What is the difference between a BA and BFA? College Dance Degrees Explained!

What is the difference between a BA and BFA? Dance Degrees Explained!

What is the difference between a BA and BFA? College Dance Degrees Explained!

If you are looking to study a dance degree in college, you will probably feel as though you have stumbled into a world that speaks a totally different language. All of a sudden you are supposed to know all about Bacceauleurettes and Bachelor Degrees in Dance, Bachelor of Fine Arts Degrees with a concentration in Ballet or Bachelor of Science degrees in Dance Education. Then there are majors and minors, non-majors, associate degrees, and certificates, concentrations and emphasis and much more.

In both a dance BA and BFA degree you will major in dance. The difference is in a BFA, the major will require more credit points, courses and hours of focused study in dance. A BA major in dance requires fewer hours and credit points which allows a BA student to minor, choose elective studies or even double major in another area of study.

So that was a quick explanation of the difference between a BA and a BFA in Dance, but what is a major? What is a bachelor’s degree and what will it even do for me or my child as a dancer? I answer all those questions and more in this article, so make sure you scroll through the WHOLE article if you are not sure about what exactly a major or minor is or what the difference is between a college or conservatory dance education as the information you might be after could be further down in this post!

The Difference Between a BA, BFA and BS in Dance in a Table!

Please note that all universities are different and the following table is a general view of the differences and similarities between these degrees!

BA in DanceBFA in DanceBS in Dance
Four-year course of Study Four-year course of StudyFour-year course of Study
Major in DanceMajor in DanceMajor in Dance
Minor in any other arts courseworkMinors are generally not required as more time and credits are focused on you majorMinor in any other sciences related coursework
Electives in any other area of interest required to make up credits.Electives if any are related to the area of specialization.Electives in any other area of interest required to make up credits.
Double MajorDouble Majors are not common because of the commitment needed to your specialization.Double Major
Duel DegreeDuel Majors are even less common because of the commitment needed to your specialization.Dual Degree
120-130 Credits120-130 Credits120-130 thought Dependent on the institution as some BS degrees can require more credit points than a BA or BFA to pass.
Academic DegreeProfessional DegreeTechnical/Research Degree
General education courses such as English, a second language, Communications or social sciences are required.Dependent on the college an equal or smaller load of general education courses in the liberal arts are required.General Education Courses in maths, science or computer science are required as well as some humanities subjects.
Can have a concentration or emphasisCan have a concentration or emphasis Can have a concentration or emphasis

What is a BA in Dance?

A Bachelor of Art in Dance (BA in Dance) will generally allow you to Major in Dance, but minor in another area of study, choose elective studies complete a double or even dual major. The areas of study you can choose from are normally those found within the liberal arts umbrella such as business, psychology, communication, theatre and music. Through my research and investigation of hundreds of BA in Dance degrees in the US which you can visit here I can safely say the following about the majority of BA degrees in dance.

  • A BA in Dance is a four-year course of Study. It is rare but you might find some colleges that offer a fast track and help you finish in 3 years and others who require you to finish in 5 years because you have chosen a concentration such as education that requires extra study for teacher certification in your state for example.
  • A BA in Dance requires you to major in dance, complete general education requirements of an arts degree, but then you are generally able to minor in another area or discipline within the arts available at your institution.
  • Elective studies make up the rest of your credit points of a BA and you are generally allowed to study these in any area of interest to you as long as they provide credits towards your degree.
  • A BA in Dance will allow you to do a double major, which means you still earn a single Bachelor’s Degree. It’s just that the title of the degree changes to A Bachelor of Art in Dance and Business for example.
  • At some institutions, you can apply for admission into two-degree programs and fulfill them simultaneously. You need to be accepted by both departments and it means you will earn two degrees, for example, a BA in Dance and a BA in Theatre. You need to be very dedicated to being able to achieve this and you might find that not many institutions offer a dual degree in dance because of the time commitment you need to make to the program which will not leave you time to fulfill credits to complete another degree.
  • Admission into some (not all) BA dance programs do not require an actual dance audition but is dependent on academic admission requirements.

What is a BFA in Dance?

A Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance (BFA in Dance) will require you to focus on your learning in dance studies and you will need more credit points in this area to satisfy the requirements of the BFA compared to students studying a BA or BS in dance. Nearly every university of the hundreds I visited online in the description of the BFA wrote that their Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance was for the student with professional aspirations. Through my research which you can visit here I can safely say the following about a BFA in dance.

  • A BFA in Dance is a four-year course of Study. You might find the rare college that offers a fast track to help you finish in 3 years.
  • A BFA in Dance requires you to major in dance and complete the general education requirements of an arts degree.
  • Some BFA’s are supplemented with a minor or elective studies under the umbrella of dance as well, dependent on the credit points allocated to general education studies for BFA students and the BFA major component of the degree.
  • It is not impossible to complete a double major as a dance BFA student, it just isn’t as common as in a BA or BS degree.
  • Again it is not impossible to complete a dual degree with a BFA in Dance, I am sure some ultra savvy person has done it or tried to do it and I am not sure if any faculty would actually agree to it! Personally I think you would probably be quite crazy to commit to doing so especially in four years! The issue is generally around time – and your ability to commit to the dance program and performance and rehearsal requirements, as well as to be able to timetable both degree programs, attend all classes, study and keep up your GPA in both areas.
  • Admission into a BFA dance program will require you to attend an audition to assess your ability to study, participate in and finish the coursework at the technical standard set for that particular dance program.

What is a BS in Dance?

A Bachelor of Science in Dance (BS in Dance) will allow you to Major in Dance, but minor in another area of study, choose elective studies complete a double or even dual major. The areas of study you can choose from are normally those found within the umbrella of science such as mathematics, biology, computer science, chemistry or human anatomy. Through my research and investigation of hundreds of BS in Dance degrees in the US which you can visit here I can safely say the following about the majority of BS degrees in dance.

  • A BS in Dance is a four-year course of Study. It is rare but you might find some colleges that offer a fast track and help you finish in 3 years and others who require you to finish in 5 years because you have chosen a concentration such as education that requires extra study for teacher certification in your state for example.
  • A BS in Dance requires you to major in dance, complete general education requirements of the science degree, but then you are generally able to minor in another area or discipline within the schools offering subjects to BS students available at your institution.
  • Elective studies make up the rest of your credit points of a BS and you are generally allowed to study these in any area of interest to you as long as they provide credits towards your degree.
  • A BS in Dance will allow you to do a double major, which means you still earn a single Bachelor’s Degree. It’s just that the title of the degree changes to A Bachelor of Science in Dance and Kinesiology for example.
  • At some institutions, you can apply for admission into two-degree programs and fulfill them simultaneously. You need to be accepted by both departments and it means you will earn two degrees, for example, a BS in Dance and a BA in Theatre. You need to be very dedicated to being able to achieve this and you might find that not many institutions offer a dual degree in dance because of the time commitment you need to make to the program which will not leave you time to fulfill credits to complete another degree.
  • Admission into some (not all) BS dance programs do not require an actual dance audition but is dependent on academic admission requirements.

Why you should do a BA, BFA or BS in Dance

BA Degree BFA Degree BS Degree
A BA in dance gives you the freedom to not be locked into only learning about dance. If your college has a BFA or BS you take the same core classes as those students in dance, but you have the ability to become knowledgeable in a completely different area of learning which is why it is referred to as an academic degree. A BA is good for dancers who want to study related theatre subjects or even business, media, psychology or communications as all of these areas compliment various dance careers you might eventually move into.If you are aiming to be a professional dancer or have a professional career in dance a BFA would be more beneficial to you because of the intensity and hours of study dedicated to your major and other focused courses in dance.A BS in dance like the BA gives you the freedom to not be locked into learning only about dance. I have found a BS in dance often offers students more access to subjects like psychology, kinesiology, biology and human movement which are all valuable to dancers. If you are analytically minded, like research or want to become more knowledgable about the biology and science of movement a BS in dance could be for you.

Why you shouldn’t do a BA, BFA or BS in Dance

BA Degree BFA Degree BS Degree
The BA in Dance is not for you if you aren’t interested in the general studies component of a BA degree. It is true that many BFA degrees require you to do the same amount of general education credits as a BA but there are some that have a smaller study load of these or require a lower GPA in them to pass.
Secondly, some BA courses require no audition therefore the quality of students in the course might be at a lower standard of training compared to students you will train with throughout a BFA degree.
A BFA degree is not for you if you want to be able to specialize, major and minor in other areas of study, as this is not the point of a BFA.A BS in dance is not for you if you have no interest in studying subjects such as maths and science as these are generally a requirement of the general education component of a BS degree.

What can you do with a BA, BFA or BS in Dance?

Nearly every college on the list promoted the fact that their degree would enable you to prepare for a professional career in dance, which they will, and therefore can be an outcome of a degree in dance, but it shouldn’t be the only goal you have for your studies at college considering the money and time you are spending on your education.

Therefore the following list is compiled with this in mind. Also note, that some careers on this list might need further studies in their fields such as a certificate or masters or need a double major or dual degree or for you to have studied a concentration or emphasis in a certain field or area.

99 Careers related to dance that don’t involve dancing professionally!

Alexander Technique Practitioner
Artistic Director
Arts & Entertainment Writer
Arts Administrator
Arts Advocacy Agent
Arts Council Director
Arts Management
Arts Organization Director
Box Office Manager
Boys/Girls Clubs Educator
Broadway Theatre/Tours
Camp Director
Choreographer
Cheer Coach
City Recreation Department Teacher
College Dance Team Coach/Choreographer
Community Arts Work
Costume Designer
Creative Director
Dance Anthropologist
Dance Archivist/Librarian
Dance Company Manager
Dance Consultant
Dance Curriculum Developer
Dance Critic/ Performance Reviewer
Dance Competition Judge
Dance Competition Organizer/Employee
Dance Education Director
Dance Filmmaker
Dance Fitness Instructor
Dance Historian
Dance Journalist
Dance Medicine Specialist

Dance Movement Therapist
Dance Photographer or Videographer
Dance Researcher
Dance Science Therapist
Dance Studio Owner
Dance Teacher (Private or in Schools)
Dance Therapist
Dance Wear Designer
Director of Development (Dance Company)
Elementary School Teacher
Elementary/Secondary School Outreach
Event Planner
Feldenkrais Practitioner
Grant Writer
Gyrotonics Instructor
Hair Designer or Theatrical Wig Maker
Health & Wellness Advocate
Health Coach
Higher Education Dance Teacher (Professor, adjunct, associate) Interdisciplinary Collaborator
Kinesiologist
Klein Technique Practitioner
Laban Movement Analyst
Lighting Designer
Magazine Publisher
Make-Up Artist
Marketing Assistant (Dance Books)
Marketing & Programs Manager
Massage Therapist
Music Video Choreographer
Myotherapist
Nonprofit Founder & Organizer
Outreach Coordinator

Personal Trainer
Physical Therapist
Pilates Instructor
Podcast Broadcaster
Producer
Production Assistant
Production Designer
Programmer
Prop Master
Psychologist or Psychiatrist for Dancers
Public Relations Manager (Dance Company)
Regional/Community Theatre Choreographer
Registered Nutritionist or Dietician
Rehabilitation Centers
Rehearsal Director
Somatic Body Therapist
Stage Crew
Stage Manager
Secondary Education Teacher
Senior Home Community Engagement Officer
Set Designer
Social Media Coordinator
Somatic Workshop Organizer
Sound Designer
Sports Trainer
Stage Manager
Studio Director/Teacher
Tai Chi Practitioner
Talent Agent/Director
Tour Manager
University & College Guest Artist Teacher/Choreographer
Yoga Instructor
Youtube Broadcaster

What is an Associate Degree in Dance?

An Associate of Arts Degree in Dance or (AA) is a two-year degree program offered by many community colleges.

Some and it is important to note – not all, associate degrees are transfer degrees and the community college might have a co-operative or articulation agreement with universities that allow students who successfully pass and achieve a certain grade level to transfer into the third year of a bachelors degree.

California according to my research and list of dance programs in the state which you can view here, has the largest number of AA degrees in dance and fortunately also has active legislation that grants any California Community College Student who has earned the Associate in Arts degree for Transfer specifically called the AA-T, priority admission to the California State University where they will be placed into the 3rd year of the most relevant BA degree program available. Luckily CSU has many campuses with dance programs!

What can I do with an Associate of Art Degree in Dance?

As a two-year degree, the qualification of an Associate of Art in Dance degree will help you learn the skills to teach in or open a private dance studio, teach dance in a community center, perform or go into further education in dance or a complimentary or interdisciplinary area of study. An Associate of Arts Degree in Dance with a bachelor of education and teaching certificate/License would in most states allow the student to teach dance in a K-12 public school setting. Other students compliment their Associate Degree in Dance with studies and certification in areas such as pilates, yoga or gyrokinesis for example and work in the wellness or body therapy industry as instructors.

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What is a Bachelors Degree?

A Bachelor’s Degree which is annotated with a B such as BA or BFA or BS is the award or certification given to someone who studies from anywhere between three to seven years or more and passes courses taught at an accredited institution (usually government accredited) such as at a college or university. A Bachelor’s Degree is an undergraduate degree, which simply means that the student has not yet completed a Bachelor’s Degree – they have not graduated. Once a person has finished and passed their courses of study, they are then able to further their education and learning as a graduate and complete a Masters Degree and then finally a Doctoral Degree, also known as a Ph.D. – So yes you can literally study until you become a Doctor of Dance!

FYI – The word bachelor in the world of college degrees has nothing to do with the television show of the same name!

It is thought to have come from two different sources, the first from the Latin word baccalaureate (baccalaureus or baccalaureatus) which is associated with the Latin bacca lauri or in other words the laurel berry which is a plant. The ancient Greeks and then later on Romans made wreaths out of leaves of the Laurel Berry. Wreaths like these were given out to the first Olympians, and they were also given as a sign of honor or triumph. The second source for the word is from 12th century England where the term referred to a knight of lower-status generally one who had no money to have his own troops – a Knight Bachelor. By the turn of the next century, the term was being used to categorize or rank junior knights.

What is a Major or Minor in Dance?

A Dance Major consists of around 40-50 credit points of study focused in dance. The faculty that oversee the major will have a curriculum of core courses you need to pass to obtain the major with some elective subjects that relate to your study for you to choose from.

A Minor in Dance comprises of around 15-30 credit points and can vary greatly depending on the course of study and the university serving the minor. You will generally not have to audition to do a minor in dance unlike the major, but this can change form college to college.

A Bachelors’ Degree requires you to do a certain amount of study which is broken up into academic courses. Each course is given a score of points known as credit points dependent on various criteria but mainly how many contact hours the course requires to complete it. To be able to receive your degree in dance your university will have a ruling on how many credit points you need to have obtained in dance studies to be awarded your degree.

Most Universities work on a two-semester per year system and require you to obtain around 120 or more credits over four years. With each course usually averaging 3 credits that is around 40 courses of study over the four years, although some courses credit more and others less. All Bachelors Degrees even those in dance will have a general education requirement that all students have to complete which takes up on average 40 credits. Different colleges have different general education requirements, for example, some require you to study a second language, so it is important before deciding on your dance program to see what these are. Your other credits towards your degree are then usually obtained through the combination of a Major and a Minor or two or some elective subjects.

What is an emphasis, concentration or track in a dance degree?

Many universities offer dance as a concentration or emphasis as part of a Theatre or Performance Degree. This means that you would follow the core studies for the theatre or performance and general education requirements of the degree, but would then follow a set course of studies under the dance umbrella.

Other colleges offer degrees in dance such as a BFA in Dance with an emphasis in Ballet or Modern Dance for example. This means you would need to fulfill the core requirements of the degree and dance major as well as follow a curriculum plan that concentrates in the emphasized area.

How long does it take to major in dance?

A dance major is usually part of a bachelor’s degree which on average takes four years to complete, although a few universities offer a fast track which allows their students to complete their studies in three years. The actual major in dance requires approximately 40 subject credits of study, around 14 courses of study at 3 credit points each which mathematically speaking means you could be finished in 1.5 years….

But the major by itself is not a degree or certification, nor is each course of study in an undergraduate degree major worth 3 credit points nor do many institutions offer every subject required to obtain a major every year, they often rotate courses over semesters and the four years it takes to obtain a degree to enable students to complete all the requirements of their degree over the 3 or 4 year period.

Where Can I Study a Dance Degree? What colleges have dance majors?

Every state in the US has a college or university with a dance program and you can check out our comprehensive list in our article Dance Colleges Across All 50 States.

Compared to other degree programs that work maybe solely on your high school results, an interview or a personal essay these programs generally require you to attend a dance audition to secure your admission. Some are just as a formality to ensure you are able to follow simple choreographed movement others to ensure you have a competent level of technique to be able to complete the degree, while others are looking for the best of the best and would not accept anything other than those who are at the top of their class.

RELATED QUESTIONS

How is a Dance Conservatory program different to a regular college dance program?

A regular college dance program has a curriculum developed and overseen by a faculty in a department, college or school of the university. At some colleges or institutions that have been accredited to offer four-year degrees in dance, these departments describe themselves as being conservatories. The label is used to describe a more focused and intense curriculum that the faculty of the conservatory create for their students in their studies of the arts.

A dancer studying at a dance conservatory or in a conservatory styled dance program will be pushed to train at a similar level as that of a professional usually in ballet or modern dance. The majority of their studies will fall under their major and there is less freedom to choose elective or minor subjects to study as part of their degree not only because the faculty have created a full curriculum that uses most of their credits to focus on their dance studies, but also because of the hours of training required and the conservatories inability to provide a varied program of liberal arts subjects unlike a university campus catering for students studying a myriad of degrees.

Is dance a liberal art?

Studies labeled as a liberal art refer to those that give you the freedom to study with or without a predetermined destination, career or goal. They allow you to keep your studies broad and for change and exploration of your interests to occur.

Dance is offered by many universities in a Liberal Arts Program. But it can also be studied as a Fine Art, as a Science, for education and therefore it is up to you whether you choose to study dance as a part of a Liberal Arts degree or in a more concentrated form.

Can I major in Dance

The simple answer is yes you can do a major in dance if the university or college you have enrolled in or want to enroll in has a dance program and the degree you are studying allows the dance subject credits to be awarded towards your degree. Some dance major programs require you to be admitted successfully through a dance audition and other programs have no such entry requirements.

To be able to obtain for example a major in dance, the faculty of the dance department will create a group of courses that will best teach the program they have created. Not all majors in dance are the same and it is important to do your research into them before pursuing one. A major in dance at one school may have a large focus on ballet and modern dance whereas another college might have the faculty and expertise to focus their major in Jazz, African dance or even Aerial Dance technique.

About the Author

Samantha Bellerose

Samantha is a wife and mother of four kids aged 1-9. She danced and acted from the age of 5 and performed in film clips, on television, and in musical theatre professionally. She also taught dance, but after leaving the profession to backpack through Europe, Canada and the USA with her husband for three years, she then completed an Education Degree and taught within primary schools in Australia. Today she is a business owner with her husband and the creator and writer for Dance Parent 101 where she hopes her previous experience as a dancer, current experience as a dance parent and the research and writing skills she gained completing her education degree will help enlighten parents on their journey with their child through the world of dance.