Bachelor of Fine Arts Degrees: BA vs. BFA

Find out what makes these two bachelor of arts degrees different.

Choosing Between the Bachelor's

bachelor of fine arts degree student in pottery class

If you're considering the merits of a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree compared to a Bachelor of Arts degree, the main difference is in the ratio of liberal arts courses to visual arts courses for each degree.

Your choice between a Bachelor in Fine Arts (BFA) degree and a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree will come down to your educational and career goals. With the BA, you'll take more liberal arts courses (general studies such as literature, history, etc.). With the BFA, you'll focus more on intensive art and design studies.

Let's Compare Them Side by Side

 

  Bachelor of Arts (BA) Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA)
Type of Degree Academic Professional
Time to Completion 4 years 4 years
Type of Coursework Liberal Arts Your Fine Arts Major
Examples of Courses Math, Physics, English, History or whatever you liberal arts area of specialty is Depending upon the area of the arts you intend to practice, could be Photography, Theater, Dance, Art History, etc.
Ratio of General Ed to Specialty Courses Focus (in program hours) 50 - 60 hours general ed; rest in liberal arts specialty 30 hours general ed; 60 -70 hours in specialty
  • Liberal arts courses provide you with a well-rounded education that gives you greater career options. Even the most talented artist may need to fall back on a "day job" at some point. While any bachelor's degree will make you more attractive to prospective employers, a BA will give you a broader base of knowledge to draw upon in your future job. This can be extremely helpful should your career take you in an unexpected direction.

How Fine Arts Degrees Stack Up

Here is the breakdown of visual arts to liberal arts credits that you will encounter in a BFA or BA program:

  • Bachelor of Fine Arts: A BFA requires that approximately two thirds of the course work focus on the creation and study of visual arts, and one third of the course work focus on liberal arts (history, literature, psychology, etc.).
     
  • Bachelor of Arts: For a BA, the course work ratios are flipped, with a two thirds focus on liberal arts and one third focus on visual arts.

These ratios hold true across all establishments of higher learning. The type of degree, not the institution, determines the amount of visual arts to liberal arts you will study.