While choosing a degree can be challenging, the effort, persistence, and hard work throughout the degree can be much more difficult. Before choosing your degree, it’s a good idea to research the hardest college majors so you know what to expect.

If you find yourself in this situation, don’t worry; we’ll go over the hardest college majors, so let’s begin.

What Makes a College Degree Hard?

Can you certainly say that this or that is the hardest major in the U.S.? You can’t know that, as what may be hard for you may seem easier for someone else and vice-versa. While there isn’t one specific criteria that defines which degree is more complicated than the other, that can be determined by several factors, which we’ll discuss further below.

Number of hours student spend preparing for class

One of the most determining factors that defines a degree’s difficulty is the number of hours students spend preparing for class. The more students spend time preparing for class, the more complex the major will most likely be. From the graph, we can see that three of the hardest majors are: 

  • Astrophysics
  • Chemistry
  • Nuclear engineering

Average GPA

Another thing to consider when defining the hardest college majors is the average GPA. In this case, the lower the GPA, the harder the major will most likely be. From the graph, we can see that the three hardest majors are:

  • Chemistry
  • Environmental economics and policy
  • Environmental earth science

How many students graduate from the major

The number of students that graduate from that specific major is also an essential factor we can consider. The lowest number indicates that the degree is more challenging than the other ones. Three of the hardest majors from this factor are:

  • Genetics and Plant Biology
  • Astrophysics
  • Chemistry

10 Hardest College Majors

We’ve come up with ten hardest college majors that are the most difficult based on the factors mentioned above, and we’ll go through each of their requirements, curriculums, and so on. By the end, you should have a good sense of the most challenging college majors based on your interests and skills.


Average GPA: 2.77
Time Students Spend Studying Per Week: 18.06
Total degrees awarded in 2020: 383

Our list of the hardest college majors continues with chemistry. In this degree, you’ll explore a matter’s composition, structure, transformation, energy, and interaction. If you’re considering choosing chemistry as your degree, here are some courses you’ll be learning that most universities in the U.S. have:

  • Biology I
  • Principles of chemistry I and II
  • Principles of organic chemistry
  • Molecular structures in Biochemistry

The job outlook for chemistry majors seems promising, as BLS expects a 6% growth from 2020 to 2030. As for the income, the estimated salary for a chemist in the U.S. is $97,747, which seems favorable.

Environmental Economics and Policy

Average GPA: 2.95
Time Students Spend Studying Per Week: 15.3
Total degrees awarded in 2020: 21,951

Environmental studies is considered to be one of the best degrees for entrepreneurs. In this degree, you’ll study different aspects of economics that impact the development and management of natural resources and the environment. Below you’ll find some courses that you’ll learn throughout this degree:

  • Economic growth and environmental quality
  • Agrifood markets and policy
  • Environmental politics and governance
  • Project in environmental sciences

The average environmental economist’s salary in the U.S is $71,840 and may go up to $151,500 depending on the experience. As for the job outlook, Recruiter expects an annual increase of 3.79% from 2020 to 2029 which justifies the hard part of this degree.

Environmental Earth Science

Average GPA: 2.96
Time Students Spend Studying Per Week: 15.3
Total degrees awarded in 2020: 9,339

This degree prepares students in earth sciences with an emphasis on environmental sciences, which implies that all physical, biological, and chemical processes on the planet will be explored. You might be wondering what you’ll learn throughout this program. Here’s a list of some potential courses you’ll be taking:

  • The global environment
  • The evolving earth
  • Environmental research design
  • Society, environment, and sustainability

The average salary for majors of this program in the U.S. is $76,530 and depending on the experience, it may go up to $149,500. Further, BLS expects an 8% growth rate from 2020 to 2030.

American Studies

Average GPA: 3.12
Time Students Spend Studying Per Week: 14.1
Total degrees awarded in 2020: 421

American Studies is an interdisciplinary curriculum that focuses mainly on America’s literature, history, society, and culture. Throughout your studies, you’ll obtain a greater knowledge of politics, values, gender identities, works of literature, and race relations in America. Some courses that this program typically includes are listed below:

  • American literature
  • Research skills
  • Creative writing
  • American politics and society

The average salary in the U.S. for Bachelors of American Studies is  $68,000 and depending on the position and experience it may go up to $156,000. In what fields can I work after I graduate, you might think? You may work in the media, business, teaching, and government field.

Nuclear Engineering

Average GPA: 3.14
Time Students Spend Studying Per Week: 17.7
Total degrees awarded in 2020: 948

Nuclear engineering is also one of the hardest college majors. This degree involves studying nuclear processes from their start to their interactions and radiation measurements. You’ll learn federal and state rules, safety measures, and procedures as you study different steps of the nuclear cycle. Below are some courses you’ll  learn if you choose this program as your future career:

  • Nuclear fuel cycles
  • Nuclear physics
  • Nuclear reaction design
  • Radiation protection

The average nuclear engineer salary in the U.S. is $85,487, which is wonderful for people that look for competitive salaries. Moreover, the average salary may rise up to %150,000 based on your experience. However, a disadvantage of this position would be the job outlook that is expected to decline by 8% from 2020 to 2030. 

Energy Engineering

Average GPA: 3.15
Time Students Spend Studying Per Week: 17.7
Total degrees awarded in 2020: 31,384

In contrast to nuclear engineering, energy engineering is concerned primarily with the beginning, production, distribution, and power systems of electricity. During energy engineering studies, you’ll learn about physics, arithmetic, and chemistry, and then apply what you’ve learned to energy systems. Some courses are listed below for you to explore:

Interested in pursuing a degree?

Fill out the form and get all admission information you need regarding your chosen program.

This will only take a moment.

Message Received!
Thank you for reaching out to us. We will review your message and get right back to you within 24 hours.

If there is an urgent matter and you need to speak to someone immediately you can call at the following phone number:

By clicking the Send me more information button above, I represent that I am 18+ years of age, that I have read and agreed to the Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy, and agree to receive email marketing and phone calls from UOTP. I understand that my consent is not required to apply for online degree enrollment. To speak with a representative without providing consent, please call +1 (202) 274-2300

  • Wind Energy
  • Intro to thermodynamics
  • Energy production, distribution, and safety
  • Renewable energy futures

The average income for this program graduates in the U.S. is $84,283, and it may go up to $113,000 depending on the experience. Further, the job outlook looks pretty beneficial for students who pursue the path with BLS predicting a growth of 7% from 2020 to 2030.


Average GPA: 3.29
Time Students Spend Studying Per Week: 18.59
Total degrees awarded in 2020: 347
In an astrophysics degree, you’ll study the solar system, the earth’s development, stars, galaxies, and planets by using math and physics skills. Some potential courses are listed further down:
  • Intro to astrophysics
  • The solar system
  • Electricity and magnetism
  • Classical mechanics

The average salary for this position is $147,450 which is very competitive considering other programs. Depending on the experience, it may go up to $125,000. Further, the demand for this position is projected to grow by 8% from 2020 to 2030. 

Applied Mathematics

Average GPA: 3.32
Time Students Spend Studying Per Week: 16.4
Total degrees awarded in 2020: 4,536

This program focuses mainly on theories and applications of mathematics to other fields such as medicine, engineering, and science. If you’re interested in what you’ll learn, here are some potential courses:

  • Control theory
  • Dynamic systems
  • Quantum theory
  • Scientific computing

The average salary for applied mathematicians in the U.S is $62,720, and it may go up to $148,000 depending on the position. The job outlook for this position is the most promising of all the degrees mentioned, with BLS predicting a 33% growth from 2020 to 2030.

Interdisciplinary Studies

Average GPA: 3.33
Time Students Spend Studying Per Week: 13.63
Total degrees awarded in 2020: 112,566

An interdisciplinary studies program offers students the opportunity to explore a topic that includes many fields. In other words, it allows you to study more than one discipline. The courses you’ll learn here are listed below:

  • Applied journalism
  • Archaeological studies
  • Applied design
  • Biotechnology

The interdisciplinary studies salary in the U.S. is $69,262, and it may go up to $119,500. As for the job outlook, as there are different positions you can get in this field. BLS predicts an average of 10.7% increase from 2020 to 2030.

Genetics and Plant Biology

Average GPA: 3.35
Time Students Spend Studying Per Week: 16.7
Total degrees awarded in 2020: 21

This program helps you get a better understanding of plants starting from the molecular to organism levels. Some courses you’ll  learn throughout the degree are listed below:

  • Plants, agriculture, and society
  • Fungi, history, and society
  • The life of plants
  • Biology of algae

The average salary for genetics and plant biology graduates in the U.S. is $55,910. As for the job outlook, BLS predicts a 9% growth from 2020 to 2030.

How to Make The Right Decision?

So, by now, you’re probably thinking about which path will lead to your future job. That’s a difficult question because one student may thrive at one degree but not the other, which is totally fine as it’s what you want to do and see yourself doing in the next several years. We hope we can make decision easier by telling you three things we want you to think of when choosing the degree:

  • Follow your passion
  • Know your skills
  • Consider your career goals

Final Thoughts

As we stated initially, no specific factors indicate which is the hardest degree to obtain. However, before deciding on one degree, it’s best to research what you’ll learn, how long it’ll take you, and what courses you’ll need to succeed, as time is of the essence in these situations.

The University of the Potomac offers many of these majors. If you’re interested in pursuing any of these majors, visit our website and learn more about these programs and admissions requirements. Feel free to contact us for further information.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the hardest STEM major?

Engineering majors are among the toughest STEM majors to pursue.

The three most popular majors among college students are Business, Healthcare, and Psychology.

Which degree is best for the future?

Computer science, healthcare, and engineering are among the degrees expected to have a positive outlook in the future.

What degree has the most job opportunities?

Some of the degrees in high demand include nursing, computer science, and business administration.

What is the most fun major?

Choosing a fun major really depends on your personal interests and passions. Some people find majors like music, art, or theater the most fun, while others enjoy majors that involve hands-on experiences, such as engineering, architecture, or culinary arts.