What Is a Bachelor of Arts (BA) Degree?

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If you're struggling to figure out what to study in college, you're not alone. Plenty of students send in their college applications without having a firm idea of what their major will be. Some students begin working through college courses before they even declare a major, while others may pick a major right out of the gate, but later decide to switch to a different one.

In short, it's perfectly okay if you aren't yet sure what you'll study in college — but you should be doing some research to learn more about your options, so that you can make an informed decision when the time comes. You’ll likely have questions that need answering before deciding, such as, What is a Bachelor of Arts degree? and Which types of degrees are available at my preferred college? Let’s start with the basics: What is a Bachelor of Arts?

In This Article:

Understanding a BA Degree

A Bachelor of Arts is also known as a BA degree. This is a type of undergraduate degree that a high school graduate might enroll in. Along with the Bachelor of Science (BS) and the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA), the BA is a type of baccalaureate degree. 

If you choose to enroll in a BA degree program, you can generally expect to need at least 120 — and perhaps as many as 130 — credits to graduate, although various schools and individual degree programs may be a little different.

Why Earn a Bachelor of Arts?

The BA encompasses a wide range of subject areas and specializations. Students who wish to explore the humanities — ranging from literature and fine arts, to legal studies and digital media — might enroll in a BA program.

If you complete all the BA’s degree requirements, as well as your school’s general education requirements, you can graduate and become the proud holder of a BA diploma. Once you’ve officially graduated, you can add your accomplishments to your resume and begin applying to jobs that require candidates to have a degree.

Another option is to use your BA as a springboard to pursue further education. For instance, you may want to go on to earn a Master of Arts (MA), Master of Fine Arts (MFA) or doctoral (PhD) degree in your chosen field of study. Another option is to pursue further education at a professional school, such as law school.

Is a Bachelor of Arts Degree Useful?

All types of college degrees, including the BA, can be useful in multiple ways — including for career qualifications, personal growth and transferable skills. The humanities, arts and social sciences are just as important for society as highly specific and technical fields like engineering, chemistry and mathematics. Indeed, a humanities degree is designed to guide students toward a better understanding of both themselves and the world around them, examining values such as acceptance, diversity, innovation and personal growth.1

A BA teaches skills that are essential in every sector, industry and subfield, including critical thinking, communication, interpersonal skills, problem-solving and collaboration. These career-ready intangibles, including creativity, empathy and inquisitiveness, are typically applicable to such diverse work settings as corporate management, clinical healthcare, education and business.1

Potential career outcomes are equally diverse. Consider the following jobs held by well-known individuals who graduated with a humanities BA degree:1

  • Steve Ells: Founder of the Chipotle restaurant chain and former art history major
  • George Soros: Financier, philanthropist and former philosophy major
  • Jodi Kantor: Award-winning journalist and former history major
  • Chad Hurley: YouTube founder and former fine arts major
  • Caterina Fake: Flickr co-founder and former English major
  • Andrea Jung: Former Avon CEO and former English language and literature major

The careers of these notable individuals may offer proof that liberal arts degree graduates can reap the rewards of their hard work after college.

Which Is a Better Degree: BA or BS?

Before deciding which degree is best for you, it’s helpful to understand the differences between the two main options.

A BA focuses on humanities, social sciences and the arts. Most BA students can also take more courses outside their major, allowing them to explore a wider range of interests. BA students are taught strong communication skills, cultural awareness, creativity, and critical thinking skills through activities such as critically scrutinizing sources of information to detect bias, identify context and evaluate authority.2

By contrast, BS degrees emphasize science, math and technology, with a focus on teaching technical skills, also known as “hard skills.” Although BS students can typically choose a few electives, most of their coursework will be more focused on their major. A BS major may combine lecture classes with labs and other forms of hands-on, experiential learning.2

Both BA and BS degrees can be worthwhile, useful and valuable — one of them isn’t inherently better than the other. It’s more a question of what you hope to get out of the degree program. When choosing between a BA and a BS degree, consider factors such as:

  • Your academic interests and passions
  • Your desire to develop certain skills and to explore knowledge areas
  • Career possibilities
  • Degree versatility

Graduates with a BA are generally better equipped to apply to a wider range of different jobs, whereas graduates with a BS should ideally have a more specific career goal in mind, because BS degrees aren’t quite as versatile.2

Which BA Degree Is Best?

If you’ve decided that a Bachelor of Arts is the best choice for you (or even if you’re still making up your mind), the next logical step is to examine your choices within this category. There are too many different types of BA degree options to list them all here. You can earn a BA in language and literature, history or social science, just for starters.

Some of your BA options at GCU include:

What Does a BA Program Cover?

A BA program will include both general education classes as well as coursework specific to your particular major. You may take classes in language, social sciences, fine arts and other liberal arts subjects. In addition, your university will likely require you to take at least one mathematics and science course to fulfill core requirements.

The specific classes you’ll take for your major will depend on your field of study. For instance, if you’ve decided to major in a teaching degree designed for future dance teachers, you’ll likely take coursework in: 

  • Techniques for ballet, jazz, improvisation and vernacular dance
  • Dance production methods, choreography and kinesiology
  • Classroom management, student assessment and pedagogy
  • Child development

Earn Your Bachelor of Arts (BA) Degree From GCU

Grand Canyon University’s Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degree programs can empower our students to turn their passions into purpose for the future. Whether you choose a BA or BS degree, you’ll have access to thoughtfully developed curriculum, instructors who are knowledgeable in their fields, and a wide array of student support services. Fill out the form on this page to learn more about joining our Christian learning community — online or at our physical campus in Phoenix, Arizona. 

1 Ruggeri, Amanda. (2019, April 1). Why ‘worthless’ humanities degrees may set you up for life. BBC. Retrieved April 12, 2024. 

2 Ngo, C. (2024, Nov. 26). Bachelor of Arts vs. Bachelor of Science: What’s the difference? BestColleges. Retrieved April 12, 2024. 

Approved by the assistant vice president of GCU Marketing on May 21, 2024.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.