Most students who are approaching their college applications are considering the kind of degree that they are going to earn, and what subject area they are going to earn it in. Most people know that the undergraduate degree is called a "Bachelors Degree", but what most people don't know is that you can earn a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelors of Science. These are expressed as a B.A. or a B.S. If you're planning to study Biology in college, you may want to earn one or the other depending on your long term goals.
What is a Bachelor's Degree?
A Bachelor's degree in the broadest sense is the degree that a student earns after completing an undergraduate degree program. The Bachelor's degree is typically the very first degree earned after graduating from high school. From there a student has the option to continue his or her education by going on to graduate school or school for more specialized professional study.
There are a few varieties of Bachelors degrees. There is a B.A. or Bachelor of Arts, which is the most general degree an undergraduate student can earn. There is a B.F.A. which is a specialized Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and is typically earned by students who are intent on pursuing a particular form of art as a career. Finally, there is the B.S. or Bachelor of Sciences. This is a more specialized degree and generally has more lab science credits than a B.A. would.
Is a B.S. or a B.A. better for Biology?
Depending on your career goals or interests, you may choose a B.S. over a B.A. In almost every case, students who want to pursue Biological sciences after graduation will go on to further study, so the undergraduate degree will not make or break their career options. However, for students who are very sure of what they want to do, a more specialized degree may be a good choice.
In general, a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology is a degree conferred upon students who have majored in Biology but have also pursued a general and comprehensive liberal arts degree. In addition to their Biology and related science classes, these students have likely also taken courses in the humanities, foreign language, social sciences and or the arts. A B.A in Biology is a general Bachelor's degree with a concentration in Biology.
Conversely, a B.S. in Biology is a more specialized degree. Students who are pursuing a B.S. will likely take fewer general education courses and credits, and spend more of their class time pursuing classes related to Biology or other related sciences. Students who are positive that they want to pursue a natural science, and are planning to go to medical school or to graduate school may choose a Bachelor's of Science, because of its specialization.
What Classes Does a B.S. in Biological Sciences Take?
Generally, a student earning a B.S. will take more classes in the applied sciences than a student earning a B.A. However, the B.S. is not a requirement for students who are hoping to pursue a career in the sciences or to go to medical school. The benefit for students looking to apply to medical school is that the B.S. curriculum may help them get through some of the prerequisite or required classes for medical school which will help them get through medical school more quickly than if they had to make up those credits after graduation.
However, many students with a B.A. choose to pursue medical school after graduation and find that they are able to keep pace with the curriculum and do not mind having to take the classes they could have gotten in undergraduate if they had pursued a B.S. It comes down to student preference. For many students, undergraduate is their last time to pursue or study topics outside of their chosen career field. For this reason, many choose to study all they can in other areas before settling into their career-focused trajectory.
Ashley Friedman is a freelance writer with experience writing about education for a variety of organizations and educational institutions as well as online media sites. She has written for Pearson Education, The University of Miami, The New York City Teaching Fellows, New Visions for Public Schools, and a number of independent secondary schools. She lives in Los Angeles.