BA in Economics vs BS in Economics: Choose the right degree

High school students who are interested in economics regularly stumble upon the question of whether they should pursue a BA in Economics or BS in Economics. Even though these degrees sound similar, the two degrees can be quite different depending on the school that offers them.
BA in Economics vs BS in Economics: Choose the right degree

For a start, BA in Economics is almost always more flexible than B.S. degrees. You’ll have more electives and more choices in programs; you could take a second major, for example. B.S. degrees have more mandatory courses in math and science and usually have specific science classes that connect with your major. In general, B.A. degrees are theoretical, and B.S. degrees involve more practical skills.

BA stands for Bachelor of Art, and BS stands for Bachelor of Science. Both BA and BS degrees will teach you a similar depth and breadth of knowledge in economics; however, each degree will focus on one aspect of Economics throughout 4 years in college. We will discuss each element that makes the two degrees have similarities and differences.

1. Coursework and requirements

In general, both degrees will teach you the foundations of economics: microeconomics and macroeconomics, along with the societal and analytical approach to solving economic problems. Some main differences in coursework between the two majors are in their depth and focus. 

Let’s take a look at the courses required for students in BA in Economics and BS in Economics degrees at the University of Washington

Bachelor of Arts (BA)

Bachelor of Science (BS)

Prerequisites:

ECON 200: Introduction to Microeconomics (5 credits)

ECON 201: Introduction to Macroeconomics (5 credits)

English Composition (5 credits)

STAT 311: Elements of Statistical Methods (or approved substitute) (5 credits)

MATH 124: Calculus with Analytic Geometry (5 credits)

Prerequisites:

ECON 200: Introduction to Microeconomics (5 credits)

ECON 201: Introduction to Macroeconomics (5 credits)

English Composition (5 credits)

STAT 311: Elements of Statistical Methods (or approved substitute) (5 credits)

MATH 124: Calculus with Analytic Geometry I (5 credits)

MATH 125: Calculus with Analytic Geometry II (5 credits)

MATH 126: Calculus with Analytic Geometry III (5 credits)

Upper-Division Coursework:

ECON 300: Intermediate Microeconomics (5 credits)

ECON 301: Intermediate Macroeconomics (5 credits)

ECON 382: Introduction to Econometrics (5 credits)

5 “Elective” ECON 4XX-level courses  (25 credits)

Upper-Division Coursework:

ECON 300: Intermediate Microeconomics (5 credits)

ECON 301: Intermediate Macroeconomics (5 credits)

3 “Theory & Methods” 4XX-level courses (15 credits)

3 “Elective” ECON 4XX-level courses  (15 credits)

Reviewing the classes in these degrees, UW’s BA in Economics BA has fewer Calculus courses compared to its BS in Economics. In general, BS in Economics programs require 2 or 3 classes in Calculus, while BA in Economics programs require more theory-based economics courses. However, BA in Economics and BS in Economics degrees can have the same requirements, like in Northeastern’s case. Regardless of the degree students choose, they have the same amount of requirements and electives to choose from in working toward degree completion. 

Therefore, if students focus more on the social aspect of economics and are interested in the “challenging and analytical approach to explaining social phenomena, they are recommended to take the BA route.” If students are more drawn to the analytical side of economics and prefer to do more calculations, a BS in Economics is more suitable for them. 

2. Future Outlook

Upon graduation, students have the option to work after university or pursue post-graduate studies. Either a BA in Economics or a BS in Economics will offer many career opportunities as an entry-level analyst at many corporations. According to Temple University, the BA in Economics “helps a student understand the economic aspect of current events” and is “good preparation for careers in law and business”. Therefore, students also have the option to enter other disciplines that requires an in-depth understanding of economics, like law and politics. For jobs that require a decent understanding of statistics like consulting, operations, or research, both BS and BS in Economics degree candidates would be qualified for these roles. 

If the academic world is that interests you, a BS in Economics degree would be a more appropriate choice. The University of Washington stated a BS in Economics is a good start in preparing you for a Master’s or Ph.D. in economics since the BS degree will give you enough foundation in economic theory and calculus classes for the advanced degree. If students want to learn more about business in addition to economics, graduate studies in business administration (generally called MBA) will also require a strong foundation in social science and economics studies. 

Each degree within economics will have a different career outlook and choosing the appropriate degree from the beginning will save you time and effort in preparing for the next step in your life. However, keep in mind that not all schools offer both BA and BS degrees in economics. Liberal arts colleges like Boston College only offer the BA degree, while other big universities like Northeastern University or the University of Washington will have both options for students to choose from. 

The difference between the two degrees can be a big factor in choosing a school, especially for international students who are looking to pursue a STEM Economics degree with a focus on the analytical side. For US domestic students, they have more flexibility and freedom to choose between the two, because they can always take more statistics classes if they are interested in analytical economics, or study more theory-based classes if they are interested in the social aspect of economics. 

Overall, we are excited and happy to hear that you have decided on a major for college and we can’t wait to see your future journey. If you just discovered economics and are interested in improving and strengthening your skills, consider registering for Aralia’ upcoming economics class: 

ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Description: Students will use college-level economic theory and models to analyze the financial impact on the global economy. The economic tutor will provide students with the models and tools necessary to write an economic research paper. The economic research project encourages students to integrate their acquired knowledge of economic theory, phenomenon, data, and polic.

Class schedule: Rolling enrollment throughout the year, 15 classes total, 90 minutes each class

HIR ACADEMIC WRITING CONTEST - ECONOMIC CATEGORY

Description: Students will use college-level economic theory and models to analyze economic issues of major significance today, connected to international affairs. The instruction will provide students with the tools necessary to write an 800-1,200 word essay, which can then be submitted to the Harvard International Review Academic Writing Contest. The class will guide students to integrate their acquired knowledge of economic theory, phenomena, data, and policy, and to apply this knowledge to studying a topic shaping the world today, based on the theme of “Globalization vs. Isolation.” Students will gain the analytical tools to make informed policy recommendations for how to best address the economic issues raised in their article.

Class schedule: Rolling enrollment throughout the year, 8 classes total with 2 group sessions and 6 one-on-one sessions. 

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