What Are the Hardest Majors in College Degrees?

hardest majors

Some of the hardest majors in the US are Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, Chemical Engineering, Quantitative Physics, Aerospace Engineering, Economics, and Accounting among others.

In this ever-evolving world, selecting and sticking to a college major is a tough nut to crack. Whether you want to be a scientist or a philosopher you have to understand first what is best for YOU.

Your skills, intellectual & cognitive abilities and even your determination greatly influence the path you want to take.

Factors Influencing the Difficulty of Studying a Major

A major that is hard for one person might be easy for another. Choosing what you will enjoy studying the most is a big decision criterion.

The decision significantly impacts a student’s academic journey and career prospects.So do not decide on a whim. Study the different majors available and see what fits your bill.

1. Academic Skills and Cognitive Abilities

A student’s academic skills are the most influencing factor in determining the difficulty of a major.

Having a natural knack for a field reduces the difficulty by a significant margin. It may even become less challenging as you start to learn more about the topic.

2. Study Time

Different majors require different amounts of time to study and understand the intricate details of it.

It goes without saying that the more you study the more you will be able to retain information. However, some majors require extensive study hours that everyone cannot handle.

Here is a survey result of how much some of the students study in each major:

Average study time for seniors

Source: The Washington Post

3. Interests and Prior Knowledge

If you are interested in a particular topic, let’s say biology, it will be easier for you to do good in a related field such as Botany, Genetic Engineering, or even the medical field.

Having prior knowledge of the major and what you will be studying will either help you or make your journey more difficult through a major.

4. Biases

Stereotypes and preconceived notions are great influencers of how a student perceives a particular major.

In the US, people believe that being a lawyer comes with huge benefits. But the caveat is that those who want to become a lawyer go through rigorous studying of the regulations and legal procedures.

5. Course Work

Another important factor is the amount of coursework related. The complexity of this work increases the difficulty of a major by tenfold.

Some majors require quantitative analysis of real-time data while others only work with historical data.

6. Academic Research

If a major sends students out into the field or labs, it can become more demanding.

For some majors, academic research is mandatory to complete their graduation. Majors like Public Health, Statistics, and Experimental Physics are mostly based on research.

7. Attrition Rates

The attrition rate is the number of students who drop out of majors before completing graduation.

A lot of STEM and Social Science major student tend to leave their studies and find other ways to supplement their education. Sometimes they even start a business because they are unable to cope with the huge amount of work.

Whether a major is hard mostly depends on the students themselves. Peer pressure and other external environmental factors should never decide what major is hard for whom.

Hardest Majors in STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering, Mathematics)

It is without a doubt that some of the hardest college majors are STEM courses. Even among these difficult majors, some reign supreme in the overall difficulty of completion.

Some of the hardest STEM majors include:

Molecular Biology

Studying living organisms at a molecular level sounds interesting but the coursework related to this major is very difficult.

Students have to be precise in understanding the genetic structures and experimenting on them.

Genetic Engineering

GE majors tinker with the building blocks of life. Manipulating these genes with precision to change their sequence and create something unique is a high-stakes game.

Not everyone is adept enough to deal with this major.

Bio-Chemical Engineering

Biochemistry is mostly creating life-saving drugs and biofuels. This major combines two fundamental courses biology and chemistry and adds the twist of engineering.

A student good at math will always have some sort of spite for biology. Any major including biology will prove to be difficult for people with good math skills.

Quantitative Physics

Where the “Math Wiz” shines is Quantitative Physics. The whole major is based on mathematical analysis and quantitative aspects of physical phenomena.

If you have advanced mathematical skills and can compute complex physical concepts and bring them to life, you are good to go here.

Architectural Engineering

Architecture is very important for the modern day. The skyscrapers that astonish the eye would never be realized without a complex understanding of how to build them.

The buildings are not just for show. Architects have to ensure the safety of the construction as well as mesmerize people with the sheer wonder of building an edifice.

Computer Science and Software Engineering

Sitting in an office chair and writing code all day is not for everyone. Enter CSE and SE majors.

Those who solve algorithmic problems and create phenomenal software solutions for the advancement of technology. The challenge here is adapting to problem-solving, which gets more complex by the day.

Mechanical and Electrical Engineering

Last but not least, the mechanical and electrical engineers study how machines and systems work.

Thermodynamics, mechanics, and electrical circuits have to be very detailed to make machines that function properly.

Attrition Rate for STEM majors is close to 50 percent in the United States alone.

Hardest Majors in Business Administration

One could argue that business administration is only studying the principles already set and there is nothing new to create.

Well, they are half-right. In today’s world, the study of business administration is not just about how to operate a business. It has expanded into how it affects society and the well-being of the employees.

Some of the hardest business majors include:

Management Science

Management Science is the study of real-world management issues using mathematical models and data analysis.

You need strong analytical ability and skill set to effectively understand the core topics like simulation, game theory, etc.

Understanding the concepts is already hard enough. On top of that, you have to do practical application of these mathematical models to solve business problems. It is quite a hard major for a lot of people.


Finance is not just balancing a checkbook. You have to understand financial concepts, analyze market trends, and make investment decisions for the whole company.

The real-world application of financial concepts is a hard nut to crack. Feasibility analysis, Fintech, SWOT analysis, NPV, and IRR are not easy topics to study.


Accounting majors deal with records, bookkeeping, auditing, and taxation of a business.

Accurately keeping a book using GAAP regulations requires a thorough understanding of the basic, intermediate, and management accounting principles.

The study hours are long and there is a crap ton of information that you have to memorize.

The attrition rate for business administration majors in the US is around 45 percent.

Hardest Majors in Humanities

Liberal arts is the study of human behavior and their thought processes. Some of the hardest majors in Humanities are:


Examining the fundamental questions of innate human behavior. It is the study of existence, ethics, and reality.

Philosophy major is difficult because it requires students to do abstract thinking and logical reasoning. Philosophers learn about how different thought processes came to be and come up with an answer to the question “WHY?”

Law & Legal Studies

Law and Legal studies are high-risk, high-reward majors. Students aspiring to become lawyers have to study a tremendous amount of legal regulations.

From the perspective of the US, you have to have knowledge of previous cases and the verdicts. Without studying like crazy, you will never become successful as a lawyer.

Hardest Majors in Social Sciences

Social Sciences are a subset of liberal arts. Majors that are the hardest in this category are:

Macro Economics

This major deals with the overall behavior of economics. You need to learn about inflation, unemployment, economic growth, and how it all fits into a society.

Economics is difficult because of the different economic theories and the understanding of how one economy differs from another.


If you want to explore the human mind and how it processes information then Psychology is for you.

But it gets difficult because you have to find meaning behind a person’s actions, speech, and how they view things.

Hardest Majors in Healthcare

Healthcare is by far one of the hardest career paths. Not only are you responsible for the wellbeing of a person you have to tend to their emotional needs as well.


Pre-med preparation includes the subjects – biology and organic chemistry. The course work is intense and there is massive competition among peers.


Learning to provide quality patient care and having a deep understanding of pharmacology is not for the average Joe.

Nurses go through tough training and have to maintain friendly behavior toward patients no matter how hard it gets.


In this day and age of modern medicine, you have to absorb a vast amount of medical knowledge to study medicine.

Accuracy is the most important aspect of medical studies. One wrong move or prescription and you will be held responsible for the lives of your patients.

The attrition rate is typically low at around 60 percent for students who go into healthcare in the US.

Relatively Easier College Majors

It is not always true that the harder the major, the more income you will be able to accumulate. Some majors are there solely for the development of living standards.

While others work for the benefit of the world and humankind.

However, if you want to take it easy, here are some relatively easier college majors you can choose:

  1. Communications
  2. Sociology
  3. Education and Teaching
  4. Human Resource Management
  5. Public Administration
  6. Political Science
  7. Journalism and Media Studies

Hardest Majors – (FAQs)

Which majors are the most competitive?

The most competitive majors in the current job market are Business, Economics, Nursing, and Computer Science.

How Do I know which major is the right choice for me?

Think about what you like studying and what you want to be in the future. Professors usually have a good understanding of their students’ abilities and where they might shine.

Is it better to choose an easy major?

Not necessarily. The job market is what determines the value of a degree. Harder majors usually yield better career prospects so you should research and then decide.

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