What is a BA Degree and What Can You Do With It?

How Long to Get a BA

A group of students working towards their BA degree. One student is writing on the white board while three other students surrounding a desk watch.

A Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree can provide a wide-ranging education, equipping you with a well-rounded knowledge base. What you learn during your BA degree program could be applicable across multiple career disciplines, possibly suggesting new avenues of employment and advancement opportunities.

What is a BA Degree?

A Bachelor of Arts degree focuses on the humanities and the arts and is often less specialized in focus than a more technical Bachelor of Science (BS) degree. BA degrees also usually leave room for you to add a minor if you discover, through general education courses or electives, a secondary area that interests you.

A BA degree can be a great way to achieve your educational goals, even while you determine your exact career path. Because of its general education aspects, you have some room to explore and develop your desired direction, while you’re earning your degree. A BA degree requires fewer credits that are directly linked to a specific major, so you may take courses that inspire you to apply your knowledge in different ways, and in different careers.

The soft skills learned through general education and liberal studies courses are highly valued by employers across industries, according to LinkedIn. Some soft skills include teamwork, creativity, problem-solving, good communication abilities, critical thinking and more. These interpersonal skills and insights are often just as sought-out as the other more technical requirements of the job.

What Does a BA Degree Mean?

A Bachelor of Arts degree means you have completed your degree by taking courses in the liberal arts, social sciences, humanities and others. Coursework is often broad and can leave room for more general electives, allowing you to explore additional subject areas and disciplines.

Some BA programs can include:

Is a BA a Good Degree?

A Bachelor of Arts degree can provide a great return on your investment of time, energy and tuition. The diverse topics you learn about can often be applied to several broad industries or career paths, and the soft skills you take with you will serve you well almost anywhere.

Pursuing a BA degree may allow you to think differently about where your interests and potential new passions lie. Studying history or creative writing may make you realize you’d enjoy being a journalist; psychology and sociology may compel you to reexamine your intentions and head in a more service-focused direction in your community. One media arts course could have you considering taking your artistic talents in a more high-tech direction.

What’s the Difference Between BA and BS?

A Bachelor of Arts degree tends to put a greater emphasis on general education; a Bachelor of Science is often more technical in nature. Each degree category has its programs and can be better suited to different careers. There are also programs that can be both a BA and a BS.

For example, there is a BS in Information Technologies and a BA in Information Technologies offered at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU). The BS requires more IT-specific courses while the BA leaves you with the flexibility to explore other areas of interest.

As you determine what your career goals are, you’ll start to recognize whether they require complex technical knowledge or a more wide-reaching understanding of people, communication and the hows and whys of society – or a combination of both. From there, you’ll discover if a BA or BS is more appropriate for you, based on coursework and knowledge attained.

Does a Bachelor’s of Arts Degree Matter?

Does having a BA degree help your employment prospects? It can, in many ways. A BA degree specifically can open up your thinking as to what direction you might choose to go with your career, and your broad base of education can offer you more flexibility.

A yellow infographic piece with the text BLS reports 2020 median weekly earnings: $1,305 with a bachelor's degreeHaving a bachelor's degree is also highly desired by many employers. It can also impact your salary and future earning potential.

A June 2021 article from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that a bachelor’s degree secured a higher salary last year, with "median weekly earnings of $1,305 in 2020, compared with $781 for workers with a high school diploma." BLS went on to say that the unemployment rate for bachelor’s-level workers was 5.5% – nearly 40% lower than those topping out their education at the high school diploma level, who saw a 9% unemployment rate.

A U.S. Census Bureau’s report released in February 2021 stated that the percentage of Americans holding bachelor’s degrees has been steadily increasing over the past 15 years. It will make good career sense to have your degree when you’re out in the workforce of the 21st century.

What Happens After You Get Your BA Degree?

You’ve attained your Bachelor of Arts degree; what happens now?

Your BA degree introduced you to many different areas of interest; which ones excite you? What courses had you fully engaged and enjoying the learning process? You may have started your bachelor’s degree journey with one intended career direction only to discover a completely new one.

What Jobs Can You Get With a BA Degree?

Having a BA degree means you are not locked into just one career track; that can be great for multiplying your employment opportunities. You are a broadly educated applicant, so you can offer future employers many skills (hard and soft), and offer yourself many different paths to success.

For instance: You have your BA in Psychology; have you thought about working in the justice system? Behavioral analysis plays a critical role in law and justice; having the knowledge you’ve attained with a psychology degree can transfer beyond the walls of your own therapy practice or traditional social work settings.

A BA in Communication offers several clearly related occupations, such as journalism, marketing, social media, podcast writing and more; but those skills of clear and impactful communications – whether they are written, verbal or visual – can translate to nearly any industry, and can be extremely valuable. Whether you pursue a corporate business role or a service industry profession, being able to effectively communicate will always serve you well.

Of course, the Bachelor of Arts degree you major in is often your chosen field of pursuit, and that can lead to a fulfilling career in its own right. For example, if you chose to earn your BA in Sociology, it could start you on the path to becoming a sociologist.

Your BA Degree Takes You Farther

Whether you’re pursuing a career in your named Bachelor of Arts focus, or will utilize what you’ve learned by applying it to other job positions or industries, your BA degree can assist you in taking your career in the right direction. By providing a broad base of knowledge as well as transferable skills, a BA degree can benefit you in whatever role you assume.

Explore bachelor's degrees.

Kathleen Palmer is an award-winning journalist and writer. 

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