Differences Between a BA and a BS in Psychology

Which bachelor's degree option is right for you?

Man considering a bachelor of arts in psychology
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The first thing that many newly decided psychology majors might notice is that their university offers two degree options: the Bachelor of Arts (or BA) and the Bachelor of Science (BS). What is the difference between these two degrees? Is one degree better than the other? The two options are often very similar, but there are a few key differences of which students should be aware.

Each university may differ, so it is important to start by taking a look at your school's undergraduate catalog to see the differences between the two degrees.

Note the core classes required for each degree, and then look at the electives and subject-matter courses that are required.

Bachelor of Arts vs. Bachelor of Science

Generally speaking, a Bachelor of Arts degree focuses on more liberal arts general education courses. Students who choose this degree may also be required to complete a foreign language component. The BA option usually involves taking fewer courses in psychology and more classes in subjects outside of the major field area.

A Bachelor of Science degree will focus on more science and mathematics courses. Students pursuing a BS in Psychology may have to take more lab and statistics general education classes. The BS option involves a stronger concentration on the major area of study and students take more psychology courses than those who are pursuing a BA. The subject-matter area of the degree may also focus more on research methods and applied psychology courses.

Which Degree Is Better?

While one degree is not necessarily better than another, some educational experts suggest that students who earn a BS degree in psychology have greater flexibility and more opportunities. However, it is important to focus on choosing a degree that is the best-suited to your unique needs, skills, interests, and professional goals.

The Bachelor of Arts in Psychology is a great option for students who have a keen interest in psychology but also want to explore other disciplines in greater depth. For example, you might want to study psychology but also take a lot of courses in an area such as nutrition and health. Such preparation might be perfect for students who are considering specialized psychology fields such as health psychology or forensic psychology. Students who choose this degree option can also opt to go later on to further study in law, social work, counseling, education, journalism, political science and business.

The Bachelor of Science in Psychology offers excellent preparation for careers in science as well as further graduate study in psychology or related disciplines. Students with a strong interest in science can also benefit from this degree options extensive study in biological science and research methodology. If you plan to attend graduate school in psychology, you should definitely consider the Bachelor of Science option.

Before deciding which option is right for you, review your university's requirements for each degree and talk to an advisor within the psychology department for further advice.

So what's the bottom line? Is there a quick way to determine which degree option might be best for you and your goals?

Consider a BA in Psychology If You

  • Are planning on going straight into the workforce after completing your undergraduate degree
  • You plan on going to graduate school in a non-psychology field such as business, law, counseling, social work or management
  • You are interested in taking a wider range of humanities courses include foreign language classes

Consider a BS in Psychology If You

  • Are interested in a more science-oriented curriculum
  • You plan to earn a graduate degree in psychology
  • You plan to go to medical school
  • You are interested in taking a wider range of science-related courses

A Word From Verywell

A bachelor's degree in psychology can be a great stepping stone toward either a rewarding career or further graduate study. However, it pays to consider which type of bachelor's degree will best serve your goals. A bachelor of arts degree in psychology can be a great choice if you are interested in going straight to work after graduation or if you are thinking of pursuing a graduate program in something like law or counseling.

If, however, you are thinking about committing to further graduate study in psychology, a bachelor of science in psychology may be the better choice. Because the bachelor of science tends to focus more on psychology courses in general, it tends to offer better preparation for those thinking of becoming practicing psychologists.

In either case, consider your goals and what you plan to do with your degree in order to determine which option is right for you. 

Sources:

Kuther, TL. The Psychology Major's Handbook. Belmont: CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning; 2012.

Landrum, RE. Finding Jobs With a Psychology Bachelor's Degree: Expert Advice for Launching Your Career. American Psychological Association; 2009.

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