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BA vs. BS in Mathematics

by Andrew Aarons, studioD

Sometimes, the choice of a college or university isn't as important as the program you choose to study. When considering a program in mathematics, for example, some schools offer both a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Arts degree. The choice in this case is more about about how you’d like to study math -- and there are some key differences between a B.S. and B.A. program.

About Bachelor Degrees

Generally speaking, bachelor degrees from different faculties -- the faculty of arts vs. the faculty of science, say -- come with different expectations and requirements. Arts degrees tend to focus on a general education within arts, which could mean studying politics, history, literature and social sciences all at the same time. In the sciences, the focus usually stays within the field of science, though it's often even more specialized. The choice between the two faculties will dictate the type of study you do for the next three or four years.

B.A. in Math

Typically, a B.A. in math has less focus on math than it does on general education. In the University of Kansas’s math B.A. program, for example, only one-quarter of the courses you take have to be math classes. Nearly twice that amount are what the university calls “general ed” classes, classes from any area of study that interest the student. The University of Florida’s B.A. in math has slightly more emphasis on science electives, but still only requires students to take three science classes in addition to their math classes.

B.S. in Science

Predictably, a B.S. in math has more focus on the sciences than its B.A. counterpart. At the University of Kansas, B.S. math students are expected to take one-third of their credits in math and another two or three courses in an applied concentration in a particular field of math. At the University of Arizona, B.S. students have laboratory science requirements in physics or chemistry. B.S. degrees in math prepare students for further study in the sciences or for specialization in math.

Later Options

The type of bachelor degree that you opt may set the tone for the rest of your life. A B.A. will give you the flexibility to pick up a second major in another subject, perhaps not even connected to math. A science degree, on the other hand, will give you specialized knowledge of a subject that may better prepare you for graduate studies in math or in another scientific field. Math teachers tend to get a B.A. so they can use other credits on learning a second teachable subject, whereas a bachelor of science places students on the path to grad school.

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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