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Study abroad : Subject Guides

BA vs BSc: What is the difference?

What’s the difference between a BA and a BSc? Find the definitions of each here...

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When browsing degrees online, you might be a little confused about the different acronyms used in the titles of these programmes. This is understandable, especially since you’ve not been to university yet and haven’t become accustomed to the language used within higher education. But once you understand what these phrases mean, you should feel more confident about which one to choose and the difference between these degree types. In this article, we’re going to run through the meaning of a BA (Bachelor of Arts) and a BSc (Bachelor of Science).


What is a BA?


These terms are used to categorise degrees depending on the subject, course content, teaching style and assessment methods. A Bachelor of Arts is typically most suitable for liberal arts subjects such as:



BA degrees tend to be less specialised, offering a more expansive education. This type of degree also encourages critical thinking, creativity, and adopts a more qualitative approach. A BA degree typically takes three to four years to complete depending on the study destination you choose. You can expect to complete more coursework than exams on a BA. Other popular BA courses include:



Making the right choice mostly depends on which subject you wish to pursue in addition to the type of education you wish to receive. However, some subjects can be either a BA or a BSc depending on the course content and focus of the degree.


For example, psychology degrees can be either. A BA in psychology leans more towards the social sciences while a BSc involves more maths, science, and statistics. The same can also be said for business, music, and architecture courses. Universities can decide which they want to offer.


It is argued that the multidisciplinary nature of BA degrees is appealing to employers who are looking for lateral thinkers with a wide variety of skills. Creativity and problem-solving are essential soft skills that you will develop during a BA degree ideal for careers in:



What is a BSc?


The clue is sort of in the name, as BSc degrees tend to focus on the more technical, scientific subjects. Before the BSc was an option, all courses were BA degrees until the University of London started offering BSc programmes in 1860. Typical BSc degrees include:



BSc students will develop strong skills in numeracy, statistics, and quantitative analysis. These degrees also focus more on practical experience with opportunities to work in laboratories and attend field trips.


Thus, students gain a more mechanical and logical perspective throughout their degree. You can expect a BSc degree to last from three to five years depending on the course and university. 


To help you find out whether a BA or BSc is right for you, check out these common careers to follow a BSc degree:


  • Mechanical engineering
  • Electrical engineering
  • Aerospace engineering
  • Computer science
  • Product designer
  • Medicine
  • Dentistry
  • Zoology
  • Chemist
  • Microbiologist
  • Academic researcher
  • Data analyst
  • Game designer



How do I decide between a BA and a BSc?


You need to ask yourself whether you’re interested in developing skills in writing and communication or you want a more practical educational experience? This is the major difference between these degree types that will help you when it comes to choosing a BA or BSc degree. 



Entry requirements for BA degrees 


For specific entry requirements, you should refer to university websites. However, in general, a BA degree will require:


  • A-levels (or equivalent) in relevant liberal arts subjects
  • Proof of English language proficiency (IELTS/TOEFL)
  • Personal statement describing your suitability for the course
  • Interview – you may be invited to attend an interview at the university
  • Student visa
  • Proof of financial means


Entry requirements for BSc degrees


The admission criteria for a BSc is similar to what is required for a BA degree except that you will need to prove your interest in the subject you are applying to study. So, in addition to the above requirements, you will need:


  • A-levels (or equivalent) in relevant scientific/mathematics subjects


What about the graduate prospects?


It depends on the career you want to pursue as to whether a BA or BSc is more employable. Some people consider BSc degrees to be more prestigious, but this is not true. To make the right decision, you should consider your career aspirations and find out what degree classification is most suitable.


For example, a publishing house is most probably looking for students who have studied for a BA degree due to the emphasis on communication and writing skills which is most applicable to this industry. Whereas, if you aim to become a computer scientist or financial adviser, you will most likely need a BSc to reflect your problem-solving and technical skills.


Top tip! Use LinkedIn to find out what successful people studied before entering the career you hope to have. This will enable you to see the route they took, what they studied and what experience they were able to gain after graduation. 


What are you waiting for? Find a BA or BSc degree with our course matcher tool. Make sure you also stay up to date with the latest international student news from around the world.


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