Written by Ashley Murphy

Do you know the difference between a BA and a BSc degree program? What if we started talking about a BBA? Or an MBA? Are you feeling overwhelmed? Or just slightly confused? If so, don't worry; because although there are more options for a bachelor's degree than ever before, and that choice can often leave us a bit disorientated, with so many options there is sure to be a degree that is right for you. But with so many opportunities to explore, how do you know which is the best one for you? And while only you can answer that question, deciphering some of the terminology will help you narrow down the search.

So if you're getting ready to apply for college, here's what you need to know about BA, BSc, and BBA degrees.

What is a BA? 

A Bachelor of Arts (BA) is an undergraduate degree program that specializes in the liberal arts, which include subjects literature, philosophy, social sciences, and history. They are also known as the humanities and can claim to be the foundation for academic learning, especially in the western world. The first recorded use of the term was found in the works of the Roman philosopher and statesman Cicero. In one of his earliest works, written around 75 BC, Cicero refers to the 'artes liberales', which translates as "free art or principled practice." In other words, the liberal arts were the first systemized attempts to uncover the universal principles which underlie the very nature of existence and what it means to be human. And this was not a purely academic exercise. Both the ancient Greeks and Romans saw the liberal arts as the highest possible expression of the human mind and a fundamental part of building stable, cohesive societies which encouraged all citizens to play an active role in civic life. 

These same ideas were taken up many Western philosophers and thinkers during the 17th and 18th century. Collectively, they would go on to create a profoundly influential movement known the Enlightenment. This period was characterized by religious skepticism, scientific empiricism, progress, constitutional government, and individual liberty. In other words, the democratic principles that are held in such high esteem by much of the world can be traced back to the Enlightenment, which can then be linked to the ancient world’s first formalized inquiry into the nature of humankind via the liberal arts. 

The benefits are studying for a BA

Firstly, a BA is a great way to make yourself stand out to potential employers. In fact, for many jobs, it's absolutely essential. In the USA, almost 60% of all jobs require a bachelors degree. And better job prospects always means higher earning potential -- some studies suggest a BA is worth up to $1.3 million in lifetime earnings. 

Spending three or fours years studying for a BA will help you develop the skills to succeed in the modern workplace. You will learn how to approach problems critically, while always looking for innovative new approaches to the old ways of doing things. You will also have the ability to construct strong and convincing arguments, making sure that everyone understands the value of your ideas. After all, many potentially great careers never get off the ground because people don't have the confidence or the capability to present their ideas to other people. 

What is a BSc? 

Whereas a BA is a bachelor of arts, a BSc is a bachelor of science. This is where you'll find the ‘hard’ sciences such as physics, chemistry, and biology, as well as maths and computing degrees. A BSc lasts between three to five years and tends to focus on a specific subject area, preparing students for a career in professional (and typically well-paid) fields like engineering and software design.

There is still plenty of room for big ideas in the BSc subjects. Even physics requires students to have plenty of imagination. Black holes, string theory, and the big bang are all grounded in scientific principles, but they can only really exist if the theorist can conceptualize them as abstract concepts before or after their discovery. That being said, any Bsc student will need all the skills often associated with the scientific method. These include a logical and systematic approach to problem-solving, strong math skills, and the ability to interpret and synthesize large amounts of data. 

The benefits are studying for a BSc

Much like a BA, a BSc can be a great entry point into your chosen career path. Many BSc degrees are designed to give students a specific set of skills for well-paid professions with real job security, including engineering, medicine, and software design. And given their close links to these industries, BSc programs will often include opportunities to take part in work placements or internships while studying. These are one of the best ways to impress potential employees, bolster your CV, and build up a network of industry contacts.

Generally speaking, a BSc is more geared towards extensive research and is a better option for students who would like to pursue a career in academia. Many BSc programs were created for this specific person and contain built-in postgraduate degrees. They are also the best choice for students who want to work in niche professions, including botany, zoology, forensic science, and biotechnology. 

What is a BBA? 

Students who want to make an impact in the business world can opt for a BA or BSc in business. Alternatively, they can enroll in a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA.) Lasting between three to four years, a BBA provides a broad overview of what it takes to build a successful business. Core subject areas include accounting, marketing, and operational management. In the second and third years, students chose more specialized modules, such as economics, legal administration, supply chain management, and public relations.

Again, like a BSc, a BBA is an excellent option for students who have a clear career path in mind. For example, if you are really interested in human resources, a BBA will allow you to specialize in this particular field. You will look at relevant case studies, go on industry visits, and gain some 'real-world' experience through work placements. 

The benefits are studying for a BBA

While a BA or a BSc in business are always valuable, a BBA will show potential employers that you understand the fundamental principles behind building and growing a business. Opting for BBA and then specializing in your area of interest demonstrates focus, commitment, and ambition -- qualities that carry a high premium in very competitive job spaces. If you are applying for positions at the world’s best companies, you will be up against the best graduates from around the globe -- anything that can make you stand out among such high caliber competition is a huge advantage.

Also, if you aim to set up a business or make a mark as a young entrepreneur, a BBA will teach you everything you need to know about turning your big ideas into big profits. Or maybe you see yourself overseeing a large multinational company or financial institute? If so, a BBA will prepare you for further study. Many BBA graduates go onto specialized master's programs or a Master of Business Administration (MBA).  BBAs are internationally recognized degrees which take around four years to complete and are challenging for even the most talented students. However, you will likely come out of your program with the skills and contacts to succeed at the highest levels of the business world.

Knowing the difference between a BA, a BSc, and a BBA is the first step to making sure you pick the right degree. All you need to do now is to find the right program at the right college. As always, do lots of research on all of your options. Make sure you've got a plan B -- and maybe even a plan C! Get those applications in early and then start preparing yourself for all the exciting challenges that lie ahead...

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