Bachelor Of Science Vs. Bachelor Of Arts: Key Differences Explained

When pursuing an undergraduate degree, one of the first decisions you’ll need to make is whether to complete a Bachelor of Science (BS) or a Bachelor of Arts (BA). Both degrees take roughly four years to complete but there are some notable differences in the focus of each.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: BS degrees focus on technical, math and science skills while BA degrees concentrate on liberal arts, humanities and general knowledge. BS programs usually have more major requirements while BA curriculums are more broad.

In this comprehensive guide, we will compare and contrast BS and BA degrees in detail. You’ll learn about the history of each type of program, the typical curriculum and coursework, and the careers each degree prepares you for after graduation.

History and Origins

Roots of the Bachelor of Science

The Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree has its roots in the rise of scientific inquiry during the Renaissance period. As science began to gain prominence and importance, universities and educational institutions sought to provide specialized education in scientific fields.

The BSc degree was developed to cater to the growing demand for professionals in areas such as physics, chemistry, biology, and mathematics. It was designed to provide students with a strong foundation in scientific principles and methodologies, preparing them for careers in research, technology, and applied sciences.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of students earning a Bachelor of Science degree has been steadily increasing over the years. In 2018, approximately 1.1 million students graduated with a BSc degree in the United States alone.

This statistic highlights the continued relevance and popularity of the BSc degree in today’s society.

Roots of the Bachelor of Arts

The Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree has a long history dating back to ancient Greece. In the early days of higher education, the focus was primarily on the liberal arts, which encompassed subjects such as philosophy, literature, history, and languages.

The BA degree emerged as a way to recognize and honor the attainment of knowledge in these areas.

Over time, the Bachelor of Arts degree evolved to include a wider range of subjects, including social sciences, humanities, and fine arts. Today, a BA degree offers students the opportunity to explore diverse fields of study and develop critical thinking, communication, and analytical skills.

It’s worth noting that the distinction between a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Arts degree may vary across different countries and educational systems. In some cases, the difference lies in the specific requirements and coursework for each degree, while in others, it may be more related to the overall focus and emphasis on scientific or liberal arts disciplines.

Curriculum and Course Comparison

When considering the differences between a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) and a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree, it’s important to understand how the curriculum and courses vary between the two. While both degrees offer a well-rounded education, they have distinct focuses that cater to different career goals and interests.

Math and Science Requirements

One of the key differences between a B.S. and a B.A. degree lies in the math and science requirements. A Bachelor of Science degree typically requires a higher number of math and science courses compared to a Bachelor of Arts. This is because a B.S.

degree is generally more focused on technical and scientific disciplines, such as computer science, engineering, or biology.

For example, a student pursuing a B.S. in Computer Science may be required to take advanced math courses like calculus, linear algebra, and discrete mathematics. On the other hand, a student pursuing a B.A.

in English may have fewer math and science requirements, allowing them to explore a wider range of liberal arts courses.

Liberal Arts Coursework

A Bachelor of Arts degree places a greater emphasis on liberal arts coursework compared to a Bachelor of Science degree. Liberal arts courses encompass a wide range of subjects, including social sciences, humanities, fine arts, and languages.

These courses provide students with a broader understanding of the world and help develop critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving skills.

Students pursuing a B.A. degree often have the flexibility to choose from a variety of liberal arts courses based on their interests. These courses may include psychology, sociology, philosophy, literature, history, or foreign languages. The liberal arts coursework in a B.A.

program allows students to explore different fields of study and gain a well-rounded education.

Major Coursework

Both B.S. and B.A. degrees require students to complete coursework in their chosen major. However, the focus of the major coursework may differ between the two degree programs. In a B.S. program, the major coursework is typically more specialized and focused on technical skills and knowledge specific to the field of study.

For example, a student pursuing a B.S. in Chemistry may take courses in organic chemistry, physical chemistry, and analytical chemistry to develop a strong foundation in the subject. On the other hand, a student pursuing a B.A.

in Sociology may take courses in social theory, research methods, and social inequality to gain a deeper understanding of human behavior and society.

It’s important to note that the specific requirements and coursework for each degree may vary between universities and programs. It’s recommended to research the curriculum of the specific B.S. or B.A. program you are interested in to get a comprehensive understanding of the courses and requirements.

Skills and Abilities Gained

Analytical Skills in BS Programs

Bachelor of Science (BS) programs are typically focused on providing students with a strong foundation in analytical skills. These programs often require students to take advanced courses in subjects such as mathematics, physics, computer science, and engineering.

By studying these subjects, students develop the ability to analyze complex problems, apply logical reasoning, and make data-driven decisions.

BS programs also emphasize critical thinking, problem-solving, and research skills. Students are encouraged to think critically about scientific theories, conduct experiments, and gather empirical evidence to support their conclusions.

These skills are highly valued in industries such as technology, healthcare, finance, and research.

According to a study conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), employers often seek out graduates with strong analytical skills. The study found that 85% of employers ranked analytical thinking and innovation as one of the most important skills they look for in candidates.

Communication Skills in BA Programs

Bachelor of Arts (BA) programs, on the other hand, focus on developing students’ communication skills. These programs typically include coursework in subjects such as literature, languages, social sciences, and humanities.

By studying these subjects, students enhance their ability to express themselves clearly and effectively through verbal and written communication.

BA programs emphasize the development of critical reading, writing, and presentation skills. Students are encouraged to analyze and interpret various forms of literature, engage in discussions, and articulate their thoughts and ideas in a coherent manner.

These skills are highly valued in fields such as journalism, marketing, public relations, and teaching.

According to a report published by the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), employers consistently emphasize the importance of strong communication skills. The report states that 93% of employers believe that a candidate’s ability to communicate effectively is more important than their undergraduate major.

Bachelor of Science (BS) Bachelor of Arts (BA)
Analytical Skills Emphasized Not as emphasized
Communication Skills Not as emphasized Emphasized

While both BS and BA programs provide valuable skills to students, it is important to note that these distinctions are not absolute. Many universities offer interdisciplinary programs that combine elements from both degree paths, allowing students to develop a well-rounded skill set.

Ultimately, the choice between a BS and a BA program depends on an individual’s interests, career goals, and personal strengths. It is advisable for students to carefully consider their own strengths and preferences before making a decision.

Career Paths and Outlook

One of the key factors to consider when choosing between a Bachelor of Science (BS) and a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree is the career paths and job opportunities that each degree can lead to. While both degrees can open doors to various industries, there are some differences in terms of the specific employment opportunities available.

BS Employment Opportunities

A Bachelor of Science degree typically focuses on technical and scientific subjects such as engineering, computer science, mathematics, biology, chemistry, and physics. As a result, graduates with a BS degree often find themselves well-suited for careers in fields such as:

  • Engineering: BS graduates in engineering disciplines can pursue careers in areas like civil engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and aerospace engineering.
  • Technology: With a BS degree in computer science or information technology, graduates can explore opportunities in software development, data analysis, network administration, and cybersecurity.
  • Healthcare: BS degrees in nursing, biology, or biochemistry can lead to careers in healthcare, including roles as registered nurses, medical laboratory scientists, or research scientists.

BA Employment Opportunities

On the other hand, a Bachelor of Arts degree typically focuses on liberal arts subjects such as humanities, social sciences, languages, and fine arts. While some may argue that BA degrees are less specialized than BS degrees, they provide graduates with a broad range of transferable skills that can be applied to various career paths.

  • Education: BA graduates with a major in education can pursue careers as teachers, educational counselors, or administrators in schools and educational institutions.
  • Communication and Media: A BA degree in communication, journalism, or media studies can lead to opportunities in fields such as public relations, marketing, advertising, journalism, and broadcasting.
  • Business and Management: Many BA graduates find themselves in roles related to business and management, including positions in human resources, sales, marketing, and public administration.

While the specific job opportunities may vary depending on the chosen major within a BA degree, graduates often possess strong communication, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. These skills are highly valued in today’s job market, making BA degree holders adaptable and versatile professionals.

It is important to note that the career paths and opportunities listed above are not exhaustive, and there may be other possibilities depending on the individual’s interests, skills, and additional qualifications.

It is always recommended to research specific industries and job markets to gain a better understanding of the opportunities available for both BS and BA degree holders.

If you are interested in exploring more about the career paths and job outlook for specific majors within the BS and BA degrees, websites such as Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and O*NET Online can provide valuable information on employment projections, salary ranges, and required qualifications for various occupations.

Earning Potential

When it comes to choosing a degree, one of the key factors that students often consider is the earning potential. While both a Bachelor of Science (BS) and a Bachelor of Arts (BA) can lead to successful careers, there are some differences in terms of salaries for graduates.

Salaries for BS Graduates

Graduates with a Bachelor of Science degree tend to have higher earning potential in certain fields. This is because BS programs typically focus on technical and scientific subjects, such as engineering, computer science, and healthcare.

These industries often offer higher starting salaries and opportunities for career growth. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for computer and information technology occupations was $91,250 as of May 2020, while the median annual wage for engineering occupations was $80,720.

Salaries for BA Graduates

On the other hand, graduates with a Bachelor of Arts degree may have different salary prospects depending on their chosen field. BA programs often include subjects such as humanities, social sciences, and liberal arts.

While these fields may not have as high starting salaries as some BS fields, they can still offer rewarding and fulfilling careers. For example, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for social workers was $51,760 as of May 2020, while the median annual wage for writers and authors was $63,200.

It’s important to note that earning potential can vary depending on factors such as location, experience, and industry demand. Additionally, individual skills, networking, and job performance can also impact salary growth throughout one’s career.


When deciding between pursuing a BS versus a BA, consider your interests, career goals, academic strengths and preferred learning style. BS degrees focus heavily on technical expertise while BA programs emphasize general knowledge and liberal arts.

Carefully weighing the differences in coursework, career outlook and salaries can help you determine if a science-driven Bachelor of Science or a flexible, humanities Bachelor of Arts is the best undergraduate degree path for you.

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