BA vs B.Sc: What Degree Should You Do?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

This guide from Coursera discusses BA degrees (bachelor of arts) and B.Sc degrees (bachelor of science), and offers some guidance on choosing your degree course.

[Featured Image] Learner contemplating degree choices at a laptop computer

A BA degree (bachelor of arts) and B.Sc degree (bachelor of science) both earn the same level of undergraduate degree qualification. However, they have very different underlying themes and may suit one type of student over another.

More students are graduating with a university degree each year, but not all degrees are created equal. Explore the differences between a bachelor of science and a bachelor of arts degree. Discover the knowledge and skills each degree can give you, and find out how to choose which path is right for your goals.

Why do a bachelor’s degree?

An undergraduate degree opens up many doors to countless career opportunities. Earning a BA or B.Sc can help you achieve your goals and prepare you to compete in today's global workforce.

Bachelor of arts (BA) and bachelor of science (B.Sc) courses are two academic degree formats that are often confused with one another.

Differences between a BA vs B.Sc degree

Bachelor of arts (BA) and bachelor of science (B.Sc) degrees share many similarities, but there are some differences too. These differences can have an important impact on job prospects and earning potential.

Bachelor of arts (BA) and bachelor of science (B.Sc) degrees are undergraduate degrees that vary in their focus. The difference between the courses are easy to summarise:

  • BA degrees typically have a more arts, humanities, and communication focus, with a broad focus.

  • B.Sc degrees are more focused on sciences, mathematics, or engineering, and tend to hone in on a technical specialism.

Entry requirements for BA vs B.Sc

Every degree has its own entry requirements. There is no general difference between a BA and a B.Sc in terms of entry requirements. You should check with the university you are applying to individually for detailed information about any specific course you are interested in. If you want to study at a leading university like Oxford, Cambridge, or LSE, you will likely need AAA to A*A*A* at A Level. A Level grades are quantified numerically. The fewest points you can get and enter a university course is 80 points, which equates to 2 E grades.

Does a BA qualify you for higher education? 

Your degree opens up opportunities for you. Whether it’s moving into management or taking advantage of other courses at university, your degree decision opens the way for a whole new future for you. An incorrect choice may equally close some doors.

If you’re considering a career in a technology or academic field, then a BA will probably not stop you from doing an MSc/PhD or progressing in your academic route. However, you should check the entry criteria of courses you are interested in to find out if you need a B.Sc for your postgraduate degree.

In most cases, you’ll be choosing between degrees (the subject that is the primary focus of your degree), rather than between a BA and a B.Sc. Recruiters will rarely factor whether you did a BA or a B.Sc into their recruitment decisions, unless perhaps it is a science-based role.

Higher education is becoming more important to your career prospects. UK Government job analysis from 2019 suggests that around 35% of jobs are graduate jobs. 

Choosing A Degree

Whether you are thinking about getting a bachelor's or a master's degree, think about your career goals post-graduation. 

  • What do you see yourself doing? 

  • Do you have an interest in furthering your studies? 

  • Do you want to teach? 

  • Will your degree lead to any certification? 

Answering these questions can help you decide which direction is right for your future.

Choosing your degree subject when you are unsure about your career path

While a bachelor’s degree may be your first step to pursuing a career, or a stepping stone to another goal, many people don’t know what they want to do in their career.

If you are unsure of your future career path, then you should choose a degree that will provide you with a valuable skill set. Many degree programmes can provide a great range of career opportunities. They provide a platform for you to learn a solid skillset.

For example, psychology degrees could lead to psychology jobs, such as forensic psychology, clinical psychology, counselling psychology, health psychology, business psychology, and sports psychology. Equally, the skills you learn could lead you into a career in recruitment, HR, marketing, copywriting, social work, the police or many other roles.

If you're interested in teaching and are quite an analytical person, you may want to pursue science or mathematics courses that teach reasoning and logic. Teachers in these core areas are always in high demand due to a lack of qualified teachers. If you decide later that you don't want to pursue teaching you'll have an in-demand skill set for research, analysis, and roles requiring critical thinking.

Who are the most employable graduates?

For graduate students and young professionals, the choice of a field of study often comes down to one question: Will this degree help me get a job?

The answer depends in part on where you want to work and what kind of job you're looking for. Here are the courses that have the highest percentage of graduates employed 6 months after graduation, with data sourced from HESA:

  • Medicine and dentistry

  • Veterinary Science

  • Other medical subjects

  • Architecture, building and  planning

  • Education

  • Engineering and technology

  • Computer Science

  • Mathematical sciences

  • Business studies.

  • Law

Think about your skills and values

To have a successful and rewarding career, it's important to choose a field that you enjoy and that aligns with your values. You bring a one-of-a-kind background, personality, and set of skills to your degree. If you have a particular strength, be it leading teams, analysing data, seeing risks and problems, or solving problems, it’s a good idea to choose a degree where you can learn professional frameworks and further competencies that build on what you are good at. 

Your career will be more enjoyable if you are good at what you do. If you want to work out how to make better career decisions, then you might want to enroll in a course like the Career Decisions course from Wesleyan University.

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This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.