What is the difference between a Bachelor of Arts (BA) and a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Psychology?

Most students will have to complete 120 credits to earn a Bachelor’s degree at UBC Okanagan. Most courses are worth three or six credits. Therefore, to complete a Bachelor’s degree you would have to complete the equivalent of 40 three-credit courses. If you are a student majoring in Psychology, many of your courses will be in Psychology and others (electives) will be taken in other departments (for example, Math, English, Sociology, etc.). The number of Psychology credits that you have to take depends on whether you are in the Majors or Honours stream.

In terms of your Psychology courses, there is no difference between the BA degree and the BSc – the difference in the two degrees lies in the electives associated with the degree requirements outside your major. Our advice would be that if you really see yourself as an Arts person (i.e., you strongly enjoy and prefer Arts courses), then you should definitely go the BA route. If you really see yourself as a Science person (i.e., you strongly enjoy and prefer Science courses), then you should definitely go the BSc route. If you are uncertain or in between, though, then you could go either way.

For a BA degree, you need to complete at least two first-year English courses, six first-year credits in selected Science courses, and successfully complete an approved Grade 12 course in a language other than English before entering UBC or achieve the equivalent level while enrolled here. For a BSc degree, you need at least 78 credits from the 120 to be Science courses (Psychology counts in this for the BSc degree in Psychology), 18 credits in Arts courses (including two first-year English courses), and six credits from specific courses in each of Math, Chemistry, and Physics, plus six elective credits from a list of approved courses.

If you are considering a double major, then the second major can be in any subject, regardless of whether you are taking a BA or BSc, so either route will work fine as long as you meet the program requirements for both subjects.

Students sometimes ask if one route is better than the other (i.e., likely to be viewed more favourably by graduate schools or employers). In general, the answer is no. Psychology as a discipline really straddles the boundaries between Arts and Sciences. In some universities, it is housed within the Arts faculty; at others, it is within the Science faculty; if the university is large enough to have a Faculty of Social Sciences, it is housed there. At many universities, like UBC, you can take either a BA or a BSc in Psychology. In general, then, employers and graduate schools tend to pay relatively little attention to what your specific degree is. What matters more is whether you have taken relevant courses, and how you did in them. Of course, if you are planning on going into medicine, graduate school in neuropsychology, or other heavily science-laden routes, then a BSc degree, with plenty of relevant courses outside of psychology (e.g., biology, organic chemistry), will probably be looked on more favourably. On the other hand, if you are planning on becoming a social worker or become a counsellor, then a BA degree, perhaps with Sociology as a minor or second major, will probably be looked on more favourably. For most career routes, though, either degree is equally acceptable.

If you wish, you can switch from BA to BSc or vice versa relatively easily, especially in your first or second years (there is an administrative fee to do this). Doing so later can create problems that may extend the time that it takes to complete the degree.

Last reviewed shim10/19/2015 10:05:05 AM