Bachelor of Arts

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Bachelor of Arts
NU Diploma (redacted).jpg
A Bachelor of Arts degree 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.



The Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree is an undergraduate postsecondary degree that puts a focus on liberal arts and studies. [5] In comparison, a Bachelor of Science (BS) has a greater focus on science, math, and engineering. The Bachelor of Arts degree is a type of baccalaureate degree. [6] [7] A Bachelor of Arts degree is usually completed in four years because it requires four years of full-time coursework to earn. However, just as 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, a Bachelor of Arts is traditionally offered only at public and private four-year universities and colleges. [5] [8] [9] A Bachelor of Arts, just like other bachelor's degrees is an admission requirement for graduate and professional school. Beginning in the 1990s, community colleges started to confer their own baccalaureate degrees. In addition to the standard BA degrees, there are career-specific Bachelor of Arts degrees, including Bachelor of Arts in Administration, Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies, and Regents Bachelor of Arts. [7]


The Bachelor of Arts degree has been prominent in academics for centuries. It influenced universities to begin 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. [5] [6] 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. [6] The study of liberal arts started during the Middle Ages. During the Renaissance, the term liberalart was meant to describe general studies more broadly. [5] [6] This definition of liberal studies remains to this day.

In the United States, Bachelor of Arts degrees were historically given only by four-year public or private institutions and colleges. [5] [9] In the 1990s, other colleges like community colleges began awarding their own Bachelor of Arts degrees. Many online colleges now offer Bachelor of Arts degrees. [9]

Degrees in Europe


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.


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.

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 Trinity College 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 or 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.

Degrees in North America


Education in Canada is controlled by the provinces and can be very different depending on the province. While all Canadian universities offer four-year degrees, it is not uncommon, depending on the province and the university for a three-year general degree to also be offered as an option. 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, and can often be used as a gateway to a Ph.D. program, bypassing a master's degree.[ citation needed ]

United States

Along with the BS or Bachelor of Science, the Bachelor of Arts is the most commonly granted degree in the US. A BA [5] degree is earned after the completion of four years of undergraduate college level study. Most US colleges and universities offer undergraduate programs.[ citation needed ]

Degrees in Australia, 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. [10] 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.[ citation needed ]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Liberal arts education</span> Traditional academic course in Western higher education

Liberal arts education is the traditional academic course in Western higher education. Liberal arts takes the term art in the sense of a learned skill rather than specifically the fine arts. Liberal arts education can refer to studies in a liberal arts degree course or to a university education more generally. Such a course of study contrasts with those that are principally vocational, professional, or technical, as well as religiously-based courses.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tripos</span> Bachelors exam or course at Cambridge

A Tripos is an academic examination that originated at the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, England. They include any of several examinations required to qualify an undergraduate student for a bachelor's degree or the courses taken by a student to prepare for these. Undergraduate students studying mathematics, for instance, ultimately take the Mathematical Tripos, and students of English literature take the English Tripos.

An academic degree is a qualification awarded to a student upon successful completion of a course of study in higher education, usually at a college or university. These institutions often offer degrees at various levels, usually divided into undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. The most common undergraduate degree is the bachelor's degree, although some educational systems offer lower level undergraduate degrees such as associate and foundation degrees. Common postgraduate degrees include master's degrees and doctorates.

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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Undergraduate education</span> 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 and including the level of a master's degree; this is the case for some science courses in Britain and some medicine courses in Europe.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Master of Science</span> Masters degree awarded for post-graduate study in the sciences

A Master of Science is a master's degree in the field of science awarded by universities in many countries or a person holding such a degree. In contrast to the Master of Arts degree, the Master of Science degree is typically granted for studies in sciences, engineering and medicine and is usually for programs that are more focused on scientific and mathematical subjects; however, different universities have different conventions and may also offer the degree for fields typically considered within the humanities and social sciences. While it ultimately depends upon the specific program, earning a Master of Science degree typically includes writing a thesis.

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 integrated master's degrees, requiring three years of undergraduate study before the postgraduate year.

A Fachhochschule, abbreviated FH, is a university of applied sciences (UAS), in other words a German tertiary education institution that provides professional education in many applied sciences and applied arts, such as engineering, technology, business, architecture, design, and industrial design.

A Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) is a standard undergraduate degree for students for pursuing a professional education in the visual, fine or performing arts. It is also called Bachelor of Visual Arts (BVA) in some cases.

A Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery is an undergraduate 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. It usually takes five to six years to complete this degree.

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, and within the universities there are in fact no postgraduate degrees which result in the postnominals 'MA'. 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 a 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.

In some Scottish universities, a Master of Arts is the holder of a degree awarded to undergraduates, usually as a first degree. It follows either a three-year general or four-year Honours degree course in humanities or social sciences and is awarded by one of several institutions.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Master of Arts</span> Type of masters degree in the fields of humanities and social sciences

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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bachelor of Science</span> Type of bachelors degree

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


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