An Examination of Bachelor’s Degrees: BA, BS, BFA, and BBA

bfa vs bs

According to recent surveys by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), approximately two million bachelor’s degrees are awarded by colleges and universities each year. These degree holders stand to earn a pretty penny as a result of their hard work and dedication to their studies. Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce found that graduates of bachelor’s degree programs had earning potentials that were 31% higher than those of associate degree programs and 84% higher than individuals with just a high school diploma.

There’s no debate, then, over whether a four-degree is worth it. For many college hopefuls, though, confusion remains over which type of bachelor’s degree is best. To help with the decision, our editors have taken a deep dive into the various types of bachelor’s credentials and programs available.

General Information About Bachelor’s Degrees

While different types of bachelor’s degrees are available to prospective college students, it could be argued that they have more similarities than differences. For example, all of these undergraduate programs require approximately 120 credit hours of study and can be completed in four years. These degrees are offered from accredited four-year colleges and universities (and an increasing number of two-year community colleges and technical schools). Most bachelor’s degree programs require students to take general education classes in a broad range of subjects as well as major-specific classes directly related to their chosen field of study.            

About Online Bachelor’s Degrees

With strides in distance education technology, more bachelor’s degree programs are being offered online and via hybrid or blended learning formats. While it may seem too good to be true, these offerings are typically just as legitimate as on-campus programs. In many cases, these online bachelor’s degrees feature the same curriculum as a school’s traditional plans of study. Sometimes, the same faculty members teach the required online classes as well.

Overview of the Main Types of Bachelor’s Degrees Available

Within the broad categories of on-campus and online bachelor’s degrees, there are other types of undergraduate credentials as well. Choosing which to pursue can be challenging, especially if you’re unsure of what sets them apart from one another. In this article, we’ll discuss five main types of bachelor’s degree programs: Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Science (BS), Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS), Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA), and Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA).

Bachelor of Arts (BA) Degree Programs

The most popular types of bachelor’s degrees awarded by postsecondary institutes of higher learning are Bachelor of Arts (BAs) and Bachelor of Science (BS) degrees. The former type of degree is a credential more focused on liberal arts and humanities. The nature of a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree program is best understood when compared to its counterpart, the Bachelor of Science (BS) option.

What’s the Difference Between a BA and a BS?

For many academic subject areas, students have the option of choosing either a Bachelor of Arts (BA) track or a Bachelor of Science (BS) track. This is an important decision as it will dictate the courses you take as part of your plan of study as well as the exact credential you receive upon graduation. To make the best choice, you need to have a good understanding of what sets these two degrees apart. In essence, the BA degree is a more humanities-based program that encompasses a broader curriculum while the BS degree is more major-focused. Thus, with a Bachelor of Arts program, you may be required to take more general education courses and less classes in your chosen major. In a Bachelor of Science program, the reverse will likely hold true. BA programs also tend to be more versatile, meaning you may have more choice when it comes to elective classes.

Popular Bachelor of Arts (BA) Programs

While Bachelor of Arts programs are available in a wide variety of subject areas, some BAs are more popular than others. Below, you will find examples of BA credentials that are commonly pursued by undergraduate students:

  • BA in English
  • BA in Sociology
  • BA in Communications
  • BA in History
  • BA in Journalism
  • BA in Psychology

Bachelor of Science (BS) Degree Programs

Alongside Bachelor of Arts (BA) degrees, Bachelor of Science (BS) offerings are the most popular types of degrees conferred in the United States. These programs of study feature fairly stream-lined curricula and point to a relatively specific career path compared to Bachelor of Arts (BA) programs. Thus, the coursework tends to be more technical in nature as opposed to the more liberally-focused BA classes. In a BS program, you may find yourself taking less courses to fulfill a general education requirement and more classes related to your chosen major.

Popular Bachelor of Science (BS) Degrees

Bachelor of Science degree programs can be found in nearly every area of study outside of the creative arts. Some popular options include the following:

  • BS in Computer Science
  • BS in Mathematics
  • BS in Engineering
  • BS in Business
  • BS in Education
  • BS in Nursing (BSN)

Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) Degree Programs

Bachelor of Applied Science—or BAS—programs are four-year technical degrees that emphasize applied skills, meaning those that will be practiced in the workplace after graduation. Many BAS programs are designed for those students who already have an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree. Some are intended for students who already have some experience in the field and want to advance their skills and career opportunities.

What Distinguishes a BAS from a BS or BA?

Aside from having a more vocational emphasis, a Bachelor of Applied Science degree program may also feature collaborations with businesses and organizations within a related industry. For example, the program may include lectures from industry experts, practicum and internship opportunities with local companies as well as professional associations in the field.

Another factor that distinguished a Bachelor of Applied Science program from both Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science offerings can be found in the programs’ general education requirements. While both BA and BS degree plans may require hefty gen ed credits, a BAS often omits those general education courses in the liberal arts and humanities and requires only those related to the fields of math and science.

If you’re considering a Bachelor of Applied Science degree program, you should keep in mind that unlike BA or BS offerings, these credentials are often considered terminal degrees and may not qualify you for admission into a graduate degree program such as a master’s or doctoral program.

Popular Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) Degree Programs

Bachelor of Applied Science degree programs aren’t available in every field. Instead, these options are most commonly found in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). Some examples of popular BAS programs are listed below for the purpose of illustration:

  • BAS in Engineering
  • BAS in Allied Health
  • BAS in Information Technology
  • BAS in International Business
  • BAS in Dental Hygiene
  • BAS in Paralegal Studies
  • BAS in Hospitality Management
  • BAS in Sustainable Business Technology

Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) Degree Programs

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that 88,600 bachelor’s degrees in visual and performing arts were conferred in 2018. Many of these four-year degrees were Bachelor of Fine Arts, or BFAs. Some visual and performing arts students may elect to pursue a Bachelor of Arts (BA) instead.

BFA Versus BA: What’s the Difference?

In examining a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree program, it is critical to distinguish this type of program from a BA in a creative arts field. That’s because students who elect a program in visual or performing arts field will likely have the choice between a BA and a BFA credential. The main difference here has to do with whether you will study your field in theory or in practice. For example, if you want to study the history of dance or the implications of art on society, then a Bachelor of Arts program may be suitable for you. However, if your aspirations include becoming a dancer or artist, then a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree program would be more fitting. These BFA programs include less lectures and class discussions and more time in the studio practicing a specific craft.

Popular Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) Degrees

Bachelor of Fine Arts degree programs are reserved for those students seeking academic credentials in creative fields such as art, music, or film, for example. Below, we list some of the more popular BFAs conferred in the United States:

  • BFA in Dance
  • BFA in Studio Art
  • BFA in Musical Theatre
  • BFA in Sculpture
  • BFA in Printmaking
  • BFA in Filmmaking
  • BFA in Photography
  • BFA in Music

Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) Degree Programs

Of the students who graduated from a bachelor’s-level program in 2018, over 386,000 of them were awarded a business degree. That makes this field of study the most popular major for undergraduate students. Though there are different types of business degrees available, many students choose to pursue a Bachelor of Business Administration, commonly known as a BBA.

BBAs are broad, versatile plans of study that provides students with fundamental knowledge in general business practices while also enabling them to specialize in one of the many sub-fields of business. Typically, the curriculum for a Bachelor of Business Administration degree program is comprised of core business topics as well as concentration-specific classes. Once enrolled in core business courses, students will study a range of subjects like accounting, human resources, business operations, marketing, and more. Concentration-specific classes, on the other hand, will focus only on those topics directly related to the concentration or emphasis area the student chooses.

Popular Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) Concentrations

There are dozens of concentrations for Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) students to choose from. Available concentrations will vary by school, so if you’re on the hunt for a BBA program, be sure the school you’re interested in attending offers the specialization you want to pursue. Some sample concentrations include the following:

  • Marketing
  • Global Business
  • Finance
  • Management
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Management Information Systems

Other Types of Bachelor’s Degrees

Although the types of four-year degrees discussed above are the most prevalent, they’re not the only types of bachelor’s degrees you can pursue. Below is a sampling of other types of degrees you can earn in an undergraduate program of study:

  • Bachelor of Design (BDes)
  • Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch)
  • Bachelor of Computer Science (B.Comp.Sc)
  • Bachelor of Engineering (B.Eng)
  • Bachelor of Integrated Studies (BIS)
  • Bachelor of Music (BM)
  • Bachelor of Philosophy (BPhil)
  • Bachelor of Mathematics (BMath)
  • Bachelor of Professional Studies (BPS)
  • Bachelor of Technology (BTech)
  • Bachelor of Social Science (B.Soc.Sci)

Frequently-Asked Questions About Bachelor’s Degrees

Q: Which type of bachelor’s degree is best?

A: There is no one type of bachelor’s degree that is best for all students. To choose a degree program that is right for you, it’s important to consider the type of coursework you’re interested in as well as what your plans are after graduation.

Q: What bachelor degrees pay the most?

A: The type of bachelor’s degree you earn is only one factor to consider when it comes to salary. Others include your employer, location, and years of experience in the field. Still, PayScale reports the highest-paying bachelor’s degrees in 2019 to be Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Petroleum Engineering, and Applied Economics/Management.

Q: What bachelor’s degrees are in demand?

A: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), some of the most in-demand industries for bachelor’s degree holders include business, marketing, health administration, nursing, computer science, and engineering.

Q: Are there bachelor degrees you can get online?

A: Yes! There are hundreds of bachelor’s degrees offered online, and many of them are available from top colleges and universities around the country. Moreover, distance education at the postsecondary level is becoming more popular and more respected than ever before.

Q: How much do bachelor’s degrees cost?

A: It depends on what school you attend, as tuition costs can vary widely. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the average cost of undergraduate tuition for students attending public institutions in 2018-2019 was $17,797.

Q: How long does it take to earn a bachelor’s degree?

A: Four years is typical, but completion times for a bachelor’s degree can vary. Part-time programs can take significantly longer than four years, for example, while accelerated programs can be completed in less time. Generally speaking, the more courses you’re able to take at once, the more quickly you can meet degree requirements.

Q: How do I find bachelor’s degrees near me?

A: To find nearby bachelor’s degree programs, search the web for undergraduate colleges and universities, and be sure to include your city and state as a search term. You can also consult College Navigator, a tool provided by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

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