Biology is the science of life and living systems. It has applications in a wide variety of disciplines, from medicine to environmental science to bio-computing. Many universities offer students two different degrees in general biology, a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science. These two degrees share a large number of courses and requirements, but differ in some key areas. The choice of which degree depends in large part on what type of career a student is interested in pursuing after graduation.
B.A. Career Options
A Bachelor of Arts in general biology covers all of the fundamental areas of biological science and the basic principles of the physical sciences as they relate to biology. Students who choose this program are often seeking to use their open elective credits to obtain a teaching certificate so they can become primary or secondary school teachers upon graduation. Additionally, students who are interested in careers in health care administration may pursue the Bachelor of Arts in biology and take additional classes in business, health care administration and leadership.
While the specific credit requirements vary from program to program, generally a Bachelor of Arts degree requires fewer credit hours in biology than a Bachelor of Science degree. Students in a Bachelor of Arts program take introductory biology, general chemistry, general physics, and either statistics or calculus as lower-division courses. Upper-division requirements include genetics, microbial, animal or human physiology, cell biology, an ecology course like biological oceanography and an organismal biology course like insect taxonomy or ornithology.
B.S. Career Options
A Bachelor of Science in biology emphasizes mathematics and science courses and prepares students for careers in biological research, laboratory work or master’s and doctoral programs in the biological sciences. A biology degree can lead to a career in organism biology like botany or zoology, environmental management, health care, technical writing and pharmaceutical sales. Graduates from Bachelor of Science programs also pursue professional degrees in medicine, dentistry or pharmacy.
The exact number of credit hours depends on the program, but the Bachelor of Science degree generally requires more credit hours within the major than the Bachelor of Arts degree. In addition to math classes like calculus, students in the Bachelor of Science program are required to take multiple semesters of introductory classes in biology, chemistry and physics, as well as organic chemistry. Bachelor of Science programs also emphasize laboratory or field experience through classes like parasitology laboratory, field ecology and lab in cell biophysics.
- San Francisco State University: Bachelor of Arts in General Biology
- Rutgers University: Major Requirements for the Bachelor of Science in Biology
- Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis: Bachelor of Science in Biology Course Plan
- Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis: Biology Careers
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