If you’re thinking of getting a college degree, you’ve probably noticed that undergraduate degrees mostly come in two different types: bachelor of science degrees (BS) and bachelor of arts (BA). What’s more, you may have observed that some schools offer both BS and BA degrees for the same specialty area—for example, depending on the program, a student can earn either a BS or a BA in psychology or in business management.
What are the differences between a BS and a BA?
“What sets a BS apart is its technical orientation,” says Strayer University business professor Joseph Keller. BS degrees are usually offered in math, engineering, architecture, the hard sciences, and business. BA degrees are offered in the social sciences, languages, and the arts. “In a BS program, most of your coursework will be related to your major, with fewer electives to complete your degree requirements,” Keller says. “In a BA program, you’ll have more leeway in choosing courses.”
Does it matter which degree you choose?
Both degrees prepare students for the workplace or for additional education. In some areas of study, only one kind of degree is offered. Because a BA degree allows students to choose more electives, it may be preferable for students who don’t know exactly how they will eventually apply their degree. By taking courses outside your major, you may discover interesting ideas and concepts that lead you to switch focus or alter your career ambitions.
Will your choice of BS or BA affect your future career opportunities or income?
A bachelor’s degree can be required for entry-level positions in business, nonprofits, government, and elsewhere. But the type of degree—and sometimes even the focus—doesn’t make much difference. And while a college degree is often a good predictor of higher earnings in the future, the kind of degree rarely makes a difference. “One kind of degree, in and of itself, will generally not cause you to be paid more or less than the other,” says Marilyn Carroll, who also teaches business at Strayer.
How do I know which one to choose?
In the end, having a college degree can be more important to employers than the kind of bachelor’s degree you earn. “It’s all about how you package yourself around that degree,” Carroll says. “For example, if you got a BA in business, you could talk with a future employer about how your study of the humanities and social sciences has helped you better understand other people and cultures. It allows you to work with teams and various groups of people. If you have a BS in business, you can talk about the specialty and focus that you have in that area. It’s really about framing up the choices that you’ve made.”