Difference Between BA and BFA - Which to Choose?

Are you puzzled while choosing between BA and BFA? Here is an article which debunks the differences between BA and BFA to give you a better understanding.

TCM Staff

14th October 2021

Difference Between BA and BFA

Are you puzzled while choosing between BA and BFA? Here is an article that breaks down the differences between BA and BFA to give you a better understanding

While a Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) are similar degrees, there are important distinctions to keep in mind. The BA and BFA both cater to college artists but provide different emphasis and training. 

The BA is an undergraduate degree program focusing on arts and sciences. On the contrary, the BFA is an undergraduate program covering almost exclusively topics in the field of visual and performing arts. 

When the question arises regarding which is better, the answer is “it depends.” 

The degree that will best fit your needs will depend on your interest and future career goals.

Your choice between a BA and a BFA will play a major role in determining your education and career goals. This article will help you understand the main differences between a BFA and BA based on different parameters.

What is BA?

A Bachelor of Arts, commonly known as a BA, is a bachelor's degree awarded for an undergraduate student in the arts and sciences. The program generally takes three or four years, depending on the country and institution. 

What is BFA?

A Bachelor of Fine Arts, commonly known as a BFA, is an undergraduate degree for students in the United States and Canada. It primarily explores topics in the visual or performing arts.

Difference between BA and BFA degrees

 

We have laid down the most integral differences under the following categories:

1. Degree Standards

The requirements for earning a degree is one of the major differences between a BA and a BFA. A BA involves education that helps students explore various areas of their art form and determine where their interests and talents lie. 

A BA also covers other topics in the sciences and subjects outside of the world of art.

A BFA is a professional degree that focuses a student’s studies on a particular field with the goal of learning a specific art form. The degree also offers various opportunities for the students to discover their own artistic voice and skills.

2. Subjects Concerned

Both the BFA and BA programs are typically part of a schools’ College of Arts and Sciences. A BA offers a balanced and varied education in subject areas such as Communication, Computer Science, English, Maths, Psychology, and Sociology. 

By contrast, a BFA covers art subjects like Drawing, Painting, Photography, Multimedia, Sculpture, and more.

In general, a BFA has a more intense focus on a specific art style or form performance. An actor, musician, or artist is likely to earn a BFA where many students, even those who aren’t directly focused on artistic pursuits, can earn a BA.

3. Credits Requirements

  • In a BFA program, 120 total credits are required. It includes 34 credits of general education and at least 73 credits in the subject of emphasis.
  • In a BA program, 120 total credits are required. It includes 34 credits and 45-48 in the subject of emphasis, leaving more room for elective classes.

4. Duration of the Degree Course

If you are starting as a freshman in the BA program, you can expect to complete your education in four years. Depending on the credits you earned prior to entering college and your willingness to take extra classes, you can finish the degree in as little as two or three years.

BFAs are much the same, with four-year programs being the standard. Some students can complete them in fewer with transfer credits or summer classes.

5. Course Work Focus

  • In the BFA program, two-thirds of the course work focuses on the conception and study of visual arts, and one-third on liberal arts.
  • In the BA program, the course work focuses two-thirds on liberal arts and one-third focus on visual arts.

6. Curriculum

Both the degrees include general classes such as literature, math, science, and foreign languages, which are considered to be compulsory for all the students. 

However, a BFA degree has a more specific curriculum when compared to a BA degree, with a more intense focus on the arts.

BA students take elective courses in theater, film, and television, among others. BFA students take far fewer elective courses and mainly focus on studio classes in one interest field.

7. Future Career Goals

Students who have graduated from a BA program will have various job opportunities that involve artistic skills outside professionally practicing those arts. For example, they can work as high school art teachers.

Students who have pursued a BFA tend to pursue jobs in their field, such as performing. Some move on to further studies, like obtaining a Master of Fine Arts degree.

 

Job opportunities for BA graduates

 

Profession

Median salary


Marketing Manager 

  $61k

Operations Manager 

  $59k


Executive Assistant

  $51k

Account Manager 

  $52k

Marketing Coordinator 

  $42k

Human Resources (HR) Manager 

  $66k

Marketing Director  


   $79k

Job opportunities for BFA graduates

Profession

Median salary

Art Teacher

$60,320

Writer

$71,850.

Fine Artist

$49,380

Art Director

$92,780

Actor

$17.54 (hourly wage)

Where to Study for a BFA

If you’re pursuing a Bachelor’s of Fine arts, you likely intend to pursue a career in art or performance. As in other careers, name recognition for your alma mater can play a major role in your success. The network you build in school can help you make connections and find opportunities.

This means that many BFA students look to enter top programs for their chosen discipline as getting into a strong program can help you succeed.

For example, the California Institute of the Arts is a top-ranked fine arts school with top 10 ratings for painting, drawing, photography, and sculpture. The School of the Art Institute of Chicago has top-ranked programs for printmaking, sculpture, and painting.

Musicians likely want to get into a school such as the Berklee College of Music, which is one of the largest and most prestigious music schools in the country, boasting more than 300 Grammy awards among its alumni.

There are also online colleges that offer arts programs if you want to take classes from home.

When selecting schools to apply to, think about where they are located, the programs they offer, and how well-known those programs are. 

You can get a strong education from many different schools, but you may find that more opportunities will make themselves available if you can get into one of the top schools for your discipline.

Should I Get a BA or a BFA?

If you’re still wondering whether you should pursue a BA or a BFA, there are a few questions you should ask.

First, you should decide whether your goal is to find a career in performing or practicing your art. 

If your dream is to play music on stage or make a living through painting, a BFA is a natural fit. If your career goals involve liberal arts but perhaps not making money directly through the arts, a BA is a better choice.

Also, consider what you’re looking for from the educational experience. 

Many college students want to cover a huge variety of topics during their college years and look for opportunities to take electives and learn about new subjects. If that sounds like you, a BA is flexible enough that you can learn about your major and still have time for electives and other classes.

If you want to hone in on your major and spend as much time as possible focusing on that topic, a BFA will provide that level of focus. 

Because a BA involves taking more liberal arts courses during your degree program, it will also set you up for future studies on topics outside the performing arts. A BFA will leave you with fewer options if you want to pursue a master’s or doctoral degree.

The choice between a BA and BFA can also impact the application process. Some BFA programs, for example, may require an audition if you want to get into the program. It’s important to be ready for this when you make your decision.

Both programs have pros and cons, and both will set you up for a career involving the arts.

Conclusion 

In general, a BA is a more general degree, while a BFA is a professional degree. Students who study for a BA will receive a more well-rounded education and will be better situated to pursue a double major or study other subjects. 

Those who pursue a BFA will find their studies to be more rigid with a much heavier focus on the arts. A typical BFA student is also more likely to focus on performance art than studio art.

While both degrees have value, it’s important to choose the right one for your needs. 

Regardless of the degree you choose to pursue, you’ll need a way to pay tuition. Our list of the best scholarships is a great place to get started.

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