What Is a Bachelor of Science, BS or BSc Degree?
A Bachelor of Science Degree, most often abbreviated as a BS or BSc Degree, is an undergraduate science-focused degree that takes 3-5 years to complete. This timeline varies based on the school’s BS or BSC degree requirements, degree area of focus, student needs, and any previously earned transfer credits.
In the United States and Canada, the Bachelor of Science is given for the completion of undergraduate studies in mathematics, engineering, computer science, physical sciences, economics, and related fields. The BS or BSc degree designation is less common within the areas of business, nursing, medicine, law, hospitality, and architecture.
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What Is the Difference Between a BS and BA Degree?
The BS Degree or BSc Degree centers around science-related disciplines, majors, and subject areas like biology, chemistry, physics, engineering, and computer science. The Bachelor of Arts (BA) focuses on liberal arts studies (common BA majors include English language and literature, communications, humanities, music, and art).
Most Common Bachelor of Science Majors
What is considered a “science” or an “art” may vary from university to university. For example, one university may award an economics degree with a BA designation while another might award it with a BS. In general, there are several majors that are almost always sciences and thus granted a Bachelor of Science, BS or BSc Degree.
Common BS or BSc Majors
- Earth science
- Social science
- General science
- Sport/exercise science
- Computer science
National Average Salary Figures of Bachelor’s Degree Holders
- Average Median Annual Salary: $60,112 (associate degree: $42,588)
- Median Usual Weekly Earnings: $1,156 (associate degree: $819)
- Unemployment Rate: 2.7% (associate degree: 3.6%)
Careers That Typically Require a Bachelor of Science Degree
|Job Title||2016 Median Salary|
|Occupational Health and Safety Specialists||$70,920|
|Dietitians and Nutritionists||$58,920|
Physical and Earth Sciences Careers
|Job Title||2016 Median Salary|
|Atmospheric Scientists, Including Meteorologists||$92,460|
|Chemists and Materials Scientists||$75,420|
|Environmental Scientists and Specialists||$68,910|
|Agricultural and Food Scientists||$62,920|
|Conservation Scientists and Foresters||$60,610|
|Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists||$60,520|
|Forensic Science Technicians||$56,750|
Architecture and Engineering Careers
|Job Title||2016 Median Salary|
|Computer Hardware Engineers||$115,080|
|Electrical and Electronics Engineers||$96,270|
|Mining and Geological Engineers||$93,720|
|Marine Engineers and Naval Architects||$93,350|
|Health and Safety Engineers||$86,720|
|Mechanical Engineering Technicians||$84,190|
|Cartographers and Photogrammetrists||$62,750|
Computer and Information Technology Careers
|Job Title||2016 Median Salary|
|Computer Network Architects||$101,210|
|Network and Computer Systems Administrators||$92,600|
|Information Security Analysts||$84,950|
|Computer Support Specialists||$79,840|
History of The Bachelor of Science
In 1860, the University of London became the first school to award the Bachelor of Science (BS) degree. Prior to this, nearly all bachelor’s degrees were given the Bachelor of Art (BA) designation, for all subjects.
The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), a public research university specializing in social sciences, applies the BSc designation to degrees earned in almost all subject areas, even those that would traditionally merit the BA designation stateside. In contrast, Oxbridge and Russell Group universities almost always award a BA, even in subject areas that would be considered sciences in the United States.
BS Degree Requirements Around the World
Today in the United States there is close to a national consensus as to which subjects are a Bachelor of Science and which are a Bachelor of Arts. Outside the U.S., however, there are many differences.
Outside of the U.S., BS and BSc degrees vary in their requirements, naming conventions, and duration. This changes based on where the degree is earned. Below we provide an in-depth look at the differences in BS and BSc degree programs and designations around the world.
Global Bachelor of Science Requirements
The United Kingdom and the Republic Of Ireland
In Britain and Ireland, as in the U.S. and Canada, a Bachelors of Science is given upon the completion of an undergraduate program in a field of science. The time period for finishing the degree may vary by country, subject field, and school.
In both the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, there are two types of Bachelor of Science degrees: BSc and BS or BSc (Hons) and BS (Hons).
The BSc or BS is given for completion of an “ordinary” undergraduate program while the BSc (Hons) or BS (Hons) is given for honour’s-level program. Earning an honour’s level degree means the students have shown superior academic performance (as opposed to accepting a “pass” grade). In some cases, it also means they finished an extra year of honour’s studies.
In England, Northern Ireland, and Wales, an honour’s degree can be done in three years. Though today there are a few accelerated honour’s programs that can be finished in just two years.
In Scotland, students graduate from high school a year before students in most other countries. Scottish college students need to complete a foundation year of college studies. This is known as the “First Year”. The First Year brings the completion period for a Bachelor Science degree in Scotland to four years.
The Republic of Ireland
Ireland offers two Bachelor of Science degrees, the BSc Ordinary which can be completed in three years and the BSc Honours which is given after four years of study.
European Union and Affiliated Countries
The Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Master of Arts (MA) system was received into Europe in 2002. Before then, higher education schools in European countries offered a single post-secondary education program that combined modern Bachelor’s and Master’s curriculum. Students who completed the program were given the doctorandus degree.
Today, most European colleges, universities, and academies offer the full equivalent of a BSc or MSc, but these differ from country to country.
In Germany there are two types of higher education schools: Universitten and Fachhochschulen.
The Universitten offers more general studies and is focused on science and theory. The Fachhochschulen, or University of Applied Science offers more specialized training and career-focused classes. These two degrees are equal to each other.
Over the last decade, like most other European countries, German countries have transitioned to the Bachelor’s/Master’s system. They now offer both the BSc and MSc degrees.
Earning a BSc in Germany takes six to seven academic semesters or 3 to 3.5 years. During this time, students are required to earn between 180 and 210 ECTS credits. ECTS stands for European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System. It is a standard system for comparing academic performance of higher education students throughout Europe.
While a bit behind the curve, the Czech Republic is now adopting the Bachelor of Science (BSc) and Master of Science (MSc) system. Universities and higher education schools in the Czech Republic now offer BSc (Bc) and MSc (Mgr/Ing) degrees equal to those offered by their European counterparts.
Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa
The Bachelor of Science (abbreviated BSc) in Australia can be finished in three years. Students who want to earn a BSc (hons.) can do a fourth year of Honours studies. To gain acceptance into an Australian PhD program, students must either earn a BSc (hons.) or a traditional BSc and MSc.
The process for earning a BSc in New Zealand is similar to that in Australia. However, to earn an Honours degree in NZ there are often more postgraduate demands based on the field of study and school. Often students who have shown strong academic performance through their undergraduate studies will be invited to extend their education an additional year. This additional year will focus on research and will qualify them to enter a PhD program.
As is the case in Australia and New Zealand, the Bachelor of Science (BSc) in South Africa can be finished in just three years of full-time study. The BSc Honours (a postgraduate degree) requires four years of full-time study. To be given the BSc (hons.), students must keep a high GPA and show superior academic performance. The BSc (hons.) degree is required to enter MSc or PhD level studies.
In Argentina, and a few other countries in South America, universities offer a single undergraduate program. It is given as a professional licensure within a specific discipline or field of study instead of as a degree. These programs take five to six years to complete and include a 1-2 year professional training period. They are considered equal to a combined BS/MS degree.
Unlike bachelor’s programs offered in other countries that may emphasize liberal arts education, bachelor’s programs in Argentina almost always focus on a specific field or discipline.
Once students complete about 80% of their total coursework they can start their mandatory professional training period. This is similar to a residency or apprenticeship program in the United States. Once that is finished, students are given a degree that designates them to be “Licensed in” their subject of study.
Following the completion of their professional licensure program, students may return to complete a more traditional master’s degree. This will require an additional 2 to 3 years of coursework and training. Some professionals, like engineers or medical doctors, will have even more education requirements to complete.
Global View of Average Bachelor of Science Completion Lengths
One of the biggest differences in Bachelor of Science (BS) degree programs throughout the world is the time for completion. Below are the countries that have schools offering BS or BSc degrees, along with their typical completion period. We have also noted variations in the typical time required to complete a BS.
Bachelor of Science Degrees That Take Three Years
Below is a list of countries where a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree takes an average of three years to complete:
Bachelor of Science Degrees That Take Four Years
Below is a list of countries where a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree takes an average of four years to complete:
Bachelor of Science Degrees That Take Five Years
Below is a list of countries where a Bachelor of Science (BS) take an average of five years to complete. Often five-year BS degrees require four years of standard bachelor’s coursework plus a year of research and presentation of an original thesis.
Other Types of Bachelor’s Degrees:
- Bachelor of Arts (BA)
- Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS)
- Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences (BAAS)
- Bachelor of Applied Arts (BAA)
- Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA)
- Bachelor’s Degrees
- BLS.gov salaries of bachelor’s degree holders
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