What Are the Most Difficult College Majors?

Which college majors are the most difficult? That's a matter of opinion, of course. In considering a major's level of difficulty, however, some objective indicators can be used for examination: average GPA, student completion, and a student's overall attitude towards the major. In this article, using information gained in a study done by Kevin Rask of Wake Forest University, we explain how these indicators have led to the following majors being deemed most difficult.

The Five Toughest Majors

It is no secret that STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) majors are known to be the most difficult. Not only have they been historically harder to get in to, but STEM majors also believe that their professors grade more rigorously than those in the humanities, social sciences, and arts fields. Kevin Rask, a professor at Wake Forest University, investigated the most difficult majors by examining the records of students who graduated from an unnamed liberal arts college in the Northeast from 2001-2009. Below is a list of the five most difficult college majors according to Rask's findings.

Important Facts About Difficult College Majors

Common Courses Organic chemistry, calculus, physics, molecular biology, microbiology, computer programming
Prerequisites Strong background and skill in mathematics and science encouraged
Online Availability Fully available
Possible Careers Statistician, business analyst, software developer, civil engineer, among others; graduates may also pursue medical, dental, or veterinary school

Chemistry

Comprehending the vast amount of chemical compounds and how they can or cannot be combined is a very complex process. With an average GPA of 2.78, most chemistry majors find themselves becoming discouraged because they can't achieve their usual 'honor roll' stature. Of the 1,231 students who enrolled in introductory chemistry courses, only 407 of them continued taking chemistry courses by their fourth semesters.

mathematics

Mathematics

Even if you are a math whiz, majoring in mathematics is no easy task. Students majoring in mathematics had an average GPA of 2.90. Of the 3,295 students who began taking introductory math courses, only 460 of those students continued to take mathematics courses into their fourth semesters.

economics

Economics

Understanding how our economy works involves a lot more math and critical thinking than meets the eye. Economics majors averaged a GPA of 2.95. Rask did not include any information on student completion rates. However, if you plan to pursue a career in economics, you will likely have a challenging path ahead of you.

psychology

Psychology

The brain is the most complex organ in the entire human body. Psychology majors face the daunting task of understanding the brain, and it's no wonder that some struggle. Psychology majors averaged a GPA of 2.98. Of the 2,211 students that started out taking introductory psychology courses, only 475 students were still taking psychology courses into their fourth semesters of study.

biology

Biology

In addition to understanding the complex inner workings of different organisms, biology majors must also memorize a lot of important facts. The average GPA for biology majors was 3.02. Starting out with 1,682 students taking introductory biology courses, by their fourth semesters only 488 students continued enrolling in biology classes.

For Your Consideration

While these findings were based solely on a single study, if you plan on pursuing one of these majors, make sure you have strong math and science skills. Many students discussed in Rask's study stopped taking courses in these disciplines because they weren't earning the grades they were accustomed to getting. Some also found that the subjects were either too difficult, or that they weren't interested in what they were learning. Be sure to investigate whatever major you are considering, talk with someone you know who is majoring in the subject, or speak with a counselor before applying to help solidify your decision.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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