The decision over what major to take in university is not one to be taken lightly. Which school you go to and which program you choose will have a lot of bearing on the next few years of your life. And many schools offer two programs for the same major, one resulting in a bachelor of science (BS) degree and the other in a bachelor of arts (BA) degree. Despite their common major specialization, these degrees are quite different.

BA Basics

A BA degree focuses on study within the arts. That doesn’t mean that in a BA you’ll only be studying painting and plays; rather, the arts incorporate the schools of literature, communications, geography, history, political science, sociology and the fine arts. Some of these programs are offered in a BS as well, though in a BA you gain a general education that touches a lot of bases. Each university defines a BA differently, with some having requirements in a second language and others offering great flexibility in the kinds of electives you can take.

BS Basics

While BA degrees are by nature broad or general, science degrees are usually focused and don’t stray far from the sciences. Whether you’re studying mathematics, linguistics, biology or chemistry, a BS looks to build your knowledge of the sciences, with a high degree of focus on your chosen major and a secondary focus on supporting sciences. If you take computer studies or economics, for example, you may be required to take supporting math and statistics courses.

BA Advantages

With some programs, the choice between a BA and a BS comes down to a matter of taste, though BA degrees tend to offer flexibility and choice in your electives. Since your major won’t consume the majority of your classes, you’ll have the time and flexibility in your schedule to find a minor that interests you or to pick up a second major.

BS Advantages

If given the choice between a BA and a BS in a scientific discipline, you may find the science courses related to the major to be stimulating. BS programs often include a lab component, which will let you get hands-on experience with your focus. What BS programs lack in flexibility they make up for in specificity, giving you a deep knowledge of your field. This knowledge is often a great backbone for graduate studies in the sciences.