BA and BS Degrees: Similarities and Differences

March 5th, 2015

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One of the questions we frequently hear from our international student applicants, who’re having their transcripts evaluated by us, is on the difference between the Bachelor of Arts (BA) and the Bachelor of Science (BS) degrees. Students entering a four-year college here in the US expect to graduate with a bachelor’s degree, but they might not know which type of bachelor’s degree to select. Colleges typically offer both BA and BS degrees for many of their majors, and you should expect different experiences based on which program you choose to pursue. With the right research and an understanding of each degree, you can combine your interest in a major with the selection of courses that best fit your needs.

Similarities

Before embarking on defining the differences between the BA and BS degrees, let’s look at the similarities they share. Both a B.A. and B.S. degree require the completion of a four- or five-year undergraduate curriculum, depending on the college and major. Both are considered equivalent bachelor’s degrees for academic purposes, and both require a number of courses in your chosen field to qualify you for the degree. Whether you choose a B.A. or B.S., your primary focus will be courses in your major. Though the B.A. is often thought of as a liberal arts degree, some universities offer B.S. programs in liberal arts, B.A. programs in technical or scientific fields, and other such variations, so your chosen path may not necessarily determine which degree you should pursue.

How are the degrees different?

The curriculum for the B.S. degree is generally focused on preparing the student for the technical and practical career aspects of their chosen field. The B.A. degree, on the other hand, offers some flexibility by allowing for electives and courses outside of the major. The B.A. also often requires core courses, such as foreign language or English classes, to ensure an expansive education regardless of the student’s focus. In essence, if you are looking for a more wide-ranging college experience, consider the B.A.; if you want more concentrated training in a technical career path, the B.S. is better suited to meet your needs.

What careers opportunities are best suited for the BA and BS?

Both B.A. and B.S. degrees will assist students along whatever career path they choose, but the skills obtained from each can differ slightly. A student with a B.A. acquires communications and language skills, which can be a good fit for careers such as administration, education, editing, or marketing. A student with a B.S. degree will have received specialized training that can lead directly to work in fields such as engineering or other math and science-based professions. However, with either degree, you can choose to pursue higher education at the graduate level in a master’s or doctoral program.

In summary, what are the biggest differences between the two degrees?

The BS is more focused and concentrated in scientific and technical aspects of the field of specialty. It also provides little room for the student to explore other disciplines via the use of free electives. The BA is for students who want to have a broader curriculum and be less specialized. They take fewer courses in their area of specialty but have a stronger liberal arts education and can take more free electives which enables them have double majors, minors, and/or certificate programs in other disciplines.

Anything else?

Yes! There are more than 3000 colleges and universities in the U.S. and the specific requirements and opportunities for the BA and BS degree programs vary among them. It is strongly advised that you check the college websites to find any unique differences between specific degrees before choosing which degree to pursue.

ACEI

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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Filed under Credentials, Education

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