Is It Better to Get a Bachelor’s of Art or Bachelor’s of Science in Finance?

is finance a bachelor of arts or science

Students who have the option to enroll in a Bachelor’s of Arts program or a Bachelor’s of Science program in finance might ask whether it’s better to get a BA or a BS in this field. You need to understand the difference between a BA and a BS. You also need to understand how those differences might aid you in your future finance career. Choosing a major might only be half the battle when there are many degree formats to choose from.

What’s the Difference Between a BS and a BA?

In most cases, a Bachelor of Arts is a degree for the humanities. A Bachelor of Science is a degree found in STEM fields like science and math. However, there are instances where BS and BA options are available in the same major. In addition to finance, multiple degree formats are often found in subjects like psychology and computer science. It’s not that BA degrees are devoid of math and science. They certainly have their fair share, but a BS degree will have more dedicated math and science courses.

One of the common differences between BS and BA degrees is that Bachelor of Arts students have a foreign language requirement. Bachelor of Science students usually aren’t required to complete foreign language courses. The difference between the degrees isn’t huge, but it’s enough that it may influence your future career goals.

Although the differences between programs are similar, there is no national standard for differentiating a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science degree. It is critical that you know how each institution varies and don’t make assumptions.

Does a Finance Major Need a Liberal Arts Core or Foreign Language?

When considering a Bachelor’s of Science in finance versus a Bachelor’s of Art in finance, a language requirement might influence some students to pursue a Bachelor’s of Art to focus on international finance. You might be interested in working for a company that has offices on several continents, and a foreign language requirement might help.

Maybe you’re interested in pursuing an advanced degree or entering the world of research in a graduate program. Your final project or undergraduate research paper in a Bachelor of Science in finance program could be a valuable tool for graduate school. Students with an eye on graduate school may find it helpful to examine the prerequisites for their intended graduate program to see if a BA or BS program aligns better with those requirements.

There is No Standard Difference Between a BA and a BS

An insightful article from U.S. News & World Report indicates that there aren’t universal standards for the curriculums offered in Bachelor of Arts versus Bachelor of Science programs. One university might have a language requirement that distinguishes one program from another. Another program might feature a difference like requiring a final project for one degree and some advanced electives or a concentration in another.

It’s your future career goals that may be the best indicator of whether a BA in finance or a BS in finance is the better route.

Each Degree Program Option Requires Research and Consideration

There is no standard answer for whether a student should seek a BS or a BA in finance. Each university or college offering multiple degree formats will have its particular differences. Each may offer benefits for future work as:

  • financial analysts
  • appraisers
  • accountants
  • insurance underwriters

You can best answer the question as to whether it’s better to get a BA or a BS in finance. Compare the classes and curriculums and figure out which best aligns with your future career goals. As a general rule, to which there are plenty of exceptions, students considering graduate school should pursue a BA in finance. If you plan on entering the workforce consider a BS in finance. Repeat: that this advice doesn’t work for all situations or circumstances, but it is a good starting point until you digs deeper into your research on the matter.

Bachelor’s of Art or Bachelor’s of Science in Finance

Bachelor of Arts in Finance Courses

A Bachelor of Arts is grounded in the liberal arts. It provides a much more well-rounded and diverse curriculum. In addition to major courses in business, students take courses in the humanities, social sciences, foreign languages, and the like. Below, we take a look at a sampling of courses that can be found in Bachelor of Arts in finance degrees

Accounting concepts are generally divided into two or three courses. Students learn:

  • cash flow statement analysis
  • budgeting
  • auditing, taxation
  • other key foundational accounting concepts and skills.

American History and American Government
This may be one or two courses. The courses give students a background in the salient events of United States history and the structure of government from its origin to the modern day.

College-Level Algebra
This course serves as a review of algebraic concepts learned in high school. It also takes a deeper dive into the more complex aspects of algebra that prepare students for further study in:

  • calculus
  • statistics
  • finite mathematics

English Composition and Research
English composition and research courses teach students grammar and essay structure. Generally, a research course is completed after English composition. The research courses teach academic writing and research skills to prepare the student for the workforce or graduate school.

This is the most foundational course in the curriculum, teaching students to analyze financial data. Some of the key concepts include:

  • the time value of money
  • capital markets
  • debt analysis
  • financial statements

This area is typically divided into two or three courses. Students look at the history and development of microeconomics and macroeconomics. Students will learn to conduct economic analysis. They also  learn the role that economics plays in culture and politics, both domestically and abroad.

Bachelor of Science in Finance Courses

Opting for a Bachelor of Science in finance means you’ll take fewer liberal arts courses and more science, math, and finance-related classes. The extra finance courses can mean you are better prepared for the workforce right out of college.

Academic Writing and Research
Academic writing and research courses focus more on formal academic writing and research within the context of finance. It’s more rigorous than, say, a traditional English composition course that’s designed for all majors.

College Calculus
Some BA in finance programs have a business calculus class. It’s sometimes referred to as a “calculus lite” course. College calculus is more rigorous and is used not just for business and finance majors but also for majors such as:

  • engineering
  • computer science
  • other STEM-based fields

Communication is a critical skill in the finance industry. This course focuses on rhetoric and speech types. It includes a lot of practice giving business presentations on a variety of topics using:

  • sound research
  • well-structured writing
  • smooth delivery

Corporate Finance
This course may focus on domestic corporate structures or both domestic and international corporate finance. Students learn financial analysis as it relates to corporate entities.

Financial Statements
This course focuses solely on analyzing financial statements to determine:

  • fiscal value
  • health
  • growth

Investment Management
This course teaches students about managing a variety of investment vehicles like securities for individuals and organizations. Other topics include:

  • investment strategies
  • regulations
  • ethics

BA in Finance Salary Versus BS in Finance Salary

The research by salary and employment firm, Emolument, shows that individuals with a Bachelor of Science earn 17% more than those with a Bachelor of Arts. The caveat here is that the difference is largely due to the degree types as a whole. However, Emolument data also shows that the pay gap decreases over time as people progress in their careers. Those with a BA tend to catch up to, or even overtake, those with a BS after 10-15 years.

Bachelor’s of Art or Bachelor’s of Science in Finance

Accreditation for BS and BA in Finance Degrees

When doing research, it’s common to see organizations tout their programmatic and institutional accreditations. There are three main accreditation organizations that govern business schools and programs at the collegiate level.

The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
The AACSB is commonly known as the top accreditation agency among business schools and programs. It accredits only 5% of all business programs. It has been in operation both domestically and internationally since 1916. It emphasizes research in business and management that is done at research universities.

The Accreditation Council for Business Schools & Programs (ACBSP)
Founded in 1989, the ACBSP was a collaboration among 150 institutions that were not accredited by the AACSB. This agency emphasizes teaching and instruction, as opposed to the research-heavy methodology of the AACSB. This agency allowed for non-research institutions to achieve legitimacy by showing academic rigor and meeting high teaching standards. The ACBSP accredits programs at the two-year, four-year, master’s, and doctorate levels.

The International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE)
Founded in 1997, the IACBE is the newest organization to provide accreditation to business programs. It bases its accreditation on the school’s mission and educational outcomes. It accredits degrees at all levels.

Tips for Deciding Between a BA and BS in Finance

Choose your Field
Determine the specialty area in finance, such as:

  • financial statement analysis
  • investments
  • personal finance
  • or a similar field

This will help you determine the types of courses needed and help you decide between a BA or BS.

Compare Requirements
If a business department or school offers both a BS and BA in finance, compare the coursework in each program against your future occupation and long-term plans. Some questions you might consider to help you with your decision include:

What type of specializations does each offer?
Are the unique courses in each offering courses that interest you?
Does one program offer more opportunities outside the classroom like internships?  Would those help you gain employment upon graduation?

Consider the Reputation of the Institution or Program
One thing that cannot be understated is the reputation of an institution or a specific program. Some programs have regional, national, and even international reputations that can open many doors. We are in a culture obsessed with college rankings and reputation. Consider attending a school with a sound institutional or programmatic reputation.

Talk to an Advisor
If a business program offers both the BS and BA in finance, it’s a good idea to talk with an advisor. These professionals are intimately familiar with both degree paths. They can offer advice on which path would be best. Moreover, they can refer you to someone in the department who may offer additional insight into choosing which program is best.

Talk to a Professional in the Field
After you’ve decided on a specific specialization or career, it can be very beneficial to speak with a professional working in that industry to see what he or she recommends. Those working in the industry are likely in tune with the current trends and industry standards  This is especially true in an ever-evolving industry like finance that requires people to stay up-to-date in their field.

Bachelor’s of Art or Bachelor’s of Science in Finance

If It’s More Technical – Go with the Bachelor of Science

A BS in finance will probably not give you a huge advantage in finding a job over someone with a BA in finance, but it can make a difference. Most hiring managers, should they favor one degree over the other, will in likely favor the Bachelor of Science. As previously stated, the quality of the school and program is a larger factor, but it would be fair to assume that most people are biased towards a Bachelor of Science.

Final Thoughts on Getting a BA or BS in Finance

Choosing between a BS and a BA in finance is an important decision. We hope you find our guide helpful and that you take the time to do your research. There are a lot of factors to consider, but it’s worth noting that either degree should help you start you off towards a successful career in finance.

Related Resources:

BDP Staff:
April 2021

Brenda Rufener

Julie McCaulley

Carrie Sealey-Morris