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
DurationThree or four years in most countries

A Bachelor of Arts (abbreviated B.A., BA, A.B. 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 liberal 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. [6] 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. [7] [8] A Bachelor of Arts degree is usually completed in four years: that is, it requires four years of full-time coursework during term time. 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 historically offered only at public and private 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. Beginning in the 1990s, junior 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 Functional English, 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 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 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 liberalart was meant to describe general studies more broadly. [6] [7] This definition of liberal studies remains to this day.

In Japan and the United States, Bachelor of Arts degrees were historically given only by public or private institutions and colleges. [6] [10]

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, without any further study. 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, one can opt to take an ordinary degree, which ranks below a third class honours degree (for example, BA with distinction, merit or pass).

A Bachelor of Arts is entitled to the post-nominal letters 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 reached the overall standard sufficient to merit a third-class honours degree.

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 Bachelor of Science (B.S.), the Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) 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. The Bachelor of Science is abbreviated with periods i.e., B.S., and the Bachelor of Arts is abbreviated as B.A. [11] [12] Most US colleges and universities offer undergraduate programs.[ citation needed ]

Degrees in other countries

Australia, Nepal, New Zealand, and South Africa

In colleges and universities in Australia, Nepal, New Zealand, and South Africa, the BA degree can be taken over three years of full-time study. [13] 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

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 engineer's degrees, master's degrees and doctorates.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Master's degree</span> Postgraduate academic degree

A master's degree is a postgraduate 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. A master's degree normally requires previous study at the bachelor's level, either as a separate degree or as part of an integrated course. Within the area studied, master's graduates are expected to possess advanced knowledge of a specialized body of theoretical and applied topics; high order skills in analysis, critical evaluation, or professional application; and the ability to solve complex problems and think rigorously and independently.

A bachelor's degree or baccalaureate is an undergraduate 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, usually in a college or university. It typically includes all postsecondary programs up to the level of a bachelor's degree. For example, in the United States, a student pursuing an associate or bachelor's degree is known as an undergraduate student while a student pursuing a master's or doctoral degree is a graduate student. Upon completion of courses and other requirements 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 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 Education is an undergraduate academic degree which prepares students for work as a teacher in schools. A Bachelor of Education program typically lasts three to four years and combines both coursework and practical experience in educational settings. The curriculum is designed to provide foundational knowledge in pedagogy, educational psychology, teaching methodologies, and subject-specific training. Graduates of this program are equipped with the skills necessary to foster a supportive and effective learning environment for their students.

The system of academic degrees at the University of Oxford can be confusing. 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.

<i>Fachhochschule</i> Type of vocational educational institution in German-speaking countries

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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">British undergraduate degree classification</span> Academic grading structure in the United Kingdom

The British undergraduate degree classification system is a grading structure used for undergraduate degrees or bachelor's degrees and integrated master's degrees in the United Kingdom. The system has been applied, sometimes with significant variation, in other countries and regions.

A Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery is a medical degree granted by medical schools or universities in countries that adhere to the United Kingdom's higher education tradition. Despite the historical distinction in nomenclature, these degrees are typically combined and conferred together. This degree is usually awarded as an undergraduate degree, but it can also be awarded at graduate-level medical institutions. The typical duration for completion is five to six years.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Licentiate (degree)</span> Academic degree similar to masters degree

A licentiate is an academic degree present in many countries, representing different educational levels. It may be similar to a master's degree when issued by pontifical universities and other universities in Europe, Latin America, and Syria.

A Master of Engineering is a 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 as members of the university, including years as an undergraduate. It is an academic rank indicating seniority and not an additional postgraduate qualification. Within these three 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.

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.

Master's degrees in Europe are the second cycle of the Bologna process, following on from undergraduate bachelor's degrees and preceding third cycle doctorates. Master's degrees typically take two years to complete, although the number of years varies between countries, and correspond to 60 – 120 ECTS credits. Within the European Higher Education Area, representing almost all countries in Europe, master's degrees are referenced to the Framework of Qualifications for the European Higher Education Area and national qualifications frameworks.

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

A Bachelor of Science is a bachelor's degree that is 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 in most cases 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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