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Choosing a college major is one of the most significant decisions of a student’s academic journey, shaping their college experience and influencing their future career path. Understanding the rigor of different bachelor’s degree programs is crucial because the level of difficulty can impact academic success and readiness for the professional world. Majors range widely in their demands—from the high volume of reading and writing in the humanities to the focus on complex logical problems in STEM fields.

Prospective students must consider their own academic and personal strengths and interests, recognizing that each discipline presents unique challenges and opportunities for personal and professional growth. Continue reading to learn more about what makes a college major challenging and which fields of study are considered to be most demanding. 

Understanding the Criteria for Difficulty

Several factors determine the difficulty of a college major. Academic rigor, the complexity of the subject matter, and the required time commitment all contribute to a major’s difficulty level. For instance, courses that demand extensive lab work, research, and technical proficiency can be challenging for many students.

However, it’s essential to recognize that the difficulty of a major can be a subjective experience. For example, a student with a strong aptitude for mathematics might find a math-intensive course less challenging than one focused on creative writing. Your unique combination of skills and passions is your greatest asset in navigating the academic landscape. When choosing a major, make a list of the natural abilities, personal preferences, and career goals you may already have. You can compare them to a list of your dislikes and a “maybe” list of the subjects you are willing to explore.  

Also, remember that the difficulty of a major does not solely correlate with its value or guarantee future success. Each field offers unique opportunities and challenges, and a career that may be perceived as difficult for one person may come naturally to another. It’s ultimately up to you to find a balance between personal strengths and interests when deciding on a major and navigating your academic journey. 

Hardest College Majors 


The field of education encompasses more than just teaching; it involves understanding theories of learning, curriculum design, and child development. Education majors often face a demanding schedule that combines coursework with practical teaching experience. While the reward of shaping young minds is great, the challenges of classroom management and adapting to different learning styles can make this major demanding. 

The median salary for education majors depends on their chosen path within the sector, whether primary, secondary, or higher education, and varies across different geographical regions. However, the average for most occupations in the field is $50,000 per year. Job growth for educators can fluctuate due to changes in laws and policies, population growth, cultural values placed on education, and technological advancements.  


Engineering is renowned for its challenging curriculum, which includes advanced math, physics, and project-based work. This college major demands critical problem-solving skills and resilience, often pushing students to their limits. From civil to aerospace engineering, the field offers various academic and career paths, each with distinct challenges and developmental areas. 

Engineering majors often enter the workforce with solid financial prospects due to the high median salary in the field. Currently, these majors can expect to make about $97,000 annually. As industries continue to evolve and infrastructures expand, the job growth for engineering roles is projected to rise, ensuring that a degree in this discipline is an investment likely to pay off in both professional opportunities and financial rewards. 


A major in mathematics is not just about numbers—it requires deep analytical and abstract thinking. Students tackle complex concepts that range from calculus to statistical theory, often requiring high precision and intellectual stamina. Given its difficulty, a degree in mathematics can lead to high-paying and specialized career opportunities. 

The median salary for roles typically filled by math majors tends to be competitive, reflecting the high demand for their specialized skill set. From data analysis to quantitative financial roles, these professionals are often compensated with salaries averaging $78,000 annually. Additionally, job growth for mathematicians is projected to surpass the national average as businesses and organizations increasingly rely on data-driven decision-making processes. 


Nursing students must master various subjects, including biology, pharmacology, and patient care. The major is rigorous, with demanding clinical rotations alongside academic studies. Despite its challenges, nursing remains a deeply fulfilling profession for individuals who are devoted to caring for others. 

Nursing majors step into a career path that offers a fulfilling sense of purpose and presents robust financial and employment stability. A median annual salary of $81,220 reflects nurses’ pivotal role in healthcare. Job growth for nursing professionals continues to surge, outpacing many other occupations as the demand for competent and caring health professionals escalates in response to an aging population and the expanding reach of healthcare services.  

Play to Your Strengths 

Pick a major that aligns with your strengths and sparks your interest. If you choose a field you’re passionate about, you’ll likely find its challenges more manageable and its rewards even sweeter. Don’t be put off by how tough a program seems. Every area has its own complexities but also its own opportunities for growth and fulfillment. 

It’s about balance. Weigh the difficulties of a major against how much the subject matter and the common careers of that field excite and motivate you—hunt for majors that fit your abilities and ignite your enthusiasm, imagination, and drive. Remember, with any path you choose, the hardships you may face are just stepping stones to personal development and achievement. 

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