Differences Between a B.A. and a B.S. in Psychology

Deciding between a BA or BS in psychology

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The first thing that many newly decided psychology majors might notice is that their university offers two different undergraduate degree options: the Bachelor of Arts (BA) and the Bachelor of Science (BS). The two degrees are often very similar, but there are a few key differences that students should understand.

Universities have varying requirements, 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.

Always be sure to talk to your academic advisor for more detailed information about your university's degree offerings.

Arts vs. Science Degree

So what is it that distinguishes a B.A. in psychology from a B.S. in psychology? There are a few course differences that you should be aware of.

BA in Psychology

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. This means it can be a great option for students who have an interest in psychology but also want to explore other disciplines.

For example, you might want to study psychology but also take 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 on to further study in:

  • Business
  • Counseling
  • Education
  • Law
  • Media
  • Political science
  • Social work

Students who earn a BA degree may choose to focus on careers that involve interpersonal and communication skills such as social work, human services, or journalism.

BS in Psychology

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 classes than 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 part of the curriculum may also focus more on research methods and applied psychology courses.

The Bachelor of Science in psychology offers excellent preparation for careers in science as well as further graduate study in psychology or related disciplines. If you plan to attend graduate school in psychology, you should definitely consider the Bachelor of Science option.

Students with a strong interest in science can also benefit from this degree option's extensive study in biological science and research methodology. Students who earn a BS degree may pursue careers in fields that involve data collection and research, including healthcare, marketing, and industrial-organizational psychology.

It is important to focus on choosing a degree that is best suited to your unique needs, skills, interests, and professional goals.

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.

Which Degree Is Best?

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.

Consider a BA
  • 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, including foreign language classes.

Consider a BS
  • 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.

The American Psychological Association suggests that there is often little difference between the degree options. Instead, they suggest that the most important consideration should be taking classes that will prepare you for graduate school or a career.

Whether you earn a BA or BS degree, an undergraduate degree in psychology can open up a range of career opportunities. Some careers you might consider include social services, public relations, human resources, case management, criminal justice, life coaching, as well as many other entry-level career options.

A Word From Verywell

A bachelor's degree in psychology can be a great stepping stone toward 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 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. 

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

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

  3. American Psychological Association. Frequently asked questions: How can I find the "best" undergraduate psychology program? Published 2008.