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Which Is Better, a Bachelor of Science or of Art?

written by: Luds Kadimba•edited by: Wendy Finn•updated: 5/23/2011

What criteria should you consider when choosing a degree? How do you know what will best suit you? Knowing the differences between a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Arts degree will help you make an informed choice when it comes to enrolling in college.

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    BS vs. BAs: Nature and Content

    Historically, the most important difference between the two degrees has been of an academic nature. Even today, Bachelor of Science (BS) programs consist of more scientific or technical fields of study as opposed to Bachelor of Arts (BA) programs which consist of humanist, literature or language fields of study. Because of that, a BS may include some lab work or other type of activities designed to foster the development of practical skills necessary in a given industry. A BA, however, is bound to emphasize theoretical learning.

    The tendency for a BS to be more demanding than for a BA has been noted. Again, this is not a fixed difference, as it is up to university program leaders to set up their own requirements for the degree programs they offer. Generally however, a BS, due to its scientific or technical emphasis, has the reputation of being more difficult than a BA.

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    BAs and BS Course Structure

    The course of study or program structure for a BA and a BS are quite different. While differences between two distinct programs can easily be assumed, this is not always the case for all programs. Increasingly, majors can be taken as a BA or a BS. This is the case with popular degree programs such as Psychology or Biology, for example. In these cases, where one can graduate with a BA or a BS in a major from the same institution, the differences tend to boil down to the amount of course work taken to achieve the degree.

    Rutgers, School of Management and Labor Relations, for example, offer a BA in Labor Studies and Employment Relations as well as a BS in Labor and Employment Relations. How do the two programs differ?

    Major requirements:

    • BS students must undertake work experience or internship, not BA students.
    • BS students have to complete a class in employment law, while this is optional for BA students.
    • BS students must pass a research methods/statistics course, while again this is optional in the BA program.

    General Education requirements:

    • BS students must successfully complete a History course, not BA students.
    • BS students can choose which two 'applied quantitative' courses they wish to take while BA students have to take a course in mathematics and one 'applied quantitative' course.
    • Every university or college has its own requirements however, and the specifics between a Bachelor of Science versus a Bachelor of Arts may or may not follow this pattern.
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    BS vs. BA: Credits and Cost

    Typically, both BS and BA require a minimum of 180 quarter units, 36 credit hours are required for a BA, as opposed to 54 units for a BS. 18 out of the 36 credit hours must be at 300-400 level for a BA and 27 out of the 54 for a BS. BS requirements are therefore looked at as being more demanding and harder than a BA.

    The cost of degrees tends to change annually. Degree costs are a reflection of the credit hours earned. Therefore, a Bachelor of Science program, that demands more hours of study than a Bachelor of Arts, will have a greater tuition in the long run.

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    Further Studies and Career Outlook

    Both a BA and BS can be followed by a Masters degree preferably in a field similar to the undergraduate program previously undertaken. Although not radically true, it may be easier for a student holding a BS to go onto a graduate degree.

    As previously seen, since some programs can be taken as either a BA or a BS, it is essential to know what employment opportunities are specific to degree type. BA degree programs prepare students for careers involving a high level of theoretical undertaking, such as planning or managing for example. Education, social work, law, journalism are all examples of typical BA career employment options. BS degree programs, on the other hand, are known to be more specific and 'hands on.' The development of technical knowledge and skills promoted by a BS degree are bound to be favored by employers in fields requiring physical application of knowledge, and in which the use of science is instrumental. Careers in computing, engineering, medicine for example are some options for BS degree holders.

    Having a thorough understanding of your future career options and of other differences between a Bachelor of Science versus a Bachelor of Arts degree is recommended before enrolling in any field of study.

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    References

    Calpoly Academic Programs, "BA/BS Difference between Degrees", http://www.academicprograms.calpoly.edu/academicpolicies/Policies-Undergrad/BA-BS-difference.html

    Rutgers, School of Management and Labor Relation, "Choosing a BA or BS Degree", http://smlr.rutgers.edu/labor-and-employment-relations/BAorBS

    Sullivan, M. "Bachelor of Arts? Or Science? It's all a Matter of Degrees", http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/rvp/pubaf/chronicle/v11/o17/degrees.html

    The Good Universities Guide, "Degree Costs and Loans", http://www.gooduniguide.com.au/School-Leavers/Paying-Your-Way/Degree-costs-and-loans