BFA, BA, BS: What’s the Difference?

If you’re looking to pursue an art degree, you may notice that some schools offer a B.F.A. degree, a B.A. degree, a B.S., or any combination of the three. Here, we breakdown the differences between the two.

1. What is a B.F.A.?

Let’s start with the basics. A B.F.A is a Bachelor of Fine Arts. This degree may cover a multitude and variety of art programs, including but not limited to graphic design, film, dance, music, and more. Just because it says “fine arts” in the degree does not mean that is only for studio arts.

2. What is a B.A. then?

A B.A. is a Bachelor of Arts. This degree is found in almost every field imaginable. You can receive a B.A. in anthropology, psychology, economics, physics, and many other disciplines. Although it is called a Bachelor of Arts, it does not mean that the degree itself is art-based.

3. Wait, i also see a b.s. degree. What is that?

A B.S. degree, otherwise known as a Bachelor of Science, is a more research-intensive or technology/science-based degree. You will likely find that most math or science-based fields only offer a B.S. degree.

Some disciplines offer a B.A. and B.S. for one field. For instance, at UC San Diego, they offer a B.A. or a B.S. in Psychology. The B.A. almost always will have fewer graduation requirements. In the UCSD example, the B.S. degree in psychology requires a research internship component and/or a culminating research paper.

If you are a prospective art student, it is unlikely (but not unheard of) that your intended college will give you the option of a B.S. degree in your field. Some fields, such as animation or graphic design, may offer a B.S. degree and thus, the program may have some sort of research-related or technology-based component. For instance, at Clemson University, they offer a B.S. degree in graphic communications and have a focus on creativity as well as technological abilities. They do not offer a B.F.A. nor a B.A.

4. how is admissions different between the 3?

99% of the time, a B.F.A program will have a mandatory portfolio and/or audition submission. Since it is studio-intensive, the admissions counselors want to know that you have the artistic, technical abilities to keep up with the studio requirements. These programs are probably more difficult to gain entry into than the B.A. degree.

A B.A. program may or may not have any portfolio requirement.

Last, a B.S. program is very unlikely to have a portfolio requirement, although it isn’t unheard of.

Note: Some schools do not even let you declare the B.F.A. degree until after you undergo a portfolio review in your sophomore year of college. In this scenario, you’d enter claiming a B.A. pathway and then gain admission into the B.F.A. program after showing you can handle the coursework in your first year.

5. Ok so do i choose a b.F.A.,B.A., or b.s.?

Look into what the program requirements are for the each type of degree.

B.F.A. degrees focus a lot more on an intensive studio component. For instance, a BFA student may rarely be able to obtain a double major and graduate in 4 years due to the intensive requirements of the degree. Some colleges discourage or even forbid their BFA program students from pursuing a double major.

B.A. degrees give a greater flexibility to the student. The student typically can double major if they wish to or take extra courses and graduate within 3 years instead of the usual 4.

B.S. degrees are more science and research-based than the previous two. If you want to not only have studio coursework but also conduct research or understand the scientific/technological basis, this is a great option for you.


At the end of the day, you know yourself best. What sparks your passion and where do you see your artistic career going? Do your research on what type of program is the best fit for your career goals.

At Lizard, we guide students and make charts with information on each of their specific programs so that they can make the best choice for themselves! We also stay on top of portfolio deadlines and give you the best advice on how to craft a striking supplement.

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