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What is a Bachelor of Arts?

By Jeremy Laukkonen
Updated May 17, 2024
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A bachelor of arts (BA) is typically a three or four year degree granted by an institute of higher learning. The course and length of study can vary from country to country, and some bachelor of arts degrees taking as little as two or as many as six years to complete. As it is typically an undergraduate degree, a wide variety of subjects may be studied in both the sciences and humanities. If a rigorous course of science and mathematics is studied, a bachelor of sciences (BS) degree may be awarded instead. Another variant is the bachelor of fine arts degree (BFA), which may place a larger focus on performance or studio art.

There are a wide variety of different majors that can be associated with a bachelor of arts degree. Many bachelor's degree programs involve a two year course of general study followed by a further two years of focus on a particular major. During the period of general study, subjects such as math, language, science, and history may be explored. Regardless of the degree program, some level of study in these basic categories will often be required. In some cases, this can be seen as a more advanced extension of secondary eduction, where a broad range of subjects are often studied as well.

Each bachelor of arts major may have different course requirements. After the general study portion has been completed, a student will often advance to higher level courses in the arts and humanities. If an English degree is pursued, then advanced composition and literature courses may be taken. Journalism majors may focus on courses that involve honing the craft of writing, while performance art and music majors will have their own curriculum. It is sometimes possible to earn a bachelor of arts in math, though most majors with a heavy scientific focus will award a bachelor of sciences degree instead.

Due to the fact that a bachelor of arts is typically earned through an undergrad program, these degrees are often a prerequisite to pursuing a graduate course of study. Obtaining a bachelor of arts degree may be an end in itself, or it can be a stepping stone to studying for another degree such as a master's or doctorate. Some students may pursue an advanced degree immediately after earning their BA or BS, while others may instead enter the work force before beginning a new course of study at a later time.

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Discussion Comments

By orangey03 — On Jan 11, 2013

@kylee07drg – It probably will take longer, because at most universities, you have to take certain courses before you are allowed to take more advanced ones. I remember having to take Drawing I before Drawing II and things like that, and you just can't double up on those.

However, I managed to get a bachelor of arts degree with a focus in studio art without going the extra year. I settled for a regular arts degree because I didn't want to take the class where you have to paint nude models, and this was a requirement for the fine arts program.

My degree states that I am an artist, and that is all that matters to me. I got a well rounded education with a little bit of history, math, and social studies, but the majority of my classes were art related.

By kylee07drg — On Jan 11, 2013

Will it take me longer to get a bachelor of fine arts degree than it would take to get just a plain bachelor of arts degree? I am going to major in studio art, but I would love to finish in four years. I don't mind doing extra work or taking extra classes in order to do this.

By Perdido — On Jan 11, 2013

So many people are getting their bachelor of arts degrees online now. I wonder if potential employers take these degrees as seriously as those earned by people who went to college in person.

It was hard for me to go to college and get my bachelor of liberal arts degree, because I am very shy and avoid interaction. However, I learned so much by doing, and I don't think I could have ever learned as much as I did if I had taken online courses only.

By feasting — On Jan 10, 2013

I always thought that this meant you had a bachelor degree in art courses. I took it literally. I had no idea it encompassed so many things!

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