Before we can dive into the hardest degrees to earn, it’s important to explore what it is that makes college hard.
Of course, there are factors that are individual, like your natural strengths and challenges, your educational background, the resources available to you, and the support you have in other areas of life. Students who have to work full-time through college might fight all degree subjects more difficult than students who don’t have to work, for example, or full-time students who are also parents of young children might find school more difficult than those who aren’t.
One factor that is comparable despite those individual differences is the amount of time spent studying. So we’ve come up with the five hardest degree subjects based on the number hours students spent preparing for their classes each week – and you might be surprised with the findings!
Engineers are the least likely to hold a job while they’re in school. Once they’re done with their degree program, they apply science and math principles to develop smart solutions for incredibly complex problems, designing, building, and maintaining systems and structures. There are over a dozen engineering fields like Aerospace Engineering, Bioenvironmental Engineering (the unsung heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic), and Industrial Engineering to choose from and courses range from Chemistry to Analytical Physics and beyond.
Engineering students spend more time studying than any other undergraduate student, making this the hardest degree on our list.
Students who pursue a degree in architecture take classes like physics, calculus, structural systems, freehand architectural drawing, and more, all of which prepare them for a career designing new buildings and structures. Need a house plan that nobody’s ever seen before? You’ll hire an architect for that. Ready to build a new middle school that supports learning, social development, and creative expression? An architect’s got your back.
Students who major in Biology can enter the workforce as biologists, researchers, or in other scientific roles, but some go on to seek graduate degrees, often becoming doctors or advanced practice providers. Biology students spend an average of 18.4 hours studying every week and only about 7% will drop out before they finish their degree. Surprising – in spite of the intense study time – most still participate in extracurricular activities. That means you can choose this hard degree without sacrificing the fun you hoped to experience during your college years.
A hard-to-earn math degree can grant you access to a career as an actuary, mathematician, statistician, or information analyst, to name a few. Math students spend an exorbitant amount of time studying and little time working or participating in extracurricular activities. You might say they eat, sleep, and breathe school.
It might be because the program is hard (it is), but it may also be a combination of factors: perhaps those who seek degrees in math tend to enjoy their studies more than they enjoy extracurricular activities.
Computer Science majors, like math majors spend a lot of time studying and little time working and playing. Their hard work pays off when they graduate and are eligible for positions like Software Developer, Computer Programmer, and Computer Support Specialist – and when those of us who took
easier different routes have to call on them for help.
It goes without saying that hard is subjective, and you should choose the degree program that gives you access to the most rewarding careers for your interests and skill sets. We hope this list serves as an eye-opening challenge for you!