Students who are about to enter college are probably at least vaguely familiar with the letters B.A. and B.S. For most students, the B.A. or Bachelor of Arts is the degree they will graduate with, regardless of their major. However, for certain subject areas, there is the option to graduate with a Bachelor of Science or B.S. degree. Depending on your career goals and your interest in the field of sociology, either one may be the right choice.
What Is Sociology?
Sociology is a field that is generally considered to be part of the humanities discipline. Sociology is a field of study concerned with the ways in which human beings interact, organize themselves into groups, tribes and factions. It also explores the way these organizations and their consequences affect behavior, attitude and quality of life for people in a given society or group.
Sociology is linked both to psychology and to anthropology, as the discipline touches on cultural norms and customs as well as human behavior and brain function. Studies in sociology are related to a variety of disciplines outside the classroom. Public health, government and city planning, architecture, advertising, marketing, merchandising and real estate are all influenced by sociology, and each of these disciplines has a need for people with this background.
A degree in sociology is also highly sought after in the world of business. An understanding of motivations, social decision-making and the ways in which human beings strive for happiness and satisfaction are the cornerstone of any successful business enterprise that endeavors to be a critical part of people's lives. On the other side of the coin, a background in sociology is also very much sought after among people who work in the public sector, including public health, public policy and education.
What Is a Bachelor's Degree?
For students who are beginning to look at colleges, or are in their first year, the bachelor's degree is their short-term goal. Not every bachelor's degree is earned in a specific discipline. In most situations, a student will earn a bachelor's degree with a specific major or concentration, but it is also possible to simply get a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science without a specific concentration.
Generally, when a student selects a specific area of focus or concentration during the undergraduate years, it is because he or she has a good idea of what to do following graduation. In the case of a discipline like sociology, the student may decide as early as his or her freshman year, that this is the discipline he or she is interested in pursuing. Since sociology is most often pursued through research, many students choose to go on to graduate school and even Ph.D. programs after completing their bachelor's.
When a student has a general sense of the degree of education he or she is hoping to pursue, he or she may begin to look at master's programs and even Ph.D. programs. The requirements for students who are hoping to begin a master's program soon after earning their bachelor's degree may help inform the courses that students take during their undergraduate years. On the other hand, a student who knows he or she wants to pursue sociology may want to use some of the undergraduate curricula to explore areas outside of sociology before committing to one single focus.
What Are the Differences between a Sociology B.S. or B.A.?
Students working on their bachelor's degrees are often confused when it comes to selecting whether or not they should be earning a B.A. or a B.S. Because sociology straddles the sciences and the humanities, there is the possibility of focusing more on the scientific aspect of the discipline. Students who are interested in pursuing this route would probably prefer to earn a B.S.
A bachelor of arts in sociology means that the student's curriculum will most likely focus on the aspects of the liberal arts of the discipline. This course of study is for the students who know that they are interested in sociology but are not yet 100 percent certain that they want to pursue further study or devote their academic and professional career to the discipline. These students will likely take a majority of their courses in sociology but will also take classes in other disciplines in the humanities and the arts.
A bachelor of science in sociology is much more geared toward the student who is planning to pursue an academic and ultimately a professional career as a sociologist or in a discipline closely related to sociology. A bachelor of science curriculum is more specific and is devoted to preparing the undergraduate student for graduate-level work. Students earning a B.S. can expect to study research theory and methodology as well as public health, mass media and family and culture.
Should You Get a Sociology B.S. or a B.A.?
Depending on the career you want to have, you should probably select one or the other bachelor's in sociology before the end of your undergraduate career. If you know for sure that you intend to pursue an advanced degree and a career in sociology, selecting a bachelor of science is an excellent choice.
This degree will not only help you to focus on the discipline more during your undergraduate years, but you may find that you have a leg up when it comes time to apply for graduate school. Universities may be impressed with your focus and dedication.
In some cases, you may even find that pursuing a B.S. during your graduate years has made you eligible to skip certain courses at the graduate level because you have already completed some of the prerequisite courses. This will give you a head start on pursuing your Ph.D. if that is your goal.
In other cases, students who think that they want to pursue sociology as their career but are unsure that they want to study one topic to the exclusion of others will want to pursue a sociology B.A. This will allow them to dip toes into the waters of sociology while still exploring and pursuing disciplines that are unrelated but may help to propel them forward toward the career that they want.
Earning a B.A. in sociology is an excellent background for someone who is planning to pursue a career in either the arts, business, communications, science, government, public health or any number of other fields.
Can You Get a B.A. in Sociology Online?
Like many things since the advent of the internet, online education has become incredibly diverse. What began as a source for only online colleges that offered very limited degrees has expanded to include online programs for both online-only universities as well as established universities. If students are interested in pursuing a B.A. in sociology online, it is a good idea for them to base their decision on the kind of program they are hoping to matriculate at.
The short answer is yes. You can earn a B.A. in sociology online. Many online universities offer classes and even degree programs in sociology and can be tailored to a student's schedule. Earning a B.A. online may be an especially good idea for students who have full-time jobs, have families to care for or live in spaces so rural that they would be unable to attend classes in person.
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.