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What Is The Difference Between A BA And A BS In Psychology?

The life we live, in the past, present, and future, is the total of all our decisions. Some of these decisions are small, and some are great. If you are hoping to pursue a career in psychology, you will be faced with yet another choice: deciding between a Bachelor of Arts degree or a Bachelor of Science degree.

While both degrees are valid and accepted in the field of psychology, the major difference will be the approaches to psychology that each degree will take and the subsequent coursework that will accompany your psychology major in each degree.

If you are faced with the crossroads of deciding which degree to pursue, read along to learn about the major differences between each degree, what are the defining factors, and how you should make your choice.

What Is Psychology?

Psychology is an academic discipline that focuses on the study of the human mind and its functions. Aside from learning about psychology as a subject, you also learn about human behavior and a variety of cognitive approaches.

In recent years, the study of psychology has gained immense popularity and has seen an upward trajectory in educational institutes. Whether this popularity is because of the focus that mental health has recently been given or whether it is because of a natural inclination to study the human mind, the study of psychology is on the rise.

With the academic demand, universities and colleges have needed to accommodate the growing number of students, but psychology has always been present in both the field of science as well as in humanities.

Rooted in scientific studies and focused on the human mind, this field of study has always had a foot in both shoes. But what is the difference between these two degrees, and how will it impact you when you are fully entrenched in your career? Let us look at each degree individually and what opportunities they may provide you with.

Bachelor Of Arts In Psychology

At the very basis of this degree, you are studying in the field of liberal arts. While often mistaken to be less academic than other degrees and assumed to be painted with the broad brush of only performing arts and fine arts, a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree is as academic as it is creative.

A BA degree, while focusing on psychology, also focuses quite greatly on humanities and other social science courses. In this way, BA psychology degrees equip those that are enrolled in this course with skills that will benefit them beyond the field of psychology.

It is in this degree that you will learn writing, language, and other pertinent skills that can ultimately help you connect with individuals on a human level. Many people who pursue a BA degree in psychology are equipped to follow career paths that may not necessarily be in the field of psychology itself.

However, each course and each element of this degree is greatly intertwined with each other, providing students with a well-rounded approach to work life.

Examples Of Courses

When you pursue a BA degree in psychology, there are a number of electives and minor subjects that you can take along with your psychology major. These subjects will later prove to be beneficial if you do choose to pursue a career in psychology.

While these courses may prove to be beneficial in your career path in psychology, it is often found that these courses are non-psychology courses. They can also help you in your career that is not technically psychology-related, allowing you some flexibility to choose a different field of study.

Some of the courses you can choose from that are not directly related to psychology but can prove to be beneficial, including language studies, anthropology, sociology, ethical studies, and a variety of other social science courses that bring with them a unique level of versatility.

Prerequisite modules and courses within the psychology subject will include social psychology, clinical psychology, cognitive psychology, and developmental psychology

Potential Jobs

A BA in psychology is not bound to psychology per se and allows you to dabble in other fields. This takes the pressure off deciding what career you hope to follow at the early age of 18. It is well known that having psychology as a major allows you to be successful in any person-centric role, equipping you with correct engagement skills.

But this opens up a variety of other career options that need not necessarily be psychology. You could pursue a career as a writer, a human resources specialist, a social worker, a teacher, a market researcher, and a sales executive to name a few.

Bachelor Of Science In Psychology

In a step away from a theoretical approach, a BS in psychology takes a more research-specific and scientific approach to psychological theories. Moving away from historical developments, a BS in psychology may seem more hands-on and provide the opportunity for students to actually conduct lab-based and field-based research.

With a keen focus on mental disorders and mental illness, a BS in psychology looks at cognitive psychology through actual brain functions and a physiological approach to the mind and mental well-being.

Examples Of Classes

Some of the classes you can expect to see available to you when you pursue a BS degree are neuropsychology, neurosciences, statistical analysis, and research design and development.

In conducting lab assessments and psycho-social experiments, you will be conducting research in relation to existing psychological theories.

As the world develops, existing data, theories, and information may lose relevance and become obsolete. As new cultures expand and are discovered, psychological theories can be disproved or reformed. In a BS psychology degree, you will be presented with the unique task of making major contributions to psychological theories through updated and relevant research.

Potential Jobs

With the backing of a BS psychology degree, you are given a less diverse but more in-depth approach to pursuing psychology as a career. Possible fields of study, while not as vast as a BA in psychology, include clinical psychology, child psychology, neuropsychology, and psychological research, to name a few.

This specific degree also holds a foothold in pursuing higher degrees that are geared closer toward the medical field. You may find yourself working in the role of a psychologist at medical facilities, consulting with neurosurgeons, or providing post-operative patient care and rehabilitation.

Similarities And Differences Between A BS And BA In Psychology

One of the most notable differences between the two degrees, aside from the names that they hold, is that a BA degree will look at a historical approach to current psychological theories. It will look at how theories have been established and how they have been disproved, how these theories have changed over history, and how they may change in the future.

In a BS degree, you may find yourself setting up actual experimentation to test and assess different psychological theories. This can be in the form of lab assessments or in the form of fieldwork, data collection, and research analysis.

In reality, both degrees cover the same psychology because psychology, in itself, does not hold multiple versions. Both degrees provide the same knowledge of psychology, but the support that each degree receives, in terms of additional course work, is a major difference.

Additionally, both degrees provide and require detailed knowledge and understanding of statistical analysis, as you may need to conduct research and understand research for both degrees.

Career Outlook

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, psychologists earn a median annual salary of $81,040, and there is an expected projected growth in career prospects of 8% over the next decade. This means that despite the degree you opt to pursue, your career in psychology has the potential to be a successful one.

Which Degree is Best?

This is not a straightforward or simple question to answer and ultimately boils down to the person pursuing a degree. One of the greatest things about pursuing a degree in psychology is that whether you are scientifically inclined or just have a passion for working with and helping people, you have a place in this field.

The degree you choose will be highly influenced by your own personal preferences and your personality type.

The choice will also depend on how much time you are hoping to invest into your academic pursuits. A BA in psychology prepares you to immediately enter the workforce, while a BS opens the door for you to pursue higher degrees in psychology.


Both degrees have their benefits, and each contributes a valuable role to the field of psychology. There is no degree that can be seen as better than another, but both provide a different perspective on the same topic. Whichever you decide to pursue, you can know with utmost certainty that you are making a contribution to the field.

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