21 Hardest College Majors

Is the college major you’re thinking about pursuing too hard? Is your current college major the right one for you? Could it be too hard?

At universities across the country, students have access to hundreds of different majors. The difficulty of some of them varies greatly from that of others. Which major is the most difficult?

Based on how challenging they seem to be, I’ll rank the top college majors based on how hard they hard from student feedback in this article.

Also covered will be the reasons behind these degrees’ difficulty as well as preparation strategies you might use before submitting your college applications.

What Makes a College Major Hard?

Many factors can make a college major hard. Studying a subject that you’re not really interested in can be a top factor because it makes it that much harder to get the information into your brain. There are many STEM degrees available, and you may feel that they’re not right for you because they involve a lot of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.

Some of the hardest college majors are indeed biology, chemistry, physics, math, and various engineering degrees. You’ll need to put in a lot of study time and effort to do well in the classes. But you’ll be rewarded at the end with high-paying jobs.

Take coursework in calculus, organic chemistry, and statistics if you want a degree that will challenge you.

Let’s first discuss what constitutes a major problem before we move on. Finding an objective metric to gauge “hardness” is challenging because each student has unique talents and passions. It could be more difficult for you to succeed in your major, for instance, if you aren’t particularly excellent at some topics.

Therefore, although certain generalizations about what makes a major difficult are correct, they aren’t always accurate.

You could find it simpler to get into the program you desire if you are very good at something than if you are not. There are, however, additional strategies for handling college.

It appears that how long a person studies won’t substantially affect the outcome. The research you are conducting has something to do with it instead.

Our study’s findings revealed something intriguing when we looked at them. The kind of questions asked on the test were a greater indicator of a student’s likelihood to struggle in class than how much time they had spent studying.

Tests that required students to apply what they had learned in earlier sessions resulted in greater GPAs for those students.

Typically, students who were required to write essays about anything they had read or heard had poorer results than those who were given multiple-choice tests. Furthermore, students who took an exam that assessed their capacity for problem-solving and judgment performed better than those who took a test that just assessed their fundamental knowledge.

According to NSSE data, preparing for school takes an average student roughly 15 hours each week. The type of course, the season, and whether the student attends school full- or part-time are a few variables that can alter this figure.

For instance, online learners save a great deal of time compared to their in-person counterparts when getting ready for class. Additionally, students frequently put more effort into preparing for lower-level classes than for higher-level classes.

What Are the Hardest College Majors?

College majors vary in difficulty and some are more difficult than others. Some majors could necessitate more study time and homework than others. These are the most challenging majors, per the National Student Survey.

21. Fine Arts

Fine Arts Major
Fine Arts Major

One of the hardest degrees to choose is fine arts. To become proficient at painting, sculpting, sketching, and even photography, you’ll require a lot of time. That time is primarily used for creating art.

Other activities and seminars associated with your major may also be required of you. The time you spend in the studio will help you have a successful career in the arts, even if you choose to pursue a related major or field like sketching, fashion design, or something else new.

The courses and electives that students must take in various fields of study may vary depending on the college they select. This encompasses physics, chemistry, algebra, philosophy, psychology, literature, music theory, art history, and other disciplines.

But the primary subjects and subfields that students of fine arts still study are drawing, painting, sculpture, ceramics, photography, printing, and digital media.

20. Architecture

Architect Holding Building Model
Architect Holding Building Model

You need to have a wide range of knowledge to be a successful architect. Among the subjects are engineering, math, physics, art, and even some computer science. The history of design, construction, and materials will also be taught to students majoring in architecture.

Students will learn how to develop 3D models using AutoCAD and other applications, as well as how to write specifications and blueprints. Architecture students will gain useful skills including project planning and money management.

Last but not least, architects will get a chance to practice communicating their ideas orally, visually, and in writing. Any project manager must be able to communicate with others.

Students majoring in architecture must choose their area of concentration. They frequently get to pick between design and construction. Architecture students will need to consider their academic interests.

Read more in the in-depth article – Is Architecture Hard?

19. Nursing

Nursing School Major
Nursing School Major

You need to be prepared to put a lot of effort into your studies if you want to earn a nursing degree. Anatomy, chemistry, biology, and pharmacology will all be covered during your nursing education. Additionally, you ought to study psychology and nutrition.

Depending on what you choose to concentrate on, you can obtain a nursing associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree, for instance.

You might need to complete two years of graduate school in addition to a four-year bachelor’s degree in order to become a nurse practitioner. You can learn the fundamentals of nursing with a bachelor’s degree. You can then continue on to earn a master’s or doctorate degree.

Students who enroll in nursing programs have the information and abilities necessary to practice nursing and are well-prepared for lucrative employment in the healthcare sector. A student must complete an associate degree before enrolling in a bachelor’s program if they wish to become a nurse.

The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education is tasked with accrediting nursing programs (CCNE). This organization makes certain that all nursing schools adhere to high criteria of excellence.

Anatomy, physiology, microbiology, pharmacology, psychology, and other related courses might be beneficial if you wish to become a nurse.

Read more – How Hard is Nursing School?

18. Astronomy

Astronomy Major
Astronomy Major

Astronomers do research on celestial objects such as stars, planets, moons, black holes, galaxies, and more. They use powerful telescopes to observe these celestial objects. Using apparatus such as cameras, spectrometers, and radio receivers, they will record their findings in writing.

Like space itself, astronomy is a vast field of study. What is actually out there can only be seen in limited portions from Earth. Astronomers investigate the workings of space as well as stars, planets, and galaxies.

Astronomy is a challenging major because there are so many required classes. You must enroll in math, physics, chemistry, electricity and magnetism, quantum mechanics, and thermodynamics courses.

You could choose to concentrate on a particular area of astronomy. In this manner, you may guarantee that you learn all there is to know about it.

Learn more about Astronomy Major Difficulty and Astronomy vs Astrophysics Differences.

17. Biochemistry

Biochemistry Major
Biochemistry Major

The science of biochemistry investigates the molecular processes that underlie life. The study of molecules, such as proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, nucleic acids, and tiny chemical compounds, will be the main focus for the students.

Additionally, students can study about metabolism, gene expression, and cell signaling. You might even learn about microbiology in some classes.

People can easily become interested in science in general by studying biochemistry. If you’re curious about the smallest components of life that keep our globe turning, biochemistry might be your thing.

Biochemists study the chemical alterations that take place within living things. They also research how these reactions change when an organism ages or becomes ill. A relatively broad field, biochemistry studies everything from DNA to how enzymes break down sugar molecules.

Read more – Is Biochemistry a Hard Major?

16. Biology

Biology Major
Biology Major

Students studying biology will study a variety of subjects, including cell structure, molecular biology, biochemistry, anatomy, physiology, genetics, evolutionary theory, conservation biology, ecology, environmental science, and many more. Even better, you could decide to specialize in a particular area of study, such marine biology, zoology, or botany.

If you’re interested, there are numerous opportunities to gain practical experience in science. You may volunteer at a neighborhood non-profit or participate in a research program at a university for college students.

Each week, the students will spend a substantial amount of time conducting experiments in the lab and analyzing the outcomes. They should also develop their independence-working skills.

Learn more in this in-depth article – Is Biology a Hard Major?

15. Cell and Molecular Biology

Cell and Molecular Biology Major
Cell and Molecular Biology Major

Molecules and cells are the fundamental components of life. Majors in molecular and cell biology investigate the construction and operation of molecules and cells.

Lab classes in calculus, organic chemistry, biochemistry, and biology aid students in learning the fundamentals of these disciplines. Another opportunity for students to gain practical experience is through research projects.

Each week, molecular and cell biology students will spend a significant amount of time in the lab and in class. They will conduct experiments and study the functioning of molecules and cells.

14. Neuroscience

Neuroscience Major
Neuroscience Major

You might enjoy neuroscience if you enjoy science and psychology. The function of the brain is studied by neuroscientists. You could study neuroscience and earn a degree in it if you have an interest in both psychology and science.

Math, biology, chemistry, physics, and other subjects are frequently studied by students majoring in neuroscience. The majority of the course material focuses on physiology, neurobiology, psychology, and cognitive science. If science or remembering things are not your strong suits, neuroscience may not be the best fit for you.

We still don’t fully understand how our brains function, making neuroscience an intriguing field. There are several methods for studying the brain, including fMRI, EEG, and MRI studies.

Neuroscience is crucial because it clarifies what occurs when someone is ill or injured. If a baseball bat were to strike you in the head, for example, you might not recall anything about the game you just saw. You can become unable to walk or speak following a stroke.

When you study neuroscience, you can aid other individuals by figuring out why something occurred.

Learn more in this in-depth article: Is Neuroscience a Hard Major?

13. Physics

Physics Major
Physics Major

Theoretical and experimental physicists make up the two main subgroups of physics majors. In contrast to individuals who study experimental physics, those who study theoretical physics often have more interests in math and philosophy, as well as chemistry and biology.

Calculus, linear algebra, statistics, and thermodynamics are among the challenging courses that both student groups must take. They are getting ready for graduate school, where they will decide between specializing in experimental or theoretical physics.

The subject of physics is fascinating. If you appreciate problem-solving, trying new things, and cooperating with others, physics might be a good fit for you. In order to understand the world in which we live, physics is the study of natural laws and how to apply them.

It uses mathematics, engineering, astronomy, chemistry, and other sciences. The courses you’ll need to comprehend include calculus, linear algebra, probability theory, statistics, thermodynamics, electromagnetics, optics, mechanics, fluid dynamics, quantum mechanics, nuclear physics, particle physics, astrophysics, cosmology, and relativity.

Read more in-depth Is a Physics Major Worth It?

12. Mathematics

Advanced Math Calculus
Math Major

Math majors study a wide range of mathematics. Some of them deal with logic, some with geometry, others with number theory, others with physics, others with engineering, and so forth.

Math majors also study probability, statistics, and cryptography. Numerous mathematicians, statisticians, physicists, engineers, economists, cryptographers, and other specialists are made from math majors.

Most math majors opt to concentrate either on pure mathematics or applied mathematics. Both routes demand a lot of arithmetic and reasoning, but they are distinct from one another.

While applied mathematicians are more interested in the practical applications of mathematical theories, pure mathematicians often are more interested in the abstract concepts underlying those theories. Whichever path you select, it will put your mind to the test.

Learn more in this in-depth article – Is a Math Major Hard?

11. Geological Engineering

Geological Engineering Major
Geological Engineering Major

Geological engineering is an interdisciplinary field that examines rocks, minerals, soils, and other materials in order to address issues using scientific methods.

Students need to be capable of comprehending both the theory and the practice of the field they have chosen. Basic sciences, chemistry, physics, math, and statistics are included in this. Geochemists, hydrogeologists, structural geologists, stratigraphers, tectonics, and volcanologists are just a few of the many subfields that geologists might specialize in.

A fascinating career option is geological engineering because it mixes geology and engineering. Both of these topics will be covered at college, after which you can work in the mining or oil industries. If you enjoy working outside, this can be a fantastic job for you.

10. Civil Engineering

Civil Engineering Building
Civil Engineering Major

Among other things, civil engineers design buildings, roads, and highways. To determine how structures should behave in various scenarios, they use sophisticated math techniques like trigonometry, calculus, and differential equations.

Additionally, they must be able to communicate clearly with clients and contractors, read architectural drawings and blueprints, and understand blueprints.

Considering how much math is involved, studying civil engineering might be challenging. However, if you were a strong math student in high school, you’ll discover that most institutions offer courses that help students prepare for the challenging work of civil engineering.

Read more about the major in this guide – Is Civil Engineering Hard?

9. Materials Engineering

Materials Engineering Major
Materials Engineering Major

In the field of physics called materials science, tiny bits of matter are studied. The field is interdisciplinary. The structure, composition, and physical and chemical characteristics of various substances are all studied by materials scientists.

The impact of the material’s qualities on how it functions and interacts with other materials is another thing they examine. For the creation of usable products, materials engineers apply what they have learned from study.

If you enjoy handling and seeing complex 3D challenges, materials engineering might be your thing. A variety of materials are used in the creation of objects by material engineers. Additionally, they assist businesses in developing fresh goods and methods of operation.

8. Petroleum Engineering

Petroleum Engineering Major
Petroleum Engineering Major

A fascinating career option is petroleum engineering because it incorporates a wide range of academic disciplines. Pipelines, refineries, chemical plants, and other facilities that produce fuels and chemicals are planned and constructed by petroleum engineers.

You must understand the density, viscosity, surface tension, and thermal conductivity of materials in order to work as a petroleum engineer. You’ll also need to understand how heat transfers, how phases change, how fluids flow, and how thermodynamics operates. Finally, you need to be able to calculate something’s pressure and volume using formulas and equations.

A broad topic, petroleum engineering examines numerous aspects of producing oil and gas. Petroleum engineers design and construct the facilities, pipelines, refineries, storage facilities, and other equipment needed to locate, extract, refine, process, distribute, and move crude oil and natural gas.

Additional courses in geology, chemistry, mathematics, physics, economics, law, biology, and psychology are available to petroleum engineering majors.

7. Computer Science

Computer Science Coding and Computers
Computer Science Major

Many computer scientists are also interested in math, physics, biology, psychology, economics, etc. and they have the opportunity to choose what industry they work in after they graduate. People hire computer scientists because they know how to solve problems well. They might not know how to teach other people how to solve those problems, but they will know how to write code.

Students of computer science learn both how computers work and how to use them. They learn about the parts and programs that make up computers. They learn about the theory behind programming and computing. And they learn how to use these ideas to solve problems in the real world.

Students who major in computer science often go on to become programmers, system administrators, network engineers, web developers, database managers, and other technical professionals.

Computer scientists are people who like to tinker with technology and take on difficult tasks. Students of computer science learn about the theory behind computers and how software systems are made.

Students learn about hardware, networking, operating systems, databases, web development, graphics, and many other things.

Learn more about CS in this in-depth article – Is Computer Science Hard?

6. Computer Engineering

Computer Engineering
Computer Engineering

When designing circuits, chips, and other components for use in electronics, computer engineers employ computers. Computer technologists produced the hardware that enabled the development of the contemporary world.

From tiny components like microprocessors and memory chips to large systems like automobiles, planes, and even space shuttles, computer engineers create all different types of technology.

The capabilities of computer engineers are very broad. Some people work for manufacturing firms, research institutions, and IT businesses.

Engineering with a focus in computers is a challenging degree. It requires extensive knowledge of mathematics, science, and electronics. Students who major in computer engineering typically take courses in digital logic, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and computer architecture.

Read more in this in-depth post – Is Computer Engineering Hard?

5. Aerospace Engineering

Rocket Engines and Aerospace Engineering
Aerspace Engineering

All components of an airplane, spacecraft, missile, rocket, or satellite, including its structure, guidance system, propulsion system, thermal management system, avionics, sensors, communications, navigation, life support, and payload, are designed and manufactured by aerospace engineers.

Planes, rockets, satellites, and other flying or extraterrestrial vehicles are created by aerospace engineers.

The physics of flight and space travel, including aerodynamics, propulsion, guidance and navigation, and controls, are taught to aerospace engineering students. These abilities enable them to create spacecraft and aircraft that are quieter, safer, and fuel-efficient.

It’s a challenging major that calls for a strong background in math, physics, chemistry, and mechanics. But once you have your degree, it may all have been worthwhile.

Learn more about AE in this in-depth guide – Is Aerospace Engineering Hard?

4. Chemical Engineering

Chemical Engineering Major
Chemical Engineering Major

Some of the most challenging college courses are combined within the major of chemical engineering. You’ll need to study Math, Economics, Computational Methods, Mass and Energy Balance, Heat Transfer, Organic Chemistry, Thermodynamics, and Physics in addition to Chemistry, Biology, and Physics.

Chemical engineering students frequently have a lot of lab and field work. Manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, and healthcare are all possible career paths.

Chemistry, biology, math, physics, and engineering are all combined in the science of chemical engineering. Chemical engineers develop processes and products that involve chemical reactions, changes in appearance, and other processes.

They also research how the design of manufacturing-related machinery and systems is influenced by material attributes.

Thermodynamics, kinetics, fluid mechanics, heat transfer, mass transport, phase equilibria, equilibrium constants, stoichiometry, and other concepts are essential for chemical engineers to understand.

3. Mechanical Engineering

Mechanical Engineering Students in Robotics
Mechanical Engineering Students in Robotics

Physics, arithmetic, and the study of materials are all included in the discipline of mechanical engineering. It entails problem-solving, designing, producing, and assembling things.

Everything from large machines to small gadgets is the domain of mechanical engineers.

Mechanical engineers come in a wide variety of specialties, including those related to robotics, semiconductor, software, systems, transportation, aircraft, automotive, biomedical, civil, chemical, electrical, environmental, industrial, marine, mining, nuclear, oil & gas, and others.

ME is one of the most challenging degrees since it requires a deep understanding of mathematics, physics, and engineering. However, ME might be the best option for you if your goals are very important to you.

Read more about its difficulty in this article – Is Mechanical Engineering Hard?

2. Biomedical Engineering

Biomedical Engineering Major
Biomedical Engineering Major

Biomedical engineers learn about things like biology, chemistry, math, and physics. Then, they use what they’ve learned to solve health care problems and help us live better, longer, and more comfortably.

Biomedical engineers have different specialties. Some will specialize in areas like biochemistry, biomechanics, or bioengineering. Others will focus on how equipment, devices, and systems are made. Biomedical engineers will often be working in hospitals, clinics, or research labs.

Biomedical engineers often do research and design new medical devices, vaccines, and genetic therapies while they are still in college.

This is a hard major because you’ll be studying the same things that future doctors and engineers will study.

Learn more about it in this in-depth post – Is Biomedical Engineering Hard?

1. Electrical Engineering

Electrical Engineering - Semiconductor Chips
Electrical Engineering Major

The broad field of electrical engineering encompasses numerous distinct engineering disciplines. In order to prepare for the challenging nature of the field, electrical engineering students frequently study a lot of math, physics, and computer science courses. Additionally, they must have a thorough understanding of electronics and circuit design.

To build radios, TVs, and other electronic devices, electrical engineers are frequently enlisted. On contrast to others, some electrical engineers specialize in creating medical equipment. Our homes and workplaces are safe and operate properly thanks to electrical engineers.

It takes a wide variety of talents to succeed in the study of electrical engineering. Physics, chemistry, biology, and math are a few of these abilities. Aside from creating circuits, analyzing signals, and diagnosing problems, electrical engineers also need to be adept at these tasks.

The ability to communicate clearly with others is a requirement. They also need to know how to write code in order to create electronic devices.

Read more about how hard it is in this guide – Is Electrical Engineering Hard? 

How to Find the Right Major for You Key Factors

This is a vital question to ask oneself while deciding on a major. Consider what you enjoy, what you are excellent at, and who you are. It might not be the greatest decision for you if you’re unsure of whether you’ll enjoy a particular major.

Consider whether you are prepared to devote the necessary time and effort to your major. Some majors could require more study and practice than others. For instance, you will probably want more practical experience to earn an engineering degree than an English literary one.

Avoid thinking that choosing a major based on how challenging it sounds would guarantee success. Even though it may appear impressive to major in a challenging subject, it probably won’t be worthwhile if you have no interest in the subject or no plans to pursue it professionally.

On the other hand, don’t ignore a difficult major simply because others believe it to be among the most difficult. It’s okay to select that major over an easier one if, for instance, you truly want to become an architect. You’ll still receive a top-notch education, and you’ll still have a challenging time in school.

When choosing a major, there are three main things you should think about:

  • Your Interests and Passions: If you’re not really interested in what you’re studying, you won’t stay motivated to work hard. Pick something that really gets you excited.
  • Your Abilities: Your skills matter because if it’s not something you’re good at, it might not be the right major for you. For example, if you’re not good at art, you might want to pick a different major.
  • Your Career Path: Your future career can also affect which major you should choose. If you want to work for NASA, for example, you should choose a science-related major.

In college, you can study about a wide range of topics. You can learn a lot and meet a lot of interesting people by participating in co-ops and internships. It’s critical to consider your job goals and hobbies while selecting a major.

If you’re unsure about your career goals after graduation, consider what you enjoy doing and your goals. Next, whittle down your options depending on what you enjoy doing and what you are skilled at.

For instance, if you enjoy writing, you might major in journalism. Or, if history interests you, you could pursue a course of study in political science.

Though you may not need to declare your major right immediately, you should absolutely consider your career goals. While some students decide to get a job first, others prefer to attend graduate school right away.

In either scenario, you’ll probably need to select a field of interest that will guide your future career decisions.

How Choice of Major and Its Difficulty Affects You

1. Harder Majors Develop More Skills and Earn More Money

There’s an old saying whose source I can’t recall. But it goes something like this: “Start with money if you want to become wealthy. Restart your education if you want to get affluent.

This is accurate because there is a correlation between income and educational attainment. More educated people typically earn more money than less educated people.

Harder majors typically need more effort and time than easy majors. They thereby acquire more talents and earn more money throughout their lives.

2. Easy Majors Are Not Worth Your Time

While picking a very simple college degree is not intrinsically bad, it is crucial to think about any potential long-term repercussions. Employers frequently seek candidates with solid educational backgrounds and well-rounded personalities in today’s cutthroat employment market.

If you pick a simple major, you could not be as academically challenged and might not acquire the skills and information that companies value. Furthermore, if your major doesn’t motivate you, you might not perform as well in your classes and might not graduate on time. Additionally, it’s likely that you won’t enjoy the positions you land after college.

But what you actually need are some impressive skills. Choosing a challenging major that will teach you a talent you can use later in life is therefore the wisest course of action.

For instance, you might want to consider enrolling as a medical student if you want to become a doctor. You might want to consider going to law school if you want to practice law. A bachelor’s degree in education, however, can be something to consider if you want to become a teacher.

3. Easy Majors Are Just A Piece Of Paper

People frequently believe that college degrees are just pieces of paper. However, this is not totally accurate.

Colleges offer a range of degrees, including bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and associate degrees. There are advantages for students with different types of degrees.

A two-year degree, for instance, can help you land a job fast, whereas a four-year degree offers you access to more challenging coursework. Some students even pursue a master’s degree to gain further knowledge before pursuing a doctorate after receiving their bachelor’s degree.

Can You Handle a Difficult Major?

Making a huge choice might be intimidating. Although there are numerous options, you might not feel prepared to tackle a challenging major despite your intelligence or physical strength.

You might tell yourself, “I’m not smart enough to obtain an A in math class,” or you might be concerned about enrolling in a challenging scientific course. There is no justification for fear.

There are various majors that will challenge you intellectually and demand a lot of work. Even if you aren’t naturally talented at something, you can still succeed at it. Here are my top recommendations.

We frequently experience overwhelming and frustrating feelings as we embark on a new adventure because we lack all the necessary skills. We put a lot of effort into a task that looks unachievable.

But if we stick with it, we eventually get better at those talents. When we intentionally practice, we don’t stop even if we aren’t becoming better. It makes us stronger and enables us to overcome our initial challenges.

Hardest College Majors Final Thoughts

You can’t choose a major just because it seems interesting or because you’ve heard it’s challenging or not. There are other elements to consider, including your identity, interests, goals, and financial situation.

Verify that your major aligns with your long-term career goals. And keep in mind that you will need to put in a lot of effort to succeed no matter what major you select.

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Written by:

Chris Wood
I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from Stanford University. I’ve been working as a Software Engineer for the past 5 years. While working in this field I’ve had the pleasure of developing software in a wide variety of industries. I look forward to using my experience in order to find a role where I can utilize my creativity and passion for solving complex software engineering problems.

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