CLAS Academic Advising Center
Choosing between a BA or BS Degree
Many majors in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) have the option of obtaining either a Bachelor of Arts degree (BA) or a Bachelor of Science degree (BS). For some students the type of degree they will pursue has already been determined by their choice of major, e.g., international relations majors must obtain a BA degree. Other majors may have different degrees entirely. For example, music education students will obtain a BME degree, and those students pursuing an Art major might choose a BFA.
If you have the choice between a BS or a BA, it is helpful to understand the requirements of both. The group of courses required to obtain the BS or BA degree is called a degree cognate.
• The BA cognate requires a 3rd semester proficiency in a classical or modern language of the student's choice. A 3rd semester proficiency means that you will need to successfully complete coursework through the 201 level of the language you choose to study. If you are new to a language, the typical sequence of courses is 101, 102 and then 201. Placement tests are available to students with a pre-college competence in a foreign language who desire advanced placement or waiver or the foreign language requirement.
• The BS cognate requires a group of three or more science-related courses that may involve statistics, a computer course, logic, or research methods courses. The BS cognate courses are tied to the specific major chosen. To find out what your cognate (group of courses) are for your BS degree, check the course catalog, see your faculty advisor, or see a CLAS academic advisor.
Students with this choice often ask which degree (BA or BS) will look better on their resume as they go into the job search after graduation. This is not really the first question to ask yourself when trying to make this decision. We encourage you to consider several factors when trying to make this decision.
The BA: First of all, students can choose from 12 different languages offered by the Classics and Modern Languages and Literature departments to fulfill the BA cognate. Did you start studying a language in high school and want to become more proficient? You might also want to study a language to improve your ability to understand the roots of the English language, or terms relevant to medicine or law (Latin or Greek). You might want to be able to converse with ease with scholars in your chosen field from other countries, or read primary source materials. Or you might want to learn to speak the heritage language of your family (Polish, German, Spanish, etc.) If so, a BA may be right for you.
The BS: Will you be doing research in graduate school or your career? Do you want to be able to understand research reports? Do you want to learn to think more logically and to analyze information? Does your graduate program favor a background in science? Then the BS option is an excellent choice.
In addition, it is helpful to consider also which of these cognates plays to your academic strengths. Finally, consider doing something new and different. If you haven't taken a foreign language (or if you have), consider trying something new.
Don't forget to speak with your faculty advisor to see if they feel that there may be a benefit of one degree over the other.
The advising staff in the CLAS Academic Advising Center is always willing to help you explore your options.
Page last modified March 13, 2014