In the 12 departments that offer both a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science degree, there's a tendency for students to pursue the Bachelor of Science degree.

Several departments in the natural sciences and social sciences—including biology, computer science, and psychology—have both AB and BS degree paths. While the BS requirements vary by major, the main difference between the two degrees is that the BS generally has more required courses. Ron Grunwald, director of undergraduate studies in biology, noted that the BS has “more stringent requirements” than the AB.

“A more in depth track involving a greater degree of immersion in the technical courses in the sciences is the track we usually define as the BS track,” Grunwald said.

Grunwald explained that an AB in biology is a “not a lesser degree” but rather allows students to devote their time to a “broader liberal arts degree” while the BS provides a stronger “methodological foundation” for students interested in “advanced work in the sciences.”

However, Grunwald indicated that majority of biology majors choose the BS.

“The reality is that virtually all our students pursue the BS degree,” Grunwald said. “Our typical number of majors is about 170 biology majors graduating every year, and of those graduating every year, there’s five or so BA majors and the rest are BS majors.”

In four other majors, the overwhelming majority of students choose to also pursue the BS degree in a major that also offers an AB degree. For the evolutionary anthropology major, only three of 47 Class of 2017 graduates chose to pursue an AB degree in that major, noted Leslie Digby, associate professor of the practice of evolutionary anthropology. 

However, this isn't the case with all majors that offer both AB and BS degrees.

Angela Vieth, associate director of undergraduate studies in psychology, revealed that psychology majors primarily pursue the AB degree. Last year’s graduating class in psychology was comprised of 77 AB students and 19 BS students, Vieth told The Chronicle.

She added that the AB and the BS degrees in psychology often lead to different careers.

“For the people who go into law, business, or teaching, they’re more likely to have gotten the AB than the BS,” Vieth said. “The people who go into medical school are overwhelmingly more often leaving here with a BS. The people who are going into graduate school for psychology, it’s probably a mix, but it depends on the area that they’re interested in.”

Vieth recommended that underclassmen students choose between the AB and the BS based on their own career aspirations and the availability within their schedules.

“It depends on their goals and it depends on what else they are trying for degrees in, how much space do they have in their schedule,” Vieth said.

Susan Rodger, director of undergraduate studies in computer science, emphasized that students do not have to choose between the AB and BS degree immediately.

“It’s pretty easy to switch between the BA and the BS because the core is the same,” Rodger said. “We have some students who sign up for BS but decide to drop back to BA because they are trying to do lots of other things.”

Rodger advised underclassmen to take their time in deciding which major and which specific degree path.

“You don’t have to make that decision right away, so I would suggest exploring lots of things you want to do,” Rodger said.

Likhitha Butchireddygari contributed reporting.