What is a Bachelor of Applied Science?

Rachel Burkot

A Bachelor of Applied Science, or BAS, is a university-level degree that tends to mean slightly different things in different places. In most of Europe, for instance, the BAS is a prestigious degree awarded primarily to engineering and physics students and is usually a prerequisite to graduate school in these fields. In the United States, however, the bachelor of applied science program is usually more trade-focused. American students usually elect to earn a BAS instead of a more rigorous bachelor of science or bachelor or arts degree. This sort of BAS can often be earned through a trade school or community college, and is usually considered terminal.

Courses in math can lead to a BAS degree.
Courses in math can lead to a BAS degree.

Focus on the Hard Sciences

In most places, “applied sciences” are disciplines that require a lot of technical training. Fields related to engineering — whether mechanical, biological, or chemical — are usually the most common, though courses like math, physics, and computer science can also lead to a BAS degree. Studies in these disciplines can be vocational, such as contract electrical or computer engineers, or more advanced, often leading to corporate positions or consultancy roles.

Courses in computer science can lead to a BAS degree.
Courses in computer science can lead to a BAS degree.

Popularity in the United States

In the United States, BAS programs exist almost exclusively within the vocational track. U.S. Higher education typically falls into two main “tracks” or categories. First is traditional university education, which usually lasts four years and culminates with either a bachelor of science or bachelor of arts degree. This sort of training is designed to provide students with broad exposure to a number of different thoughts and ideas. People who hope to begin work right away in a trade or vocation usually opt for the second option, which is the community college or technical school path. Vocational degrees take less time and focus more on practical training than intellectual stimulation.

American students usually pursue the BAS degree after first earning an Associate of Applied Science, or AAS, degree. Associate certifications typically take only two years to complete and qualify students to begin work immediately; as such, going on to earn the broader Bachelor of Applied Science is a way for vocational students to set themselves apart from the competition. The degree is usually considered terminal in this market, and will not usually qualify a student to pursue graduate studies. The majority of U.S. graduate schools require a BA or BS for admission.

Differences Abroad

Outside of the United States, the Bachelor of Applied Science is often used interchangeably with the more traditional Bachelor of Science degree, particularly for courses in the engineering fields. Most European and Asian education systems follow this model. In these places, the BAS is often a precursor to graduate work and more advanced studies. It rarely offers training appropriate to vocations, however. Students hoping to either go on in academia or start work immediately would be wise to research their country's system before enrolling in a particular program.

In Europe, the BAS degree is awarded primarily to engineering and physics students.
In Europe, the BAS degree is awarded primarily to engineering and physics students.

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Discussion Comments


This article and some of the comments are misleading. A BS degree won't ensure acceptance into graduate school any more than any BAS degree prohibits acceptance. The actual courses taken and how well the student performed are what enables one to enter graduate school. For example, MBA degrees require coursework in accounting, marketing, and statistics and accredited BAS Management degrees typically require those courses so that the students are prepared for the MBA coursework.

The key differences between BS/BA and BAS degrees are that the electives are different. BAS degrees take 5 years as opposed to the normal 4 years it takes to complete a BS degree because the non-academic electives from the Associates degree are not accepted in accredited programs. If you don't already have an Applied Associates degree, then definitely get the BA or BS and save yourself a year. If you have completed an Applied Associates degree, then the BAS program may allow you to meet all the normal requirements of an regionally accredited Bachelor's degree in a slightly shorter timeframe.

To imply that a degree that takes a total of 5 years to complete is inferior to one that takes 4 years is simply untrue. In fact, some would argue that the extra year of career-based applied coursework is a benefit to the student and actually enhances the degree.


The BAS is a specialized degree that is way more advanced than any traditional degree. I have a BAS from a regional accredited university (SACS) and would not trade it for any other degree out there.

The BAS has the same academic requirements as traditional degrees (BS or BA). The advantage you have with the BAS is applied experience in an advanced specialized discipline. It takes a little longer to graduate but it is well worth it. My BAS degree allowed me to get into one of the top graduate schools here in Texas that has dual accreditation (regional and national), and they gave me a scholarship that pays for my education.


Regionally accredited BAS degrees are fully accepted by graduate schools and are essentially transfer programs for students who possess accredited applied associates degrees.

BAS degrees have the same core requirements as a BA/BS and take five years total to complete if you include the required associates degree.


@rs4life- As stated in the article, a BAS degree (bachelor of applied science), is one that generally builds upon a previous degree, such as an associate’s degree, with an emphasis on preparation for vocation, not further education. A BAS does not always provide the general education foundation needed to continue into a graduate program. For that reason, a bachelor of applied science degree is usually considered terminal (the last degree received).

The BS degree (bachelor of science) is intended to promote *both* vocation and higher learning, and is not necessarily intended to build upon a previous degree. BS programs provide the general education foundation needed for an advanced degree-about half of the courses are general education, and the other half are in the major.

Those are the major differences between the two degrees, from an educational perspective. I do not know what impact these differences might have on job marketability.


I am interested in pursuing my degree in psychology and wonder if there is an advantage (or disadvantage) to earning a bachelor of applied science vs a bachelor of science?

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