Difference between a B.A. and a B.S. degree

The Bachelor of the Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees are the most common undergraduate degrees in the U.S. Though they are practically the same in terms of academics, there are significant differences worth considering when choosing which one to take.


B.A. vs B.S. degree

A Bachelor of the Arts, or B.A., is given to someone who has completed a 3 to 4-year undergraduate program. The program can be in the liberal arts or the sciences, or even both. The length of the course or program depends on the country, learning institution, and specializations including majors and minors. It is not to be confused with Bachelor of the Arts with Honors, which is a 1 or 2-year course in some regions.

In countries such as the U.S., Egypt, Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines, a B.A. degree normally takes 4 years to finish. In most of the EU, Australia, Canada, India, and South Africa, it takes only 3 years.

Students going for a B.A. degree take more courses that explore the liberal arts. In addition, it is quite common for B.A. courses to offer students more options in achieving career goals through a more customizable educational program. The more popular majors under the Bachelor of the Arts program usually include English, theatre arts, communications, modern languages or linguistics, and music.

The curriculum for a Bachelor of the Arts degree is often geared toward improving a student’s writing and communication skills.

As of July 2016, a B.A. graduate with an economics degree working as a data analyst makes an average of $55,955 USD. A middle school teacher with B.A. in education earns around $55,000 USD per year.

In the U.S., a Bachelor of Science degree, or B.S., is given to someone who has finished an undergraduate program or course, typically in the fields of engineering, computer science, natural sciences, mathematics, physics, and biochemistry.

Courses under a Bachelor of Science degree usually emphasize the importance of concentrating on their subject matter. A B.S. curriculum has more subjects related to its major. In the U.S., students are required to exert all their efforts on mastering technical skills and practical knowledge. Students have limited learning opportunities on subjects not really essential to their major.

A software engineer with B.S. degree in computer science can make between $55,939 to $116,995 USD per year. A programmer analyst with a B.S. can earn anywhere from $44,603 to $91,089 per year.

Bachelor of the Arts vs Bachelor of Science

So, what’s the difference between a B.A. and a B.S. degree?

It is important to note that, depending on certain factors like location, some courses may be offered as either a B.A. or B.S. degree.

Generally speaking, a Bachelor of the Arts degree involves learning more about the liberal arts. It also allows students to customize their education with the aim of helping them realize their career goals. A Bachelor of Science degree strictly requires concentration on their subject matter. Subjects related to their chosen major dominate a Bachelor of Science degree curriculum.

Communication and writing skills are very important for a B.A. degree holder. This is why B.A. coursework involves a great deal of enhancing these skills. With a B.S. degree, acquiring technical and practical skills is essential; thus, students focus only on subjects that would enhance these skills.

Comparison chart

B.A. B.S.
Involves learning more about the liberal arts (i.e. education, communication) Usually involves engineering, computer science, natural sciences, mathematics
Provides more options to explore other majors Usually restricted to just one major
Seeks development of writing and communication skills Seeks development of technical and practical skills


Check out this clip showing the difference between a B.A. and a B.S. degree.