Physical science is a term that includes several areas of science, such as chemistry, physics and astronomy. Life sciences -- such as biology and anatomy -- are not included in this grouping. There are two undergraduate degree options for those interested in pursuing physical science as a career, such as for teaching or research: a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science.

Bachelor of Arts

A Bachelor of Arts in physical science provides students with a broad base of knowledge that includes interdisciplinary study. The B.A. is the most common degree in the humanities, in part because it includes a larger selection of classes in subject areas outside the major. A B.A. in physical science typically includes a number of core classes such as English and the humanities, as well as more core science classes in other disciplines, such as the life sciences. A Bachelor of Arts degree is typically considered a more theoretical degree.

Bachelor of Science

A Bachelor of Science degree is considered to be the more practical degree, and it focuses on greater specialization in the field, as well as more hands-on experience. The B.S. includes fewer core classes and requires more classes in the major. There are not as many opportunities for electives, and the courses that are required tend to focus on practical application of methodologies rather than on just learning the theory behind them.


The required coursework and credits for a B.A. or B.S. degree will depend on the program you choose. At Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, students who choose the Bachelor of Science degree must take 18 more units in the major, and more of those major units have to be taken at the upper level. Since more courses are required in the major in a Bachelor of Science program, these classes are typically taken earlier in the program, such as in the first and second years of study. Labs and practicums are also a more common feature of a B.S. program.

Career Prospects

The choice between a Bachelor of Arts degree or a Bachelor of Science degree depends upon your career goals. A B.A. is suited for jobs that require a broad range of knowledge, such as teaching. A B.S. is the better choice for jobs that require practical application of theories, such as a field researcher. Neither degree is inherently more marketable than the other.