How to Choose Between a BA and a BS in Psychology
| Psychology.org Staff Modified on April 1, 2022
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A bachelor of arts or a bachelor of science in psychology trains students in foundational psychological theories and practices, human behavior, mental health conditions, and cognitive processes. With a BA or BS in psychology, graduates may work in human resources, business, sales, or education as they apply analytical, communication, and critical thinking skills alongside their degree knowledge.
BA and BS degrees in psychology offer students opportunities for exciting careers and foundations for continued study. While they differ, one degree is not necessarily better than the other. Read on for more information about which one may be right for you.
Differences Between a BS and a BA in Psychology
Standard curricula between a BA and a BS in psychology vary, but both generally cover psychological theory, principle, and practice. Choosing between a BS or a BA in psychology depends on a student's personal interests and professional goals. Degree specializations within each bachelor's program, considered briefly below, also allow learners to distinguish between curricula so they can opt for the degree that best meets their needs.
Students in BA and BS programs in psychology study general theories and basic research methods in the field. Bachelor of arts learners may take classes in cognitive, behavioral, and social psychology while pursuing coursework in history, political science, and sociology. Many BA programs may include options for learners to specialize in forensics or in social work, further extending the breadth of the program to train students for careers in those fields.
A BS in psychology includes similar coursework in subsets of psychology with more advanced classes in neuroscience, statistical analysis, and clinical psychology. Concentrations in areas such as workplace, developmental, and addictions psychology prepare students for graduate work in the field while many BS programs offer a BS-to-MS in psychology degree option.
Salary and Career Differences
Bachelor of arts and bachelor of science degrees in psychology provide students opportunities for careers in psychology and related fields.
For graduates with a BA in psychology who attend graduate school and become psychology professionals, the field will experience 14% job growth by 2026. Because the curriculum for a BA offers a range of coursework in the arts, humanities, and social sciences, it opens up professional opportunities in business, law, criminal justice, and journalism. A BA program provides students with the communication and critical thinking skills applicable to positions like social service case workers, human resource specialists, and nonprofit program associates.
With a BS in psychology, students gain analytical and research skills applicable to careers like psychiatric technicians, laboratory assistants, career counselors, and rehabilitation case workers. Both BA and BS degrees train learners to express empathy to others, to evaluate and understand the best needs of clients, and to work in the best interest of those around them. As a result, many psychology students enter into teaching, market analysis, and customer service.
Advantages of a Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology
Bachelor of science in psychology degrees emphasize biology, chemistry, and other natural sciences alongside mathematics and statistics. Students who seek to train as psychiatrists often earn a BS in psychology, as do learners interested in pursuing healthcare or organizational careers. Many BS programs feature degree tracks in business with additional coursework in leadership, management, and human resources.
A BS program serves as a stepping stone to graduate study in psychology by training students in research methods and data analysis. Learners may have the opportunity to observe psychological professionals and gain insights into the field, as well as take extensive upper-division coursework in psychology.
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Advantages of a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology
A bachelor of arts in psychology includes courses in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. Many BA programs in psychology also require a foreign language component. A BA typically allows students more flexibility in the curriculum than a BS in the field, as it requires fewer psychology courses and more classes in related fields. A BA in psychology prepares students for graduate school to train as psychologists or to work in a setting that requires knowledge of human cognition and behavior. BA programs in psychology also provide students with communication and analytical skills applicable to careers in journalism, human services, social work, and law.
Ready to Take the Next Step?
When choosing between a BA and a BS in psychology, consider resources like the ones below, which offer information about programs, careers, and opportunities. Students interested in psychology should explore schools' curricula before entering a program. They also should factor in how a bachelor's degree meets their personal and professional interests and goals.
Learn More About a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology
A bachelor's degree in psychology builds critical thinking and analytical skills employers value while preparing students for graduate study in the field. Learners can pursue a BA and explore psychology alongside other liberal arts, or they can earn a BS and build additional science and mathematics competencies. Additional considerations -- including cost, degree concentrations, and credit hour requirements -- all contribute to choosing the right program.
Explore Psychology Careers
Students interested in psychology careers can pursue either a BA or a BS in psychology. Keeping in mind career opportunities and goals while looking at programs remains an essential part of the process. A BA opens up opportunities in fields like criminal justice and social work while a BS prepares learners for more research-based, clinical professions. Many psychology bachelor's degrees prepare students for specialized careers in subsets of the field, including organizational psychology and forensic psychology.