The Easiest and Hardest Engineering Majors

If you’re thinking of studying some form of engineering during college, you’ve made an excellent choice. Engineers are the ones responsible for the world’s buildings, bridges, robots, chemical products, and much more. However, achieving an engineering degree is no easy task. It requires a lot of technical prowess, a strong foundation in mathematics and science, and a strong work ethic to tackle the challenging curriculum. 

 

That being said, not all engineering majors created equal? Are there some engineering majors that are easier than others? Read on to discover what are considered the easiest and hardest engineering majors that you can pursue in college.

 

Looking for the best colleges to pursue an engineering degree? See our list of the top colleges for engineering.

 

5 Factors To Consider When Choosing An Engineering Major 

 

Rarely will you find a college that offers a generic “Engineering” major. More likely than not, you will have to choose from a number of different specialties – Civil Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, and more. They all tend to have the same foundational courses, but they quickly splinter off into their own specializations. So when you choose “Engineering,” you will need to do some soul searching to figure out which type of engineering, in particular, you want to pursue. Here are some guiding questions to help you narrow down your choices: 

 

1. What are your personal interests and goals?

 

Specifically, what got you interested in becoming an engineer, besides the large paycheck? Were you interested in the idea of building a skyscraper, or was it robotics that piqued your interest? Try to think about what you would be trying to achieve after getting that engineering degree, and that might help you figure out which type of engineering you should be pursuing. 

 

2. What are your strengths? 

 

Don’t become a chemical engineer if you hated AP Chemistry. Definitely think about aerospace engineering if concepts like aerodynamics and thermodynamics come easily to you. The great thing about each of the engineering disciplines is that they are specific enough that you should be able to tailor your major to study what you are good at, with minimal interaction with subjects you don’t excel at. 

 

3. What are the course requirements for each major?

 

While each engineering major has a strong basis in mathematics and physics, the rest of the course load tends to vary based on the major. So it’s worth your time to take a look at the sample curriculum of each engineering major and see which one has courses that you would be most interested in. 

 

4. What is the Return on Investment (ROI) to pursuing each major?

 

While most engineering majors come with a nice salary, some engineering careers pay slightly more than others. Some degrees will also cost more than others, depending on the college you go to. Weight your costs against potential earnings, especially if you expect to need loans for college.

 

5. Which field best suits your lifestyle?

 

It’s also worth considering the lifestyle choices you’ll have to make by pursuing each major. Many engineering majors require you to work long hours without any semblance of overtime, and some of them require you to be on your feet for many hours in the day. Consider these lifestyle choices as you decide which major to pursue. 

 

How We Made This List 

 

Similarly to how you should consider many different factors when choosing your college major, we have considered many different factors when compiling our list of the hardest and easiest engineering majors. 

 

First things first, we want to remind you that every engineering major is difficult. Compared to other majors in the humanities and social sciences, engineering majors are far more technical and require tons of study time. So if you are looking for an easier major that will give you a good study-life balance during college, engineering is not right for you. 

 

That being said, when ranking each of the different engineering majors, we took the following factors into consideration:

 

  • General Reputation: Some engineering majors are known for being “tougher” than others
  • Course Requirements: We’ve taken into consideration how much math, physics, and other advanced content is involved with each engineering major
  • Study Time: Engineering majors all require a great deal of studying time, but some majors require more time for studying and other projects than others 

 

Of course, these factors all differ depending on which school you’re attending and what academic program you’re in. So if you want the most realistic picture of how hard each engineering major is going to be for you, you should talk to your school’s engineering faculty or people at your school who are in the major. 

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Hardest Engineering Majors

 

1. Electrical Engineering

 

Electrical Engineers are primarily focused on the physics and mathematics of electricity, electronics, and electromagnetism. They use this skill set to work on and improve every set of electrical equipment there is. 

 

Students consider electrical engineering to be the toughest major mostly because of the abstract thinking involved. With majors like civil engineering, you can visually see the effect of what you’re designing. However, you can’t physically see electrical currents and circuits, so an electrical engineer’s job involves a lot of creative thinking and theoretical application. 

 

Furthermore, electrical engineering involves heavy use of some abstract mathematical concepts like partial differential equations. So if you are the kind of person who enjoys discrete mathematics, electrical engineering concepts may prove challenging for you. 

 

2. Chemical Engineering

 

The difficult thing about chemical engineering is that it combines complex engineering fundamentals and applies it with chemistry concepts, a completely different field. So, it is truly a multidisciplinary major. 

 

Chemical engineers are the link between manufacturing and science. They are the experts in transforming raw materials into the goods that we use in our everyday lives. You’ll often see chemical engineers take on the role of Chemical Technologist, Pharmaceutical Engineer, and Plant or Chemical Process Engineer. 

 

Overall, chemical engineering is a very lucrative major, but it becomes complex extremely quickly as it is an intersection between chemistry, mathematics, and physics. So if this is the major for you, simply be prepared to spend several hours studying a wide array of subjects. 

 

3. Aerospace Engineering

 

Aerospace Engineering is very similar to Mechanical Engineering in terms of the concepts it covers; however, aerospace engineers put a special emphasis on designing and maintaining machines that fly. This type of major is well suited for someone who wants to work in National Defense or for NASA, though aerospace engineers are also useful in the private sectors, particularly in automotive manufacturing. 

 

Like mechanical engineering, aerospace engineers have a heavy course load in mathematics, with several complex concepts that you will have to call upon quickly and often. Moreover, aerospace engineers also need to learn the complex concept of fluid dynamics, a branch of science that deals with the study of liquids and glasses.

 

Easiest Engineering Majors

 

1. Environmental Engineering

 

Environmental Engineers are focused on developing machines and structures that will have minimal harm on the environment. As the intersection of Environmental Science and Engineering fundamentals, Environmental Engineering is certainly not an easy major. It’s considered one of the easier engineering majors that you can study though, because it’s not as focused on advanced math and physics.

 

When you study Environmental Engineering in college, you do study both fundamental engineering concepts in mathematics and physics, but you also blend in the study of ecology and other environmental concepts. Students in this major also work on a lot of design projects and research papers. So if you are interested in solving problems that could impact the Earth, this major is for you. 

 

2. Industrial Engineering

 

Industrial Engineering is the intersection between engineering and social science concepts like business and economics. These engineers are focused on designing new concepts for companies, hospitals, factories, and any other organizational structures. They are responsible for eliminating any wastefulness in the production process. 

 

Industrial Engineering is definitely a more technical major than a typical business degree, but it is definitely less focused on concepts in physics and more focused on concepts in business and industrial organization. So if you’re interested in perfecting the organizational workplace, this career is best for you.

 

3. Architectural Engineering

 

Architectural Engineering is a really interesting major where you learn to build, maintain, and create buildings and structures that are effective and structurally sound. While Architectural engineers are very heavily involved in the actual construction and maintenance of other structures, there is also a slight design aspect to it. Some architectural engineering students even have to take business courses with their major. These less technical courses bring down the difficulty of this major overall. 

 

If you become an architectural engineer, you will likely be heavily involved in construction projects. Expect to spend time working with architecture firms and supervising the development of various structures. 

 

As you consider your prospective engineering career, you may also be considering what your chances are of getting into the best schools for engineering. To help you answer those tough questions, CollegeVine offers a free Chancing Engine that lets you know your chances of acceptance at the schools of your choice, plus how to improve your profile. Sign up for a free CollegeVine account to get started today.

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Sadhvi Mathur
Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
Sadhvi is a recent graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, where she double majored in Economics and Media Studies. Having applied to over 8 universities, each with different application platforms and requirements, she is eager to share her knowledge now that her application process is over. Other than writing, Sadhvi's interests include dancing, playing the piano, and trying not to burn her apartment down when she cooks!