Bachelor of Arts or Science -- What's the Difference?

You have a world of options when it comes to choosing which degree you want to earn. Maybe you’ve noticed that some degrees are called Bachelor of Science (BS), while others go by Bachelor of Arts (BA). Why the two different names?

There is a significant difference. And knowing the difference between BS and BA could influence how you decide which degree to pursue.

The names of degrees are not arbitrary. The organizations that accredit universities have created certain guidelines for how they name their degree programs. These guidelines include criteria for which degrees can be called Bachelor of Science.

For example, the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)* has a general rule that says BA degrees “have a more liberal arts orientation,” while BS curricula should include a higher number of courses in science and math.

However, WSCUC requirements provide certain exceptions to this rule. A degree program may be designated Bachelor of Science if it meets at least one of these criteria:

1. The number of major courses is greater than 14, and these courses are worth at least 42 credits.

2. The major courses are based in one of these areas: science (like chemistry and physics), math (statistics), computer science (information systems, coding), or medicine (nursing); or they require laboratory experience.

3. Students have a significant need for such a program, or a specific job title requires a Bachelor of Science degree as a prerequisite.

4. The program’s learning objectives are based on hard science (like technical knowledge and calculation) and practical skills, as opposed to art or soft skills (like social interaction or communication).

When considering a Bachelor of Science program, keep in mind that your curriculum could include one or more of these features. Just because it has “science” in the name doesn’t mean you’ll be doing experiments in a lab. Consider the full list of requirements and read the course descriptions. If you have any questions, talk to a faculty member or someone in enrollment who can show you exactly what your degree will entail.

Finally, whether you decide on a Bachelor of Science or a Bachelor of Arts degree, what you get out of education will depend on what you put into it.

* Ashford University is accredited by WASC Senior College and University Commission.

Written by Ashford University staff

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