The 21 Toughest College Majors and Why They're Tough - College Insider (2023)

Is the college you want to go to too difficult? Does your current university suit you? Can it be too hard?

At universities across the country, students have access to hundreds of different courses. The difficulty level of some of them is very different from that of others. Which course is the most difficult?

Based on how challenging they appear to be, I will rank the best college courses based on their difficulty based on student feedback in this article.

Also covered are the reasons these degrees are difficult, as well as preparation strategies you can use before submitting your college applications.

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What makes studying difficult?

Many factors can make getting a college degree difficult. Studying a subject you are not really interested in can be a big factor because it makes it so much harder to get the information into your brain. There are manySTEM degrees available, and you may find that they're not for you because they involve a lot of science, technology, engineering, and math.

In fact, some of the toughest college courses are biology, chemistry, physics, math, and various engineering majors. You need to put in a lot of study time and effort to do well in class. But in the end you will be rewarded with high-paying jobs.

Take courses in calculus, organic chemistry, and statistics for a degree that challenges you.

Before we move on, let's first discuss what makes a big deal. Finding an objective metric to measure "toughness" is challenging, as each student has unique talents and passions. For example, it may be more difficult for you to be successful in your specialization if you are not particularly good at some subjects.

While certain generalizations about what makes a major difficult are correct, they are not always correct.

You may find it easier to get into the program you want when you're really good at something than when you're not. However, there are other strategies for coping with the study.

It seems that a person's learning time does not significantly affect the outcome. The research you're doing has something to do with it.

The results of our study revealed something intriguing when we looked at them. The type of questions asked on the test was a greater indicator of how likely a student is to struggle in the classroom than how much time they spent studying.

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

Typically, students who had to write essays about everything they had read or heard did worse than those who took multiple-choice tests. In addition, students who took an exam that assessed their problem-solving and judgment skills performed better than those who took a test that assessed only their basic knowledge.

According to NSSE data, an average student spends about 15 hours a week preparing for school. The type of course, the time of year, and whether the student attends school full-time or part-time are some variables that can change this number.

For example, online students save a lot of time preparing for classes compared to their face-to-face counterparts. In addition, students often put more effort into preparing for the lower grades than for the higher grades.

What are the hardest courses?

College courses have different levels of difficulty and some are more difficult than others. Some courses may require more study time and homework than others. According to the National Student Survey, these are the most challenging majors.

21. Fine Arts

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One of the most difficult degrees is fine arts. Mastering painting, sculpting, sketching, and even photography takes a lot of time. This time is mainly used to create art.

Other activities and seminars related to your course may also be requested from you. The time you spend in the studio will help you have a successful career in art, even if you choose to major or related fields like drawing, fashion design, or something else new.

The courses and electives that students have to take in different fields of study may vary depending on the university they choose. This includes physics, chemistry, algebra, philosophy, psychology, literature, music theory, art history and other disciplines.

But the majors and minors that fine arts students still study are drawing, painting, sculpture, ceramics, photography, printmaking and digital media.

20. Architecture

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To be a successful architect, you need to have a wide range of skills. Disciplines include engineering, math, physics, art, and even a little computer science. The history of design, construction and materials is also taught to architecture students.

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

Last but not least, architects have the opportunity to communicate their ideas verbally, visually and in writing. Every project manager must be able to communicate with others.

Architecture students must choose their major. You often choose between design and construction. Architecture students must consider their academic interests.

Read more in the detailed article -Is architecture difficult?

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19. Nursing

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If you want to get a degree in nursing, you have to be willing to put in a lot of effort in your studies. Anatomy, chemistry, biology and pharmacology will be covered during your nursing education. You also have to study psychology and nutrition.

For example, depending on your area of ​​specialization, you can earn an associate degree in nursing, a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree.

You may need to complete two-year graduate school as well as a four-year bachelor's degree to become a registered nurse. With a bachelor's degree, you can learn the basics of nursing. You can then earn a master's or doctoral degree.

Students who enroll in nursing programs have the information and skills necessary to practice nursing and are well-prepared for lucrative jobs in the healthcare industry. A student must complete an associate degree before enrolling in a baccalaureate program if they wish to become a registered nurse.

The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education is charged with the Accreditation of Nursing Programs (CCNE). This organization ensures that all nursing schools maintain high quality standards.

Anatomy, physiology, microbiology, pharmacology, psychology, and other related courses can be beneficial if you want to become a registered nurse.

18. Astronomy

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Astronomers study celestial objects such as stars, planets, moons, black holes, galaxies and more. They use powerful telescopes to observe these celestial objects. With devices such as cameras, spectrometers and radio receivers, they record their findings in writing.

Like space itself, astronomy is a vast field of study. What is really out there can only be seen in limited parts of the world. Astronomers study how space works, as well as stars, planets, and galaxies.

Astronomy is a big challenge because there are so many compulsory subjects. You must enroll in courses in mathematics, physics, chemistry, electricity and magnetism, quantum mechanics, and thermodynamics.

You can focus on a specific area of ​​astronomy. This way you can guarantee that you will learn everything you need to know about it.

learn more aboutDifferences between astronomy and astrophysics.

17. Biochemistry

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The science of biochemistry studies the molecular processes that underlie life. Students focus on studying molecules such as proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, nucleic acids and tiny chemical compounds.

In addition, students can study metabolism, gene expression, and cell signaling. In some courses you can even learn about microbiology.

People can easily get interested in science in general by studying biochemistry. If you're curious about the smallest components of life that keep our globe ticking, biochemistry might be for you.

Biochemists study the chemical changes that occur in living things. They are also researching how these reactions change when an organism ages or becomes ill. Biochemistry is a relatively broad field and studies everything from DNA to the breakdown of sugar molecules by enzymes.

16. Biology

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Students studying biology study a variety of subjects including cell structure, molecular biology, biochemistry, anatomy, physiology, genetics, theory of evolution, conservation biology, ecology, environmental science, and more. Even better, you can choose to specialize in a specific field of study, such as marine biology, zoology, or botany.

If you are interested, there are numerous opportunities to gain hands-on experience in science. You could volunteer at a local non-profit organization or participate in a research program at a college student university.

Each week, students spend a lot of time conducting experiments in the lab and analyzing the results. They must also develop their independent work skills.

Learn more in this in-depth article -Is biology a difficult major?

15. Cell and Molecular Biology

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Molecules and cells are the basic building blocks of life. Molecular and cellular biology majors examine the structure and functioning of molecules and cells.

Laboratory courses in calculus, organic chemistry, biochemistry, and biology help students learn the fundamentals of these disciplines. Research projects are another way for students to gain practical experience.

Molecular and cell biology students spend a lot of time in the lab and in class each week. You will conduct experiments and study how molecules and cells work.

14. Neuroscience

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You may like neuroscience if you like science and psychology. Brain function is studied by neuroscientists. You can study neuroscience and get a degree if you have an interest in psychology and science.

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Math, biology, chemistry, physics, and other subjects are often studied by neuroscience students. Most course materials focus on physiology, neurobiology, psychology, and cognitive science. If science or remembering isn't your forte, neuroscience might not be for you.

We still don't fully understand how our brains work, which makes neuroscience a fascinating field. There are several methods to study the brain, including fMRI, EEG, and MRI studies.

Neuroscience is crucial because it sheds light on what happens when someone is sick or injured. For example, if a baseball bat hits your head, you may not remember anything about the game you just watched. You may not be able to walk or speak after a stroke.

By studying neuroscience, you can help others by finding out why something happened.

13. Physics

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Theoretical and experimental physicists form the two main subgroups of physics graduates. In contrast to students of experimental physics, students of theoretical physics are usually more interested in mathematics and philosophy than in chemistry and biology.

Calculus, linear algebra, statistics and thermodynamics are among the demanding courses that both groups of students have to complete. They prepare for graduate school, where they choose between a specialization in experimental or theoretical physics.

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Physics is fascinating. If you enjoy solving problems, trying new things, and collaborating with others, physics might be a good fit for you. To understand the world we live in, physics is the study of the laws of nature and how to apply them.

He uses mathematics, engineering, astronomy, chemistry and other sciences. Courses you need to understand include calculus, linear algebra, probability theory, statistics, thermodynamics, electromagnetism, optics, mechanics, fluid dynamics, quantum mechanics, nuclear physics, particle physics, astrophysics, cosmology, and relativity.

Read MoreIs a physics degree worth it?

12. Mathematics

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

Mathematics graduates also study probability, statistics and cryptography. Numerous mathematicians, statisticians, physicists, engineers, economists, cryptographers and other specialists are trained in mathematics.

Most mathematics graduates focus on either pure mathematics or applied mathematics. Both routes require a lot of calculation and reasoning, but they are different from each other.

While applied mathematicians are more interested in the practical applications of mathematical theories, pure mathematicians are generally more interested in the abstract concepts underlying those theories. Whichever path you choose, it will test your sanity.

Learn more in this in-depth article -Is the math class difficult?

11. Geological engineering

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Geological engineering is an interdisciplinary field that studies rocks, minerals, soils, and other materials to solve problems using scientific methods.

Students must be able to understand both the theory and practice of their chosen field. This includes the basic sciences, chemistry, physics, mathematics and statistics. Geochemists, hydrogeologists, structural geologists, stratigraphers, tectonics, and volcanologists are just a few of the many subfields geologists can specialize in.

Geoengineering is an intriguing career option because it mixes geology and engineering. Both subjects are covered in college, after which you can work in the mining or oil industry. If you enjoy working out, this could be a fantastic job for you.

10. Civil Engineering

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Civil engineers design buildings, roads, and highways, among other things. To determine how structures should behave in different scenarios, they use sophisticated mathematical techniques such as trigonometry, calculus, and differential equations.

In addition, they must be able to communicate clearly with customers and contractors, read architectural drawings and blueprints, and understand construction plans.

Considering how much math is involved, studying civil engineering can be challenging. However, if you were a good math student in high school, you will find that most institutions offer courses that prepare students for the challenging work of civil engineering.

Read more about the course in this guide –Is civil engineering difficult?

9. Materials Engineering

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In physics called material science, small particles of matter are studied. The area is interdisciplinary. The structure, composition, physical and chemical properties of various substances are studied by materials scientists.

The impact of material qualities on how it works and interacts with other materials is another thing they look at. To create usable products, materials engineers apply what they learn from the study.

If you enjoy tackling and seeing complex challenges in 3D, materials engineering might be right for you. A variety of materials are used in the creation of objects by materials engineers. In addition, they support companies in the development of new products and working methods.

8. Petroleum engineering

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Petroleum engineering is an intriguing career option because it encompasses a wide range of academic disciplines. Pipelines, refineries, chemical plants, and other facilities that produce fuels and chemicals are designed and built by petroleum engineers.

You must understand the density, viscosity, surface tension, and thermal conductivity of materials to work as a petroleum engineer. You also need to understand how heat is transferred, how phases change, how liquids flow, and how thermodynamics work. Finally, you need to be able to calculate the pressure and volume of something using formulas and equations.

Petroleum engineering is a broad subject and examines various aspects of oil and gas production. Petroleum engineers design and build the plants, pipelines, refineries, storage facilities, and other equipment needed to locate, extract, refine, process, distribute, and transport crude oil and natural gas.

Additional courses in Geology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics, Economics, Law, Biology and Psychology are available for Petroleum Engineering graduates.

7. Informatics

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Many computer scientists are also interested in mathematics, physics, biology, psychology, economics, etc. and they have the opportunity to choose which industry they will work in after graduation. People hire computer scientists because they know how to solve problems well. They may not know how to teach other people how to solve these problems, but they will know how to code.

Computer science students learn how computers work and how to use them. You will learn about the parts and programs that make up computers. You will learn the theory behind programming and arithmetic. And they learn how to use those ideas to solve problems in the real world.

Students who major in computer science often 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. Computer science students learn about the theory behind computers and how software systems are created.

Students learn about hardware, networks, operating systems, databases, web development, graphics and much more.

Learn more about CS in this in-depth article –Is computer science difficult?

6. Computer engineering

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Computer engineers use computers when designing circuits, chips, and other components for use in electronics. Computer technologists made the hardware that allowed today's world to evolve.

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From tiny components like microprocessors and memory chips to large systems like cars, airplanes, and even the space shuttle, computer engineers create all kinds of technology.

The skills of computer scientists are very broad. Some people work for manufacturing companies, research institutes and IT companies.

Engineering with a focus on computer science is a demanding course of study. Requires extensive knowledge of mathematics, science and electronics. Computer engineering majors often take courses in digital logic, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and computer architecture.

Read more in this in-depth post –Is computer science difficult?

5. Aerospace Engineering

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

Airplanes, 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 control are taught to aerospace engineering students. These skills allow them to build quieter, safer, and more fuel-efficient spacecraft and spacecraft.

It is a demanding course that requires solid knowledge of mathematics, physics, chemistry and mechanics. But once you graduate, it might all be worth it.

Learn more about AE in this in-depth guide -Is aerospace engineering difficult?

4. Chemical Engineering

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Some of the most demanding university courses are combined with a degree in chemical engineering. You must study mathematics, economics, calculation methods, mass and energy balance, heat transfer, organic chemistry, thermodynamics and physics, as well as chemistry, biology and physics.

Chemical engineering students often have a lot of laboratory and field work. Manufacturing, pharmacy and healthcare are possible careers.

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

They are also researching how the design of machines and systems related to manufacturing is influenced by material properties.

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

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3. mechanical engineering

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Physics, arithmetic and materials science are part of the mechanical engineering department. It's about solving problems, designing, producing and assembling things.

From large machines to small devices, everything is the domain of the machine builder.

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

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

Read more about your difficulty in this article –Is mechanical engineering difficult?

2. Biomedical engineering

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

Biomedical engineers have various specialties. Some specialize in areas such as biochemistry, biomechanics, or bioengineering. Others focus on how devices, devices and systems are made. Biomedical engineers typically work in hospitals, clinics, or research laboratories.

Biomedical engineers often research and develop new medical devices, vaccines and gene therapies during their studies.

This is a tough course because you will study the same things that future doctors and engineers will study.

Learn more about it in this in-depth post –Is biomedical engineering difficult?

1. Electrical engineering

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The broad field of electrical engineering includes numerous different engineering disciplines. In order to prepare for the challenges of the field, electrical engineering students often take many courses in mathematics, physics and computer science. In addition, they must have in-depth knowledge of electronics and circuit design.

Electrical engineers are often recruited to build radios, televisions and other electronics. Unlike others, some electrical engineers specialize in manufacturing medical devices. Our homes and workplaces are safe and working properly thanks to electrical engineers.

In order to be successful in studying electrical engineering, you need a wide range of talents. Physics, chemistry, biology and math are some of these skills. In addition to designing circuits, analyzing signals, and diagnosing problems, electrical engineers must also master these tasks.

The ability to communicate clearly with others is a requirement. You also need to know how to code to create electronic devices.

Read more about how difficult it is in this guide -Is electrical engineering difficult?

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Finding the right course for you key factors

This is an important question to ask yourself when deciding on a course. Think about what you like, what you're great at, and who you are. It may not be the best decision for you if you are not sure you will enjoy a particular course.

Consider whether you are willing to dedicate the necessary time and effort to your course. Some courses may require more study and practice than others. For example, you probably want more hands-on experience to earn an engineering degree than you would in an English literature degree.

Don't think that choosing a specialization based on how challenging it seems would guarantee success. While it sounds impressive to specialize in a challenging subject, it probably isn't worth it if you have no interest in the subject or don't have plans to pursue it professionally.

On the other hand, don't ignore a difficult course just because others think it's among the most difficult. It's okay to choose this course over an easier one if, for example, you really want to become an architect. You'll still get a top-notch education and you'll still struggle in school.

There are three things to keep in mind when choosing a course:

  • Your interests and passions:If you're not really interested in what you're studying, you won't be motivated to work hard. Choose something that really excites you.
  • Your skills:Your skills matter because if you're not good at them, it may not be the right course for you. For example, if you're not good at art, you can choose a different major.
  • your career: Your professional future can also influence which degree program you should choose. For example, if you want to work for NASA, you should choose a science major.

At the university you can deal with many topics. Through cooperation and internships you can learn a lot and get to know many interesting people. It's important to consider your work goals and hobbies when choosing a course.

If you're unsure about your career goals after graduation, consider what you enjoy doing and what your goals are. Then narrow down your options based on what you enjoy doing and what you can do.

For example, if you enjoy writing, you can study journalism. Or, if you are interested in history, you can take a course in political science.

While you don't have to provide your undergraduate degree right away, it's important to consider your career goals. While some students choose to get a job first, others prefer to graduate from graduate school immediately.

In both scenarios, you will likely need to select an area of ​​interest that will guide your future career decisions.

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How the choice of course and its difficulty affects you

1. Harder courses build more skills and make more money

There's an old saying I don't remember the source of. But it goes something like this: “If you want to get rich, start with money. Restart your education if you want to get rich.

That is correct because there is a correlation between income and educational level. Highly educated people tend to earn more than less educated people.

More difficult courses usually require more effort and time than easy courses. As a result, they acquire more talents and earn more money throughout their lives.

2. Simple courses are not worth your time

While choosing a very easy college degree isn't inherently bad, it's important to think about the potential long-term implications. In today's competitive job market, employers often look for candidates with a strong educational background and diverse personalities.

If you choose an easy specialization, you may not be as academically challenged and may not acquire the skills and information that companies value. If your major doesn't motivate you, you may not do as well in your classes and you may not complete your degree on time. Also, you probably won't like the jobs you get after college.

But what you really need are some great skills. Therefore, it is wisest to choose a challenging degree program that will teach you a talent that you can use later in life.

For example, if you want to become a doctor, you should enroll as a medical student. If you want to practice law, you might want to consider a law degree. However, a bachelor's degree in education could be considered if you want to become a teacher.

3. Simple courses are just a piece of paper

People often think that college degrees are just a piece of paper. However, this is not entirely correct.

Colleges offer a variety of degrees, including bachelor's, master's, doctoral, and associate's degrees. Students with different degrees have advantages.

For example, a two-year degree can help you find a job quickly, while a four-year degree gives you access to more challenging courses. Some students even pursue a master's degree to gain more knowledge before pursuing a PhD after earning a bachelor's degree.

Can you handle a tough major?

Making a large selection can be intimidating. While the options are numerous, you may not feel ready to complete a challenging course, despite your intelligence or physical strength.

You might say to yourself, "I'm not smart enough to get an A in math," or you might be worried about enrolling in a challenging science course. There is no justification for fear.

There are several courses that will challenge you intellectually and require a lot of work. Even if you're not naturally talented at something, you can still be successful. Here are my top recommendations.

We often experience overwhelming and frustrating feelings when embarking on a new adventure because we lack all the necessary skills. We put a lot of effort into a task that seems unattainable.

But if we insist, we will end up improving those talents. If we practice intentionally, even if we don't improve, we won't stop. It makes us stronger and allows us to overcome our initial challenges.

Final thoughts on the toughest college courses

You can't select a course just because it looks interesting or because you've heard it may or may not be challenging. There are other elements to consider, including your identity, interests, goals, and financial situation.

Make sure your major aligns with your long-term career goals. And remember that no matter which course you choose, you will need to work very hard to be successful.

You may also be interested in these other articles:

  • Is astrophysics hard to study?


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