Is physics the hardest major

Is physics the hardest major DEFAULT

2021 Top 10 Hardest College Majors [With Careers & Salaries]

by John Apalla

If you’re looking for a challenge, then you may be intrigued to learn what the hardest college majors are.

On the other hand, if intense math and science courses aren’t your thing, you may be more interested in selecting college programs that aren’t included on the list of the most difficult majors.

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Either way, it can be fascinating to learn which subjects are considered the hardest majors in college. That knowledge may help you settle on which program to pursue, so you might want to take a look at this list as you choose your degree path.

Hardest College Majors

No matter what you study, earning a college degree requires a great deal of dedication. While hard is subjective, there are some degrees that are commonly considered more challenging than others.

Contributing factors include:

  • Low average GPA
  • More homework required
  • More hours spent studying
  • More lab hours

The following subjects are often ranked among the hardest college majors:

Both of these fields offer plenty of opportunity for growth, a lot of different job prospects, and plenty of job security.


Physics is the branch of science that studies the motion and behavior of matter. While many students take a physics class in college, those who choose this as their major will study the field much more thoroughly.

There are many math and science classes involved in physics studies. The curriculum for a physics program can cover topics like electromagnetism and modern physics. You can also explore waves, mechanics, optics, thermodynamics, and energy.

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Physics programs often cover both classical and modern aspects of this field. Subspecialties within physics include astrophysics and applied physics. Some students major in physics and also take teacher-preparation courses so that they can earn state education licensure.

Physics majors often enroll in graduate school after earning their bachelors. They tend to study engineering, astronomy, or physics. Those who go straight into the workforce may become engineers, entrepreneurs, teachers, research associates, or data analysts.


Chemistry is the branch of science that explores the composition of matter. Chemists explore the properties of matter and the ways that various substances interact with each other.

There are several subdisciplines within chemistry, and college chemistry majors study each of them. These subdisciplines include organic chemistry, physical chemistry, and analytical chemistry. This type of program will often cover course topics like measurements and methods of chemistry. Multiple classes are likely to have lab components.

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While you can expect to take a class dedicated to each of the chemistry areas, you may also be able to pick one for more in-depth study. Some colleges offer specific concentration options, and others simply leave space in the schedule for a few major-related electives.

Alternatively, some colleges offer education courses for students who want to become science teachers. Many graduates continue on to medical school or another graduate program. Others become food scientists, engineers, lab technicians, or technical writers.


Architects design and create buildings. They don’t carry out the hands-on work of construction. Rather, they come up with the building plans and may have supervisory roles during the construction process.

Students in architecture programs study materials, design, and construction methods. You can learn to turn ideas from general concepts into well-laid plans that are carefully sketched out on paper or screens.

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Other courses cover the history of architecture so that you can learn about the evolution of various styles. Licensure requirements for architects vary from state to state. Becoming licensed may require studying at a school with National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) accreditation.

Many graduates continue into architecture graduate programs before pursuing state licensure. Internships are another common step toward becoming licensed. Not all graduates choose to become professional architects, though. Related careers can include surveyor, building inspector, drafter, interior designer, or city planner.

Chemical Engineering

If you’re interested in designing or improving chemical products, you might consider chemical engineering as your bachelors degree major. Chemical engineers are influential in the fields of environmental science, energy, aerospace technology, and more.

Statistics for engineering, thermodynamics principles, and plant design are some of the course topics commonly offered in chemical engineering programs.

You may take biology, chemistry, and physics classes that are specifically tailored to the engineering field. Other concepts covered in this program can include kinetics, mechanics, separations, and materials science.

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Licensure is not as common in the chemical engineering field as it is for some other engineering disciplines. Even still, choosing a college that’s accredited by ABET can be a strategic way to select a program that aligns with today’s industry standards.

Chemical engineers are often employed in sectors like petroleum manufacturing, pharmaceutical manufacturing, and wholesale trade. They can also be employed by research and development firms or engineering services agencies.

Cell and Molecular Biology

The field of cellular and molecular biology deals with biological processes at a tiny level. Processes at this level form the foundation of all biological activity.

A degree program in cellular and molecular biology includes classes on cell processes and cell metabolism. You can also learn about genetics and microbiology. There are research courses, and programs require plenty of lab work. In addition to biology studies, you can also engage in some physics work and a lot of chemistry.

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Some students who want to become teachers also take education courses. They’ll often apply for educational licensure with the state after completing school. Other job opportunities may be found in fields like food science, agriculture, biotechnology, and technical writing.

Biologists also contribute to developments in the areas of pharmacy and healthcare. In fact, some choose to pursue professional programs to become medical doctors or other specialized healthcare providers.


The science of life is better known as biology. Biologists study organisms. This can include their physiological processes, their behaviors, their body structures, and their classification. Common biology classes cover biostatistics, zoology, and molecular biology. Other topics can include genetics and evolution.

Students usually need a good deal of chemistry coursework to go along with their biology studies. Organic chemistry and biochemistry are particularly important. As a science discipline, biology studies tend to require a lot of lab time.

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Some biology students can choose a degree concentration to focus their studies on a particular area of this scientific field. Schools may offer options like biomedicine, botany, or organismal biology.

Some biology graduates want to become teachers. Others use their bachelors degree as preparation for a professional program in medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, or another health field.

This degree can also pair well with a masters in nutrition or respiratory care. Additional paths for biology graduates include environmental science or genetic counseling.

Aerospace Engineering

If you’ve always been fascinated with flight and space travel, then you may be interested in pursuing aerospace engineering. This field of study plays a key role in airplane and spacecraft design.

The classes for this program can address materials, structural design, mechanics, and dynamics. You’ll typically take many math courses, including linear algebra, geometry, and calculus. The lab work for this program can involve wind tunnels, water tunnels, and shock tubes.

Concentration options in aerospace engineering include aeronautics, rocketry, and propulsion. In addition, aerospace engineering pairs well with mechanical engineering, so some schools offer combined programs.

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Aerospace engineering programs can be accredited by ABET, which adds credibility to the degree. For additional opportunities to boost your resume, colleges may offer research opportunities, internships, or collegiate engineering organizations.

Graduates tend to work in the aerospace industry. They may be involved with designing aircraft parts or controls. The federal government employs aerospace engineers, too.

Biomedical Engineering

The field of biomedical engineering combines principles and techniques from many different engineering branches as well as other disciplines.

Biomedical engineers are well-versed in math, biology, physics, chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, and more. With their well-rounded expertise, they contribute to the development of healthcare devices.

Statistics, optics, mechanics, fluids, and polymers are some of the subjects that biomedical engineering majors study. You can also learn about medical imaging, signal processing, and stem cells. Many of the courses will have lab work, and you may practice working with circuits, operating equipment, and taking measurements.

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You may spend a considerable amount of time doing extra study in a particular area of the field. Options can include mechanical engineering, tissue engineering, diagnostic imaging, and electrical engineering.

Many biomedical engineering graduates enter medical or veterinary school. They can also work as quality engineers or designers in medical device companies or research firms.


If you can’t decide between biology and chemistry studies, biochemistry could be the answer. Biochemists explore the chemical reactions that take place within plants, animals, and other living things.

Not surprisingly, students in this field take a large number of biology and chemistry classes. After gaining a foundation in both disciplines, you can dive into organic chemistry and analytical chemistry.

Other required courses can include algebra, calculus, and physics. Many of the courses for this program also require a large investment of lab hours. Biochemistry students may choose to enroll in grad school after completing their bachelors degree.

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This undergraduate program can serve as a strong foundation for advanced studies in forensic science or molecular biology. It can also help prepare students for medical or dental school.

Biochemists may also become food scientists, agricultural scientists, or lab techs. They can pursue work for pharmaceutical companies as well. With teaching licensure, they can also go into the field of education.

Mechanical Engineering

Professionals in mechanical engineering understand the inner workings of devices. Not only do they understand how machines function, but they can also contribute to building machines of their own.

The work of mechanical engineers plays countless roles in people’s everyday lives. Mechanical engineering students study fluid dynamics, thermodynamics, waves, magnetism, and materials.

Learning about manufacturing processes and engineering software can help prepare you for the workforce. The required math curriculum may cover calculus and differential equations. During lab sessions, you may work with robotics or computer-based design software.

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Colleges sometimes include concentration tracks in their mechanical engineering programs. Different options can include sustainability, robotics, manufacturing, or virtual reality. Like other engineering programs, mechanical engineering departments can receive accreditation from ABET.

Mechanical engineers often find work with manufacturing companies. Their responsibilities may involve designing vehicles, machines, computers, or electronic devices. Some graduates pursue a masters in mechanical engineering or another engineering branch.

Electrical Engineering

Electrical systems play a fundamental role in modern life. Engineers in this discipline understand how electrical systems function, and they can design machines and devices that run on electricity.

Some of the classes that electrical engineering students take cover topics like electromagnetics, power systems, and circuit analysis. Your curriculum may cover topics like signals, switches, semiconductors, and magnetism.

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Lab classes can help you gain hands-on experience with classroom concepts. You may get to select a variety of elective courses as well. Elective subjects may include computer engineering or sustainable energy. Electrical engineering programs can be accredited by ABET, and pursuing licensure may be an option for electrical engineers in many states.

Electrical engineers can work in the power sector, and they can also get jobs in manufacturing or logistics. Some enter a related engineering field, such as aerospace or nuclear engineering. Pursuing masters degrees in business or engineering are other possibilities.

How to Choose a College Major

As you start your college career, one of the most important decisions you’ll make is what your major should be.

Whether you’re interested in some of the most difficult college majors or ones with less math and science, your school probably has a wide range of degree programs to pick from. The following criteria may help you decide which  program is best for you:

  • Career opportunities. Before selecting a field of study, it can help to explore the type of work that the program’s graduates typically do. Before you commit, consider if you can see yourself doing those jobs. Alternatively, if you already have a career in mind, you can find out which degree programs can get you there.
  • Earning potential. If your goal is to be a six-figure earner, then some degree programs are more likely to contribute than others. For instance, jobs in business and technology usually pay higher salaries than those in education or human services.
  • Interest level. You’ll likely enjoy college the most if you care about what you’re studying. It can be worthwhile to select a field of study that appeals to you, even if it’s not the most popular major.
  • Academic rigor. College always requires hard work, but science and engineering degrees are known for being especially challenging. When it comes to the toughest undergraduate degrees, the coursework can start to demand a great deal of study time. If balancing academics and socialization is a priority for you during college, you might consider whether you want to commit to that sort of workload.
  • Skills and abilities. You know your strengths better than anyone. If your brain is wired for math, then an engineering or natural science major could be a strategic choice. If you’re more skilled in communication, then you might thrive in English or public relations instead.

Your college major can shape not only the next 4 years but also your expertise and qualifications for the workforce. It’s strategic to weigh your options.

What Are the Easiest Majors in College?

If signing up for one of the most stressful majors doesn’t appeal to you, then you might be on the lookout for a program with a reputation for being less challenging.

Students often view programs as less difficult if they require fewer advanced math and science courses, less time in the lab, more humanities and social science classes, and fewer hours hitting the books.

  • Advertising. If creativity comes easily to you, advertising can be a strategic degree choice. The coursework covers topics like communication and consumer behavior. A master’s degree isn’t a prerequisite for advancement in this field.
  • Business Administration. Most undergraduate business students take an array of classes that cover business concepts at an introductory level. While there may be the option to take quantitative analysis classes, those aren’t always a requirement. Many graduates find jobs with advancement potential without needing to enroll in grad school.
  • Education. Future teachers often major in elementary, secondary, or special education. The math and science coursework may focus on teaching those subjects rather than learning highly advanced concepts. Common topics in this major include behavior management and literacy development.
  • English. For students who love books, English studies can provide the opportunity to read one text after another. This major is likely to focus on writing and literary criticism, and humanities courses are much more common than math and science ones.
  • Social Work. Studying social work doesn’t require long hours of memorizing equations or chemical formulas. Rather, this program focuses on social science concepts, such as motivation and group dynamics. It’s worth noting, though, that emotional resilience is a must for professionals in this field.

Since each student has different strengths, you may find other programs less difficult or stressful than the ones listed above.

What Is the Hardest Degree to Get?

Programs that require intense weekly studying, long lab sessions, and multiple STEM courses have a reputation for being more difficult. Fields with low average GPAs or high demand for graduate degrees may be considered challenging as well.

  • Architecture. Being an architect involves sticking to firm deadlines, and that begins in a college architecture program. This field requires being skilled in multiple disciplines, including organization, creativity, drawing, math, and science. Plus, students can often feel that architecture professors are never fully satisfied with their efforts.
  • Biochemistry. Students in biochem programs take a full slate of science courses, including multiple advanced biology and chemistry classes. For many students, biochemistry is only the beginning, and they continue with master’s studies or med school.
  • Chemical Engineering. This is another major that’s heavy on chemistry courses and lab work. Plus, as an engineering program, there is a heavy emphasis on math, too. This field can prepare students to work in patent law after earning additional degrees.
  • Physics. Grading in physics programs is usually based on lab work and exams. Students can spend many hours completing labs and typing up reports on their findings. They may also engage in long study sessions in preparation for frequent tests. While this is a scientific field, math plays an integral role.

Even though someone else may consider a subject to be the hardest major, it may be a good fit for your skills and interests.

Average GPA by Major

The average GPA of students in a particular program can provide clues to how challenging the studies are.

Whether due to the challenging subject matter or the professors’ strict grading scales, it can be tough to earn high marks in certain courses. When a program has one difficult course after another, students may earn lower overall grade point averages.

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Low GPAs sometimes motivate college students to drop out of rigorous programs and turn to courses in which As and Bs are easier to come by.

According to CBS News, a survey of college majors showed that the programs with the lowest average GPAs were:

  • Biology: Average GPA of 3.02
  • Chemistry: Average GPA of 2.78
  • Economics: Average GPA of 2.95
  • Mathematics: Average GPA of 2.90
  • Psychology: Average GPA of 2.98

The same survey revealed that the following five programs produced the highest GPAs, on average:

  • Education: Average GPA of 3.36
  • English: Average GPA of 3.33
  • Language: Average GPA of 3.34
  • Music: Average GPA of 3.30
  • Religion: Average GPA of 3.22

Of course, other students’ performances don’t necessarily dictate how you’ll do in school. While advanced math, chemistry and biology courses confound many college students, you may be highly skilled in those areas. If you’ve excelled in previous STEM courses, don’t let these averages discourage your studies.

Typical College Admissions Requirements

Getting into a challenging college program may require you to prove your readiness to the admissions committee. Universities often ask for application materials like those listed below to evaluate whether you’re a good candidate for the program.

  • Essay or other personal statement
  • Reference letters
  • School transcripts with college-prep courses and a minimum GPA
  • SAT or ACT scores (not required by all schools)

If you’re leaning toward selective schools, it’s strategic to apply to several so that you can increase your chances of admission.

What Is a Major in College?

Students at the college level select a major for their studies. A major is a specific subject area that they study in great depth.

To earn a bachelors degree, you’ll often take a mix of courses in math, English, science, history, and other subjects. Most students in your college will take those same core classes.

Approximately one-third to one-half of your courses, though, will be related to your major. For example, aside from the general education core, a counseling student will take very different courses than an engineering student. Your major can influence the type of jobs you qualify for after graduation.

Is Physics Hard?

Many students consider physics to be a difficult field of study, but your experience could be different. If you have strong math skills and are good at abstract thinking, this could be a suitable major for you.

You can take courses on waves, electricity, magnetism, mechanics, and optics. There may be course topics like fundamentals of mechanics, interrelationship between philosophy and physics, and physics in medicine.

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You can count on taking multiple math and science classes. Many hours will likely be spent in the lab. You may also complete an internship or write an honors thesis.

What Is the Hardest Engineering Major?

“Hardest” is a subjective term. What someone else considers challenging, you might find fairly straightforward. Even still, some engineering majors have a reputation for being more difficult than others.

For instance, some students have a more difficult time with electrical engineering because it involves abstract thinking as you design and evaluate circuits. Aerospace engineering is considered more difficult, too. This major involves advanced math studies and requires a good grasp of fluid dynamics.

Chemical engineering is heavy on math, chemistry, and physics. It helps to be strong in all three of these areas to find success in this field.

What Are the Majors That Don’t Require Math?

In any college program, you may have to take a few math classes. For some majors, though, the mathematics requirements don’t extend beyond the basics. If math is a struggle for you, you might be wanting to pick a low-math degree program.

Humanities majors typically don’t include many math classes. Instead, programs like English, art history, and gender studies usually emphasize reading and writing. Math isn’t a large component of social science programs either. In sociology and psychology, you’re more likely to study culture and behavior.

Nurses use basic arithmetic skills, but advanced math isn’t integral to most nursing programs.

What’s the Difference Between a Major vs. Degree in College?

You may hear people say things like, “I got a degree in chemistry,” or, “My major was in chemistry.” Those two statements sound pretty similar. Your college degree and your major aren’t quite the same, though.

  • Your particular field of study
  • Focused around courses specific to your field
  • Examples: biology, architecture, psychology
  • The level of education you’ve achieved
  • Earned by taking both general education and major-specific courses
  • Examples: Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Applied Science

These distinctions apply only to undergraduate studies.

Getting Your College Degree Online

Whether you choose a challenging college major or a less difficult one, you can expect to work hard, grow your skills, and become better prepared for the workforce.

To help you select a major, it’s beneficial to consider your strengths, your interests, and your career goals. Don’t be scared off just because others rank a program as one of the hardest. It could be just the right degree for you!

No matter what you choose to study, online college may be a convenient option that suits your schedule. You can earn a respected degree online as long as it comes from an accredited college. Why not start exploring your online school options today?

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10 Hardest College Majors [2021 Guide With Salaries]

You might wonder, why would anyone look for the hardest college majors? Well, the hardest college majors are often the ones with the biggest payoff for graduates!

List of Difficult Colleges Majors

Yes, these hardest college majors will present challenges. You may put in long hours in the lab analyzing data and compiling reports, take the toughest classes in math and the sciences, and just generally work hard for your degree, but graduates from these often earn top dollar.

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If you’re up for the challenge, check out these hard majors with promising futures!

What Are the 10 Most Difficult College Majors?

We’ve compiled a list of the 10 hardest majors based on average GPA. You can read more about our methodology here.

By average Grade Point Average, the fields include:

  1. Chemistry – 2.78 GPA
  2. Mathematics – 2.90
  3. Economics – 2.95
  4. Biology – 3.02
  5. Geology – 3.03
  6. Philosophy – 3.08
  7. Finance – 3.08
  8. Physics – 3.10
  9. Computer Science – 3.13
  10. Mechanical Engineering – 3.17

Note that average GPAs vary somewhat depending on the university, program requirements, and the type of school (public university, private university, liberal arts school, trade school, etc.). Some schools have a reputation for being among the hardest colleges, depending on their academic requirements.

We are providing these averages so that you’ll have a reasonable idea of the difficulty of the fields.


#1 Chemistry

According to the average Grade Point Average of students in the program, Chemistry wins the prize title hardest major.

A Chemistry major overlaps somewhat with biology, but chemistry extends beyond living things. Chemistry focuses on the composition of matter, including all structures, properties, and reactions. You will probably spend a lot of time in the lab testing and re-testing theories.

Chemistry graduates can choose from a number of career paths, including education, research, medicine, pharmaceuticals, nursing, and law. Some students further their education in the field by pursuing a graduate degree, where they can develop their writing and speaking skills for presenting their findings.

Chemistry Pros:

  • You are likely to have lots of hands-on learning in the lab!
  • Pride if you make a big discovery or invention.

Chemistry Cons:

  • Chemistry shows a right and a wrong, with little area for middle ground or opinions.
  • The courses typically include frequent testing, which could present an extra challenge for some students.
  • You might need a more advanced education when looking for a job outside of the lab or teaching arenas.

Chemistry Major Jobs

Job TitlePotential Salary
Biochemist / Biophysicist$94,270
Chemist / Materials Scientist$79,300
Environmental Scientist / Specialist$73,230

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

mathematics courses

#2 Mathematics

Not surprisingly, mathematics takes second place for hardest college major.

A bachelor’s in math may seem a bit generic, but it’s actually quite flexible. Employers everywhere are seeking individuals who think independently, creatively and critically, and math students do exactly that. They also do well in statistics and algebra classes, of course.

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With skills like these, you may work in patent law, software development, animation, financial analysis, economics, cybersecurity, market research, astronomy or any number of fields.

Mathematics Pros:

  • A pretty flexible program and pairs well for a dual degree or minor
  • With a bachelor’s in math, people may just assume you’re a genius.
  • Mathematician ranked the #2 Best Job, noting the “very good work environment, very low-stress level and very good projected growth.”

Mathematics Cons:

  • Many positions require a graduate degree, which can cost more and take more time.
  • People may assume you are a human calculator.

Mathematics Major Jobs

Job TitlePotential Salary
Mathematician / Statistician$93,290
Operations Research Analyst$86,200
Financial Analyst$83,660

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics


#3 Economics

Economics involves studying individual, household, and organizational behavior related to markets and finance. It’s about how people think and act, what makes them make the decisions they do, and so on. So why do people consider economics a difficult major?

In this area, you will take a lot of math and statistics classes and do plenty of critical thinking and synthesizing of data – so it can definitely be hard!

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Many economics students land in business, technology, government, and finance. They often become well-known analysts, sharing their knowledge via interviews or their own writing.

Economics Pros:

  • You have the ability to find employment in a number of different industries.
  • The critical thinking and problem-solving skills this degree can help you develop can be valuable in both your professional and personal life.

Economics Cons:

  • If you’re not a math guru – or at least someone who likes math – you will likely struggle in this field.
  • Studying graphs, charts, and spreadsheets every day may become a little dry.

Economics Major Jobs

Job TitlePotential Salary
Financial Analyst$83,660
Budget Analyst$78,970
Accountant / Auditor$73,560

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics


#4 Biology

Interested in all things alive? Go beyond basic frog dissection and learn about the evolution, growth, life cycles and other aspects of animals, plants, bacteria, and fungi.

You will likely do a lot of hands-on learning in the lab, making new discoveries and advancing our understanding of everything that’s living. You will also need to understand the terms and processes, which can mean a lot of memorization, making this one of the most difficult majors for many.

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Biology Pros:

  • There are many specializations you can choose from!
  • You’ll work with and learn about nature and use advanced tools in your classes.
  • A variety of potential occupational paths, such as working in laboratories, conducting field research or teaching at the secondary or post-secondary level

Biology Cons:

  • You must keep up with developments and findings happening outside the classroom every day.
  • A lot to learn and memorize
  • Since many biology students plan to go into the medical field, professors prepare students for the rigors of medical school, making this a very demanding subject.
  • An element of professional danger, particularly for those working with diseases and bacteria

Biology Major Jobs

Job TitlePotential Salary
Environmental Scientist / Specialist$73,230
Zoologists / Wildlife Biologist$66,350
Biological Technician$46,340

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics


#5 Geology

Earth to students! Geologists explore the history of our planet and use their knowledge as they make predictions about future earthquakes, floods, and volcanic eruptions. They also use their knowledge for planning where and how to build highways or structures, or lay pipelines for natural gas or oil.

Their activity is calculated and complicated, which puts geology among the hardest college majors, but it provides great rewards!

Geology Pros:

  • You can find employment with only a bachelor’s degree.
  • The field can deliver plenty of excitement, with daily hours of hands-on exploration.

Geology Cons:

  • You may need to travel for fieldwork in remote areas.
  • Duties may involve keeping irregular and extended hours.

Geology Major Jobs

Job TitlePotential Salary
Mining / Geological Engineer$93,800
Environmental Scientist / Specialist$73,230
Geological / Hydrologic Technician$50,630

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics


#6 Philosophy

Do you like stretching your brain around some big questions? What’s the meaning of life? How do we attain truth? What is human consciousness? You will most likely spend your time reading the ideas of famous philosophers in your classes and developing theories of your own as you spend hours debating with classmates and colleagues.

Careers in philosophy are scarce, so many students pair the subject with a more marketable area of study or a minor. Consider software programming, mathematics, ethics, linguistics, physics, or life sciences. Many Philosophy majors build their careers through their writing.

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This may not seem like one of the hardest college majors, but it requires retaining and understanding a lot of concepts.

Philosophy Pros:

  • Studying philosophy can help you develop strong analytical and writing skills, valuable in many professional positions and in life.
  • You can enjoy the deep thinking involved in philosophy, while also learning skills in another area.

Philosophy Cons:

  • It’s generally harder to find employment outside of teaching without another area of expertise
  • Society often looks down on philosophy in favor of scientific facts.

Philosophy Major Jobs

Job TitlePotential Salary
Philosophy and Religion Teacher, Postsecondary$76,160
Writer or Author$67,120
Market Research Analyst$65,810

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics


#7 Finance

You’ll need your left brain and right brain for this profession! Finance majors need skills in math, analyzing data, formulating strategies, and communicating well. Individuals with skills in all these areas are hard to come by!

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Having to be this good with numbers and future thinking also puts this in the running for hardest college major.

Finance Pros:

  • Regardless of the economy, financial and accounting services should always be in high demand.
  • Job variety. You can find employment in government, business, international trade, and beyond.

Finance Cons:

  • Potential for high stress and long hours
  • Finance, banking, and business are constantly changing, so continual reading and education in the field becomes a must once you start working.

Finance Major Jobs

Job TitlePotential Salary
Personal Financial Advisors$89,330
Management Analysts$87,660
Financial Analysts$83,660
Financial Examiners$81,430

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics



#8 Physics

Ready to join the ranks of Stephen Hawking and those guys from “Big Bang Theory?”

Studying physics covers everything from the universe and the largest galaxies to the smallest subatomic particles. Excelling in this area requires skills in math, different sciences, English, problem-solving, and teamwork.

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The coursework is extremely demanding, but comes with a versatile degree, providing you job opportunities in scientific research, business, finance, technology, and engineering. Physics students must pay attention to their writing so they’re prepared to deliver professional-level findings.

Physics Pros:

  • You could be a part of significant, life-changing discoveries, such as curing cancer or developing sustainable energy solutions.
  • People may assume you’re a genius!

Physics Cons:

  • You may need a more advanced education when looking for a job outside of the lab or teaching arenas, which means more hours spent getting your education.

Physics Major Jobs

Job TitlePotential Salary
Physicist / Astronomer$129,850
Aerospace Engineer$118,610
Nuclear Engineer$116,140
Chemist / Materials Scientist$79,300

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

undergraduate computer programming

#9 Computer Science

If you’re a techie who loves digging deep and solving complex problems, this program is probably a good fit for you. You’ll need patience and persistence, and the ability (and desire) to learn entirely new programming languages as you solve problems and make processes more efficient.

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Computer Science Pros:

  • You could possibly work for a large insurance corporation, for Google, or for the CIA – your skills can be useful in a wide variety of industries!
  • With always evolving technology, the need for people skilled computer scientists will always exist.
  • Since things are always changing, you can keep learning and growing.

Computer Science Cons:

  • Because things are always changing, you may put a lot of hours into learning a language or skill, then find it’s obsolete and the industry now favors newer methods.
  • Not everyone gets hired by Silicon Valley companies. You may find employment in IT at a local publishing company. (Less glamorous, but you can still make good money!)

Computer Science Major Jobs

Job TitlePotential Salary
Computer and Information Systems Manager$151,150
Hardware Engineer$119,560
Network Architect$116,780
Software Developer$110,140
Information Security Analyst$103,590

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Related Guide: 40 Best Online Computer Science Degrees

Engineers on study project

#10 Engineering

If you’re a STEM whiz, then an engineering program may be just the thing for you! You might not even consider this one of the hardest majors.

There are six branches you might consider – Mechanical, Chemical, Civil, Electrical, Management, and Geotechnical – and under these branches are hundreds of degrees you can choose from. But no matter which you choose, you will probably need to put in hard work.

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You may take courses in Chemistry, Calculus, Statistics, Physics, and other subjects, and many smart students struggle for passing grades.

Engineering Pros:

  • Literally hundreds of areas you could go into
  • Often excellent pay right out of school and regular working hours.
  • Individuals with this degree can transition into a variety of fields. Many become doctors, lawyers, technical writing professionals, teachers, and businessmen/women.

Engineering Cons:

  • The coursework is usually rigorous and demanding.
  • Most courses will relate directly to your future profession, so you’ll likely skip developing other interests like art or writing.

Engineering Major Jobs

Job TitlePotential Salary
Petroleum Engineer$137,330
Computer Hardware Engineer$119,560
Aerospace Engineer$118,610
Nuclear Engineer$116,140
Chemical Engineer$108,540

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Is Engineering Hard?

Engineering is one of the hardest college majors because it covers a broad range of challenging subjects, including mathematics, the sciences, and technology.

There are six main branches of engineering: Mechanical, Chemical, Civil, Electrical, Management, and Geotechnical. Under these branches are hundreds of subcategories.

Here are some of the many major degrees available:

  • Aerospace
  • Agricultural
  • Architectural
  • Automotive
  • Biological
  • Biomechanical
  • Biomedical
  • Ceramics
  • Chemical
  • Civil
  • Computer
  • Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
  • Electrical
  • Electronics
  • Management
  • Physics
  • Environmental
  • Geological
  • Geomatics
  • Industrial
  • Manufacturing
  • Marine
  • Materials Science
  • Mechanical
  • Mechatronics
  • Metallurgical
  • Microelectronic
  • Mining
  • Nanotechnology
  • Nuclear
  • Operations Research
  • Paper
  • Petroleum
  • Photonics
  • Robotics
  • Structural
  • Sustainable
  • Systems

Some of these degrees are highly specialized, of course, and may only have classes at the graduate level, or only at certain schools in certain regions.

Consider the path you’re interested in and which program would help get you there most successfully.

Which College Majors Pay the Most?

These hardest college majors prepare you for some of the highest-paying, most in-demand jobs.

Check out these options:

MajorJob TitleMedian Salary
Computer ScienceComputer and Information Systems Manager$151,150
EngineeringPetroleum Engineer$137,330
PhysicsPhysicist / Astronomer$129,850

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Excelling in these fields will take a lot of hours of hard work, but the potential payoff? Huge!

Methodology for Finding the Hardest College Majors

How hard a subject may be is quite subjective.

That being said, there are a few factors that could make one major seem harder than another, such as:

  • Number of hours spent in classes and labs (Insider tip: getting credits quickly)
  • Number of hours spent studying
  • Stricter professors
  • Stricter grading policies

Because of the rigorous courses in mathematics and the sciences, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) majors are generally considered hard.

To compile our list of majors/degrees, we looked at the subjects with the lowest average GPAs. In a recent whitepaper, Cornell University found that “sci” majors generally have lower GPAs, with Chemistry winning the prize for the lowest average GPA. This means it tops the list for hardest college majors.

The difficulty of a program will vary by university.

How hard a major seems will also vary by university. Different schools have different professors, different grading policies, different course material, and even different courses required for a particular degree.

Average GPAs differ between public and private colleges

A recent study found that where you attend university will impact your overall Grade Point Average, but not by much. Students at public universities have an average GPA of 3.1 while those attending private universities have a 3.3.

The best university programs have different requirements

All degree plans are not created equal.

A Bachelor’s in Software Programming at Duke University will have different requirements than one earned at the University of Illinois.

One example of this is in the Calculus requirement:

  • Duke requires Calculus 1 & 2
  • The University of Illinois requires Calculus 1, 2, & 3

That’s a difference of 3 hours per week for a semester, which doesn’t sound like much but could add a lot more hours of frustration trying to master the subject.

Depending on the school, a requirement might be completing four semesters of Calculus (a tough subject!). Is the school requiring more Calculus credits harder? Maybe. Maybe not.

We’ve compiled our list based on averages with the aim of giving you a general idea of which fields are the hardest college major options for most students.

GPAs by Field of Study

The following table shows the average Grade Point Average by subject area.

MajorAverage GPA
Computer Science3.13
Mechanical Engineering3.17

Source: Cornell University

The best colleges in the United States and the lowest ranked could yield different GPAs, but these are the averages. Remember, the most difficult college majors for you will mostly stem from your lack of interest and natural talent for a subject.

16 Easiest Majors by Field of Study

For those of you who aren’t interested in taking a particularly difficult major and are curious about thequick and easy university majors that pay well, here’s the list:

  1. English
  2. Psychology
  3. Criminal Justice
  4. Education
  5. Religious Studies
  6. Social Work
  7. Sociology
  8. Communications
  9. History
  10. Health
  11. Liberal Arts
  12. Creative Writing
  13. Anthropology
  14. Linguistics
  15. Music
  16. Humanities

In this article, we explore easy majors in-depth. And for those of you who are interested in choosing thebest major for getting your bachelor’s quickly, read this page.

Are You Up for the One of the Hardest College Majors?

Obviously, these hardest majors aren’t for everyone. But that’s a good thing, right? We give props to all you engineers, biologists, and computer scientists. But let’s not forget the linguists, social workers, and historians. Everyone’s got a place at the table at the best colleges!

For those of you who are still exploring different fields of interest, you might also find this article discussing quick degrees helpful.

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What are the hardest college majors? You might assume it's all those complicated STEM majors—and you wouldn't necessarily be wrong.

In this article, we look at the various factors normally used to determine whether a major is hard before going over the 13 most difficult majors based on how many hours students typically spend each week preparing for classes. We also give you a few tips for finding the right college major for you.


What Makes a College Major Hard?

Before we introduce the hardest college majors, let's clarify exactly what can make a major hard.

The problem with this concept is that there's no single, objective criterion we can use. What's difficult for one student might come totally naturally to the next person.

As a result, what are considered the hardest college majors can vary a lot depending on the student—specifically, on where your natural strengths and passions lie. If you're not particularly good at a subject and/or don't have any deep passion for or interest in it, that major will likely be harder for you.

By contrast, if you're extremely skilled at a subject and are committed to studying it, then you will probably find that major easier than you would other fields you have less experience with and/or are less interested in pursuing.

What I'm essentially trying to say here is that any college major can be hard based on how you define the concept of "hard."

Now, are there any objective factors that can make a college major difficult for students?

Most studies look at one critical factor: the total amount of time students spend preparing for classes in their major(s). The longer students spend doing homework for their major classes and studying for exams, the harder that major is considered to be, objectively speaking.

This is the primary criterion used by most websites and surveys, including the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), which released data in 2016 that detailed the number of hours each week college students typically spent preparing for class.

According to the survey, "preparing for class" encompasses anything from doing homework and studying for exams to reading and writing.

Some websites and organizations consider majors hard based on additional factors, such as how many all-nighters students pulled or how high or low the average GPA for a particular major is (in other words, the lower the GPA, the harder that major is thought to be). Another potential factor to consider on a school level is how many students graduate with a particular major in four years; while there may be other factors at play, majors that tend to take students longer than the average bachelor's degree timespan to finish might be harder (or at the very least, more time-consuming).


Introducing the 13 Hardest College Majors

Even though what majors are hard for you will depend on what you personally find interesting and easier to do, there are some college majors out there that often require more study time and have more homework, making them objectively harder than other majors.

Below are the 13 hardest majors based on 2016 NSSE data shared with The Tab.




#13: Chemistry

Average Hours Spent Preparing for Class Each Week: 18.06

Chemistry majors spend about two and a half hours per day preparing for class each week.

These students study the function, composition, and behavior of matter, and reactions between different forms of matter. They also look at energy. Usual classes required for the major include general chemistry, physics, biology, organic chemistry, calculus, and statistics.


#12: Neuroscience

Average Hours Spent Preparing for Class Each Week: 18.08

Neuroscience majors spend 18 hours a week preparing for class, or just slightly more than what chemistry majors spend.

This academic field is all about the human nervous system, including its development, structure, and role, with focus given to the brain and its cognitive properties. As a neuroscience major, you can expect to take classes in psychology, biology, calculus, chemistry, and physics.


#11: Mechanical Engineering

Average Hours Spent Preparing for Class Each Week: 18.11

Coming in at #11 is mechanical engineering, whose students spend 18.11 hours preparing for class every week.

As an academic discipline, mechanical engineering entails the design, creation, manufacturing, and analysis of mechanical systems—or, more broadly, anything in motion. Course topics for this major generally include physics, calculus, chemistry, dynamics and controls, thermal sciences, and design and manufacturing.


#10: Petroleum Engineering

Average Hours Spent Preparing for Class Each Week: 18.41

Petroleum engineering majors spend around 18 hours and 24 minutes a week studying and doing homework.

In this engineering major, students learn all about the extraction and production of oil and natural gas. Classes required for a program in petroleum engineering can include properties of petroleum fluids, energy and the environment, reservoir geomechanics, calculus, geology, chemistry, physics, and petrophysics.


#9: Bioengineering

Average Hours Spent Preparing for Class Each Week: 18.43

At #9 on our list is bioengineering. Students majoring in this spend just under 18 and a half hours per week preparing for courses.

Also called biological engineering, bioengineering integrates biological and engineering principles to create usable products, such as medical devices and diagnostic equipment. Classes needed for bioengineering majors can vary depending on the track you choose but typically include statistics, chemistry, biology, computer programming, biochemistry, and science of materials.


#8: Biochemistry or Biophysics

Average Hours Spent Preparing for Class Each Week: 18.49

Biochemistry or biophysics majors come in 8th place for hardest major, with an average of 18 and a half hours spent getting ready for class every week.

Students majoring in biochemistry, or biological chemistry, look closely at the chemical processes and substances in living organisms. Biophysics is similar: it involves using the main principles of physics to study organisms and biological phenomena. Basically, the two fields are a lot alike and really only differ in their approaches.

As a biochemistry/biophysics major, you'll likely have to take classes in biology, chemistry, physics, and math, as well as specialized classes that cover topics such as genetics, cell biology, physiology, neurobiology, evolutionary biology, and computing.




#7: Astronomy

Average Hours Spent Preparing for Class Each Week: 18.59

Spending slightly more than 18 and a half hours a week preparing for class are astronomy majors, who currently rank #7 for hardest college majors.

Astronomy entails the study of celestial objects (such as planets, asteroids, and stars) and related phenomena like supernovae and black holes. Students in this major typically must take classes in physics, calculus, computer science, astrophysics, cosmology, and planetary geology.


#6: Physics

Average Hours Spent Preparing for Class Each Week: 18.62

Like astronomy majors, physics majors spend a little more than 18 hours and 30 minutes per week preparing for courses.

In a physics major, students learn about the movement and properties of matter through time and space, as well as the concepts of force and energy. Common topics covered in classes are quantum physics, electricity, magnetism, vibrations and waves, thermodynamics, and gravity.


#5: Cell and Molecular Biology

Average Hours Spent Preparing for Class Each Week: 18.67

We are now entering the top five hardest majors! Cell and molecular biology majors devote about 18 hours and 40 minutes a week to class preparation.

An interdisciplinary field, cell and molecular biology combines chemistry and biology, which allows us to analyze cellular processes and understand the function and structure of life forms. Required courses usually include chemistry, biology, math, biochemistry, ecology, marine molecular ecology, and immunology.


#4: Biomedical Engineering

Average Hours Spent Preparing for Class Each Week: 18.82

Undergraduates majoring in biomedical engineering typically spend a little less than 19 hours per week preparing for classes.

A subfield of bioengineering (see #9 above), biomedical engineering entails using the principles of engineering and biology to create quality products specifically for use in medicine and health care. Biomedical engineering majors take courses in chemistry, calculus, physics, engineering design, electric circuits, thermodynamics, and statistics.


#3: Aero and Astronautical Engineering

Average Hours Spent Preparing for Class Each Week: 19.24

At #3 on the list of the hardest college majors is aero and astronautical engineering. Students in this major normally spend around 19 hours and 15 minutes a week preparing for class.

Aero and astronautical engineering comprise the two types of aerospace engineering: while aeronautical engineering involves the development of aircraft to use within Earth's atmosphere, astronautical engineering entails the development of spacecraft to use outside the atmosphere.

Students in these majors usually take classes in aerodynamics, gas dynamics, aircraft/spacecraft structures, aircraft/spacecraft propulsion, and space system design.


#2: Chemical Engineering

Average Hours Spent Preparing for Class Each Week: 19.66

On to the top two! The second-hardest college major and hardest engineering major is chemical engineering; students in this field spend an average of 19 hours and 40 minutes a week preparing for class.

Chemical engineering is a broad subset of engineering that involves the design, production, use, and transportation of chemicals. It also entails the operation of chemical plants. Students majoring in chemical engineering take courses in calculus, chemistry, physics, biology, engineering, materials science, kinetics, and transport processes.




#1: Architecture

Average Hours Spent Preparing for Class Each Week: 22.20

Topping this list of the hardest college majors are architect majors, who spend a whopping 22.2 hours a week on average preparing for classes—that's more than two hours more each week than what chemical engineering students spend!

Architecture majors learn how to design and build structures in addition to studying the history and theory behind architecture. Courses needed for this major include calculus, physics, design processes, design theory, history of architecture, urban design, and art history.


How to Find the Right Major for You: 3 Key Factors

These are the hardest college majors based on the amount of preparation they typically require. The real question now is this: which major should you choose?

This is an important question to think about, both before and while you're in college. So how can you make sure you're choosing the right major for you?

First off, don't be tempted to choose a major simply because of its perceived difficulty. Though it might sound impressive to choose one of the hardest college majors, if you're not passionate about the field or don't want a career in it, it likely won't be worth majoring in.

At the same time, don't avoid one of the most difficult majors purely because it's known as being one of the harder ones. If you're committed to pursuing a career in architecture, for example, then go ahead and major in architecture—don't pick something else just because you're scared of how hard it might be! Most likely, another major simply won't make you happy and you won't feel nearly as fulfilled had you just opted for the major you initially wanted.

Ultimately, there are three key factors you'll want to think about before choosing a major:

  • Your interests and passions: If you are not genuinely interested in the major you've chosen, you'll likely lack motivation to keep up with your studies. Pick something that excites you on a deeper level.

  • Your abilities: Ability matters because if you can't do something at all or do it well enough to be successful in it, then the major is likely not the one for you. For example, it might not be in your best interest to pursue a major in drawing if you have no experience drawing and aren't particularly skilled at it.

  • Your career goals and interests: Although your major doesn't need to directly mirror your career goals, it should be at least somewhat related to your future aspirations. Don't major in biology if you're way more interested in becoming a professional violinist, for instance.

These are the main factors to consider before you commit to a major in college.

Note that it's OK if you're undecided on your major when you start college—not all schools require you to declare a major in your application anyway. Still, you should definitely take some time to explore your options to help you figure out what your ideal course of study might be.




Recap: What Is the Hardest Major in College?

When it comes to the most difficult majors, what one student might consider difficult can vary a lot from what another student might consider difficult. This is because the difficulty of a college major ultimately depends on each person's individual interests and abilities.

Still, this hasn't stopped people from trying to come up with lists of the hardest college majors.

A 2016 study called the NSSE surveyed US college students, asking how many hours they normally spend preparing for classes each week. The study then divided these answers up by major to give a rough idea as to which majors generally required more preparation time than others.

We've used the results of this study to put together a list of the 13 hardest college majors based on the average number of hours students spent preparing for class:

College MajorTime Spent Preparing for Class per Week
1. Architecture22.20 hrs
2. Chemical Engineering19.66 hrs
3. Aero and Astronautical Engineering19.24 hrs
4. Biomedical Engineering18.82 hrs
5. Cell and Molecular Biology18.67 hrs
6. Physics18.62 hrs
7. Astronomy18.59 hrs
8. Biochemistry or Biophysics18.49 hrs
9. Bioengineering18.43 hrs
10. Petroleum Engineering18.41 hrs
11. Mechanical Engineering18.11 hrs
12. Neuroscience18.08 hrs
13. Chemistry18.06 hrs

When it comes to finding the right major for you, don't choose (or avoid!) majors simply based on their perceived difficulty. Instead, try to take into account your passions and interests, your abilities, and your career goals. These are what will help you figure out your ideal major!


What's Next?

You know what the hardest majors are, but what about the easiest majors? We looked at average GPAs to come up with a list of the 14 easiest majors.

Which majors are most likely to earn you lots of money? Get the answer to which majors are highest paying and which fields are the best for finding a job.

What are the worst majors in terms of salaries and employment?Check out what we've found in our in-depth post.

What are the most unusual majors?Learn more about which colleges have more out-there majors and which let you design your own path.


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So You Want To Be a Physics Major?

15 Hardest Degree Subjects (2021)

Choosing your degree course is one of the most important decisions you will ever make. Your UCAS application is only the beginning of the experiences you’ll have at university, the people you’ll meet, and even the career you’ll one day choose.

In this article, we’re going to cover the hardest degree subjects, because its important to have a realistic idea of how challenging your degree will be before you take it.

If you arrive with misconceptions about how easy the material will be, you may find yourself overwhelmed by the course material.

However, if you know what to expect from your course, you’ll be able to look forward to university with excitement at the challenge ahead.

What are the hardest degree subjects?

The hardest degree subjects are Chemistry, Medicine, Architecture, Physics, Biomedical Science, Law, Neuroscience, Fine Arts, Electrical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Economics, Education, Computer Science and Philosophy.

Let’s dive right in, and look at why these subjects are the hardest degree subjects.


Chemistry is famous for being one of the hardest subjects ever, so it’s no surprise that a Chemistry degree is fiercely challenging. Just one topic in Chemistry (for example, organic chemistry) is incredibly complex. As well as involving huge amounts of memorisation, organic chemistry covers more than 15 million compounds, and there are an infinite amount of organic chemical reactions to investigate.

Then, take the fact that Chemistry has multiple topics as well as organic chemistry, including inorganic chemistry (which involves learning about molecular orbital theory, acids and atomic structure) and physical chemistry (which you need to be a maths whizz to understand), and you get the picture.

If you were to study Chemistry at a top university like the University of Oxford, your weekly schedule would look something like this: 12 hours of labs, 10 hours of lectures, 1 Chemistry tutorial and tutorials in Maths, Biochemistry or Physics, where you’ll learn things you can apply to Chemistry.

Chemistry is one of those subjects where you have to have an advanced knowledge of maths and physics, because these subjects tie so much into Chemistry. If you struggle with mathematical and logical thinking, Chemistry may be the degree to avoid.

Also, there’s a lot of practical learning involved in Chemistry, which means that when you’re not trying to get your head around macromolecules and redox reactions, you’ll be spending the rest of your time in the lab. This brings with it a whole new skillset, including writing lab reports and carrying out complex experiments, to put your learning into practice.


It’s no secret that Medicine is one of the hardest degrees in the world, not least because courses are so competitive. UCAS figures1 show that 28,690 people applied to study medicine in the UK in 2021. The number of applicants from the four countries of the UK shot up 26% from last year,

With acceptance rates for Medicine at only 12.1% (Oxford University) and, in some cases, as low as 5% (Aston Medical School, Birmingham), the course is undoubtedly rigorous.

The process of training to be a doctor is a long one, and you’ll need the ability and dedication to complete a five year degree in medicine, recognised by the General Medical Council, a two year foundation course of general training, two to three years of core medical training and four to seven years of specialist training, depending on what area of medicine you want to work in.

The sheer volume of medical information you have to learn and assimilate to be responsible for people’s lives is the reason that studying Medicine takes so many years. Not only do you have to grasp the complex science behind medicine and disease and memorise enough medical facts for several lifetimes, you also have to gain excellent clinical skills, so you can work with patients.


Architecture is one of those degrees that we wish was easy. Who doesn’t want to wander around the city, pointing out a stunning building and saying: “I built that”?. But the truth is, Architecture is extremely challenging, and in some cases, as hard as a medical degree in terms of length and intensity.

Sadly, Architecture is not just sitting around drawing cool design plans. You have to be good at maths, and have enough understanding of geometry, trigonometry and algebra to plan out the dimensions, quantities, volumes and areas of buildings. Not only this, but four years of an Architecture degree is only the beginning of becoming a professional architect.

Once you’ve completed your degree, you’ll need to do a year of practical work experience, another two years’ full time university course like a BArch, another year of practical training and a final qualifying exam. While this might seem daunting, it is worth it if you have a true passion for architecture. There are also plenty of other careers you can use an Architecture degree for even if you decide not to become a fully chartered architect, including a building control surveyor, an urban designer or an interior and spatial designer.

Architecture degrees are known for having substantial workloads, and tasks are very time consuming. You’re likely to spend more time building physical models and designing floor plans in time for deadlines than partying at the student bar. Architectural drawings can take hours to create, which leads to some late night studying. In the US, Architecture college students suffer from the most sleep deprivation, averaging just 5.28 hours a night2.

Ben Sweeting, Architecture course leader at Brighton University says: “It’s hard to do very well [at Architecture] and hard to pass. There are no perfect designs or ways of working, but wrong ways of working. It can also feel more personally challenging than other arts subjects, as your creative vision has to work in practice”.

While Architecture is a creative subject, unlike other creative subjects like English Literature, you can’t pick up marks by defending a subjective idea. In Architecture, if your design doesn’t translate to infrastructure that is mathematically accurate and physically sound, it’s a write off.


Physics is an astoundingly rigorous degree. It’s one thing to find the general ideas of Physics interesting (after all, who wouldn’t be interested in a subject which explores the very make-up of the universe, from the mystery of black holes to the waves of the electromagnetic spectrum?). But it is quite another to dive into the mathematical principles, complex formulas and calculations within each area of Physics, and apply them enough to excel in your exams.

There are no shortcuts to understanding Physics, which is what makes it such a hard degree. The truth about STEM subjects like Maths and the Sciences, is that while there is plenty of information, as well as plenty of formulas, to memorise, it’s not enough to know the correct answer to something. You need to understand why and how it is the correct answer. While you might just get away with rote learning equations and formulas in A-Level Physics, this won’t fly at degree level.

One of the most important things to know about a Physics degree, is that if you’re confused, you’re doing something right! What this means, is that to truly understand Physics (rather than just find out the answers to solutions without understanding their application), you have to sit down and sweat it out over those formulas, and accept that the answer is going to take a long time to come. Allow yourself to make mistakes, and then go back and work out how you got to those mistakes, and slowly, your understanding will grow.

The huge amount of mathematics in Physics can pose a challenge to students. The fact that one wrong calculation can affect your whole conclusion when it comes to Physics problems means that it is probably not the right course for you if you’re not competent at Maths.

Physics is a truly satisfying degree, once you accept that it’s going to take a while to grasp the subject. Researchers work for a decade or more in the field, and just feel like they’re scratching the surface, which is part of the beauty and frustration of this challenging subject.

Biomedical Science

Medicine is rightfully touted as one of the hardest degrees ever, but did you know that Biomedical Science shares a lot of content with Medicine? In fact, Biomedical Science students have to understand the science of medicine in more detail than most doctors!

If you were to take Biomedical Science at Imperial College London, your degree would overlap quite a lot with students taking medicine. You’ll share some modules in the first year, and then do a more research-focused second year, where you have to spend hours in labs. Your final year will then overlap with medical students’ fourth year.

As Biomedical Science explores the science behind medical topics, you have to work extremely hard to understand everything from human physiology, pathology and microbiology, to haematology, cells and organs and system function. The sheer depth of knowledge means that you’ll sometimes have to learn about things you’re just not interested in (for example, learning all the names of pharmaceutical drugs!) because you need a good grade.

Aside from learning and understanding highly technical, medical information, you have to do a lot of heavy, independent research as a Biomedical Science student. At Imperial College, for example, you’d complete an intensive research project of your choice, as well as massive amounts of private study to grasp lecture content.

However, Biomedical Science can be a very rewarding degree, if you’re passionate about science and medicine. You’ll understand how Biomedical Science works from all angles, in research, policy and industry, as well as understand the diseases and conditions which significantly impact the human body.


Law is officially the hardest subject to get a first class degree in4, so we all know it’s hard going. If you think you know what it’s like to have a lot of reading, go and talk to a Law student. Except that you probably won’t find any, because they’ll be in the Law library, reading. If you want to study Law, get ready for many, many hours with your nose in Law books.

While you’ll learn fast how to pick up the vital details from masses of text, there are no shortcuts when it comes to Law. You’ll need a detailed understanding of the legislature on different issues in different countries, surrounding, so that you can interpret them well when it comes to exams.

However, Law isn’t just about memorising the details of legislature, enormously useful though this is. You also have to understand how these facts work together to create a system of law, and why this system exists in the first place. While you can enter a wide range of careers with a degree in Law, the path to becoming a barrister or solicitor is extremely competitive, and takes much longer than a three year degree. All in all, it takes six years to qualify as a lawyer in the UK if you study full time, which includes a one year Legal Practice Course (LPC), and a two year training contract with a law firm.

The pressure is really on for getting work experience as a Law student, especially if you want to qualify as a lawyer. Use your summers wisely to get internships at law firms, and if you’re aiming for the Bar, go for as many mini-pupillages (short periods of time where you shadow barristers) as you can. However, if you’re really passionate about Law, most of this process will be very exciting, as you head towards your dream career.


Neuroscience is a fascinating degree, but it is incredibly challenging. As intricate as the human brain is, it makes perfect sense that a subject dedicated to it would be equally complex.

As a multidisciplinary degree, Neuroscience involves many very difficult subjects. These include organic chemistry, psychology, mathematics, physics and cognitive science. One of these subjects alone sounds difficult enough, but having to grasp all of them in some capacity while studying neuroscience emphasises just how tough this degree subject is.

If you were to take Neuroscience as a BSc at King’s College London, you’d be studying everything from aspects of cell, molecular and developmental biology, to neuroanatomy, physiology and pharmacology.

Neuroscience is particularly hard to grasp because it mixes the physical and the abstract. There are so many mysteries about the human brain and consciousness that empirical science can’t entirely explain, hence why Neuroscience also includes aspects of philosophy.


An Astronomy degree involves studying one of the most advanced branches of physics (Astrophysics), which gives you a clue as to how hard it is. Like with any hard science, astronomers have to make falsifiable predictions about space and the universe, which they have to test in a controlled environment.

Sciences like Astronomy necessarily involve a lot of failure, as you continually experiment with hypotheses to try and reach a conclusion. It’s not the same as just having an idea: if you can’t follow through with it, it’s not worth much.

There’s also a lot of mathematics in Astronomy, which is enough to put many students off. You’ve got to have the  logical skills to do basic special relativity calculations, as well as understanding differential equations and linear algebra.

However, if you love exploring space, stars and the planets and the very complex mathematics and physics behind them, Astronomy may well be the subject for you.

Molecular Cell Biology

Molecular Cell Biology is one of the hardest Biology degrees to study, and Biology in itself is a very challenging discipline. Studying Molecular Cell Biology is like learning a new language, as there is an incredibly complex vocabulary to describe the structure and function of life at the molecular level. Get ready to memorise a lot of names!

You also need a very intricate understanding of very technical processes, including the relationship between proteins and nucleic acids, and the molecular mechanisms of immunology, genetic engineering and cancer. You’ll have to grasp very complex areas in biomedicine and biotechnology to do well at this degree.

There’s often a misconception that Biology subjects don’t involve a lot of maths, but anyone who thinks that is deeply mistaken. As soon as you enter your first year of a Molecular Cell Biology degree you’re likely to be exploring subjects like genetics, as well as things like microbiology and animal and plant biology. Genetics involves a lot of maths , as geneticists use very complex equations in their field.


Pharmacy is one of the least well known degrees, and one of the most extraordinary challenging. Not only will you immerse yourself in the complex science and makeup of medicines, you’ll also have to do many hours of clinical placements, to learn how to become an experienced healthcare professional.

Pharmacy is one of the toughest subjects because it encompasses practically every part of science. Just one science subject is hard (we’re looking at you, Chemistry), but for Pharmacy you need an understanding of inorganic and organic chemistry, as well as biology in order to understand human anatomy, and how medicines interact with it.

Not only is Pharmacy very intellectually challenging (get ready for a lot of time in labs and trying to grasp very complex formulas), but it is also a very practical course. If you studied Pharmacy at University College London (UCL), for example, not only would you have lectures, problem-solving classes, clinical seminars and tutorials, you’d also have clinical placements, skills workshops with patients and visits to hospitals.

To qualify as a registered pharmacist in the UK, you’ll have to do more training after your degree. You’ll need to take a year of pre-registration training, and then pass the GPhC’s tough qualifying examination.

Fine Art

Art is a deceptively difficult subject, and a Fine Art degree is no exception! The sheer volume of work you have to do for a Fine Art degree is often more than for the hardest science subjects.

Not only this, but Fine Art is a deeply competitive course. Oxford University accepts only 14% of applicants to its Fine Arts course, and of 71 applicants to UCL’s Fine Art course, only 18 received an offer.

While Maths subjects can be difficult because there is only ever one right answer and this can throw your whole solution off track, Fine Art is difficult for the opposite reason. Imagine working for hours and hours on an artistic concept, only for your tutor to dislike and dismiss it! Art is also incredibly personal, so it’s hard to detach yourself from whatever you produce, and the grade it gets.

The huge number of hours you have to put in in order to prove that you’ve done the work and produced something worthy of consideration, is no joke! It takes a long time to finish just one piece, and this plus the written observations and essays you have to write to explain what you produce can be really hard and time consuming.

Electrical Engineering

Electrical Engineering is one of those degrees that makes you wince in confused awe when you hear its name. We all know engineering is really tough, but Electrical Engineering is perhaps the toughest, because it involves a lot of abstract thinking (you have to imagine what you’re constructing or learning, rather than seeing it physically in front of you), which then has to work out safely in reality.

Interestingly, many of the processes in Electrical Engineering aren’t visible to the eye, for example, magnetic fields, currents and wireless signals.

This means you have to have a very solid knowledge of how these things work in theory and then make changes or build things which have to work practically. without being able to see an example of them in front of you.

It’s not always enough to have a strong understanding of theory, either, because sometimes things go wrong in realtime, and Electrical Engineering students have to work them out then and there.

However, if you have strong skills in mathematics subjects like trigonometry and non-linear maths subjects and you enjoy finding answers that sometimes feel impossible to come by, Electrical Engineering may be a great degree choice for you.

Chemical Engineering

Chemical Engineering is an extremely hard degree, because it combines some of the toughest subjects ever: Maths and Chemistry. There is a huge volume of material to understand, and some of the concepts feel nearly impossible to grasp.

For example, you’ll have to understand concepts like ‘quasi-equilibrium’ in Thermodynamics. Quasi equilibrium is a state where a system remains very nearly at equilibrium at all times during the process, but this is difficult to test because it relies on the tiniest differences, which you can’t feel with your body.

If you were to study Chemical Engineering at the University of Cambridge, you’d explore complex engineering topics from Year 1, including Structural Mechanics, Electrical Circuits and Electromagnetics.

Topics like Fluid Mechanics are particularly trying for Chemical Engineering students. For one thing, there seem to be more exceptions than rules when it comes to Fluid Mechanics, and yet you still have to observe the behaviour of fluids and put them into a mathematical structure. This is very hard to do when most aspects of fluids are not fully explainable yet.

However, if you have a very adept, logical and mathematical mind and you’re passionate about Chemical Engineering, this could be the perfect degree for you. You could be the person finding solutions to acid rain, enhancing food production to beat world starvation, or producing life changing drugs and medicines.


Economics is such a difficult degree because it upends our usual ways of learning. While in most subjects you will start with a fully defined truth – for example, 82% of single parents are dealing with debt – and break it down to discover its elements and how it came about.

However, with Economics, you start with a very small amount of true information, and then reason your way up from there. If you were to study Economics at the University of Manchester, for example, you would focus on subjects like Macroeconomics and Microeconomics, both of which are very challenging for different reasons.

Macroeconomics is notoriously difficult to teach as well as learn. This is because it relies heavily on intuition, which is not something that can be easily learned. As well as memorising and absorbing economic models, you’ll need an instinctive understanding of how they operate so you can assess unexpected changes to an economy or unfamiliar economic models in an exam.

Microeconomics is very tricky because of the sheer amount of mathematics involved. You’ll need enough statistics skills to understand things like economic statistical modelling and econometrics.


Philosophy is a tremendously hard degree, because of how abstract its concepts are. Philosophy deals with things above the realm of the known universe (in fact, Metaphysics, which most Philosophy degree students will study, comes from the Greek word ‘meta’ meaning ‘beyond’). You’ll ask questions such as: “what is reality?” and “is there anything outside my own mind?”.

Philosophy isn’t all about sitting around and pontificating either. You’ll have to know the complex ideas of the most famous philosophers in History inside out, so you can excel in your exams.

You’ll look at the work of philosophers from Plato, Descartes and Kant, to J S Mill and Bertrand Russell. Philosophy is such a challenging degree because it questions absolutely everything, even the very structure of our thoughts.

So, that’s it. The 15 hardest degree subjects of 2021. Each one of these degree courses is fascinating, challenging and rewarding, so if you have the skills and passion to study them, you will no doubt have a very exciting university experience.






Hardest major physics the is

Is physics the hardest major?

Physics is one of the most hardest majors . Physics is one of the most hardest majors . Physical sciences include chemistry, astronomy, earth sciences, physics, and math. These students come in a close second, reporting spending up to an average of 18 hours per week studying.

Are physicists arrogant?

First of all, some high-profile physicists are undeniably arrogant. Physicists take pride in their work and think it is important. Perhaps most significantly, physicists tend to think that their scientific worldview, with its ideals of objectivity and empiricism, is superior to the alternatives.

Is it hard to find a job with a physics degree?

Over 50% of those who get PhDs in physics don’t become physicists, often because of difficulty finding jobs. Physics majors are able to get jobs in other quantitative fields, but often with more difficulty than they would had they majored in those fields.

What careers use physics?

Here is a list of jobs where a physics degree might come in handy:

  • Business analyst.
  • Data analyst.
  • Engineer.
  • Patent attorney.
  • Physicist.
  • Physics researcher.
  • Physics teacher or professor.
  • Programmer.

Which university has the best physics program?

Here are the best physics graduate programs

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • Stanford University.
  • California Institute of Technology.
  • Harvard University.
  • Princeton University.
  • University of California–Berkeley.
  • Cornell University.
  • University of Chicago.

Is physics a good career?

Physics degrees offer students the chance to explore and understand the fundamental building blocks of the universe, with a good range of career options after university. Physics degrees are highly respected by employers and offer ample career opportunities.

What majors involve physics?

What Can You Do With a College Degree in Physics?

  • Nuclear physics. Nuclear physics involves the study of the components, structure, and behavior of the nucleus of the atom.
  • Geophysics.
  • Atomic, molecular and optical physics.
  • Astronomy.
  • Astrophysics.
  • Space physics.
  • Physics Education.
  • Engineering Physics.

What is the highest degree in physics?

Those who study physics will graduate in three or four years with a Bachelor of Science (BSc). Some universities offer the option to continue studying for an additional one or two years, graduating with a Master of Physics (MPhys) or a Master of Science (MSci).

How much do physics majors make?

The median annual wage for physicists was $122,850 in May 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $62,470, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $201,990.

Is a major in physics worth it?

A Physics degree is as employable as an engineering degree, if you look at the statistics. Well, if you like physics and want to understand how stuff works, getting a physics degree will probably be worth it. Studying physics really gives you a great knowledge over all natural sciences.

So You Want To Be a Physics Major?

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