our everyday life

BS vs. BA in Psychology

by Paige Johansen

Psychology is one of the top three degrees awarded at undergraduate institutions today. Partly because of the success and interest in the major as well as continued advancements in fields such as neuroscience, many undergraduate schools now offer a Bachelor of Science in psychology as an alternative to the traditional Bachelor of Arts.

Course Differences

In general, a Bachelor of Arts degree will require more humanities and social sciences courses, while a Bachelor of Science will require more hard sciences. Some schools do not offer a B.S. In such cases, the B.A. degree can be earned by taking course sequences that might be similar to other programs that offer a B.S. For example, a B.A. in psychology may be earned with a concentration in neuroscience. If you are earning either degree you will need to take general psychology classes and also meet distribution or breadth requirements. You can often choose from a range of courses such as cognitive psychology, abnormal psychology, clinical psychology, and social psychology.

B.S. Requirements

After meeting general and distribution requirements for the Bachelor of Science in psychology, you will take upper-level, science-focused classes, sometimes in a concentration such as neuroscience or cognitive neuroscience. You will likely take science and math courses from other departments in addition to classes offered in the psychology department. For example, the Bachelor of Science in psychology at Boston College with the neuroscience cluster requires three biology courses, two chemistry courses and two math classes, in addition to core courses and neuroscience courses.

B.A. Requirements

To earn a Bachelor of Arts in psychology you may choose to concentrate on science-themed psychology courses or science courses or psychology courses in the social sciences. Some common courses include cognitive psychology, social psychology, community psychology, and developmental psychology.

Choosing a Path

Many psychology majors do not actually pursue a career in psychology, but instead use the skills they learn to find success in other fields. If you know that ahead of time, you don't need to worry much about how you choose to configure your concentration of courses. However, if you do have a specific career goal in mind, one or the other degree might best suit your needs. If you want to be a clinical or school psychologist, for example, you might want to earn a Bachelor of Science degree. However, it is best to consult admissions counselors at schools where you think you might pursue additional education to find out which degree is preferred for the graduate programs that might interest you.

About the Author

Paige Johansen has been writing professionally since 2003. She holds a B.A. in psychology and English from Cornell University and an M.F.A. in fiction writing from The University of Virginia. Between degrees, she worked in the fashion industry for two years.

Photo Credits

  • BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images