What Are the Easiest and Hardest College Majors?

What Are the Easiest and Hardest College Majors?

No one ever said that college would be easy.

For some, choosing a major is far from the most difficult part of the journey, but for many students, selecting one from a massive list of options can be a rather daunting task.

This task only becomes more difficult when your child is factoring in schools that offer intensive or specific degree programs.

How exactly do they decide? And what makes a college major “easy” or “hard,” anyway?

Well, that may depend a lot on the school they attend, as well as their own unique talents, skills, and aptitudes. If they aren’t a strong writer, for instance, English  and Journalism may prove to be near impossible.

However, if they have trouble doing basic arithmetic, Business and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) might have them struggling each semester.

While many variables are involved in determining whether a major might be “easy” or “hard” to complete, there are a few that stand out.

 

Easy Majors, Hard Majors, and Salary

It is generally understood that some of the “hardest” college majors may actually determine one’s lifetime earning potential and yield the most financially promising careers.

Biology, Finance, and Architecture are tough, but students often go on to pursue medical school, business school, law school, and higher-earning careers.

Meanwhile, students graduating with traditionally “easier” majors such as English or Communications are more likely to have lower starting salaries.

That being said, your student absolutely can succeed and do well no matter what they major in!

While English is considered an “easier” major, many English and Liberal Arts majors go on to become successful lawyers, authors, entrepreneurs, and community leaders.

Like with college, their major and what they do with it is largely what they make of it.

 

College Majors That Require the Most Credits

College majors that require the most credits typically also have the most prerequisites, or “101” courses that must be passed in order to take higher-level classes or enroll in a specific program.

The more credits a major requires, the less flexibility a student will have in studying other subjects. This might be why STEM majors don’t spend as much time experimenting with elective coursework as liberal arts majors.

More credits to complete can also affect their GPA.

In a study performed by Cornell University, researchers determined that science majors have lower than average GPAs.

According to statistics from CollegeVine, the average GPA of Cellular and Molecular Biology majors is 3.2, with Chemistry majors having some of the lowest average GPAs (2.9), in addition to Biology (3.2), Nursing (3.2), Chemical Engineering (3.2), Accounting (3.2), Physics (3.1) and Computer Science (3.2).

With more intensive courses and testing, these majors are more difficult.

 

Majors That Take the Longest to Graduate

Majors with the largest average weekly study loads include Architecture (22), Chemical Engineering (22), Electrical Engineering (19.5) and Physics (18.5).

If your child wants to pursue medical school someday, Chemistry or Biochemistry have many prerequisites to complete for credit, as does Engineering.

Much like with Architecture and STEM, majors in Music Performance, Fashion, and Fine Arts can also be quite time-consuming when studio and practice time are factored in.

Based on extensive data analysis by The Tab, highly difficult college majors with most credits required include Architecture, Engineering, Chemistry, Physics, Nursing, and Biology.

Easier majors that take the shortest to complete tend to lean more into the Liberal Arts, such as Psychology, History, Anthropology, Education, and Political Science.

These are also often easy transfer majors if you ever decide to switch schools, as there is less variation in the degree requirements.

 

College Majors with the Highest Passing Rate

While no major is guaranteed to be “easy,” there are definitely several that tend to have higher passing rates, less credit hour requirements, fewer prerequisites, and higher overall GPAs. Taken together, these factors heighten your child’s chance of a less difficult major that they can complete in four years.

English Literature requires lots of reading and writing, but if this comes naturally for them, this major may not be so difficult. Similarly, Creative Writing is “easier” for students who have a love for language, literature, and abstract thinking.

Anthropology students can go as broad or narrow into the field as they like, either choosing to focus on scientific-based studies like physical anthropology and archaeology, or more social-based studies on cultures and sociology. The key to doing well in this major is to have a love and appreciation for the topic, but because it is so open-ended, it may end up being fairly simple to complete.

Other “easier” majors with higher-passing rates include Social Work, Education, Criminal Justice, Psychology, Marketing and History.

 

Majors with the Most Tests and Labs

STEM majors are usually the majors with the most tests and labs, which makes sense as they are among the majors that take the longest to complete. In a college Biology class at a large university, students may sit in on a main lecture course in addition to a lab that meets separately several days a week.

At smaller schools, lab and lecture time might coincide. 

A good rule of thumb to follow is that the more specific and niche a degree program is, the more difficult it’s likely to be.

 

Easiest Double Majors

If your child is thinking of double majoring, they can consider choosing two liberal arts majors that complement one another and have a large degree of required course overlap. These include combos like English and Communication, Education and Psychology, Political Science and Economics, or Accounting and Finance. Some schools offer special double major programs that make this process far more streamlined. 

Keep in mind though that any double major can potentially lengthen the amount of time your child spends in school, eat into their free time, lower your GPA, and make it more difficult to study abroad or participate in internships, electives and research opportunities.

If they have many subjects of interest, think about taking on a minor, earning a certificate, pursuing work-study, studying abroad, interning, or alternatively, simply taking a variety of electives in courses that interest you. While degrees are important and double majors can be impressive, there is also no substitute for on-the-job experience, especially in today’s modern workforce. 

 

Choosing a Major

There are instances where your child may not be required to choose a major until sophomore year or later, though it helps to have an idea of what they want to study going into their freshman year so they can get a head-start on planning their college career.

There are online resources and research tips that can help students narrow down their choices and find something that pertains to the career they’ve envisioned for themselves. 

Your child should consider the following questions when choosing the major that suits them:

  • Will they find the coursework interesting?
  • What career options will be available to them after they graduate?
  • Does their college or university have a strong department in this major?
  • Based on their college’s course offerings, will they be able to complete this degree in four years or less?

Every major presents its own challenges, and it’s more important for your child to find something they’re truly passionate about than worry about what makes a major “easy” or hard.”

Their major will hopefully inspire them to do their best work, and they should find a field of study that gets them excited about facing the challenges that come with it.

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Julia Lynn Rubin

Julia Lynn Rubin

Julia Lynn Rubin is the author of BURRO HILLS and the forthcoming young adult novel, TROUBLE GIRLS. She received her MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults from The New School in 2017, and her work has appeared in various online media publications, including Wetpaint Entertainment, Fatherly, and The Content Strategist. She lives in Brooklyn.
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