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A B.A. in Biology vs. a B.S. in Biology

by Andrew Aarons, studioD

Though biology may seem like pure science, universities don’t insist that you get a science degree to study biology. Many schools offer you the choice between a Bachelor of Arts in biology and a Bachelor of Science. While both forms of study will give you the basics in biology, a B.A. will generally give you greater flexibility to pursue studying other disciplines while a B.S. will involve lab work and specialization in your field.

B.A. Basics

All colleges and universities structure their degrees a little differently, so there’s no single authoritative definition of what a B.A. in biology will look like. Typically, biology programs in the arts involve a set of core biology courses and then some electives within the faculty of arts that might include language courses, culture courses and a few classes of your choosing. Each program has different requirements for elective courses and faculty-specific courses, but during pursuit of a B.A., many of these additional courses are in the arts.

B.S. Basics

A B.S. tends to focus more specifically on, well, science. In addition to the core courses for biology, you’ll have mandatory courses that relate to biology or that broaden your understanding of science more generally. B.S. programs will have electives too though there might be an expectation that more of your elective courses come from the faculty of science. Most B.S. programs have additional math and chemistry requirements and require lab time.


As is true in all fields of study -- not just biology -- a B.A. is a more flexible degree that allows you to pursue your other interests while getting a foundation in your major. If studying a B.A. in biology, you might be able to schedule your classes in such a way as to get a second major in a related field or to pick up a minor in an unrelated field. A B.A. is a great start for anyone interested in being a teacher since you could use your electives to pick up a second teachable subject.


Studying biology in a B.S. program will give you a depth of knowledge in the field that a B.A. is unlikely to give you. Your elective courses may be mostly within the same department and faculty, allowing you to develop a specialization that intersects with or focuses on biology. B.S. biology degrees are often structured in such a way as to require chemistry, math and physics courses, which prepare biology students for graduate-level study or careers in biological sciences.

About the Author

Living in Canada, Andrew Aarons has been writing professionally since 2003. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of Ottawa, where he served as a writer and editor for the university newspaper. Aarons is also a certified computer-support technician.

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