Bachelor of Arts

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Bachelor of Arts
A Bachelor of Arts degree from Northwestern University
TypeBachelor'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.

  • Degree attainment typically takes five or more years in Argentina, Brazil, and Chile.
  • Degree attainment typically takes four years in Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada (except Quebec), China, Egypt, Finland, Georgia, Ghana, Greece, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Serbia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, the United States, and Zambia.[2]
  • Degree attainment typically takes three years in Albania, Algeria, Australia, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Caribbean, Denmark, France, Germany, Iceland, Israel,[3] Italy, Montenegro, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, the Canadian province of Quebec, South Africa (certain degrees), Switzerland, the United Kingdom (except Scotland), and most of the European Union. In Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Russia, three-year BA (associates) courses are also available.[4] A three-year bachelor's degree usually does not qualify the holder for admission to graduate programs in other countries where four-year bachelor's degrees are the standard prerequisite.[5]


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 liberal art 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

, 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

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

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


  1. ^ "Understand the Difference Between a BA and BS Degree". US News and World Report. 23 October 2018. Archived from the original on 23 July 2021. Retrieved 19 August 2023.
  2. ^ "FAST-US-5 United States Education Reference File". Archived from the original on 22 December 2008. Retrieved 19 August 2008.
  3. ^ "BA Business Administration – RRIS – IDC Herzliya". Archived from the original on 22 November 2021. Retrieved 4 June 2021.
  4. ^ "Degree (Pass) prospectus" (PDF). National University, Bangladesh (in Bengali). Archived (PDF) from the original on 22 November 2018.
  5. ^ See for example
  6. ^ a b c d e f "Degree, Academic." Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia, Jan. 2018. EBSCOhost Database. Retrieved 6 April 2022.
  7. ^ a b c d "Liberal arts." The Columbia Encyclopedia. Credo Reference Database. Retrieved 2 April 2022.
  8. ^ from the original on 2 April 2022, retrieved 2 April 2022
  9. ^ Bachelor of Arts. (2014). In Collins Dictionaries (Ed.), Collins English Dictionary (12th ed.). Collins. Credo Reference Database
  10. ^
  11. ^ "University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Communication and Marketing: Grammar: Degrees and Dates: Academic degrees". Archived from the original on 21 June 2023. Retrieved 21 June 2023.
  12. ^ "Western Michigan University, Writing Style, Academic Degrees". 9 November 2012. Archived from the original on 21 June 2023. Retrieved 21 June 2023.
  13. ^ "Bachelor of Arts degrees". Australian National University. Archived from the original on 1 April 2010.