How to Choose Between a Psychology BA vs BS


What’s the Difference between a Psychology BA vs BS?

Should you pursue a Bachelor of Science degree? Is a Bachelor of Arts degree perfect for your goals? It is important to know the difference between a psychology BA vs BS. 

Both are undergraduate degrees in the field of psychology. The main difference between psychology BA vs BS is the coursework you make take to graduate. Also, career paths and salaries may be different. 

BS students in psychology gain analytical and research skills. BA coursework may instead range in arts, social sciences, and humanities. Potential job fields you may pursue is in business, social work, and journalism. 

In contrast, BA students in psychology gain communication and critical thinking skills. You may also apply these skills in careers like career counselors, lab assistants, and teachers. 

The National Center for Education Statics (NCES) offers some insight in the field. From 2016 to 2017, there 117,000 degrees in this field issued. That is about 6 percent of all bachelor’s degrees for that year. It also found 25% of students seek graduate work. About 22 percent complete a master’s degree in psychology. About 4 to 6 percent earn a doctoral level degree.

Is a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology Enough?

Many students go beyond a bachelor’s degree in psychology. They may pursue a graduate degree. Some may even go further to complete a Ph.D. program. Yet, there may be value in a B.A. or B.S.

Many fields of science have some component of psychology to them. You typically cannot close a deal in business without understanding the psychology of how people make decisions. You also may not be able to cannot teach a class if you do not understand how to communicate in a way to draw people in.

For example, personal management, social work, and education are just a few fields. Even marketing and healthcare may also have components of psychology.  This may be a very valuable degree field, then.

Bachelor of Arts in Psychology

A Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology is one option. You may want to pursue a career in the psychology field. This may include areas such as child psychology. Some may focus on forensic psychology. Others may also want to work in organizational psychology.

This type of degree may also lead to other potential career options. Some may take these courses to support their law degree. Others may take them to help with their social work degree. Political science and education are also potential career paths.

There may be a lot of freedom in choosing a B.A. in this field. The B.A. path typically focus on human behavior. You may wish to learn about why people do things. You may want to explore ideas and concepts related to behaviors.

Many who work in this field may want to pursue a field in applied psychology. That is taking what they learn and applying it to daily life. You may want to help people change and achieve their goals.

You may want to take this path if you love the way the brain works. Yet, your focus may be on helping people. You may want to help with counseling. You may also want to go into homes to support children. 

Bachelor of Science in Psychology

A Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology is a bit different from BA in Psychology. Many take this path if they want to go to medical school. Some may do this if they plan go to graduate school. They may specialize concentrate in areas of research as a result.

Your graduate study may take courses in calculus and biology. This may help you develop skills in the science behind this field. Many who complete this degree may work in mental health facilities. Some work in businesses as well as work in government organizations.

A B. S. degree may be very versatile. Some people may take this science based curriculum because they want to go into medicine. The courses are very fact based. They focus on life sciences. They often may also incorporate computer science.

Compare Psychology BA vs BS

It may be hard to know the difference between a psychology BA vs BS. Both may provide strong research and critical thinking skills. Both degrees may provide a fundamental understanding of the field.

BA programs may often focus on smaller numbers of courses in psychology. They tend to have courses in other fields. BS degrees typically tend to focus more on psychology itself. They may also have smaller numbers of math or elective courses.

This chart offers basic insight. You may need to create a path of your own. The key to these degree programs is to choose an area that is most interesting to you. Take a look at the courses in each degree program at the same school. Compare what they offer and what they may provide to you. Which is best for your future goals?

BA in PsychologyBS in Psychology
Designed for: Students who may want to explore other disciplines while studying PsychologyDesigned for: Students who are more focused on the science basis of Psychology
Potential Outcomes: Earning a BA with entry level opportunitiesPotential Outcomes: Earning a BS with plans to earn Masters and Doctorate
Introduction to Psychology, Social Psychology, Cognitive ProcessesNeuroscience, Statistics, and Psychology
Career Path Options: Caseworker, Child Development Specialist, Career CounselorCareer Path Options: Psychiatrist, Mental Health Facilitator
Certifications: Bachelors of Arts, Psychological First Aid, Mental Health First Aid TrainingCertifications: Mental Health Facilitator Training, Certified Co Occurring Disorders Specialist

Which Psychology BA vs BS Degree May Be Perfect for You?

Consider the type of work you may want to do. Who do you want to work for? What type of people interest you? Do you want to work in a private practice? Do you want to work with those who have mental health disorders? This may help you choose the right degree option.

A B.A. may focus more on liberal arts. It may focus on social sciences. In contrast a B.S. is science focused. Your psychology major courses could be related to helping substance abuse clients. You may also use your psychology degree to build your own practice.

A B.A. degree gives you more flexibility in the curriculum. This may include learning a foreign language. You may take courses in graduate school to work in areas of journalism. Some work in social work. Others also focus on law.

Do you want to work with kids? Do you want to help people develop a career path? You may want to work in social psychology because you want to help people do better for themselves. These are all areas a B.A. may work best.

On the other hand, a B.S. degree typically focuses on natural sciences and biology. It has a strong math focus to it. You may want to go this route if you are interested in working in healthcare. Some people may also take a business focus. Your coursework here may include human resources. You may learn about leadership, too.

Look at your skills, too. This may shed more light on your goals. Do you like working with people? Do you have an interest in the sciences? You may love math. These are all skills often suited to B.S. programs. It also focuses heavily on research.

Possible Program Outcomes

Many psychology degree programs could provide similar learning outcomes. It may help you apply psychological concepts and therapies to situations. You may also spot social and cultural issues.

Values and integrity are also key outcomes. You may learn how to apply basic research methods to clients. These skills may be taught in program specific areas. Improved communication skills are important. You may learn to effectively communicate. It may also include learning to communicate solutions and ideas to others.

Social cultural diversity and societal inequality are often learning outcomes. You also may learn how to analyze situations in these areas. For example, you may need to understand principles. This includes social and biological factors. You may need to be able to speak, write, and interact with others well. You also may need to solve problems based on social outcomes.

Often, a bachelor’s degree in psychology requires about 120 credit hours. That is usually done over four years. You may be able to take part time courses. Some of your high school education may help you complete these programs. Some schools may offer online programs.

What Courses Do You Take for a Psychology BA vs BS Degree Program?

big difference in one psychology program to the next is the type of classes you take. Both are an undergraduate degree. Most have some type of elective options. Most undergraduate degrees also include required courses like math or English.

Then, you may choose specific programs that are most interesting to you. You may pursue courses in developmental psychology or cognition. The psychology department has a lot of cross overs. What you take in a B.A. may transfers to a B.S. down the road. Psychology students may have a wide range of choices for their undergrad as well as graduate studies and other related fields. 

Then, there are some classes that are most common in just the B.A program. Others are common in just the B.S. Let’s take a look at some of those psychology BA vs BS courses

BA in Psychology Courses

Some of the courses you may take in a B.A. in psychology include these.

Introduction to Counseling: Learning different aspects of the foundations of counseling which include, psychological theories, techniques and processes relevant to counseling, professional, ethical, and legal issues; and counseling practice.

Abnormal Psychology: involves understanding the nature, causes, and treatment of different mental disorders.

Family Systems, Structures, and Relationships: Understand couples, families, kids, and other groups and their interactions with society. 

Social Psychology: The study of social context and the way it influences our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

Forensic Psychology: Examines the aspects of human behavior directly related to the legal process. For instance, eyewitness memory, testimony, jury decision making, and criminal behavior.

Human Behavior: Learn about the biological, psychological and social factors that influence how people act or respond to events.

With a psychology bachelor’s degree, you may take courses in areas such as human resources. You may have career goals for law. You may take courses in those areas.

BS in Psychology Courses

Research Methods in Psychology: Learn methods of designing, collecting, analyzing and interpreting data using examples from a variety of specialty areas in psychology.

Quantitative Research Methods in Psychology: Application of certain descriptive and inferential statistical tools in the analysis of psychological measurement of behavior.

Biopsychology: Focused on the structure and function of the nervous system. This course will provide the foundation for understanding the biological basis of behavior

Advanced Research Methods: Understand principles, methods and techniques of quantitative research. Analyze the method and design of quantitative research in academic and non academic journals.  

Cognitive Neuroscience: Explores the cognitive and neural processes that support attention, learning, memory, language, and guided behaviors with an emphasis on the neural mechanisms that form the substrates of human cognition.

There are may often be research opportunities in these programs. Many students may also take more science courses as well. You may be interested in neuroscience or may want to work with medications.

What are Some Career Options with a Psychology BA vs BS?

Which type of job do you plan to pursue? That is the big question. Take the time to research the type of jobs in this field. Then, look at the type of degree you need. In this field of study, it is best to start with your desired job. As a result, many jobs may require a degree in psychology. Some may require just a few courses in psychology. There are also wide range of career options available to many psychology students.

BA in Psychology Sample Career Paths

You may find a variety of jobs with a BA. This may include the following:

Social Worker

social worker typically helps people solve problems. They may also help people cope with struggles. They may work in a mental health clinic. Some may work in child welfare. Others may work in community development organizations. Many could also work in private practice.

2019 Median Annual Pay: $50,470

2019 to 2029 Growth: 13%

Political Scientist

Political scientists typically study the development of political systems. They may work in an office setting. Some may work with public administration. They may earn a Ph.D. and teach. They may also work in research. Many aim to focus on helping in elections. Others may work in developing insights for government.

2019 Median Annual Pay: $122,220

2019 to 2029 Growth: 6%

Mental Health Counselor

mental health counselor focuses on prevention. They typically help to improve emotional health. They may work with those who have addictions. Some may work with families. Others may provide stress management support. They may also help those who are aging

2019 Median Annual Pay: $42,840

2019 to 2029 Growth: 1.4%

Compensation and Benefits Manager

compensation and benefits manager helps to oversee an employee related needs. This includes developing health care plans. They may also work in offices. Some students may have a degree with psychology and businesses classes.

2019 Median Annual Pay: $122,270

2019 to 2029 Growth: 3%

BS in Psychology Sample Career Paths

You may have different options with a BS in Psychology. Some of the jobs you may qualify for include these.

Social and Community Service Managers

Social and Community Service Managers typically oversee a group of people. They likely help supervise programs in organizations. Some may work in nonprofit organizations. Others may also work in for profit social service companies. They may often provide community and social services.

2019 Median Annual Pay: $67,150

2019 to 2029 Growth: 17%

Rehabilitation Counselor

rehabilitation counselor typically helps people with disabilities. This includes those with physical and mental limitations. It may also include developmental conditions. They may work in community rehabilitation centers. Some may work in senior citizen programs.

2019 Median Annual Pay: $35,950

2019 to 2029  Growth: 10%

Probation Officers

Probation officers typically work with people who are law offenders. They may work with those in custody. You also work with those who are reentering life after incarceration. They may help with managing stress. Those working in this field tend to help people to stay on the right path. They may also provide mental health support as needed. Some work strictly to require previously incarcerated people to get a job and maintain it.

2019 Median Annual Pay: $54,290

2019 to 2029  Growth: 4%

Psychology Certification Programs

Adding certifications may help improve resumes. It may provide more advanced training. It may also help you specialize. Some certifications include these:

Mental health first aid training: Program designed to teach skills for responding to the signs of mental illness and substance abuse

Psychological first aid: Certification to help children, adolescents, adults, and families in the immediate aftermath of disaster and terrorism.

Certified Alzheimer caregiver: Demonstrates knowledge of the special needs of persons with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

Interpersonal social rhythm therapy training: Treatment for mood disorders. The program is based on Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT) for depression.

Certification in Thanatology: Designed for working professionals. Students willmay learn how to deliver care for individuals and families dealing with end-of-life healthcare, bereavement issues, and suicide.

Mental health facilitator training program: To reduce the gap between mental health care needs and resources globally. With appropriate training, MHFs learn to apply universal mental health skills to local community experiences.


This is an offer for educational opportunities that may lead to employment and not an offer or guarantee of employment and that may help prepare students to meet the licensing or certification requirements of the field they choose to study. Students should check with the appropriate certifying body to make sure the program they apply to will help meet any licensing or certification requirements. Students should also consult with a representative from the school they select to learn more about career opportunities in that field. Program outcomes vary according to each institution’s specific program curriculum.

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