What's the most difficult undergraduate degree?

Shrek2OnDVD's picture
Rank: Orangutan | 294

I know it's all relative. Some folks might be more inclined to do well in math/logic subjects, while others might be more inclined to do well in creative/humanities subjects.

Comments (31)

Aug 11, 2019

Probably Chemical Engineering.

Really going to depend on the school though. An MIT engineering degree is going to be a lot harder overall than a state school engineering degree.

Edit: All the butthurt finance people thinking their degree was hard.

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Aug 11, 2019

Not sure why you're getting MS, but I was a ChemE at a top liberal arts school and like OP said, it's all relative to a certain degree. Sure theoretical physics or doing applied math are difficult, but there's a lot to take into account for taking the "hardest" major trophy. I know first hand that engineers tend to have this superiority complex about going through the program. But try doing an English degree with the hopes of getting into a top law school or doing a premed track.

But like you said, the difficulty of each program, whether it's engineering or humanities, is definitely dependent on the school, and even departments within the school. Just my $0.02.

Aug 11, 2019

Not true on both fronts. Chem Eng generally doesn't have that much chemistry in it. It's mostly process flows, fluids, and optimization. You would need to specialize into some applied chemistry or biomedical speciality to get into the tougher, more innovative things. Even then, it's relatively easy compared to applied or theoretical physics.

STEM curricula are pretty similar across schools and tiers. Everyone uses the same textbooks, and the material doesn't change over time. It might be true that the bell curve at MIT is a bit more punishing (although the opposite is true for Harvard), but if you learn the material you'll get by anywhere.

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Aug 11, 2019

I mean I did engineering at a better engineering school, and then I had to finish at a state school. The difficulty was night and day. I saw first hand how big the difficulty was in the two programs.

They also curve based on the entire class. The kids at state schools are usually less intelligent (but still smart).

My good friend did Physics, our workloads were equally shitty -- so I guess it's up to personal preference on what kind of shitty you want.

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Aug 11, 2019

So you are less intelligent, since you finish at a State school and you received your diploma from it.

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Aug 12, 2019

Lol I did engineering at my in-state school... I never saw one curve. So don't think all state schools are the same. Typically, the "premier" option in-state is at least more difficult than the "State" option. Of course there are misnomers but in general that holds true.

I'd say Chemical or Electrical Engineering. So much more of your time is taken up by "projects" or labs that other degrees really don't come close. At my school, Petroleum was also really hard, but I went to a top school for that.

Aug 11, 2019

Not sure if you're a ChemE grad, but we took Inorganic, Organic I & II, Analytical chemistry and Physical Chemistry. That's 5 semesters of chem. And on top of that all the actual engineering classes; fluids, thermo, process control, unit operations, reaction chemistry, and mass/energy balances.

Not to mention all the polymer chemistry/engineering, genetic engineering, and other more "innovative" electives that are available.

Aug 12, 2019

Yeah, I agree. I wasn't a Chem E but was friends with a bunch. They had it way worse than others. Mechanical and Aero were actually easier at my school than Chem and Electrical.

Aug 12, 2019

I had some Chem E friends in undergrad and they worked hard at it but never seemed overwhelmed. I recall a few friends who majored in Biology and they seemed to have it much harder than us engineering majors.

Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.

Aug 12, 2019

Yeah most of the chemE kids are aiming for med school and that's where things get tough since in top of classes they do research and shadowing.

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Aug 12, 2019

among engineers, I think Electrical Engineering is usually seen as the hardest. Bio/biochem is a lot of straight memorization and to actually be good at philosophy you need superb comprehension skills

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Aug 12, 2019

Nothing like philosophy to test your reading comprehension

Aug 12, 2019

My impression from rough order of difficulty:

  • Aerospace
  • Nuclear
  • Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Chemical and Biomolecular
  • Biomedical
  • Materials Science
  • Mechanical
  • Civil
  • Industrial and Systems
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Aug 13, 2019

At my school Aero was a joke. It was 90% Mechanical with a few extra classes. I think I&S was harder than Mechanical but other than that, I agree with your list.

Aug 13, 2019

I'm probably biased, it was a pretty tough major at Georgia Tech and at the time among the top 1/2 programs nationwide.

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Aug 12, 2019

If we're talking difficulty in the long-run, majoring in Gender Studies is basically playing the rest of your life on 'Expert' mode.

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Aug 12, 2019

A little surprised not to see Computer Science anywhere. Essentially it's all about your code and projects. The fundamental courses are heavily math and theory based. Typically CS courses are also not curved, so it's quite difficult to do well

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Aug 12, 2019

CS is kind of viewed as a cop out major in STEM, and if you look around on LinkedIn, there's plenty of Mechanical, Aero, Chemical, EEs,etc that go into software. Rarely see the opposite. Besides algorithms, and discrete math, I don't think the math gets too weird at the undergraduate level.

Aug 12, 2019

Know a couple comp sci students that took classes in the business college for fun and did poorly. No idea how that even happened since usually the comp sci/ engineering kids are the ones who make fun of business majors for being idiots.

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Aug 13, 2019

Pretty much all the STEM folks severely underestimate the difficulty of developing EQ, and it's why they stay technical and take decades to learn enough to become an asset that's capable of leading teams, instead of doing grunt work. Also, open-ended questions are scary

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Aug 12, 2019

I've heard "The Classics" is extremely difficult.

According to Yale:
"The major in Classics is primarily a liberal arts major, with enormous potential for the pursuit of interdisciplinary interests. Students attain proficiency in Greek and Latin, and are trained to develop powers of critical analysis in studying the important periods and major authors of Greek and Roman literature."

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Aug 12, 2019

Finance

Aug 13, 2019

Ummm have you guys have heard of Electrical Engineering? Have u ever done high level circuits, design, etc.? Yup this is the hardest by far

Aug 13, 2019

I studied Electrical Engineering, and while the course material can be challenging, the workload was pretty tough too. There were always hand-ins, projects, lab reports, and what not - never a break. At our engineering faculty, the Electrical / Computer / Electronics Engineers were the only people you'd frequently see late at night in the labs.

The course material becomes OK as soon as you've mastered the fundamental math and physics.

However, on a graduate level? From the elective courses I took during my masters, I'd say graduate level pure math or theoretical physics; More so if you're not completely prepared. I signed up for a bunch because I thought the topics sounded interesting (on a higher level), but I was woefully unprepared for the sheer rigor. To me, it felt like being a tourist that can utter maybe 10 phrases in a hard language, only to be expected to both hold a fluid conversation, and being able to read and write too in said language.

But with that said - people love to shit on "soft" sciences for being easy compared to hard ones - I actually think that the grading can be much worse there. In most STEM classes the grading is pretty easy and objective. In the softer sciences, the grading can be quite subjective - so you're pretty much at the mercy of the person grading your work. And there's a ton more reading, too. There's a whole another level of uncertainty, compared to STEM classes.

Aug 13, 2019

Totally off the beaten path here ... but I had a friend in school who was a foreign language major.

You could argue difficulty all you want, but his work load was enormous.

The in-person/group/discussion time committment was far and away the highest of anyone I knew.

Aug 13, 2019

Apparently nuclear engineering is immensely difficult.

Aug 16, 2019

Pure math and theoretical physics, I'd say. The logical rigor and abstraction required is unique.

Within engineering, I usually heard that Electrical is seen as the most complex.

Aug 17, 2019
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Aug 18, 2019