The bachelor’s degree is the most common piece of paper college students end up pursuing and it’s the first thing you’re going to need to acquire before you even consider going after anything further. A bachelor’s degree at essentially any school will take you four years to earn, though the requirements and the classes you need to take will differ from school to school (sometimes dramatically).
There are not only a seemingly unlimited number of programs you can choose from but there are also a few different types of bachelor’s degrees and it’s important to understand the difference between the two main distinctions. The majority of students go after either a B.A. (Bachelor of Arts) or a B.S. (Bachelor of Science).
The first is for majors focusing on anything related to the arts, which both means “the arts” in the way people normally think of them – writing, music, dance, acting, painting, sculpture, and so on — as well as humanities and any kind of social science, such as economics, history, anthropology, sociology. BA degrees usually give a more comprehensive, typical liberal arts education than more specialized degrees like a B.M. or B.F.A. (more on these to come).
Bachelor of Science degrees are for those studying anything scientific (which should be obvious based on the name), technical, or sometimes business-focused; students interested in music careers may find these degrees related to Music Education, Music Business, and Sound Recording & Technology, for example.
As you can tell, most programs of study fit under either a B.S. or a B.A. but there are many other options…though if you’re reading this blog, you probably don’t need to worry about many of them. At this point, you’re likely not considering going out for a Bachelor of Science in Forestry (B.S.F.), a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work (B.S.W.), or a Bachelor of Library Science (B.L.S.) — unless you’re hoping to become a Music Librarian, of course.
You might, however, be interested in a Bachelor of Music, which is either known as a B.M. or B.Mus., or a B.F.A. (Bachelor of Fine Arts). Usually, you’ll find B.M. or B.F.A. degrees indicate a program has more requirements in the School of Music than in general education, giving the student more of a conservatory-style experience, with a focus largely on developing musical skills and knowledge. Often you’ll find Performance B.M. or B.F.A. programs but again, it depends almost entirely on the school you choose.
When you’re applying, keep in mind what is being offered is typically all that’s going to be available to you so if you don’t like what a certain college has to give, don’t choose it.
Confused yet? Fair enough. What degree you earn is typically dictated by the school. You should know what you’re getting yourself into before you sign up, so do your research on what’s on tap at each school. The designation is created by the college or university and it typically rests on the course load, although requirements can vary some from one school to the next.
As a reminder, if it’s about music, but not entirely so, you’re probably looking at a B.A. in Music. If all you do all day is study and practice playing an instrument or singing, a B.M. or B.F.A. is likely what your diploma will say.