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.
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.
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.
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.