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Bachelor of Arts vs Bachelor of Science: Understanding the difference

Studying dance would fall under the Bachelor of Arts — fine arts which include styles like ballet and jazz, among others. Source: Joel Saget/AFP

Having a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science degree is an accomplishment. After three or four-year undergraduate study at uni, you’ll receive a scroll bearing this degree. For many, it’s the first step towards carving a bright future, expanding your knowledge, opening up doors in your career and even allowing for further study in your future.

First thing first: how do you choose between the two? Understanding the difference between a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science is essential in deciding which is best for you — the differences go beyond what’s obvious from their name. 

Bachelor of Arts 

A Bachelor of Arts degree encompases a broad umbrella of subjects. These can include majoring in Bagpiping at Carnegie Mellon University, or Jazz Studies at The University of North Texas. Students can choose to major or take course modules in varied liberal art subjects, ranging from the humanities to literature and history, all the way through to social sciences and communications, as well as foreign languages. 

Studying four years for a bachelors degree seems like a lot, but it will help shape your future. Source: Oli Scarff/AFP

Aside from specialising in subjects like Egyptology or Pop Culture, getting your Bachelor of Arts degree can also mean a more diverse education over a range of topics. While you’re not completely devoid of maths and science options, a BA is focused more on “the arts” — philosophy, art etc. 

Bachelor of Science

Did you know: before the Bachelor of Science degrees were even invented, all undergraduate programmes were referred to as Bachelor of Arts. At the forefront of progress in the 19th century, England was the first to offer a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of London in 1860. It became a global practice soon after, adopted by other universities around the world. 

Getting a Bachelor of Science degree means that students will have a heavier focus on maths and hard science, usually in more specific areas of study. It can also require more course credits to graduate, which means a heavier workload for Bachelor of Science degree candidates.  

A bachelor of science requires more in-depth focus and credits. Source: Go Nakamura/AFP

Unlike the BAs, BSc degrees lean towards technical and scientific topics: engineering, technology, mathematics, computer science, nursing and biochemistry. Although aimed towards scientific degrees, which are perhaps unfairly characterised as rather stiff, there are schools that offer Bachelor of Science degrees in surprising fields, giving you some very technical knowledge. These include Adventure Education at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire and Bakery Science at Kansas State University.

Bachelor of Arts vs Bachelor of Science

Some subjects like psychology, accounting and business are available in both Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science. Students are able to pick whether they want a more liberal arts approach, or whether they want to focus on a scientific science track.

Having a BA or BSc can impact your career path — so choose wisely. For example, a BA in Psychology graduate often goes into counselling. BSc graduates usually progress to research. If you plan to get a PhD in Psychology, a BSc is recommended as you will better understand statistics and research methods compared to a BA.

Which is better? The answer is … neither! Both Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees are equal in value. Both options give students the chance to pursue university-level education, make lifelong friends, meet some of the top professors in the field, and prepare for their future careers. 

In deciding which degree programme is best suited, the student should think long and hard about what classes they have most enjoyed, what they currently are into studying, and what career options they’d like to chase. If getting a degree in Pop Culture is what you’re all about, you do you! The world needs more pop culture references to make us smile and think, anyway — after all, it’s been a tough year.

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