Prospective students trying to chart their course through college may find themselves wondering what the difference between a B.A. and a B.S. is. Both the B.A., or Bachelor of the Arts, and the B.S., or Bachelor of Science, are four-year undergraduate degrees. The primary difference between the two types of degrees is the focus of the coursework students are required to complete in order to earn them.

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What is a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)?

A Bachelor of the Arts degree program provides students with a more expansive education, requiring fewer credits that are directly linked to a particular major. Instead, students are expected to earn credits in a variety of liberal arts subjects. Courses in the humanities, English, the social sciences, and a foreign language are typically part of this degree program. Students can pick and choose from a broad array of courses to fulfill these requirements, allowing them greater flexibility to customize their education to match their individual goals and interests. Bachelor of Arts degrees are commonly offered in fields like English, art, music, modern languages and communication.

What is a Bachelor of Science (B.S.)?

Programs resulting in a Bachelor of Science degree are generally more strictly focused on their subject matter, requiring more credits that are directly linked to the major. Students are expected to concentrate their academic energies on mastering the technical and practical facets of their field. They have fewer opportunities to explore topics outside of the subject of their major. Bachelor of Science degrees are usually offered in technical and scientific areas like computer science, nursing, mathematics, biochemistry, and physics.

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Are There Areas of Overlap Between the Degrees?

Some subjects like psychology, accounting and business are regularly offered in both Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degree programs. In this case, students can choose whether they prefer the broader sweep of the Bachelor of Arts track or the more tightly focused approach of the Bachelor of Science track. It is a choice more students are being offered. The Minnesota Daily notes that even hard science degrees are now being presented in both Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science tracks by some universities. Other universities are offering a combined Bachelor of Arts and Science degree option. As Niche Ink explains, students pursuing this degree must fulfill the requirements of both tracks.

Which Degree is Better?

Academically, a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Bachelor of Science degree are equally valued. Both offer the students who earn them the opportunity to continue their education at the master’s degree level if they are so inclined. But, the two tracks do tend to hone different strengths. The coursework required for a Bachelor of Arts degree generally allows students to sharpen their communication and writing skills. By comparison, the demands of a Bachelor of Science degree typically foster analytical skills and a detailed understanding of subject matter.

When deciding which degree program is the best fit, students should think about what types of classes they have enjoyed in the past, what they are currently interested in studying and what future career options they would like to pursue, advises admissions director Rachelle Hernandez. Understanding the difference between a B.A. and a B.S. can help students choose the degree program that is right for them.

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