BA vs. BS – What’s the Difference?

What is the difference between a BA vs. BS degree? Which is better? BS vs BA in Computer Science? What about Psychology? View salary & career differences.

What is the difference between a BA vs. BS degree? Is earning a BA in Computer Science the same as getting a BS in Computer Science? Is a BA in Psychology more beneficial than a BS in Psychology?

As more and more universities give you the option to choose between a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree, it’s important to understand the similarities and key differences between these two degree types.

BA vs BS difference

What is the difference in a BA vs. BS program?

The key difference between a BA and BS degree program is where you want to take your career long-term.

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)

A BA will allow you to study a wide range of subjects related to both your major as well as general education courses such as writing, art, history, philosophy, and religion.

  • BA offers more flexibility for you to explore a variety of careers

This broad foundation for your degree will allow you to pursue an education that reflects your interests and passions.

Bachelor of Science (B.S.)

A BS degree is first and foremost a science degree and will focus heavily on science and mathematics courses, building a technical understanding of your major.

  • BS has more stringent requirements

A BS degree has a more substantial major requirement than a BA with a BS major requiring 54 credits.

What is a BA degree?

Simply put, the B.A. degree definition is a Bachelor of Arts degree. More broadly, a Bachelor of Arts degree provides students with a comprehensive education balancing major courses with a general education focused on the liberal arts. Out of the 120 to 180 required credits for a B.A. your major only comprises 36 credits.

Other required credits for a B.A. may be through courses in:

  • Writing
  • Art
  • History
  • Philosophy
  • Religion

Bachelor of Arts degrees are generally offered in fields related to humanities and the arts such as liberal arts, communication, foreign languages, English, music, and journalism.

What is a BS degree?

The textbook BS degree definition is a Bachelor of Science degree that prepares you for work in the technical field. According to California Polytechnic State University, a BS major requires 54 credit hours.

A BS degree student may major in fields such as:

  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Business
  • Computer technology
  • Engineering
  • Psychology

Bachelor of Science degrees are generally offered in science or technology fields such as computer science, biology, physics, chemistry, biochemistry, environmental science, and mathematics.

Can you choose between a BA or BS degree in certain fields of study?

Yes, a number of universities allow you to choose between a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science in certain degree fields. For example, it’s common to see universities offering both a BA/BS in Business, Psychology, and Economics, to name a few.

Many students find that a Bachelor of Arts offers more flexibility and elective courses, so it could be considered one of the easiest degrees depending on your major. That being said, math and science are a breeze for many technically-inclined students. For that reason, choosing between a BA or BS degree is largely a personal choice, especially if you feel that you are strong in the social sciences/humanities (B.A degree) or math and science (B.S. degree).

For those of you who want to get college credits fast, a BA degree may be a better option as it generally offers more elective courses with no pre-requisites.

Curriculum

Every university has a slightly different course schedule; however, there are several overarching courses expectations for BA and BS students. Using a Business degree as an example, Concordia University states that a BA degree will have more required liberal arts classes such as history, communication, English, religion, and writing. In contrast, a BS degree will have courses that are more focused on math, science, and statistics.

BS vs. BA – Program Components

While many universities offer the same majors in either a BS or a BA, that doesn’t mean that they are the same degree. This table compares and contrasts several significant aspects of a BS and a BA.

Key Components Bachelor of Arts Bachelor of Science
Credit hours for major 36 54
Required Credits in the 300-400 Level for Major 18 27
Time to Complete Degree Usually 3 to 4 years Usually 3 to 5 years
Fields of Study
  • Liberal arts
  • Communication
    Foreign languages
  • English
  • Music
  • Journalism
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Business
  • Computer Science
  • Information Technology
  • Engineering
Number of Electives 28 credit hours 12 credit hours

Both degrees offer value to students and potential employee, but this value increases when it pairs with an understanding of where you want your career to take you.

Career Preparation

Despite having the same major, the courses that you take in a BA will be different than the courses you take for a BS, aligning you toward different careers.

A B.A. prepares you to work hands-on with individuals while a BS will develop more technical skills. An example of this is how a B.A. in Psychology prepares you to be a counselor. In contrast, a B.S. in Psychology better prepares you for medical school and a career in medicine.

According to U.S. News, a key difference in-between a BA and a BS is the breadth and depth of a career applicant’s understanding. A BA is more likely to give you a broad knowledge of the field, while a BS is more likely to study a particular area in great depth. Both are quality attributes in a career trajectory but may have different values based on what a prospective employer needs.

BA vs. BS Salary Differences

The degree you choose can have life-altering implications down the line, so it’s no wonder that people often ask questions like: If I earn a BA in Computer Science will I earn less than if I get a BS in Computer Science? What are the salary differences in a Psychology BA vs. BS or Biology BA vs. BS?

Overall, there is little difference in pay expectations for a BA vs. a BS. However, PayScale’s salary report indicated that certain fields do pay a premium for a particular skill set that was honed in either a BA or BS as shown in this table.

Field of Study Expected Annual Salary for Entry-Level B.S. Degree Holders Expected Annual Salary for Entry-Level B.A. Degree Holders
Psychology $55,000 $57,000
Computer Science $82,000 $81,000
Accounting $67,000 $67,000
Business Administration $65,000 $66,000
Education $59,000 $57,000
Biology $66,000 $69,000

As you consider the differences in salary for BA and BS degrees it is essential to consider what you want to get out of your degree and how the salary expectations for a BA or a BS will impact your decision.

FAQs - BS vs BA degree

What does a BA degree stand for?

A BA degree stands for Bachelor of Arts degree.

What does a BS degree stand for?

A BS degree stands for a Bachelor of Science degree.

Are BA/BS degree programs the same thing?

BA/BS degrees are not the same degrees.

The key differences between a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science are that a B.A. requires more courses in the humanities (writing, art, history, philosophy, or religion) while a B.S. will have more science and mathematics courses.

Is a Business Degree a BA or BS?

A business degree can be achieved as either a B.A. or a B.S. It is largely dependent on the school administration’s policy. At many universities, you have the option to choose either one.

What is the difference between a Computer Science BA vs BS?

The difference between a BA in Computer Science and a BS in Computer Science will vary depending on the university. That being said, in most cases, the Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science will be considered a Humanities track while the Bachelor of Science in Computer Science will be considered a Science track.

To give you an example, let’s take a quick look at Florida State University which offers both a Computer Science BA and BS.

According to the university, the key differences between the Computer Science BA vs. BS are as follows:

  • BA in Computer Science follows a Humanities track.
  • BS in Computer Science follows a Science track.
  • BS in Computer Science is ABET accredited. The BA in Computer Science is not.
  • BA in Computer Science is a good option for those who want to pursue two majors as there’s more flexibility in the degree program.
  • BA in Computer Science requires fewer mathematics and theoretical computer sciences courses.
  • BS in Computer Science is so mathematics heavy that you will automatically earn a minor in mathematics when you complete your degree.
  • BA in Computer Science has more open electives than the BS in Computer Science.

Here’s the program guide for the Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science:

BA in Computer Science curriculum

And here’s the program guide for the Bachelor of Science in Computer Science:

BS in Computer Science curriculum

Although this is just an example of one university, it gives you a very real sense of the key differences between pursuing a Computer Science BA vs. BS. The same is true for a degree in Computer Programming.

What is the difference between a Psychology BA vs BS?

The primary difference between a Psychology BA vs. BS is that the Bachelor of Arts in Psychology has more psychology-focused courses which are social science courses. In contrast, the Bachelor of Science in Psychology is considered a Science track for students interested in pursuing careers in science. Instead of focusing so heavily in psychology, there are additional course requirements such as biology, calculus, and chemistry. This may be a great fit for you if you are interested in heading to graduate school.

Psychology BS vs BA at Concordia University

Let’s take a quick look at Concordia University which offers both the Psychology BA and the Psychology BS degrees.

According to the university, the key differences between the Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and the Bachelor of Science in Psychology are as follows:

  • BA in Psychology is a Humanities/Social Sciences track. The BS in Psychology is a Science track.
  • BA in Psychology has more psychology courses.
  • BS in Psychology has more courses in science, such as calculus, biology, statistics, and chemistry.
  • BA in Psychology is best-suited for students who want a career in the psychology field (child psychology, forensic psychology, etc.)
  • BS in Psychology is a good choice for students heading to graduate school or medical school as they can fit their additional science requirements into the degree plan.

The choice of a Psychology BA vs. BS depends largely on what you want to do after graduation. If you plan to head to graduate school, then Concordia recommends the BS in Psychology. If you want to get right into the work-force, then the BA in Psychology may be a better option.

What is the difference between a Biology BA vs BS?

The main difference between a Biology BA vs. BS is the Bachelor of Science in Biology is a Science track while the Bachelor of Arts in Biology is a Humanities or Social Sciences track.

What is the difference between an Economics BA vs BS?

The key difference between an Economics BA vs. BS is the Bachelor of Science in Economics is a Science track while the Bachelor of Arts in Economics is a Social Sciences track.

What is the difference between a Physics BA vs BS?

The main difference between a Physics BA vs. BS is the Bachelor of Science in Physics is a Science track while the Bachelor of Arts in Physics is a Humanities track.

What is the difference between a Chemistry BA vs BS?

The main difference between a Chemistry BA vs. BS is the Bachelor of Science in Chemistry is a Science track while the Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry is a Social Sciences or Humanities degree track.

What is the difference between a Mathematics BA vs BS?

The main difference between a Mathematics BA vs. BS is the Bachelor of Science in Mathematics is a Science track while the Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics is a Humanities or Social Sciences track.

Which degree is a faster? A BA or a BS degree?

Generally speaking, a Bachelor of Arts has more flexibility because there are more elective courses. But a large number of accredited universities now offer fast-track online classes that can be completed in 5 weeks to 8 weeks online. If you enroll at one of these universities, a BA degree still might give you more flexibility, but the BS degree can be completed fairly quickly, too.

If you want to graduate as fast as possible, check out our in-depth guide to getting your bachelor’s degree as fast as possible.

Conclusion

As you wrestle with the decision of a BA degree vs. BS degree, knowing where you want to take your career will give you direction as to which degree you choose. By understanding your intended career trajectory, you can choose whether having the initials BA or BS behind your degree will better support your ambitions and desires.

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