Bachelor of Science vs. Bachelor of Arts in Psychology

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A bachelor’s degree is an undergraduate degree that typically requires between three and five years to complete. There are several categories of bachelor’s degrees, with the two most common examples including the Bachelor of Science (B.S.) and the Bachelor of Arts (B.A.). 

Suppose you’re thinking about pursuing an undergraduate degree in psychology. In that case, you’ll need to understand the differences between a Bachelor of Science in Psychology vs. a Bachelor of Arts — not only in terms of how the curriculum differs but also in what sort of professional role you’d like to work in once you graduate. Learning these differences will enable you to determine what kind of program best aligns with your interests, career goals, and skills. 

This guide will provide a side-by-side comparison and help you choose between a B.A. and B.S. in Psychology, including examples of typical courses and how their scope and focus differ. It will also cover five career paths you can explore with a degree in psychology, including job duties, salary info, and details about the level of growth expected in the field. 

Bachelor of Science in Psychology Overview

A Bachelor of Science is typically a four-year degree but may be completed later or earlier depending on factors like the program structure and student’s course load. While equivalent to a B.A. degree, a B.S. tends to be more research-oriented, whereas a B.A. tends to be broader in scope with a more prominent liberal arts component to the curriculum.

Let’s take a closer look at the focus of a B.S. in Psychology, then compare it against a Bachelor of Arts degree. 

Focus of a B.S. in Psychology Program

A Bachelor of Science in Psychology is designed to provide students with a solid foundation in psychology but traditionally places a greater emphasis on science and mathematics than a B.A. program. Compared to a Bachelor of Arts program, the courses in a B.S. program are more geared toward preparing students for clinical roles and research-related career paths. 

Typical Courses in a B.S. in Psychology Program

The specific coursework required to earn a Psychology B.S. will differ from program to program. Keeping that in mind, you should expect to complete core psychology courses along with classes involving statistics, data analytics, neuroscience, and quantitative research methodologies. The program may culminate with a thesis or capstone project, such as a long-form paper or research project. 

Bachelor of Arts in Psychology Overview

The Bachelor of Arts in Psychology is similar to the Bachelor of Science, and a student who graduates from a B.A. program will possess the same educational qualifications as a student who graduates from a B.S. program. However, the Bachelor of Arts is arguably the more versatile degree type due to the broader spectrum of courses typically covered in its curriculum, as we’ll explore below. 

Focus of a B.A. in Psychology Program

While a B.S. curriculum will generally focus on math and science, a B.A. curriculum is more likely to include electives and the humanities, such as courses around language and history. These courses make the B.A. in Psychology ideal for students who are interested in roles other than research, such as entering into marketing, law, or social work. 

Typical Courses in a B.A. in Psychology Program

Psychology coursework varies by B.A. program but typically addresses topics and issues like social psychology and human development. Here are a few examples of core and elective courses that are open to undergraduate students enrolled in NU’s Bachelor of Arts in Psychology program

  • Biological Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental Psychology 
  • Drugs, Values, and Society
  • Introduction to Psychopathology 
  • Social Psychology

The program culminates with a capstone project or, for Honors Students, the option to complete a guided study project. Learn more about capstone courses and projects.

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What’s the Difference Between a B.S. and a B.A. in Psychology?

The chief difference between a B.A. and B.S. in Psychology is that a B.A. program enables students to explore more of the social sciences and humanities alongside the core psychology curriculum. By comparison, the standard curriculum for a B.S. program is more rigorous when it comes to courses like statistics, quantitative research, and data analysis. 

Since every school’s programs are different, it’s advisable to speak with an admissions counselor or department head about the core and elective coursework, as well as the thesis project.

Curriculum Differences Between a B.A. and B.S. in Psychology

The core curriculum for a B.A. program typically covers topics like social, cognitive, and developmental psychology. The curriculum for a B.S. program is usually less concerned with more social subjects—like language or anthropology—and more concerned with technical subjects—like neuroscience, statistics, personality research, and psychopharmacology. 

Similarities Between a B.A. and B.S. in Psychology

While there are some significant differences between B.A. and B.S. degrees, there are also many similarities between these two types of psychology programs. For example, both cover core psychology courses, both prepare students to pursue graduate degrees like the Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis, and both are typically four-year programs. An exception would be a scenario where the student opts to complete an accelerated course of study, which is an option for eligible students at National University. 

Career Options Come with a Psychology Degree

Whether you earn a B.S. or B.A. degree, the skills you acquire through a psychology program can prepare you for a wide range of job positions, including careers in fields like market research and education. Below, we’ll explore five examples of careers that you can explore with a degree in psychology, including: 

  • Human Resources (HR) Specialist 
  • Market Research Analyst 
  • Neuropsychologist 
  • School Counselor 
  • Social Worker

Due to the similarities they share, both B.S. and B.A. degrees in psychology can prepare you for overlapping roles. However, because their curriculum tends to be more comprehensive in scope, B.A. degrees are typically best suited for students who want to pursue fields like social work or criminal justice. B.S. degrees, with their strong emphasis on science and mathematics, may appeal more to students who wish to enter academic, clinical, and research-focused roles. 

While a bachelor’s degree can help you qualify for various entry-level roles, more advanced or specialized positions may require applicants to have a master’s or doctoral degree. Explore master’s degree programs at NU, including options to study online. 

Human Resources (HR) Specialist

Human resources might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about a psychology degree, but a background in psychology can provide the perfect springboard into the corporate world. Plus, most HR specialist positions are open to applicants with bachelor’s degrees, so you won’t need to complete a master’s or doctoral program and can get your career started sooner. 

As an HR specialist, you’ll typically be responsible for tasks like conducting job interviews, checking applicants’ backgrounds, and assisting new hires with employee orientation, among other HR-related duties. The BLS reports that HR specialists earn a median salary of around $62,300, with the top 10% earning over $108,100. The BLS expects this field to grow by 8%, considered “faster than average,” through 2031.

Social Worker

If your goal is to become a licensed social worker, you’ll typically need a master’s degree from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. A B.A. or B.S. in psychology will provide you with a solid foundation for pursuing your graduate studies.

As a social worker, your role frequently involves offering assistance, guidance, and representation to individuals in need. These may include people dealing with disabilities, serious health conditions, or societal challenges like insufficient housing, joblessness, or struggles with addiction. The BLS reports that social workers earn a median salary of $50,390, with the top 10% earning closer to $83,000. This field is expected to grow by a “faster than average” 9% rate over the coming decade. 

Market Research Analyst

To create effective marketing campaigns, organizations need to understand what motivates people, how humans behave, and why consumers make decisions. A background in psychology can be a valuable asset when pursuing a career in marketing or market research.

As a market research analyst, you’ll study and forecast sales trends, gather consumer behavior data, and generate client reports. BLS data shows that the median salary for this position is just under $64,000, with the top 10% earning twice as much: more than $128,000. Additionally, the field is projected to grow by a whopping 19% — “much faster than average” — through 2031. 


According to the American Psychological Association (APA), a neuropsychologist is a type of clinical psychologist who specializes in “the relationships between [the] brain and behavior, particularly as these relationships can be applied to the diagnosis of brain disorder[s]” and their treatments. 

The BLS does not currently supply salary data for neuropsychologists. However, data reported to Indeed suggests that people in this field earn an average salary ranging from around $87,200 to over $237,600. Average earning ranges vary by state, with California and Nevada both ranking in the top 10 according to ZipRecruiter. 

School Counselor

Most states require you to have a master’s degree at minimum in order to practice as a school counselor, along with meeting certain fieldwork requirements. A Bachelor of Arts or Science in Psychology provides you with a solid background to pursue your graduate degree

According to the BLS, school and career counselors and advisors earn an average salary of around $60,500 per year. The top 10% earn approximately $98,200. This field also offers plenty of job opportunities, with the BLS projecting 10% (“faster than average”) growth over the period from 2021 through 2031. 

Based on the specific employer and their geographical location, certain positions may primarily, or even solely, be available to candidates holding a master’s or doctoral degree. For example, you may need a master’s degree to become a licensed clinical social worker or school counselor in certain U.S. states. Earning your B.S. or B.A. is a crucial first step toward getting the advanced degree you need to qualify for your dream job. 

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Choosing The Right Psychology Degree Program for You

Here’s a checklist of some key factors you should consider when deciding what type of degree in psychology is right for you: 

  • Would you rather attend class online, on campus, or a combination of both formats? 
  • Are you interested in pursuing a master’s or doctoral degree in the future? 
  • What do your career and professional aspirations look like? 
  • What do your cost of living and salary requirements look like? 
  • What are your talents, hobbies, aptitudes, and interests? 

Choosing a college major is a huge decision. Our program finder is the perfect place to start your research, or you can contact the National University admissions office to request additional information. 

Earn Your Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree in Psychology at National University 

If you’re interested in exploring a career as a psychologist, psychiatrist, therapist, counselor, or a related profession, consider earning your degree at National University. Programs we offer include the Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, the Bachelor of Arts in Integrative Psychology, the Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology, and more. 

Many of our flexible degree programs are available both online and on-campus, enabling you to learn at your own pace whenever and wherever it’s most convenient. Scholarships and financial assistance are available for students who qualify, including the NU Key Grant Scholarship and discounts for military veterans
Learn more about earning your bachelor’s degree online, or talk to our friendly enrollment counselors about National University’s admission requirements. You can also apply online or explore our other psychology and sociology degree programs.

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