Difference Between BA and BS: How to Choose the Best Degree

The rising job competition rates have made it quite hard to secure a well-earning job with only a high school diploma. This has prompted many people to pursue higher education degrees, most often a bachelor's degree.
However, students are frequently confused as to which type of bachelor's degree to choose, a bachelor of arts, BA, or a bachelor of sciences, BS.

Difference Between BA and BS

Bachelor's degrees are undergraduate programs offered by universities in various fields. These are usually divided into a bachelor of arts (BA) and bachelor of sciences (BS) degrees.
Differences between the two degrees aren’t clear-cut. While they both eventually lead to the same education level, each tackles the topic from a different viewpoint.
Let’s take a closer look at each.

What Is a Bachelor of Arts or BA Degree?

A bachelor of arts, or BA degree, generally takes four to five years to complete. It is mainly centered around the arts, humanities, and social sciences. Here are a few professions that require a BA degree:
  • Arts (Music, Art design, Digital media, Studio arts)
  • Visual and performing arts
  • Digital marketing
  • Media
  • Humanities (Foreign languages, history, philosophy, religion, literature)
  • Education
  • Business
  • Journalism and media
  • Social sciences (Legal sciences, sociology, geography, political science)
  • Government
  • Law
  • Social services
  • Non-profit organizations
BA degrees’ curricula are less structured. If you’re studying a BA major you’ll be tackling the topics at hand more holistically and globally.
The degree’s flexibility gives students more control over their education. students still need to complete a specific number of credit hours. However, they have more freedom in choosing what they spend their credit hours doing.
This means that BA students, in contrast with their BS degree friends, have a better chance of exploring other subjects that they might be interested in.
Therefore, if you enjoy more liberty with your education, a BA degree should be the best fit for you. If you’re unsure of which major you’d like to pursue, and would like to experiment, you should also opt for a BA degree.

What Is a Bachelor of Sciences or BS Degree?

A bachelor of sciences or BS degree focuses on more technical fields like sciences, mathematics, and engineering. Here are a few common professions that you’d need a BS degree to practice:
  • Sciences (Biology, chemistry, physics, environmental science)
  • Pharmaceutical industry
  • Healthcare
  • Chemical manufacturing industry
  • Natural resource management
  • Research
  • Mathematics (Mathematics, IT, statistics)
  • Education
  • IT
  • Data science
  • Engineering
  • Civil engineering
  • Chemical engineering
  • Electrical engineering
  • Mechanical engineering
  • Aerospace engineering
Although like a BA degree, it requires four to five years to complete, it tackles the topics of study in a more structured approach.
BS degree students generally study their fields in more depth and are required to have a thorough knowledge of their major when they graduate.
While this approach makes students experts in their specific fields, it rarely allows them the freedom to explore other areas that might interest them.
Therefore, a bachelor of science degree is the perfect choice for a student who knows exactly what he/she wants to study. If you want to explore a bit before committing to a specific field a bachelor of science might not be the best option.

Curricula

Any bachelor’s degree is composed of a certain set of credit hours divided between core coursework and electives. A major difference between BA and BS is how the credit hours are divided between core and elective subjects.
A BA degree has an average of 36 credit hours, which are further divided into 18 core coursework hours and 28 elective course hours.
The credit hours allocated for the study of the core subjects provides a student with a basic knowledge level in the chosen field. While the 28 hours of electives expand the student’s knowledge base to cover many topics.
A BS degree on the other hand requires an average of 54 credit hours which are further divided into 27 hours for core subjects and 12 hours for electives. This allocation of credit hours allows the student to have a focused and thorough knowledge of his/her specific field of study.
A BS degree also would prepare you to follow on to a post-graduate program once you graduate. This is because it focuses on providing the students with an in-depth knowledge of the field.
You should also research your desired major well. Some universities are celebrated for certain degrees that they provide. Make a point to research the top universities in your desired field and try to secure a spot to study there.

Difficulty Level

There is no such a thing as a BA being easier or harder than a BS. Both degrees require the same duration to complete. However, while BA degrees generally have fewer credit hours, this by no means translates to an easier degree.
Bachelor's degrees in general require a commitment to education. They would require you to put in the necessary effort, time, and money to earn yourself a degree.
With that said, you should decide on which profession you’d like to pursue first. Then choose the necessary major and type of bachelor’s degree which would better prepare you for this profession.
If you're passionate about a career that mainly involves technical skills, earning a BS degree is your best bet at securing the job. However, if your dream job includes communicating with people, then a BA would make you better suited for it.

Time Required to Complete

To earn a bachelor of arts you’re required to complete an average of 36 credit hours. Students are usually able to finish this degree in four years.
However, you have some control over your workload. You can take extra classes in the summer and finish the degree in three years. Alternatively, you can enroll in fewer classes every year and finish it in five years.
On the other hand, a bachelor of sciences requires an average of 54 credit hours for graduation. The majority of students can complete this degree in four years.
A BS has a heavier workload when compared to a BA. Therefore, fewer students can finish this degree in three years.

Value in Workplace

Each type of bachelor’s degree prepares the student for specific professions. To determine how valuable a bachelor’s degree is, you have to consider the profession you’ll be applying to in the future.
In today’s technological age, it's the technical jobs that are in high demand. You need a BS degree to qualify for these jobs.
Although less in demand when compared to technical jobs, you can still get a job with a bachelor of arts in social sciences or humanities. These job openings are more competitive nowadays, as the applicants’ number exceeds the job openings available.

Which Pays More

Bachelor of science graduates are usually employed in roles that require technical skills and expertise. While students who graduate with a bachelor of arts degree go on to work on jobs that focus more on soft skills rather than technical ones.
BS graduates usually have a headstart with 17% higher salaries during the first 5 years of working, and up to 29% in the first 10 years.
However, the powers shift once a BA graduate completes 15 years of experience in his/her field of work. Experienced BA graduates hold managerial positions which are generally more compensated than scientific jobs.

Conclusion

Earning a bachelor's degree is a great way to stay ahead in the workplace race.
BA graduates have a wide scope of base-level knowledge that prepares them for more soft skill-oriented careers, like education or social services.
On the other hand, BS graduates have a narrow in-depth knowledge of a specific field. This prepares them to hold more technical positions.
Just remember to research and earn your degree from a celebrated university in your desired work field. Take a look at online degrees offered by top-notch universities for a commute-free and cheaper alternative.