you graduate.

Recommended: How to Pay for College

Why Get a Bachelor’s Degree?

B.A. and B.S. degrees can be very similar. What matters in most cases is simply getting a bachelor’s degree. This can open you up to a broader range of professional opportunities, allowing you to fulfill your career goals as well as earn more money.

You can choose to go directly into the workforce following graduation and have an advantage over candidates who only have a high school diploma (or less), or you could choose to go to graduate school to earn an advanced degree.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the employment rate for 25- to 34-year-olds with a bachelor’s or higher degree was 87% in 2022, compared to 61% for those who had not completed high school.

Those with bachelor’s degrees also tend to earn more. In 2021, the median earnings of those with a bachelor’s degree were 55% higher than the earnings of those who only completed high school.

There are a number of personal benefits as well. Many students find college to be very fulfilling because they gain valuable skills like teamwork and time management.

They also learn how to take on challenges, which can improve their self-esteem. Research suggests that people with college degrees are more likely to volunteer, donate to charitable organizations, vote, and contribute to their communities than those without college degrees. They also tend to report higher levels of happiness.

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The Takeaway

A B.A. and a B.S. are both four-year undergraduate degrees that often require similar general education requirements, like math, English, and history. Broadly, B.A. degrees are more focused on liberal arts subjects, while B.S. degrees usually emphasize subjects like math and science.

Some schools may offer a B.A. and B.S. in the same subject, but with slightly different degree requirements, such as a B.A. or a B.S. in chemistry or computer science. The B.S. program typically has more required courses than the B.A. program.

Once you determine what degree you want to get and where you want to get it, you’ll likely also need to figure out how you’re going to pay for it. Fortunately, you have options, including financial aid (which may include grants, scholarships, work-study, and subsidized federal loans), as well as unsubsidized federal loans and private student loans.

If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and budget.

Cover up to 100% of school-certified costs including tuition, books, supplies, room and board, and transportation with a private student loan from SoFi.

Photo credit: iStock/mangpor_2004

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