What is the Difference Between a BA and a BS?

ba vs bsBachelor of Arts degrees are typically associated with fields such as anthropology, art history, drama and theater, English, history, and education. Bachelor of Science degrees, in contrast, are often associated with fields such as biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, engineering, and computer science. The designation of whether or not an undergraduate degree is a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science, however, is not based on which academic department a student has majored in.

Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science Curriculums

The difference between a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Bachelor of Science degree is one that is based on the number of credits a student has taken in both the core curriculum and the completed classes in the arts, liberal studies, and humanities departments. Students who are pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree will take more courses in the core curriculum than those students who are pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Computer science, for example, is often thought of as a science-based course of study, and is therefore often associated with the Bachelor of Science degree. While the B.S. option is traditional, students are able to choose to pursue and earn a Bachelor of Arts degree at many post-secondary universities as well. Bachelor of Science student might take 50 to 60 required courses in computer science, while Bachelor of Arts candidates may complete around 40 credits to qualify for graduation.

Projected Career and Employment Outlook Based on Education

According to the synthetic work-life earnings report published by the United States Census Bureau, the level of education someone receives does directly correlate to the potential salary earnings that person is likely to earn throughout a lifetime. Individuals who have a professional or a doctorate degree are likely to accumulate the highest lifetime earnings, with both master’s degree holders and bachelor’s degree holders offering high lifetime earning potential as well.

The report also estimated that the professions most typically associated with a Bachelor of Arts earned slightly under the average, while graduates holding a Bachelor of Science earned slightly or much higher than the average. One example in the report specifically illustrated the difference, with sales personnel who earned a Bachelor of Science in engineering earning $3.3 million throughout a lifetime and sales personnel with a Bachelor of Arts degree earning $1.9 million over the course of a lifetime.

Anyone with an undergraduate degree, whether it is a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science, can expect to see a return on the investment of an education. Bachelor of Science graduates are most likely to enter into fields that require application of the skills and knowledge accumulated in core discipline courses. Bachelor of Arts graduates, who have also taken many core courses but also have a higher number of courses in the arts and humanities, are most likely to hold positions that focus on research, investigation, interaction, and communication.

Brenda Rufener

Julie McCaulley

Carrie Sealey-Morris