If you are a first-generation college student, you might be asking yourself: What is the difference between a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree and a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree? I remember being confused about the intricacies of each degree, in terms of the path it would take me on.

I thought a BA included completing a second-language requirement and a BS was based in the sciences. It turned out I had the right hunch, but there’s much more to it than that.

BAs and BSs are just two types of degrees you can earn while pursuing a four-year undergraduate degree. Other degrees include Bachelor of Music, Bachelor of Individualized Studies, Bachelor of Fine Arts, Bachelor of Applied Sciences, and more. I won’t get into details of all of the choices, but you should know they exist.

The BA degree is generally regarded as having a well-rounded foundation in the liberal arts. This includes courses in humanities, social sciences, mathematics, history, and communication, among others. It is a degree that offers you the opportunity to gather a breadth of knowledge in many different areas. While the BA is generally less specific than the BS, it is just as valuable to employers.

To earn a BA, you would be required to complete a given number of credits outside of your major area of study. Check with your chosen college or university to learn about the specific requirements for your major.

For example, at the University of Minnesota (U of M), learning a second language is a BA degree requirement, so start early to avoid prolonging your expected graduation date. 

Some colleges within the same university may have different second-language requirements for the BA. For instance, the U of M College of Liberal Arts requires “four semesters of a college-level language course of at least four (4) semester credits with a grade of C- or better or S,” or that you“pass the Language Proficiency Exam , which tests listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills at the fourth-semester level.” 

On the other hand, the College of Continuing and Professional Studies (CCAPS) requires “four semesters of a single second language or two semesters of a single second language and at least eight credits of coursework focused on the cultural, historical, or political aspects of any country/region associated with that language.”

The BS degree is typically based in the sciences (as the name implies). What you may not realize is a BS can also have a “pronounced applied/professional component” or classes that are “quantitative/investigative” in nature. 

For instance, i graduated with a BS degree from CCAPS' Inter-College Program; my major areas of study being psychology and applied business. Even though you wouldn’t typically think of applied business courses as being based in the sciences, the courses taught me how to apply knowledge to a certain field, which in this case was business. 

As you explore the various undergraduate degrees offered at different colleges, I encourage you to talk with your high school counselor, as well as college admissions offices, in order to find out what is required for each path. 

The important takeaway is to do your research on the program that most suits your future career interests and abilities, while paying attention to the degree requirements at your chosen institution.