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BA or BSc: Which one is better?

BA or BSc: Which one is better?
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Which is better: BA or BSC?

It has to be said, whether a BA or a BSc degree is better is one of the most common debates you will come across while at university.

If, like many, you have just finished your A Levels and are looking to head to university in the near future, you’ll probably want to know the answer to this long term debate!

Is one of these types of degree actually inherently better than the other?

Well, as you might expect, it really depends on what you’re looking for from a degree. In general, BSc subjects tend to be more specialised, and may be tailored towards a specific scientific or technical career, whereas BA degrees encourage you to think critically and work across a range of subjects/historical periods and so tend to be broader in scope.

For this reason, BSc degrees can seem to be more employable after university, as they often naturally lend themselves to a specific field of work: if you’re studying for a BSc in Software Engineering for example, it doesn’t take a genius to work out what kind of field you’re going to end up working in.

That said, however, BAs give you a lot of skills which are applicable across a huge range of careers, including presentation skills, analytical skills, communication skills, lots and lots of self-motivation (when you only have 5 contact hours per week), and critical thinking.

Although the value of a BA is perhaps less immediately obvious than a specific BSc, when you look at the skills which many graduate employers are looking for, they’re already there as a result of your degree.

To dig a bit deeper into this issue, I spoke to Vanessa, a former neuroscience major in the US who is studying for a Masters in Renaissance Literature at Cambridge.

“Being American, I entered university as an ‘undeclared’ student: in the US, you don’t matriculate directly into a program. Instead, you have two years to ‘declare a major’ and another two to complete it. I knew what I wanted to do from the time I entered UVA: I was going to be a doctor, and I declared a major in neuroscience. After two years taking the required pre-medical courses, though, I was disillusioned with the courses, and with the feeling that the curved grading scale didn’t reflect my knowledge of the subjects.

‘A longstanding love of literature led me to switch to a major in Medieval and Renaissance English, and now I’m pursuing my MPhil in Renaissance Literature at Cambridge. I love studying literature, and if I had to go back and do it again, I’d make exactly the same choice, and I do consider the BA to have been better for me than a BS (Bsc).

At the same time, I’m grateful for my math and science background, because it’s given me a wide range of interests – to the occasional horror of my humanities friends, I still enjoy math, for instance(!).

‘But I do think that, in today’s world, the BA is given disproportionately less importance than the BSc: humanities majors are discouraged by parents, grants like the National Endowment for the Humanities are threatened with de-funding. Our society needs to recognize the value of the humanities.

I don’t think people realize that society and the individual can’t exist in a healthy, balanced way without a bit of both – which is why I’m glad of the diversity of my background.”

Bearing the above in mind, it seems to me that this divide we have between BAs and BScs in the UK is pretty silly.

Neither is ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than the other, and it would probably be better for all of us if we worked to gain more of the skills from ‘the other side’ of the divide.

Some skills such as coding and analytical thinking will make you 100% more employable, whether you studied History or Chemistry for your undergraduate degree.

Just remember that when you come to make the call on your degree, chose something that you will make you happy and that you will actually enjoy!

There’s no point going to university to trudge through a subject that you cannot stand.

If you pick something that you love then it will hopefully not feel like that much work!

Elizabeth Whittingham Elizabeth is a third year history student studying at The University of Manchester.