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What’s the difference between a BSc and a BA in Psychology?

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“Psychology is the study of the mind. It is most commonly the study of discipline, an applied science which seeks to understand individuals and groups through general principles, and applying case studies to diagnose issues”

The Complete University Guide, 2016

Psychology is a very popular degree course among students. According to figures published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), there were 38,640 full- and part-time students who enrolled on to a Psychology programme in the 2014/15 academic year, contributing to a total of 94,210 new and continuing students that same year.

The field of Psychology is broad and varied, with many different degree options to choose from. Psychology and Counselling, Clinical Psychology, Forensic Psychology, Psychology and Society, even just Psychology on its own; the list is endless.

With entry requirements varying between different Psychology courses, it is crucial to start thinking about your specific interests as early as high school, preferably before you select the subjects you will take for your final examinations. If you don’t take the correct subjects, you might find that you don’t meet the entry requirements for your chosen Psychology degree.

Psychology degrees are usually categorised into two types – Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts – which have different focuses. If you’re not sure which one will suit you best, read on!

Bachelor of Science (BSc)

A Bachelor of Science will have a strong focus on science and mathematics, as you will be required to attend lab and statistics classes, therefore the entry requirements often state that A-Levels (or recognised equivalent qualifications) in Science and/or Mathematics are required. In some cases, work experience may form part of the compulsory entry requirements, as universities may want you to evidence your understanding of and interest in this subject area.

Bachelor of Science courses are usually accredited by professional organisations, such as the British Psychology Society (BPS) in the UK, or the American Psychological Association (APA) in the U.S. These courses will normally allow you to train as a Psychologist upon completion, or at the very least they will provide progression on to a Master’s level degree programme for further specialisation.

Bachelor of Arts (BA)

A Bachelor of Arts, on the other hand, is more focused towards humanities and liberal arts courses. For this reason, most of these degrees do not have subject-specific entry requirements. Instead, students are able to meet the entry criteria from a variety of different A-Level (or acceptable equivalent qualification) subjects.

These courses are not usually accredited by professional bodies and you are therefore not able to train as a Psychologist upon completion. In some cases, you can take a Psychology conversion course after you complete your Bachelor degree, which will allow you to apply for a Master’s course with accreditation. However, it is important to realise that this is a much longer pathway.  

If in doubt as to which programme you’ll want to pursue, make sure you select Science and Mathematics subjects during high school. That way you will have the flexibility to apply for a Bachelor of Science course, but can also opt for Bachelor of Arts if you decide this is where your passion lies. Coming to a decision as early as possible, however, means that you will have a focused pathway and will get to study high school subjects that you are truly enthusiastic about.

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