Bachelor of Arts

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Bachelor of Arts
NU Diploma (redacted).jpg
A Bachelor of Arts diploma from Northwestern University
Type Bachelor's degree
Duration3 or 4 years

Bachelor of Arts (BA or AB; from the Latin baccalaureus artium, baccalaureus in artibus, or artium baccalaureus) is a bachelor's degree awarded for an undergraduate program in the arts, [1] or, in some cases, other disciplines. A Bachelor of Arts degree course is generally completed in three or four years, depending on the country and institution.


Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Nepal, and South Africa

In colleges and universities in Australia, New Zealand, Nepal, and South Africa, the BA degree can be taken over three years of full-time study. [5] Students must pursue at least one major area of study and units from that subject are usually studied in each year, though sometimes students may choose to complete upper-level classes in the same year and as a result, can leave space for elective subjects from a different field. At some universities, students may choose to pursue a second major; alternatively, the remainder of the degree is taken up with a minor area of study (in the first two years) and other individual or stream-based subjects. Honours is an additional year of study after the BA degree, that combines aspects of undergraduate study with those of postgraduate research. Entry to the honours program is usually highly selective.

Education in Canada is controlled by the provinces and can be very different depending on the province. Canadian universities typically offer four-year Bachelor of Arts degrees. In many universities and colleges, Bachelor of Arts degrees are differentiated either as BA or as honours BA degrees. Honours programs require more education than non-honours programs, typically a specialization beyond the requirements of a BA.


The Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree is an undergraduate postsecondary degree that puts a focus on liberal arts and studies. [6] In comparison, a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) has a greater focus on science, math, and engineering. The Bachelor of Arts Degree is a type of Baccalaureate degree. [7] [8] A Bachelor of arts degree is usually completed in 4 years because they require 4 years of full-time coursework to earn. However, just like with other degrees, some may require a longer time period. This is due to factors such as the student’s ability, motivation, and access to financial assistance to earn the degree. Just like other Baccalaureate degrees, Bachelor of Arts was traditionally offered at the only public and private 4-year universities and colleges. [6] [9] [10] A Bachelor of Arts, just like other bachelor's degrees is an admission requirement for graduate and professional school. Being in the 1990s, community colleges started to confer their own baccalaureate degrees. There are many more goal or career-specific Bachelor of Arts degrees. There is just a “Bachelor of Arts” but there is also a Bachelor of Arts in Administration, Bachelor of Arts in interdisciplinary studies, and Regents Bachelor of arts. [8]


The Bachelor of Arts degree has been prominent in academics for centuries. It has influenced and led to universities focusing on broad topics such as Algebra, Psychology, Biology, Art, History, and Philosophy.

This aspect of the BA degree has been consistent in its history. The creation of the Bachelor of Arts degree was formed out of the study of Liberal Arts. [6] [7] Liberal Art is a term that was applied to the study of many branches of learning such as grammar, logic, rhetoric, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music. [7] The study of Liberal Arts started during the Middle Ages. During the Renaissance, the term Liberal Arts were meant to be more broadly to describe general studies. [6] [7] This definition of liberal studies remains to this day.

The Bachelor of Arts degree has all its majors and credits attached and connected to the topics of liberal studies. For most of its history, Bachelor of Arts degrees were given only by 4 years public or private institutions and colleges. [6] [10] In the 1990s, other colleges like community colleges started to give out their own Bachelor of Arts degrees. Due to the rise of the internet, most online colleges now offer Bachelor of Arts degrees. In recent decades, Bachelor of Science degrees have become more prominent in higher education institutions. Bachelor of Science degrees often have more focus on math, science, and technology so, many institutions are moving away from liberal arts. [10] The internet and online space have also moved away from the liberal arts focus on Bachelor of arts programs towards the types of disciplines found and focused in the Bachelor of Science. Despite this change, most traditional institutions, public and private alike do still offer Bachelor of Arts programs for online students. [10]

United States

Along with the B.S. or Bachelor of Science, the Bachelor of Arts is the most commonly granted degree in the US. A B.A. [6] degree is earned after the completion of four years of undergraduate college level study. Most US colleges and universities offer undergraduate programs.


In the Netherlands, the BA and Master of Arts (MA) degrees were introduced in 2002. Until then, a single program led to the doctorandus degree (abbreviated drs.), which comprised the same course load as the bachelor's and master's programs combined. The title doctorandus was used in almost all fields of study; other titles were used for legal studies (meester, Dutch for master, abbreviated Mr.) and engineering ( ingenieur , abbreviated ir. for academic masters level or ing. for higher vocational bachelors level). Those who had already started the doctorandus program could, on completing it, opt for the doctorandus degree (entitling them to use "drs." in front of their name) or could use the master's degree (postnominal letters) in accordance with the new standard. When attaining a master level/graduate degree, it is still customary to use either drs. pre-nominally or MA/MSc post-nominally at the discretion of the holder.


In Germany, university-level education usually happens in either a Universität (plural: Universitäten) or a Fachhochschule (plural: Fachhochschulen); both can be referred to as a Hochschule, which is the generic term in Germany for all institutions awarding academic degrees. Fachhochschule is often translated as "University of Applied Sciences". Universitäten place greater emphasis on fundamental science and background in theory, while Fachhochschulen are generally designed with a focus on teaching professional skills. Degrees earned at Universitäten and Fachhochschulen are legally equivalent.

In Germany, the BA course normally lasts between three and three and a half years – six or seven semesters – and the degree is awarded after the student earns between 180 and 210 ECTS.

United Kingdom and Ireland

In the United Kingdom (excluding Scotland) and Ireland, the first degree course normally lasts three years, but nomenclature varies: 19th-century and later universities usually distinguish between arts and sciences subjects by awarding either a BA or BSc degree. However, some older or ancient universities, such as Oxford, Cambridge [ citation needed ] and Dublin traditionally award BAs to undergraduates having completed the final examinations, e.g., Part II Tripos (Cambridge), Final Honour Schools (Oxford), Moderatorship (Dublin), in most subjects including the sciences. Some new plate glass universities established in the 1960s, such as York and Lancaster originally followed the practice of Oxford and Cambridge by awarding BAs in all subjects, but have since changed to awarding BSc degrees in science subjects. At Oxford, Cambridge and Dublin the degree of MA can be claimed, usually twenty-one terms after matriculation. For many centuries, the bachelor's degree was an intermediate step and was awarded for much of the work carried out in later times at secondary schools. The names of the final secondary school exams in France and Spain (and increasingly in the UK—the International Baccalaureate) come from this: le Baccalauréat and el Bachillerato, respectively.

The ancient universities of Scotland award a Master of Arts degree to humanities or arts graduates, but a BSc to science graduates. This course takes four years for an honours degree and three for an ordinary. In Scotland, it is possible to opt to take an ordinary degree rather than this simply ranking below a third class honours (for example, BA with distinction, merit or pass).

A Bachelor of Arts is entitled to the designation BA for an ordinary/pass degree and BA (Hons) for an honours degree. Students who completed an honours BA sometimes style themselves by '(Hon)' or '(Hons)' after the degree abbreviation in parentheses. An honours degree is always awarded in one of four classes depending upon the marks gained in the final assessments and examinations. The top students are awarded a first-class degree, followed by an upper second-class degree (usually referred to as a 2:1), a lower second-class degree (usually referred to as a 2:2), and those with the lowest marks gain a third-class degree. An ordinary or unclassified degree (which does not give the graduate the right to add '(Hons)') may be awarded if a student has completed the full honours degree course but has not obtained the total required passes sufficient to merit a third-class honours degree. Typically these degrees lack the final year requirement of a dissertation.

See also

Related Research Articles

Tripos Bachelors exam or course at Cambridge

At the University of Cambridge, a Tripos is any of the examinations that qualify an undergraduate for a bachelor's degree or the courses taken by a student to prepare for these. For example, an undergraduate studying mathematics is said to be reading for the Mathematical Tripos, whilst a student of English literature is reading for the English Tripos.

An academic degree is a qualification awarded to students upon successful completion of a course of study in higher education, usually at a college or university. These institutions commonly offer degrees at various levels, usually including undergraduate degrees, master's, and doctorates, often alongside other academic certificates and professional degrees. The most common undergraduate degree is the bachelor's degree, although in some countries there are lower level higher education qualifications that are also titled degrees.

A bachelor's degree or baccalaureate is an undergraduate academic degree awarded by colleges and universities upon completion of a course of study lasting three to six years. The two most common bachelor's degrees are the Bachelor of Arts (BA) and the Bachelor of Science. In some institutions and educational systems, certain bachelor's degrees can only be taken as graduate or postgraduate educations after a first degree has been completed, although more commonly the successful completion of a bachelor's degree is a prerequisite for further courses such as a master's or a doctorate.

Undergraduate education Academic programs up to the level of a bachelors degree

Undergraduate education is education conducted after secondary education and before postgraduate education. It typically includes all postsecondary programs up to the level of a bachelor's degree. For example, in the United States, an entry-level university student is known as an undergraduate, while students of higher degrees are known as graduate students. Upon completion of a number of required and elective courses as part of an undergraduate program, the student would earn the corresponding degree. In some other educational systems, undergraduate education is postsecondary education up to the level of a master's degree; this is the case for some science courses in Britain and some medicine courses in Europe.

A Bachelor of Commerce is an undergraduate degree in business, usually awarded in Canada, Australia, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Ireland, New Zealand, Ghana, South Africa, Myanmar, Egypt, and additional Commonwealth countries. The degree was previously offered in the United Kingdom.

The system of academic degrees at the University of Oxford can be confusing to those not familiar with it. This is not merely because many degree titles date from the Middle Ages, but also because many changes have been haphazardly introduced in recent years. For example, the (medieval) BD, BM, BCL, etc. are postgraduate degrees, while the (modern) MPhys, MEng, etc. are undergraduate degrees.

A Fachhochschule, abbreviated FH, or University of Applied Sciences (UAS) is a German tertiary education institution that specializes in a particular applied science or applied art, such as engineering, technology or business.

Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery, is the primary medical degree awarded by medical schools in countries that follow the tradition of the United Kingdom. The historical degree nomenclature states that they are two separate undergraduate degrees. In practice, however, they are usually combined as one and conferred together, and may also be awarded at graduate-level medical schools.

A licentiate is a degree similar to master's degree given by pontifical universities and by universities in some countries of the European Union and Syria and Latin America. The term is also used for a person who holds this degree. The term derives from Latin licentia, "freedom", which is applied in the phrases licentia docendi meaning permission to teach and licentia ad practicandum signifying someone who holds a certificate of competence to practise a profession. Many countries have degrees with this title, but they may represent different educational levels.

A Master of Engineering is either an academic or professional master's degree in the field of engineering.

In the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, and Dublin, Bachelors of Arts are promoted to the degree of Master of Arts or Master in Arts (MA) on application after six or seven years' seniority as members of the university. It is an academic rank indicating seniority, and not an additional postgraduate qualification. No further examination or study is required for this promotion and it is equivalent to undergraduate degrees awarded by other universities.

Bachelor of Philosophy is the title of an academic degree that usually involves considerable research, either through a thesis or supervised research projects. Unlike many other bachelor's degrees, the BPhil is typically a postgraduate degree awarded to individuals who have already completed a traditional undergraduate degree.

In Western universities, a Bachelor of Divinity or Baccalaureate in Divinity is an undergraduate or postgraduate academic degree awarded for a course taken in the study of divinity or related disciplines, such as theology or, rarely, religious studies.

Honours degree has various meanings in the context of different degrees and education systems. Most commonly it refers to a variant of the undergraduate bachelor's degree containing a larger volume of material or a higher standard of study, or both, rather than an "ordinary", "general" or "pass" bachelor's degree. Honours degrees are sometimes indicated by "Hons" after the degree abbreviation, with various punctuation according to local custom, e.g. "BA (Hons)", "B.A., Hons", etc. In Canada, honours degrees may be indicated with an "H" preceding the degree abbreviation, e.g. "HBA" for Honours Bachelor of Arts or Honours Business Administration.

A double degree program, sometimes called a dual degree, combined degree, conjoint degree, joint degree or double graduation program, involves a student's working for two university degrees in parallel—either at the same institution or at different institutions —and completing them in less time than it would have taken to earn them separately. The two degrees might be in the same subject area, or in two different subjects.

The degree of Master of Arts in Scotland typically refers to an undergraduate degree. The degree can be either a three-year general or four-year Honours degree in humanities or social sciences, awarded by one of several institutions.

A Master of Arts is the holder of a master's degree awarded by universities in many countries. The degree is usually contrasted with that of Master of Science. Those admitted to the degree have typically studied subjects within the scope of the humanities and social sciences, such as history, literature, languages, linguistics, public administration, political science, communication studies, law or diplomacy; however, different universities have different conventions and may also offer the degree for fields typically considered within the natural sciences and mathematics. The degree can be conferred in respect of completing courses and passing examinations, research, or a combination of the two.

The Bologna process for standardisation of European higher education specified an undergraduate degree of at least three years called the "licence" or bachelor's degree, followed by a two-year diploma called the master's degree, then a doctorate, meant to be obtained in at least three years. Because of these indicated schedules, the reform is sometimes (erroneously) referred to as "3-5-8". The system applies to the European Higher Education Area.

A Bachelor of Science is a bachelor's degree awarded for programs that generally last three to five years.

master's degree in the United Kingdom is an academic degree awarded by universities or colleges upon completion of a course of study demonstrating mastery or a high-order overview of a specific field of study or area of professional practice.


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