The differences between a BA and BS in psychology

October 03, 2023 · 6 min read · By ASU Online
Interested in earning a psychology degree but can’t decide between a BA or BS? Get the details on the similarities, differences and career paths for both.

Do you want to make a positive impact on society and work closely with those in your community to improve their daily lives? One way to do this is by working in the field of psychology.

Prospective psychology professionals can pursue multiple paths in this field. Two of the most direct include earning a Bachelor of Arts in psychology or a Bachelor of Science in psychology. But what makes these two degrees different? What qualities make a BA or a BS a better fit for you? Let's explore the similarities and differences between both online degrees at Arizona State University.


What do a BA and BS in psychology have in common?

“Both provide a solid foundation in psychology,” noted Sarah Gavac, director of the psychology digital immersion programs at ASU. “Both provide the same choice in upper division cognitive science and social/developmental focus area classes, and the same selection of psychology elective courses.”

Both of ASU Online’s BA and BS in psychology programs span 120 credit hours, contain roughly 40 total classes and can typically be completed in four years. Each program’s curriculum combines theoretical psychology and practical coursework, with required coursework covering foundational subjects of psychology. Whether you’re on the BA or BS track, you’ll have opportunities to network and collaborate.


What are the key differences in the curriculum?

The BA curriculum is tailored to be more holistic and has a broader view of the field. In the BA, you’ll often take arts and humanities classes alongside core courses for an interdisciplinary perspective. BA in psychology students learn the same fundamentals as BS students, but the BA places a greater emphasis on skills such as writing, critical thinking and research methods.

The BS curriculum is more focused on the major, with fewer classes in the arts and humanities. As a result, you may take a greater number of classes related to the technical and practical skills of your desired industries, as opposed to general courses.

The BS program also has an additional statistics requirement (PSY 330: Statistical Methods) in addition to the introductory statistics class included in both tracks. BS majors are also required to complete one life science lecture/lab course in addition to the general studies natural science requirements.

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Get the scoop on ASU Online’s psychology programs from the podcast that was developed especially for students who take psych courses online through ASU.

In this episode, hosts Dr. Natalie Fabert and Dr. Laura Petrolle Clemons are joined by ASU's Dr. Karen Weston. She details several psychology degree pathways and discusses some of the distinctive learning opportunities offered in ASU Online’s psych programs.

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What are the key differences in career and higher education paths for the two?

Although there is 90% crossover within the curriculum of both programs, the BA and BS can help prepare you for a path specific to your goals. Given that careers in psychology often require master's degrees, prospective students researching undergraduate programs may be researching graduate programs at the same time, which can help you determine your path.

Both the BA and BS will prepare you for graduate school, but the specific classes you’d take in each could support your master's program of choice. As the BS program includes more advanced classes in mathematics and statistics, it would better prepare you for a master’s focused on science and applied research. On the other hand, students interested in more general industries, such as marketing, education or business, may opt for the BA.

“The BS degree will set students up for more research-focused positions,” said Gavac. “Though that doesn't preclude BA students from those roles; it’s just that the math and science emphasis helps some BS students.”

Graduates from both programs can pursue roles in each of these fields but typically the Bachelor of Science in psychology may better prepare you for roles in the fields such as medicine, public administration, clinical psychology and research psychology.

Whereas, graduates from the Bachelor of Arts in psychology may have a greater interest in roles within social service, public policy and social work.

If you’re interested in becoming a clinical psychologist, that would require a graduate degree and state licensure to practice after completing your undergraduate degree. Both the BA and BS programs can prepare you for this master's degree, but it wouldn’t satisfy the requirements for a practicing psychologist on their own. As a result, many undergraduate psychology students interested in this path intend to apply to master's programs and licensure upon graduation.


Earn a psychology degree from ASU Online

Psychology is a wide-reaching industry, with involvement in fields such as mental health, counseling, child development, medicine, law, economics and more. Whether you choose the online Bachelor of Arts in psychology or the online Bachelor of Science in psychology program, you’ll be well prepared for a career in many fields that cover the subjects of psychology.

Additionally, both of these bachelor’s degrees can be completed as part of an Accelerated Master’s program with the Master of Science in psychology. When accepted, you can earn a master’s degree in as little as one year after completing your undergraduate degree. This opportunity saves you time and money, while giving you advanced knowledge in your field.

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We’ve compiled what you need to know about online classes and degree programs at Arizona State University. Read on to learn all about what to expect from the ASU Online learning experience.


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