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What's a bachelor of science degree, and why should I consider it?

Deciding between a bachelor of science and a bachelor of arts is important. Here's what sets a bachelor of science program apart.
Written by Melissa Sartore on
A black college student raises her hand in a classroom.
Klaus Vedfelt/DigitalVision/Getty Images

As you look around for the college programs that fit your needs, you'll come across options for bachelor of science (BA) and bachelor of arts (BA) degrees. 

Both generally include four years of coursework and have a lot in common. 

If a degree in mathematics, science, information technology, or a comparable field is what you're looking for, a BS is likely in your future.

At-a-glance: BA vs. BS


BA

BS

Required credits to earn degree

120+ credits

120+ credits

General education courses required?

Yes

Yes

Foreign language class required?

Yes

No

General course focuses

Humanities, arts, social sciences

Technical fields, math, science, logic


What's a bachelor of science degree?

Both BS and BA degrees include roughly 120 credit hours of coursework. Many of the general education classes for BS and BA degrees are the same. You'll take introductory courses in English, history, and social science in both curricula. 

In a BS degree, you may need to take more lab science classes and advanced math courses than your counterparts in a BA degree. 

A BS degree emphasizes quantitative skills, technical abilities, logic, and reasoning. A BA degree focuses on critical thinking and communication. Both programs have research components, but BS classes teach quantitative research methods and analysis.

Schools offer some degrees as both a BA and a BS, emphasizing different aspects of the curriculum. You may need a BS degree to pursue certain degrees and certifications, such as a professional engineer license.

Is a bachelor of science degree a good fit for me?

A BS degree may be a good fit for you if:

  • You want to work in a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics field.
  • You're good at mathematics and statistics.
  • You want to be a nurse, a doctor, or a healthcare professional of some kind.
  • You enjoy working on computers, in a lab, or in nature.

Examples of bachelor of science degrees

Careers you can pursue with a bachelor of science degree

What's a bachelor of arts degree?

Like a BS, a BA generally includes 120 credit hours. A BA degree includes some of the same general education and major coursework as a BS.

A BA emphasizes the humanities and the liberal arts and usually includes a foreign language requirement. You'll typically take fewer labs and mathematics and science classes during a BA degree than what you would take in its BS counterpart.

While earning a BA, you gain valuable communication and critical-thinking skills in areas as you explore subjects like literature, history, and art. Many BA degrees foster creativity, too. You also learn to research, albeit with more of a focus on qualitative research methods and analysis. 


Is a bachelor of arts degree a good fit for me?

Some things to consider when assessing whether or not a bachelor's degree is a good fit include:

  • Your career interests and goals
  • What types of classes and subjects you enjoy
  • Previous coursework that you have excelled in
  • What amount of time you want to spend reading, writing, and exploring the humanities

Examples of bachelor of art degrees

Careers you can pursue with a bachelor of arts degree

  • English teacher
  • Artist
  • Human resource specialist
  • Marketing coordinator
  • History teacher
  • Public relations specialist
  • Writer
  • Translator
  • Casting director
  • Editor
  • Journalist
  • Event manager

If you pursue a BS degree, can you minor or double-major in a BA degree?

Absolutely. 

You can minor in a discipline that would traditionally be a BA degree. For example, you could earn a BS in computer science and a minor in literature if you wanted to pursue a career in game development. 

You may even have an opportunity to double-major with both a BS degree and a BA degree. For example, BS degrees pair well with a degree in a second language. 



SEE: Best unexpected double majors for computer science students


Which is better: a BS or BA degree?

Neither a BS degree nor a BA degree is inherently better — they're simply different. Which is better for you? That's the more important question to ask. 

By assessing your interests, strengths, and career goals, you can decide which type of degree will help you along your path.

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