What is a BA Degree?

A Comprehensive Guide for Prospective Students

Applying to university can be an exciting yet overwhelming experience. As a prospective student, you have probably encountered the term “BA degree”. Understanding what a BA degree is and how to apply for one is essential for making informed decisions about what line of study is right for you.

This blog discusses the basics of BA degrees, the types of BA degrees available, and how to apply for them.

What is a BA Degree? What does BA stand for?

BA stands for Bachelor of Arts. Usually, undergraduate students choose between taking a BA and a BS/BSc (Bachelor of Science).

A Bachelor of Arts degree programme usually takes three to four years to complete, depending on the country and institution.

Typically, a BA is an academic undergraduate degree awarded after the completion of a university course in the Liberal Arts or Humanities.

However, in some cases, a BA degree can also encompass disciplines within the social sciences. For example, the world-renowned Oxford University titles all of its three-year degrees as BAs, even the sciences.

What is the difference between a BA and BSc degree?

A BA degree and a BSc degree are two distinct undergraduate academic distinctions offered at universities.

The BA degree tends to focus on the humanities, arts, and social sciences, emphasising critical thinking, communication, and creative skills.

In contrast, the BSc degree primarily centres around scientific and technical disciplines, placing greater emphasis on analytical, quantitative, and problem-solving abilities.

However, this is generally but not always the case, as stated in the section above.

Types of BA Degrees

There are many types of degrees available as a BA caters to a diverse range of interests and career aspirations. Some popular courses that are traditionally BA degrees include:

  • English Literature
  • History
  • Law
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Philosophy
  • Communication Studies
  • Political Science
  • Foreign Languages
  • Fine Arts
  • Performing Arts
  • Anthropology
  • Art History
  • Business
  • Criminal Justice
  • Education
  • Geography
  • Philosophical
  • Religious Studies

In many cases, BA degrees have interdisciplinary elements, an option for joint honours, or an opportunity for a specific specialism. Hence, it is often possible to approach your course through a detailed lens, or a bird’s eye view of the bigger picture, depending on your preference.

Prestigious BA degrees

If you’re curious about getting into one of the most prestigious and competitive BA courses, the table below details five of them in no particular order:

BA CourseTopicGeneral entry requirementsTop-ranking universities for it (The Complete University Guide, 2023)
ArchitectureTeaches students how to design functional and aesthetically pleasing spaces, combining principles of art, engineering, and sustainability to create built environments.Range: CCD-AAB

Most common: BBB

Top tier universities: A*AA

1) University of Bath

2) University of Cambridge

HistoryFocuses on the study and interpretation of past events, societies, and cultures, helping students develop critical thinking skills and a deep understanding of the complex processes that have shaped the world.Range: BCC – AAB

Most common: ABB

Top tier universities: A*AA

1) University of Oxford

2) University of Cambridge

LawProvides students with a comprehensive understanding of the legal system, its principles, and its applications, preparing them for careers as lawyers, legal scholars, or policy-makers.Range: BCC – AAA

Most common: ABB

Top tier universities: A*AA

1) University of Oxford

2) University of Cambridge

PhilosophyExplores fundamental questions about existence, knowledge, and morality, encouraging students to think critically, analyse complex concepts, and develop logical arguments.Range: BCC – AAB

Most common: ABB

Top tier universities: A*AA

1) University of Oxford

2) London School of Economics and Politics

EnglishConcentrates on the analysis and importance of literature, language, and culture, fostering students’ abilities to read critically, write clearly, and communicate effectively.Range: CCC – AAB

Most common: ABB

Top tier universities: A*AA

1) University of Oxford

2) University of Cambridge

Please note that the table lists 5 examples, not the top 5 and there are many more. Subjects like Economics, Maths, and Medicine are extremely competitive and can sometimes be taken as BA degrees. The table above only includes subjects which are traditionally considered BA degrees.

Career Opportunities with a BA Degree

A BA degree can open the door to various career opportunities in many fields. Depending on what subject you choose to take your BA degree in, here are some common careers it could lead to:

  • Writer or editor
  • Public Relations Specialist
  • Social Worker
  • Teacher
  • Marketing Manager
  • Human Resources Specialist
  • Graphic Designer
  • Policy Analyst
  • Museum Curator
  • Accountant
  • Sales Manager
  • Project Manager

A BA degree can serve as a foundation for pursuing graduate studies, such as a Master’s or Doctorate degree, which can lead to even more specialised career paths.

How to Apply for a BA Degree

If you’re thinking about applying for a BA degree, have a look at the steps outlined below:

Step 1: Research Universities and Programmes

Start by researching universities that offer BA degree programmes in your field of interest.

Consider elements individual to the university, like location, size, and reputation, as well as factors unique to the courses available such as module options and available resources. It is a good idea to attend the open day for your preferred university to get a feel of the place. Check out our previous blog’s advice on choosing a university.

When making your decision, think about what suits your academic and personal preferences best to choose the right fit for you. If you’re overwhelmed by choice and unsure about your decision, don’t forget that we have experienced admissions experts who can guide you through the process with knowledge and advice tailored to your needs.

Step 2: Check Admission Requirements

Each institution has specific admission requirements, such as entry requirements based on A level and sometimes GCSE grades. Some courses also have specific subject requirements. It is important to check the university’s course pages to ensure that you know exactly what the expectations are so that you can prepare accordingly to meet them.

Worried that your grades aren’t high enough? Here at The Profs, we have a dedicated team of tutors who can help you in achieving your needed grades.

Step 3: Prepare Application Materials

Gather the necessary application materials, including:

  • Official academic transcripts
  • Acceptable GCSE and A level grades/predicted grades: Ensure that you check your preferred universities individual requirements for your chosen course
  • References: You might need to ask a teacher to write a reference for you. Ensure that you choose a teacher you have good rapport with, and ideally, one who teaches you in a subject relevant to your chosen degree!
  • Personal statement: Note that all students applying to university for 2023, 2024 or 2025 will still be required to submit a UCAS personal statement as normal. However, from January 2025 onwards (October 2024, for Oxbridge applicants), there will be changes to the UCAS application process and students will no longer be required to write a personal statement. Instead, all applicants will answer a series of shorter, more tailored questions provided by UCAS. 
  • Admissions test preparation: If your course requires this, ensure that you’ve invested plenty of time into practising and preparing for it. The Profs offer many tutors with experience in admissions tests, who can prepare you for your specific exam.
  • Application fee: If you’re applying through your school, you’ll probably be asked to pay the UCAS fee to them. The fee usually ranges from £22-£27.

Step 4: Apply

Submit your application according to the university’s guidelines and deadlines. Always double-check expectations on the university’s website.

Here in the UK, undergraduate applications are most commonly completed through the online UCAS system.

UCAS stands for the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, which is the UK’s centralised application system for undergraduate courses at universities and colleges. It allows students to apply to up to five courses at different institutions using a single online application.

Step 5: Await Decisions and Accept Offers

Once you have submitted your applications, wait for the universities to review your materials and make their decisions.

You might be invited for an interview as part of the final decision. If so, ensure that you’re prepared to impress. Here at The Profs, we have excellent interview tutors who can help you to smash this part of the process.

Offers are usually made between March and June. You might receive a conditional or unconditional offer. Conditional means you’re into the university so long as you meet certain specified requirements or your predicted grades, unconditional means that you’ve earned a place no matter what. If you receive multiple offers, weigh your options carefully before accepting an offer and enrolling in a BA degree programme.

The final step is accepting your offer. The deadlines for reply dates are based on when UCAS receives your final decision regarding your universities. Check your application to find out your personal deadline.

Your reply date should be early June if you receive your final decision on or before mid-May. Your reply date should be mid-July if you received your last decision on or before early July 2023. Always check!

The Profs can help

Choosing a degree path and a university, and then applying for them, is a daunting process, but there’s no reason you should have to go through it alone. The Profs can help you with any facet of the application process that you might be struggling with, such as:

We hope this article helps you in applying for a BA degree programme and embarking on an exciting higher education journey. Good luck!