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BA in Biology or BS in Biology: Choose the Right Degree

BA in Biology or BS in Biology: Choose the Right Degree

The difference between a Bachelor of Arts in Biology and a Bachelor of Science in Biology can sound insignificant to high school students; however, even though these degrees sound similar, they can be quite different depending on the coursework and your future goals Let's delve further into each one to see which degree may best fit your academic and professional aspirations.
As we mentioned in the Economics BA and BS article, BA stands for Bachelor of Art, and BS stands for Bachelor of Science. BA and BS degrees will teach you a similar depth and breadth of knowledge in biology; however, each degree will focus on different aspects and applications of biology. To start, BA degrees are almost always more flexible than BS degrees; you’ll have more electives and more program choices. For example, you could take a second major. On the other hand, BS degrees have more mandatory math and science courses, and usually require specific science classes that connect with your major. In general, BA degrees are more theoretical, while BS degrees involve more practical skills.
Coursework and Requirements for BA in Biology and BS in Biology


Within your first two years of college, a BA in Biology will offer a similar series of required classes as a BS in Biology in terms of core classes and general requirements like writing, history, social science, calculus, etc.. Let’s compare the degree programs for a BA and BS in Biology from two different schools side by side to better understand the requirements:

Biology (BA) – Fisher CollegeBiology (BS) – Tufts University

Core Courses:
SC120 General Biology I
SC133 Principles of Chemistry I
SC134 Principles of Chemistry II
SC210 Public Health & Epidemiology
SC213 Microbiology
SC214 General Biology II
SC225 Introduction to Biotechnology
SC312 Cell and Molecular Biology
SC313 Fundamentals of Biochemistry
SC314 Genetics
SC402 Evolutionary Biology
SC450 Senior Seminar
SC460 Internship (Biology Focus)
Experiential Learning
Biology Program Elective (3)
Biology Program Elective (300/400 level) (2)

General Education Requirements
CS101 Computer Concepts & Applications
EN101 English I
EN102 English II
EN201 Intermediate Writing
IS105 Common Experience
MA107 College Algebra or MA 117 Finite Math1
MA121 Basic Statistics
MA221 Statistical Data Analysis
Humanities Elective
Social Science Elective (2)

Core Courses:
Biology 13 w/Lab: Cells and Organisms
Biology 14 w/Lab: Organisms and Populations
Biology 41: General Genetics
One Course in Biology of Cells (Bio 162: Introduction to Biotechnology)
One Course in Biology of Organisms
One Course in Biology of Populations
One Course in Quantitative Biology

Elective: Two electives
Bio 131: Principles of Medical Imaging
Bio 174: Biomaterials & Tissue Engineering

Advanced Laboratory Course

If you compare between two degrees, they share a similar list of requirements such as:

  • General Biology
  • Introduction to Biotechnology
  • Principles of Chemistry
  • Cell and Molecular
  • Biology/Molecular Biology
  • Public Health & Epidemiology /
  • Principles of Epidemiology
  • Microbiology
  • Fundamentals of Biochemistry/Biochemistry I
  • Genetics
  • Evolutionary Biology

Most schools only offer either a BA in Biology or a BS in Biology, but not both. The majority of Liberal Arts colleges will likely offer a BA in Biology due to its focus on liberal arts education and its integration with other disciplines. More STEM focused universities will typically offer a BS in Biology, or even both. There are exceptions, such as Providence College, a liberal arts college that offers both degrees.

Let’s look at the school’s degrees to compare the differences between the two better.

Required Courses BA in BiologyBS in Biology
Two semesters of General Biologyxx
General Chemistryxx
Organic Chemistryxx
General Physicsxx
One semester of Introduction to Cell and Molecular Geneticsxx
 Five additional biology courses, of which three (3) must be laboratory courses (i.e., four credit hours).Seven additional courses, of which three (3) biology courses with laboratories (4 credits each) and four (4) approved science courses above the introductory level elected from biology, chemistry, computer science, mathematics, and physics

Regarding the difference between a Bachelor of Arts in Biology and a Bachelor of Science in Biology, the BS student is required to take more science-related courses, including but not limited to biology. BS students have more variety of courses and freedom to tailor their courses within their degree; however, unlike the BS program, a BA in Biology allows you to take courses outside of your degree program if you wish to combine biology with another subject, such as public health or public relations.

2. Future Outlook

Both degrees can have the similar benefits for pursuing careers or an advanced degree; however, your career options can look vastly different depending on your learning route in college. The BS track is more appropriate for students who want to pursue a research career, graduate school in science – medical or dental, or a job in a specialized field of biology. Students following a BA track can apply to many fields that offer biology or science-related positions. Some universities categorize BS as “pure biology” and BA as “applied biology” to highlight this distinction.

We have seen BA students accept various teaching and educational roles, healthcare management, or jobs in environmental fields. Since BA students tend to have less extensive research experience or in-depth knowledge of specialized topics, they are more likely to work in front-facing roles related to science fields. With the training from colleges, BA students will likely enter the workforce as pharmacists, researchers, or biologists in healthcare organizations or government agencies.

According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, Biochemists and Biophysicists earn $104,810; Microbiologists earn $91,840; Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists earn $ 70,510; and Biological Scientists, in general, earn $89,910. The overall salary of students who study biology is higher than the national average and always has more room for growth and advancement.


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