Keep the Psychology B.A. at UCSB

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Xiaotong Zhou

The Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara announced that it will cease to offer a psychology Bachelor of Arts for incoming freshmen after 2017. After this year, the department will only offer a Bachelor of Science in psychology.

Although the decision is designed to satisfy the needs of research-oriented students, it undervalues the historically-offered B.A. degree. People often refer to career prospects and payscale to evaluate a major, which causes an undesirable situation for B.A. degrees since B.S. degrees often promise more job oppurtunities.

However, people with a psychology B.A. have strong job prospects. If the school eliminates this option for students, the psychology major will become more research-oriented at UCSB.

“There are multiple reasons why Psychological and Brain Sciences no longer offers a B.A. in psychology,” said Andrea Renteria, the Undergraduate Advisor in the Psychology department, in an interview with The Bottom Line. “For one, our department has always had an emphasis in research psychology, not in clinical psychology.”

The main difference between research psychology, which applies to B.S. degrees, and clinical psychology, which applies to B.A. degrees, is that research psychologists conduct experiments and studies. Clinical psychologists apply theories and techniques to psychological practices.

Although it is impossible to say one degree is better than the other, students who earn B.S. degrees seem to have greater flexibility and opportunities. A Bachelor of Science degree guarantees an edge in research psychology and in the job market since many employers intend to hire technical talents.

The change in the psychology department is not a surprise. “Since the psychology program at UCSB is meant to prepare students for research psychology, we want to ensure that our students are adequately prepared for modern-day psychological research,” Renteria said.

The B.S. degree has a stronger concentration on the major area of psychology than a B.A. because a B.S. degree focuses more on science courses and labs with a highly interdisciplinary approach based in biology.

Students in the B.S. program will learn theories and will delve deep into how the brain works. They will learn about cutting edge research and experiments using technology to analyze the biological and neurological structure. By learning these theories and skills, students can become application-based psychologists, such as researchers or neuropsychologists.

However, elimination of the psychology B.A. also brings disadvantages. First, it hinders the career development of students who plan to enter the job market directly after completing their undergraduate degree since almost all lucrative jobs with a B.S. require further education.   

For people who want to earn a master’s degrees in non-psychology fields, such as law, business, and social work, a psychology B.A. degree will help them achieve future success because they are required to take humanities and social science courses.

Unfortunately, students interested in psychology at UCSB will not be able to focus on studying psychology before they pursue careers in other, related fields.

Another problem with removing the B.A. is that it will influence people’s attitudes towards B.A.s. Many people consider the B.A. to be less valuable than a B.S. degree since the former can’t guarantee a research-oriented future like the latter can. 

Focus on a B.S. program helps students prepare for careers in science and graduate studies in psychology or related disciplines. However, the removal of the B.A. harms students’ enthusiasm for this degree because students may think that a B.S. is more important.

Unfortunately, students who want to pursue a B.A. degree in psychology at UCSB now have to consider alternatives.

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