What Is a Bachelor of Science, BS, or BSc Degree?
A Bachelor of Science Degree, most often abbreviated as a BS, BSc, or Bc Degree, is an undergraduate sciences-focused degree that takes three to five years to complete. The 3-5 year timeline of a BS degree varies depending on a number of things including the location of the institution, institution requirements, area of focus, student preference, and possible school or credit transfers.
In contrast to the Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree, which focuses on liberal arts studies, the BS Degree or BSc Degree traditionally focuses on science-related disciplines, majors, and subject areas.
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 the designation BA while another might award it with a BS. In general, however, there are several majors that are almost always considered to be sciences and thus awarded a Bachelor of Science, BS or BSc Degree. These science-focused majors include:
- Earth science
- Social science
- General science
- Sport/exercise science
- Computer science
History of The Bachelor of Science Degree
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 awarded the Bachelor of Art (BA) designation, regardless of subject matter. While there is near universal consensus in the United States as to what subjects are sciences and which are arts, outside the US there are still exceptions. 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 BA degrees, even in subject areas that would be considered sciences in the United States.
Requirements, Terminology, and Duration of Bachelor of Science Degrees
Bachelor of Science degrees vary in their requirement, nomenclature and duration depending on where they are earned. Below we provide an in-depth look at the differences in BS and BSc degree programs and designations in the United States and internationally.
Bachelors of Science (BS and BSc) Degrees in the United States and Canada
In both the United States and Canada, the BS or BSc degree typically takes four years to complete and is awarded for the completion of undergraduate studies in mathematics, engineering, computer science, physical sciences, economics, and related fields. Less frequently the BS designation is applied to professional studies in the areas of business, nursing, medicine, law, hospitality, or architecture.
The United Kingdom and the Republic Of Ireland
In Britain and Ireland, as in the United States and Canada, a Bachelors of Science is typically awarded upon the successful completion of an undergraduate program in one or more fields of the sciences. The completion period for the degree may vary by country, subject field, and school.
In both the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, the Bachelor of Science has four designations: BSc, BS, BSc (Hons) or BS (Hons). The BSc degree or BS degree is awarded for passing an “ordinary” undergraduate major or program while the BSc (Hons) or BS (Hons) is awarded for the completion of an honours degree. The honours level degree requires students to demonstrate superior academic performance (as opposed to accepting a “pass” grade) and in some cases an extra year of honours studies.
In England, Northern Ireland, and Wales, an honours degree can be completed in three years, although today there are a few accelerated honours programs that can be completed in just two years.
In Scotland, where students graduate from high school a year before students in most other countries, they are required to complete a foundation year of college studies, known simply as the “First Year”, bringing the completion period for a Bachelor Science degree 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 awarded after four years of study.
European Union and Affiliated Countries
The Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts (BA/MA) system was introduced into Europe in 2002. Up until that time, higher education institutions in most European countries offered a single post-secondary education program which combined the curriculum of a modern-day Bachelor’s and Master’s degree. Students who successfully completed the program were awarded the doctorandus degree.
Today, most European colleges, universities, and academies now 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 institutions: Universitten and Fachhochschulen. The Universitten typically offers more general studies that focus on the fundamentals of science and theory, while the Fachhochschulen, or University of Applied Science, offers more specialized training and professionally oriented degree programs. The undergraduate degrees awarded by both institutions are equivalent to each other.
Over the last decade, like most other European countries, German-speaking countries have been transitioning to the BA/MA system, and in doing so now offer both the BSc and MSc degrees.
Earning a BSc in Germany typically takes six to seven academic semesters or 3 to 3.5 years. During this time period, students are required to earn between 180 and 210 ECTS credits. ECTS stands for European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System, which is a standardized system for comparing academic performance of students participating in higher education programs throughout Europe.
While slightly behind the curve, the Czech Republic is now adopting the Bachelor of Science (BSc) and Master of Science (MSc) system being implemented throughout Europe. Universities and higher education institutions in the Czech Republic now offer BSc (Bc) and MSc (Mgr/Ing) degree programs equivalent to those offered by their European counterparts.
Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa
The Bachelor of Science degree (abbreviated BSc) in Australia can be completed in three years. Students who are interested in earning a BSc (hons.) can complete a fourth year of Honours studies. To progress toward a Ph.D. students must earn a BSc (hons.) degree or a traditional BSc and MSc degree.
The process for earning a BSc degree in New Zealand is similar to that in Australia. However, to earn an Honours degree there are often additional postgraduate requirements depending on the field of study and school. Often students who have demonstrated strong academic performance throughout their undergraduate studies will be invited to extend their education an additional year, to focus on research, whereby qualifying themselves to enter a Ph.D. program.
As is the case in both Australia and New Zealand, the Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree in South Africa can be completed in just three years of full-time study, while the BSc Honours (considered a postgraduate degree) requires four years of full-time study. To be awarded the BSc (hons.), students must maintain a high GPA and demonstrate superior academic performance. The BSc (hons.) degree is a prerequisite to MSc or Ph.D. level studies.
In Argentina, and a few other countries in South America, universities offer a single undergraduate program that is presented more as a professional licensure within a specific discipline or field of study than a degree. These programs typically take five to six years to complete (which include a 1 to 2 year professional training period) and are considered the equivalent of a combined BS/MS degree.
Unlike bachelor’s degree programs offered in other countries that may emphasize liberal arts education, for example, university level academic programs, bachelor’s degree programs in Argentina almost always focus on a specific field or discipline.
Once students have completed about 80% of their total coursework requirements they’re eligible to start their mandatory professional training period, which is similar to a residency or apprenticeship program required in the United States. Once a student has completed all program requirements they are awarded a degree that designates them as “Licensed in…”.
Following the completion of their professional licensure program, students may return to complete a more traditional master’s degree which will require an additional 2 to 3 years of coursework and training. Some professionals, such as engineer or medical doctor, have additional education requirements specific to the discipline.
Global Bachelor of Science Degree Completion Lengths
One of the biggest differences between Bachelor of Science (BS) degrees that are offered in different countries is the time required for completion. Below we have listed the different countries that have colleges and universities offering BS degrees along with the typical completion period. We have also noted any variations in the time required to complete a BS degree.
Bachelor of Science Degrees That Take Three Years
Below is a list of countries where a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree takes about 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 about four years to complete:
Bachelor of Science Degrees That Take Five Years
Below is a list of countries where a Bachelor of Science (BS) takes about five years to complete. Often five-year BS degrees require four years of standard coursework plus a year of research and presentation of an original thesis.
- Bachelor of Arts (BA) Degree
- Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) Degree
- Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences (BAAS) Degree
- Bachelor of Applied Arts (BAA) Degree
- Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) Degree
- Bachelor’s Degrees
Featured Schools that Offer Bachelor Degrees
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