Bachelor of Arts degree

Bachelor of Arts degree students sitting under yellow umbrellas on a sunny day

Want the flexibility to study several subjects? Thinking of pursuing further education as law, education, business, or a master's degree? A Bachelor of Arts degree may be the perfect fit for you.

You'll gain expertise in your chosen major as well as a breadth of knowledge in many subjects – and learn to apply age-old knowledge to today’s most important problems. It’s also the best way to become a free thinker and life-long learner.

What is a BA degree?

A Bachelor of Arts (BA) is a university degree that focuses on subjects within the liberal arts, humanities, social sciences, languages and culture, and fine arts. A bachelor’s degree is usually the first degree you would earn at university upon completing high school and normally takes three to four years to complete. Many programs give you the flexibility to choose many of your courses to suit your interests.

It's one of the most frequently-awarded degrees. Similar degrees include Bachelor of Science (BSc), Bachelor of Mathematics (BMath), and Bachelor of Environmental Studies (BES).

What do you study in a Bachelor of Arts (BA)?

Many BA programs are very flexible, allowing you to study a range of subjects (such as psychology, English, or economics) or to really focus on one or two subjects.

You’ll normally have a "major" or main subject of interest. A large portion of your courses will be in that subject, but you’ll have the freedom to take courses in other subjects that help you build important skills like thinking critically and conducting research.

If you have several subjects you’re passionate about, many programs allow you to choose two majors (a double major) and/or a minor – a subject requiring less courses than a major that still allows you to demonstrate a strong level of knowledge in that subject.

If it sounds overwhelming, don't worry! You'll have an advisor who can help you select your courses and any minors or specializations you'd like to pursue.


Many BA programs are very flexible, allowing you to study a range of subjects or to really focus on one or two subjects.

What majors are in a Bachelor of Arts?

At Waterloo, most Arts majors are offered by the Faculty of Arts, but the Faculty of Health also offers three BA degrees.


Majors can range from anthropology to women’s studies, depending upon the university. You can view many other BA programs by visiting the Ontario Universities Info website.

What can you do with a Bachelor of Arts degree?

With an Arts degree, you’ll have a ticket into careers in business, theatre, education, recreation, tech, writing, history, design, and almost anything you can think of.

Arts graduates have become archeologists, interior designers, financial planners, and writers. They’re CEOs, animation artists, political leaders, teachers, marketing directors, translators, Academy Award winners, music therapists, child care workers, intelligence officers, lawyers, nurses, poets, and stage managers. They’ve gone on to do great things, both big and small, and so can you.

Through Waterloo’s co-op program, you can explore potential jobs and gain experience. You can also take your degree onwards to law, med school, an MBA, or graduate school. You’ve got the ticket to ride. Where will you go?

I chose Arts because I loved the flexibility and the variety it would give me. I appreciated being able to start as an undeclared major in my first year so I could figure out what subjects I liked before I had to choose a major. In addition, I was able to do co-op and get hands-on experience in the workplace.

Savannah, third-year Arts student

Common questions

How long is a BA program?

It normally takes three or four years to complete a BA degree as a full-time student. Many universities also offer a part-time degree. How long it takes to complete a part-time degree depends on how many courses you take each term.

What are the prerequisites?

For many BA programs, you'll need a Grade 12 English or equivalent. However, admission requirements vary by program and by university and for more specialized programs, you'll need high school courses in other subjects. View Waterloo's admission requirements.


What does Bachelor of Arts (Honours) mean?

An honours degree, which normally takes four years to complete, requires more courses and a higher average than a general degree, which can be three or four years in length. At some universities, students "graduate with honours," meaning they graduate with an impressively high grade point average.

What is the abbreviation for an honours Bachelor of Arts?

The common abbreviations are BA or HBA.


What financial aid is available?

If you're starting first year, you'll be eligible for a number of entrance scholarships. Once you're here, there are many upper-year scholarships, bursaries, and awards you can apply for.

How much does a BA cost?

Tuition for Arts programs at Waterloo is about $8,000 a year plus books and supplies. Estimate your total first-year costs using our student budget calculator (Honours Arts is a good program to use as an example).


Ready to learn more?