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A bachelor of arts (BA) or a bachelor of science (BS) in psychology trains students in 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 with 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. Explore the key differences in this guide and find out how to determine which degree may be right for you.
What Is a BA in Psychology?
A BA in psychology is an undergraduate arts degree that prepares students for careers in psychology. This degree offers more electives than the BS in psychology, making it possible to study areas other than psychology-related courses. Electives are focused on arts, social sciences, and the humanities, allowing students to pursue jobs beyond those in the psychology field.
A BA in psychology may include specializations (e.g., forensic psychology, counseling psychology, or career counseling).
Upon graduation, students will use critical thinking skills, creativity, and a scientific perspective to address behavioral and mental process-related conditions.
What Is a BS in Psychology?
A BS in psychology is an undergraduate science degree. Although similar to the BA, the BS degree includes additional science and math courses in place of electives. The BS in psychology degree focuses on statistics, research methods, and data analysis, making it a good choice for students pursuing academic or research-related careers.
Upon graduation, students will understand scientific methods and critical thinking, the study of human behavior, and how scientific knowledge influences, predicts, and explains human behavior.
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Differences Between a BA and BS 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 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.
Curriculum Differences Between a BA and BS in Psychology
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 offer options for learners to specialize in forensics or social work. These options extend the breadth of the program to train students for careers in those fields.
A BS in psychology includes similar coursework 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. Alternatively, some BS programs offer a BS to master's in psychology degree bridge option.
Career Opportunities With a BA or BS in Psychology
A BA often prepares students for jobs in social work, criminal justice, or the mental health field, while a BS is geared toward educational, research-based, and clinical professions. Some bachelor's in psychology programs offer an opportunity to specialize in areas such as forensic psychology or organizational psychology.
But there is quite a lot of overlap between the two degrees. Both degrees prepare students for the following careers:
- Counseling and psychiatry fields
- Criminal justice system
- Writing careers
- Public relations
- Case management
- Advertising and marketing
- Human resources
- Organizational training and development
- Medical and healthcare careers
- Community services management
- Social services
A BA and a BS in psychology will both qualify students for graduate psychology programs.
Salary Differences Between a BA and BS in Psychology
The salary expectations for a BA vs. BS in psychology are similar due to the overlap in careers. According to Payscale data from January 2023, the average base salary for a job requiring a BA psychology degree is $66,000 per year. Payscale reports the average salary for a BS psychology degree at $64,000 per year.
A master of science (MS) psychology degree pays an average base salary of $62,000, according to Payscale data in January 2023. Those with a doctoral psychology degree reportedly earn an average of $84,000 annually.
Advantages of a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology
A BA in psychology degree offers some advantages over a BS degree, depending on your career and educational goals. These may include:
A BA in psychology prepares students for master's or doctoral programs that train for a psychologist/therapist career rather than a medical career (e.g., psychiatrist).
It offers more options in nonpsychology elective courses.
A psychology BA includes more specialized programs, such as child psychology or forensic psychology.
Advantages of a Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology
There are a few advantages to earning a BS in psychology. The BS program is a good choice for students planning to become psychiatrists or pursuing leadership positions. Benefits of a BS degree in psychology include:
A BS in psychology is often a foundation for students planning to attend graduate programs focused on research in psychology.
A BS-to-MS psychology bridge program is an option.
Many BS programs offer business concentration tracks with courses in leadership and management.
Ready to Take the Next Step?
When choosing between a BA and a BS in psychology, consider resources that 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 specializations, like organizational psychology and forensic psychology.
Page last reviewed December 15, 2022