The hardest majors can be very time-consuming and mentally taxing, so it makes sense that many college students would rather enroll in one of the easiest college majors instead. However, others relish the challenge of obtaining a challenging degree, and the hard work can pay off in a future career.
This article answers the question, “What is the hardest major to pursue?” We’ll cover 10 of the hardest college majors and the job opportunities available to graduates from these programs. We’ll also mention some of the less demanding degree alternatives for students to consider.
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What Makes a College Major Hard?
A college major can be hard because of the amount of hours required to understand the course content and the number of difficult assignments. Usually, majors that require a lot of math and physics are considered to be the most difficult. However, it really depends on a student’s unique strengths and personal preferences.
Top 10 Hardest College Majors to Challenge Yourself
Below is our list of 10 of the hardest college majors to take in college. These challenging majors have difficult courses that demand critical thinking and require students to study for many hours a week to keep up.
1. Mechanical Engineering
Mechanical engineering is widely regarded as a hard degree program because students have to take advanced courses in math, physics, chemistry, and statistics. Many universities also include practical lab courses and Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software classes in their mechanical engineering curriculum.
Best Jobs You Can Get With Mechanical Engineering
- Mechanical Engineer | Average Salary: $95,300. Mechanical engineers build and maintain machines and engines. They often work in the automotive and manufacturing industries.
- Structural Engineer | Average Salary: $71,838. Structural engineers build bridges, roads, and other infrastructural projects. They are involved in several aspects of the construction process, including designing proposed structures, calculating load-bearing capacity, and routinely inspecting projects.
- Sales Engineer | Average Salary: $103,710. Sales engineers sell various complex technical products. They use their engineering background to help buyers customize products.
2. Cell Biology
A cell biology major takes a deep dive into chemistry, biology, and life science topics. Cell biology students spend several hours per week in biology labs conducting experiments and gaining hands-on experience that can be applied in the biotechnology, agricultural, pharmaceutical, or medical industries.
Best Jobs You Can Get With Cell Biology
- Food Scientist | Average Salary: $74,160. Food scientists conduct research to investigate methods to improve food manufacturing processes. Their duties include assessing the safety of food products and ensuring that best practices are followed in the food production process.
- Forensic Scientist | Average Salary: $61,930. Forensic scientists investigate samples obtained from crime scenes. They work with law enforcement agencies to provide insights that could be useful in identifying crime suspects.
- Biotechnologist | Average Salary: $51,204. Biotechnologists apply their knowledge of molecular biology and cellular processes to create useful products from living organisms. Graduates from any of the best biotechnology schools can work in the agricultural, pharmaceutical, or environmental science industries.
3. Chemical Engineering
Although a chemical engineering degree provides many exciting and high-paying career opportunities after graduation, it is one of the hardest engineering majors to pursue. Chemical engineering students must understand physical and organic chemistry, mathematics, and physics.
Best Jobs You Can Get With Chemical Engineering
- Nuclear Engineer | Average Salary: $120,380. Nuclear engineers explore methods to use radiation and radioactive substances to solve real-world problems. Nuclear engineers work as part of a research and development team or at nuclear power plants, ensuring that radioactive materials are used safely.
- Chemical Engineer | Average Salary: $105,550. Chemical engineers mostly work in pharmaceutical and manufacturing companies. They conduct research or design chemical processes to safely create valuable products such as biofuel, fertilizers, and medicines.
- Environmental Engineer | Average Salary: $96,820. Environmental engineers are responsible for designing solutions to environmental hazards. Most of the top companies hiring environmental engineers in 2022 require their unique skills to handle pollution problems, carry out remediation projects, or perform quality control tests.
4. Aeronautical Engineering
Aeronautical engineering covers topics such as flight dynamics, aircraft structures, and computer-aided simulation. An aeronautical engineering major emphasizes complex concepts and intricate calculations, making it among the most challenging majors to pursue. However, it remains one of the most lucrative fields of study.
Best Jobs You Can Get With Aeronautical Engineering
- Aerospace Engineer | Average Salary: $122,270. Aerospace engineers work as part of a team tasked with designing, building, and maintaining aircraft, satellites, rockets, and spacecraft.
- Industrial Engineer | Average Salary: $95,300. Industrial engineers streamline manufacturing operations to reduce waste and improve efficiency.
- Flight Test Engineer | Average Salary: $87,042. Flight test engineers ensure that planes are safe to use. They also carry out maintenance tasks and consult with pilots and other essential airplane personnel to ensure that aircraft are in the best possible condition before and after a flight.
5. Biomedical Engineering
Biomedical engineering takes concepts from the fields of engineering and medicine and applies them to building healthcare products. Biomedical engineering can be very challenging for most students at both undergraduate and graduate degree levels, primarily because of the complex math, physics, and life science classes needed to succeed.
Best Jobs You Can Get With Biomedical Engineering
- Biomedical Engineer | Average Salary: $97,410. Biomedical engineers typically work in research or medical device manufacturing companies. They work with other medical scientists to research and identify innovative solutions to medical problems using engineering principles.
- Medical Scientist | Average Salary: $95,310. Medical scientists are research professionals who conduct groundbreaking studies and publish their findings in peer-reviewed journals. Medical scientists can be found in universities, hospitals, or pharmaceutical companies.
- Biomedical Engineering Professor | Average Salary: $104,940. Biomedical engineering professors work at universities or colleges. Their job duties include teaching students and conducting research activities. Professors usually have a PhD degree in their subject area.
6. Materials Science and Engineering
A materials science and engineering major studies the properties of materials and how to use their unique characteristics in everyday life. This major requires students to study thermodynamics, kinetics, and other advanced topics in physics.
Best Jobs You Can Get With Materials Science and Engineering
- Materials Engineer | Average Salary: $98,300. Materials engineers typically require at least a Bachelor’s Degree in Materials Science and Engineering. Materials engineers study materials and conduct tests to determine if they will be suitable for creating a particular product.
- Quality Manager | Average Salary: $83,111. Companies hire quality managers to ensure that their products remain of optimum quality. Quality managers monitor the entire production process, discard sub-par products, and devise strategies to optimize their organization’s manufacturing procedures.
- Product Development Scientist | Average Salary: $74,803. Product development scientists supervise the development of products in agricultural, food, pharmaceutical, or biotechnology companies. Depending on where they work, they may perform tasks such as quality control, waste management, or developing safety standards.
Students pursuing a physics bachelor’s or associate degree or an advanced education program are expected to understand difficult topics such as thermodynamics, heat transfer, and kinematics. These subjects usually require a lot of effort and high-level math to understand. Physics assignments are notoriously tricky.
Best Jobs You Can Get With Physics
- Medical Physicist | Average Salary: $152,468. Medical physicists are part of a hospital’s healthcare team. They assist with radiology techniques so doctors can look inside their patients. Medical physicists usually have a Master’s Degree in Medical Physics or a similar field.
- Physicist| Average Salary: $152,430. Working as a physicist is one of the many jobs you can do with a physics degree. These scientists design and conduct experiments to test theories about matter and energy. They publish their findings in scientific journals and attend conferences to learn from other physicists.
- Astronomer | Average Salary: $128,160. Astronomers study the planets, stars, and galaxies. They collect data from satellites and telescopes to try to understand the mysteries of the universe.
Most architecture undergraduate programs are five years long instead of four, so students have enough time to learn and practice the technical drawing, computer drafting, and math skills needed to design buildings. Architecture students also have to take studio courses, where they complete projects and their work is critiqued in front of the whole class.
Best Jobs You Can Get With Architecture
- Architect | Average Salary: $80,180. Architects create detailed structural plans for houses, offices, and other buildings. Most architects are self-employed or work as part of an architectural or engineering firm.
- Urban Planner | Average Salary: $78,500. Urban planners work with the government to devise a long-term plan or layout for a community or city. Urban planners are expected to have an architecture or urban and regional planning master’s degree.
- Construction Manager | Average Salary: $98,890. Construction managers are responsible for making sure a construction project gets completed on time and on budget. They hire and manage all workers on site, purchase materials, and solve any problems that come up.
Economics is considered one of the hardest disciplines in the social sciences primarily because of the interdisciplinary knowledge involved. Economics students must be great at math and also understand complex finance topics. It also demands strong critical thinking skills and the ability to draw insights from economic or financial data.
Best Jobs You Can Get With Economics
- Financial Manager | Average Salary: $131,710. Financial managers help organizations effectively manage their financial resources. They evaluate past expenditures, create budgets, and explore ways to reduce overall costs. Financial managers also observe current economic trends and seek investment opportunities.
- Actuary | Average Salary: $105,900. Actuaries need to have a solid understanding of mathematics and statistics. They study past data to forecast future financial crises and reduce or eliminate financial risks.
- Financial Analyst | Average Salary: $81,410. Financial analysts study economic trends to help their clients make accurate financial or investment decisions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 492,100 financial analyst jobs in the US in 2020.
10. Computer Science
Computer science is currently one of the most in-demand majors. However, it remains one of the hardest college majors. Students enrolled in a computer science degree program will need to learn popular programming languages and challenging theoretical concepts. Coding assignments can be tricky, especially when it comes to finding small errors in a program.
Best Jobs You Can Get With Computer Science
- Computer Systems Manager | Average Salary: $159,010. Computer systems managers ensure that their organization’s hardware and software are secure, efficient, and fully operational. They conduct regular checks and recommend any required software or hardware upgrades.
- Computer Research Scientist | Average Salary: $131,490. Computer research scientists analyze data and suggest better methods for addressing computing problems. They develop computer science research plans and add to present-day computer science knowledge via published articles.
- Software Developer | Average Salary: $110,140. Software developers build new applications to fit the specifications of their company or client. Software development jobs require a high level of critical thinking and teamwork skills.
What Is the Hardest Major to Get Into?
Architecture is the hardest major to get into. In addition to a standard college or graduate school application, students also need to submit portfolios to demonstrate that they have enough skills to enter the program. It is one of the few undergraduate majors that require you already have certain skills before your start taking classes.
Easiest College Majors
- Social Work. A social work major is easy because it focuses on practical rather than abstract concepts. Students pursuing a degree in social work will learn practical and straightforward topics such as human behavior, communication, and policy analysis. While social work is an easy college major, it is an emotionally demanding career.
- History. A history major requires attention to detail and strong writing ability. History majors learn to think like detectives and pull clues from period sources.
- English. English is widely considered one of the easiest college majors because there are no calculations or science topics. If you love to read, write, and analyze culture, this is a great program for you.
- Education. An education degree prepares graduates for jobs as teachers at different levels. It is an easy major because it focuses on practical concepts. Learning about teaching is easy, but mastering the art of managing a classroom is very challenging.
- Psychology. Most people find studying human behavior interesting, making a psychology major an exciting and relatively easy degree to pursue, especially at the undergraduate level. You can do a lot of different jobs with a psychology major.
Should I Choose One of the Hardest College Majors?
Yes, you should choose one of the hardest college majors if you like a challenge and you are interested in the subject. Many of the hardest college majors increase your chances of getting a job after graduation. Hard majors also allow you to challenge yourself and develop rare and in-demand skills.
Hardest Majors FAQ
The average tuition cost for a difficult major is the same as the average tuition cost for an undergraduate degree, $13,360 per year according to the National Center for Education Statistics. When you consider the cost of food, housing, and school supplies, the yearly cost is $25,281.
No, students pursuing hard majors don’t usually take a longer time to graduate. Although some majors have a curriculum with complex interdisciplinary subjects and require extra study hours, students enrolled in these programs can still graduate within the standard time for their chosen degree type. The exception is architecture, which is usually a five-year undergrad degree instead of four years.
Yes, it matters where you get your degree. You should enroll in a major at a university or college that has an excellent reputation in your chosen field, skilled faculty members, and positive employment outcomes for its alumni. Obtaining a degree in a difficult major from an unrecognized school can affect your chances in the job market.
It is usually cheaper to get a degree online rather than on campus. This is especially true for out-of-state students because they don’t have to pay for added expenses such as transportation and accommodation when they attend classes online.
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