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What is a BA vs BS degree?

interstride logo by Interstride
December 28, 2022

A bachelor’s degree is the most common undergraduate degree students receive at colleges and universities in the United States. It is the first level of higher education and is a prerequisite for graduate programs, such as a master’s or doctoral degree program. You can choose to get either a Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts degree. Whether you decide to get a BA vs. BS, a bachelor’s degree in the US will require you to choose a major in a specific subject area, such as business, finance, chemistry or engineering.

How is a bachelor’s degree in the US different from degrees in other countries?

A bachelor’s degree in the US may be different from a bachelor’s program in your home country. Key differences include length of time to complete, cost, majors available, and types of programs. The US offers a wider array of higher education institutes at all levels and the types of degrees available. Here are 3 reasons why you should consider higher education in the US:

  • More flexibility and freedom – Unlike other countries, you can enroll in a Bachelor’s degree program without having to declare a major right away. In Europe, universities require students to apply to and begin a specific degree program immediately, often with little room for adjustment. In the US, students typically have two years before they must choose a major. This is a great opportunity for you to take a variety of courses to help you decide on a specialized track and on whether to pursue a Bachelor of Arts vs Bachelor of Science degree.
  • Option to specialize in multiple areas of study – In the US, you can choose to study a single major, add a minor (secondary area of specialization), or even pursue a double major (studying two majors at the same time). Minoring or double majoring allows you to build a larger knowledge base and can ultimately help you access more career opportunities in the future.
  • Opportunity to work after graduation – As an international student, you are eligible to work in the US after graduation through the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program. OPT allows you to work full-time for a maximum of 12 months so you can gain professional experience without having to apply for an H-1B visa. In general, you must work a job that is directly related to your area of study. If you study a bachelor’s degree in the STEM field, you can apply for an additional 24 month extension. This means you can work for up to 3 years after graduation without a visa.

Bachelor of Arts (BA)

A BA degree is less specialized than a BS degree. In contrast to a BS degree, which focuses more on technical and scientific subjects, the BA degree focuses on humanities and liberal arts, and generally offers students a broad-based education. Upon graduation, students who have earned a BA degree are typically well-prepared for a wide range of careers and graduate programs.

Bachelor of Science (BS)

A BS degree provides a more in-depth and specialized education in a particular field of study than a BA degree. BS degrees typically focus on math, science, and technological majors, and usually involve more major-specific courses and fewer opportunities for students to pursue classes outside of their field of study. After graduation, students with a BS degree will be thoroughly trained in their field of study, and will be well equipped to apply for graduate programs or pursue specialized roles in the relevant industry.

What is the difference between a BA and BS degree?

A BA degree places a larger emphasis on social sciences, humanities, and liberal arts, while a BS degree prioritizes science, reasoning, logic, analytics, and quantitative skills. However, BA and BS degrees are not that different when it comes to program structure. Both require you to choose a specific major or area of study, and can be completed in the standard four years.

Some majors can even be completed as either a BA or BS degree. Common programs offered as both a BA and BS include computer science, engineering, mathematics, biology, business, psychology, and economics. If you decide to pursue a BS over a BBA in one of these fields, your degree will require a full course load of relevant topics. Alternatively, if you pursue a BA, you will have the flexibility to explore elective classes in other disciplines, such as philosophy, creative arts, sociology, or history, in addition to your primary focus of study.

Is a BA or BS degree better?

While neither a BA or BS degree is better than the other, choosing the right type of bachelor’s degree will depend on your interests, goals, and future career aspirations.

There are many benefits for getting a BBA degree as an international student. Pursuing a BA exposes you to a wide variety of courses and the opportunity to practice and master a range of beneficial skills, including communication, writing, leadership, critical thinking, and problem solving. Developing these ‘soft skills’ are becoming increasingly more valuable to companies. A BA degree can be a great option to stand out to employers as an international student while demonstrating a widespread area of expertise.

If your goal is to stay and work in the US long term, a BS degree may be a better option. Since BS degrees require you to study your major in depth, having a specialized knowledge base can better position you for the workforce after graduation. Because a BS typically focuses on math, science, and technology, students are often required to pursue ‘real life experience,’ such as internships, lab work, and field studies, in order to successfully complete their degree. This allows you to build practical experience as an international student, and can open you up to more job opportunities and potential visa sponsorship. If you wish to pursue an advanced degree like a Master’s or doctorate, a BS is also preferred.

Which degree should you choose: BA or BS?

Overall, when making the decision between a Bachelor of Arts vs a Bachelor of Science degree, you should consider your long-term goals and career plans. Think about subject areas, questions, or passions that excite you, and start there. As an international student, your decision can shape your path in the US. Consider examining job boards and LinkedIn profiles of current employees to help you determine a degree program that best fits your intended career.

Remember, if you’re unsure what type of degree to choose, that’s ok! College is the time to figure that out and explore. Remember, students typically have until the end of their second year to declare a program of study. To help you determine whether a BA vs BS is more suitable for you, reach out to your university’s career services office or contact college counselors and professors for more guidance.

Do employers prefer a BA or BS Degree?

While some positions require certain degrees, most employers have little preference on the type of degree and instead look at your highest degree level earned, relevant coursework, performance indicators, and extracurricular activities.

As an international student, it’s a good idea to consider pursuing degrees in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), and therefore a BS degree. The US wants to attract foreign talent to maintain its global leadership in technology and science, and is more likely to grant work visa authorization for STEM professionals. Due to increased demand, employers are also willing to pay higher wages and provide visa sponsorship. If you are interested in legally living and working in the US after graduation, pursuing a BS degree in the STEM field may be the best option for you.


Ultimately, the decision to get a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science is entirely up to you. One is not better than the other, and there is no “one size fits all” option. A BS degree will provide you with a more holistic education, whereas a BS degree will involve a more rigid and technical education. In considering which degree to choose as an international student, base your decision on your interests and goals. Whether you are currently a student or still exploring which school to apply to, remember that you can always reach out to the university for academic advice and career guidance.