Choosing a college major is a vital step toward a student’s academic success. This article explores college majors and factors that make them easy or hard. We highlight easier ones like business administration and education and harder ones like engineering and physics. And we offer tips on how to choose your right fit.
What Makes a College Major Hard or Easy?
The college major’s difficulty depends on the subject’s complexity, the school and the student. For example, if they aren’t a strong writer, English and journalism will be hard for them. If they find math hard, they’ll struggle with business and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).
Here’s a close look at factors that can make a college major hard or easy.
- The student’s aptitude: Some things just come easier to some students, based on their aptitude and interests.
- The student’s focus: Any major can become difficult if a student becomes distracted, such as with personal or emotional problems.
- The amount of required coursework: Some majors, like Engineering or Biochemistry, demand extensive coursework, which can be challenging.
- The level of difficulty of the coursework: Complex subjects involving higher-level mathematics or abstract theoretical concepts may be harder for some students.
- The amount of time required to study: Majors that require significant study time, extensive projects, or lab work can be demanding.
- The competition for grades: Highly competitive majors may put extra pressure on students to achieve top grades.
- The job prospects after graduation: Some may find a major harder if it doesn’t have clear or plentiful job opportunities post-graduation.
The Easiest College Majors
What makes a college major “easy” is subjective and will depend on a student’s strengths and passions. However, majors such as liberal arts, business, education and health are often perceived as less demanding.
Here’s a more detailed list of the “easiest” college majors:
- 1. Business Administration: This versatile major offers a broad understanding of the business world, including management, marketing, and finance.
- 2. Communications: This major involves studying effective communication strategies, making it a popular choice for those interested in public relations, journalism, or marketing.
- 3. Education: Education majors prepare for a career in teaching, focusing on pedagogical techniques and learning theories.
- 4. English: This major hones reading, writing, and critical thinking skills through the study of literature and language.
- 5. Health: Health majors learn about health sciences and healthcare policies, providing a solid foundation for health administration or public health careers.
- 6. Psychology: This major explores human behavior and mental processes.
- 7. Social Work: Focusing on helping individuals and communities, this major is ideal for students interested in a service-oriented career.
- 8. Sociology: This field explores human societies and behaviors.
- 9. Visual and Performing Arts: For those with a creative flair, these majors offer a chance to explore their artistic passions.
The Hardest College Majors
Certain majors are more challenging. These include science, engineering and math. Some of the hardest college majors may increase lifetime earning potential.
Here’s a list of the hardest college majors:
- 1. Biochemistry: A demanding mix of biology and chemistry that requires extensive lab work.
- 2. Chemistry: Involves complex equations, lab work, and a thorough understanding of scientific concepts.
- 3. Computer Science: Requires a high technical and mathematical proficiency level.
- 4. Engineering: Depending on the specialization (Mechanical, Electrical, Chemical, etc.), engineering majors must master complex mathematical and scientific concepts.
- 5. Mathematics: Focused on solving complex problems, this major requires a high level of abstract thinking.
- 6. Physics: This major involves complex mathematical equations and an in-depth understanding of the laws of nature.
- 7. Philosophy: While lacking in complex math, philosophy demands high levels of abstract thinking, reading, and writing.
- 8. Pre-Med: This track is typically heavy in sciences like biology and chemistry and serves as a stepping stone to medical school.
- 9. Statistics: This major requires in-depth mathematical knowledge and the ability to interpret and analyze data.
College Majors That Require the Most Credits
College majors that require the most credits typically have the most prerequisites, or “101” courses that must be passed 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 and 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 be quite time-consuming when you factor in studio and practice time.
Based on extensive data analysis by The Tab, highly difficult college majors with the most credits required include Architecture, Engineering, Chemistry, Physics, Nursing, and Biology.
Easier majors that take the shortest to complete tend to lean more toward 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,” several tend to have higher passing rates, fewer credit hour requirements, fewer prerequisites, and higher overall GPAs. These factors heighten your child’s chance of a less difficult major they can complete in four years.
English Literature requires lots of reading and writing, but this major may be easier if it comes naturally for them. Similarly, Creative Writing is “easier” for students who love language, literature, and abstract thinking.
Anthropology students can go as broad or narrow into the field as they like, focusing 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 love and appreciate 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 usually have 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 and a lab that meets separately several days a week.
At smaller schools, lab and lecture time might coincide.
A good rule of thumb is that the more specific and niche a degree program is, the more difficult it’s likely to be.
Easiest Double Majors
If a student is considering 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.
Remember that any double major can lengthen a student’s time in school, eat into their free time, lower their 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 taking a variety of electives in courses that interest you. While degrees are important and double majors can be impressive, there is no substitute for on-the-job experience, especially in today’s modern workforce.
How to Choose the Right College Major
There are instances where a student may only be required to choose a major in 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 about 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 should 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.
The Bottom Line
There is no one “right” college major. What matters most is choosing a field of study that aligns with your passions and career goals. By considering your interests, abilities, and the factors that make a college major hard or easy, you can make an informed choice about the right college major for you.
– Julia Lynn Rubin contributed to this article.
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