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B.A. or B.S. in Physics?

  1. Dec 1, 2011 #1
    I'm an undergrad getting ready to transfer as a junior from a 2-year college to a 4-year college. My declared major is physics, but I want to go to grad school under an MS&E program. Should I go for a B.A. in physics? My reasoning is that it would allow me to take more chemistry and engineering electives.

    What are benifits and the damages of each: B.A. Physics and B.S. Physics?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 1, 2011 #2


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    Gold Member

    Do you live in the US? If so, you can take whatever courses you want, it doesn't really matter what your major is (outside of very specific courses for very specific majors... which I've only ever heard of 1 class being that way).
  4. Dec 1, 2011 #3


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    It depends on the specific courses required for the two degrees. There's no standardization, especially between different schools. If one school offers only a B.A. and the other offers only a B.S., it's impossible to conclude just from the names of the degrees which one is "better."

    Harvard offers only a B.A. Who would turn up his nose at a B.A. in physics from Harvard? :smile:
  5. Dec 1, 2011 #4
    Yeah, i live in the United States. I'm planing to transfer to the UC or CSU system. The way I've been taught how these colleges work in tandem with the California Community Colleges (which I am currently attending), is this. A person in a CCC must go on assist.org to make sure that you are taking courses which work toward his or her major. assist.org tell us what courses the universities expect a junior to have already completed. If I want to transfer as a junior and my declared major is physics, I need to have completed those courses outlined in assist.org.

    AFAIK, I can't just take whatever courses I want. If I don't take the courses outlined in their physics program, they will not give me a physics degree.

    The dilemma here is that if I got with a B.S. program in physics, I will be taking mostly upper division physics courses, leaving little room for electives. On the other hand, if I go with a B.A. program, I will not be required to take all of the upper division courses a B.S. major would have to do, which gives me space in my schedule to take chemistry and engineering courses.

    The problem is that I don't know which of the two will make a better case for me when I apply to graduate school under an MS&E program. Will the grad school not care (overlook) if I took those extra electives to prepare myself for the interdisciplinary field of MS&E? Or maybe will they see I have a B.S. Physics and they will have me take those extra chemistry and engineering courses during grad school?

    What about schools that offer both a B.S. and a B.A.? The schools I am applying to do this. Would a grad school prefer a person applying to MS&E that has a B.S. or a B.A.?
  6. Dec 2, 2011 #5


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    Staff: Mentor

    MS&E = Materials Science and Engineering?
    MS&E = Management Science and Engineering?

    I found both kinds of programs on Googling for "MS&E".

    Regardless, I still think what counts is the courses that you actually take, rather than the name of the degree per se (BA versus BS). What are the course requirements for a BA versus a BS, at whatever school you're interested in?
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