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B.A. vs. B.S. Degree: What’s the Difference?

Every college student eventually has to choose a major or specialty that they want to pursue, usually by their second or third year of college. When you select a major, you are not only signing up to focus on classes in a specific field but are also signing up to earn a specific type of bachelor’s degree. Yes, bachelor’s degrees are not one-size-fits-all. There are two common types of bachelor’s degrees that colleges in the US award their students: a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science. Well, what’s the difference between the two? Does every school offer the same type of bachelor’s degree for a specific major? Is one better than the other? Keep reading to find out! 


What’s The Difference Between A Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science? 


There are two answers to this question: the traditional answer and the realistic answer. Let’s start with the traditional answer: 


The Traditional Answer 


Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degrees were originally intended to offer a broader, less technical education to students, with opportunities to pursue classes outside of one’s major. Majors that almost always grant students a Bachelor of Arts include Sociology, Communications, Foreign Languages, and most social science and humanities majors. In these majors, you’re able to gain a diverse set of skills in a number of areas, and you often have to earn fewer class credits in order to graduate. 


On the other hand, students who pursue a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) often find themselves in more technical and scientific majors like engineering, computer science, and mathematics. These majors are far more specialized, with little opportunity to take classes outside of one’s area of study. The upside to that is students get a very in-depth understanding of the field that they’re in and often leave with a very lucrative skill set that is directly applicable to jobs and career paths in the real world. 


The Realistic Answer 


That being said, not all colleges in the United States classify their majors according to the traditional delineation anymore. For example, unlike most colleges, at the University of California at Berkeley, Business Administration majors are granted a Bachelor of Science degree, while Integrative Biology majors are granted a Bachelor of Arts degree. 


Moreover, some colleges offer the same major as both a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science, and it is up to the student to choose which route they want to take. For example, the University of Washington offers both a B.A. and a B.S. in Psychology. The difference between these two paths is the number of technical courses the student is required to take. In the Bachelor of Science route, students are required to take more mathematics and statistics courses than those in the Bachelor of Arts route. 


Similarly, the University of Colorado-Boulder offers a B.A. and B.S. option in its Computer Science program. Students interested in becoming a computer engineer usually choose the Bachelor of Science option and find themselves in more technical courses than the Bachelor of Arts students.


At liberal arts colleges, there may not even be any B.S. degrees at all. Amherst College, for instance, only offers B.A. degrees, even to students studying STEM.


So all in all, it is no longer clear which Bachelor degree type any specific major falls under. It is largely dependent on the school you attend and the path the student decides to take in the major. However, the big question is: does it really matter which Bachelor’s degree type you get? 

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Does It Matter Which One You Get? 


The short answer is no. Employers and graduate school admissions officers rarely care which type of Bachelor’s degree you were awarded. They care far more about which major you pursued, where you went to school, the fact that you have a bachelor’s degree at all, and how you performed in your classes. It is well known that the type of Bachelor’s degree you get is usually not up to you, so it’s not much of a factor in your post-college employment or admissions opportunities. 


Therefore, we at CollegeVine recommend that you don’t focus on what kind of degree you’re going to get when pursuing a major. Instead, pick a major that aligns best with your interests and future career goals. You’ll likely find that when you study a field that you are passionate about, the good grades and future success will likely follow. Your college experience will also be much more fun if you are spending your time studying something that you enjoy.


You may also like these articles:

The 10 Easiest and Hardest Majors

The Easiest and Hardest Engineering Majors

The Easiest and Hardest Science Majors


While you’re considering what major you want to pursue and which bachelor’s degree you want to earn, you may also be considering your chances of getting into the colleges of your choice. We want to help you answer that tough question, so we at CollegeVine now offer a free chancing engine that will tell you your chances of acceptance at the colleges of your choice based on your academic and extracurricular profile. As an added bonus, we’ll give you expert tips on how to improve your profile and make it more competitive for college admissions. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account to get started!

Sadhvi Mathur
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Sadhvi is a recent graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, where she double majored in Economics and Media Studies. Having applied to over 8 universities, each with different application platforms and requirements, she is eager to share her knowledge now that her application process is over. Other than writing, Sadhvi's interests include dancing, playing the piano, and trying not to burn her apartment down when she cooks!