What are your chances of acceptance?

Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

The Easiest and Hardest Engineering Majors

What’s Covered:


If you’re thinking of studying some form of engineering during college, you’ve made an excellent choice. Engineers are the people 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 robust foundation in mathematics and science, and a strong work ethic to tackle the challenging curriculum.


That being said, not all engineering majors are created equal. Some engineering majors are easier than others. Read on to discover what many consider the hardest and easiest 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—such as 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.


When you choose “Engineering,” you will need to do some soul searching to figure out the particular type of engineering 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. 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) of 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. Weigh 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 during 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 and foremost, 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. If you’re looking for an easier major that will give you a good study-life balance during college, engineering may not be 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: For each engineering major, we’ve taken into consideration how much math, physics, and other advanced coursework is involved.
  • 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. Therefore, 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.


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 kind of electrical hardware 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 abstract mathematical concepts like partial differential equations. If you’re 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 takes complex engineering fundamentals and applies them to chemistry concepts, a completely different field—making it truly a multidisciplinary major.


Chemical engineers are the link between manufacturing and science. They are the experts at 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 at the intersection of chemistry, mathematics, and physics. If you feel this is the major for you, 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 the national defense industry or for NASA, though aerospace engineers are also useful in the private sector, particularly in automotive manufacturing.


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


Easiest Engineering Majors


1. Environmental Engineering


Environmental engineers are focused on developing machines and structures that will cause minimal harm to the environment. At 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 as other engineering majors.


When you study environmental engineering in college, you study fundamental engineering concepts in mathematics and physics, but you also blend in the study of ecology and other environmental concepts. Students in this major generally work on many design projects and research papers. If you’re interested in solving problems that could impact the Earth, this major is for you.


2. Industrial Engineering


Industrial engineering is at the intersection of engineering and social science concepts like business and economics. Industrial engineers are focused on designing new actionable systems and protocols for companies, hospitals, factories, and any other organizational structures. They are also responsible for fostering efficiency and eliminating waste in the production process.


Industrial engineering is certainly more technical than a typical business program, but it’s also definitely less focused on concepts in physics and more focused on concepts in business and industrial organization. If you’re interested in perfecting the organizational workplace, this engineering 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. Though architectural engineers are very deeply involved in the actual construction and maintenance of other structures, there is a design aspect to their job. Some architectural engineering students are even required to take business courses as part of their major requirements. These less technical courses bring down the difficulty of this major overall.


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


Best Colleges for Engineering


What are the best schools for engineering? Check out our video to learn more! Also read on to see a curated list of the top schools.



1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology | MIT


Location: Cambridge, MA

Undergrad Enrollment: 4,500

Acceptance Rate: 4.1%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1510-1570 SAT/34-36 ACT


MIT is arguably the nation’s most prestigious STEM school—it was founded in 1861 at the beginning of the American Industrial Revolution and has been the launching point of new technologies and businesses since its inception. MIT’s renowned School of Engineering divides its engineering programs into nine fields:


  • Aeronautics and Astronautics
  • Biological Engineering
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
  • Institute for Medical Engineering and Science
  • Materials Science and Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Nuclear Science and Engineering


MIT engineering students graduate with more than a prestigious degree; they also leave the college with valuable firsthand experience—90% of MIT undergraduates work on research projects under the guidance of faculty. These students enjoy some of the best facilities, equipment, and support available, from MakerLodge, which trains undergraduates to use machine shop tools, to the Sandbox Innovation Fund Program, which provides student innovators with funding and mentorship.


2. California Institute of Technology | Caltech


Location: Pasadena, CA

Undergrad Enrollment: 900

Acceptance Rate: 3.9%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: N/A


Like MIT, Caltech enjoys a very prestigious reputation—it’s sometimes called the “MIT of the West.” Despite that nickname, it offers a stark contrast to the number one school on our list thanks to its smaller undergraduate population, warm Southern California climate, and comparatively laid-back West Coast attitude.


Caltech is known as a powerhouse in the science and engineering fields and offers a variety of undergraduate engineering degrees, ranging from Chemical Engineering to Electrical Engineering to Mechanical Engineering. Students can even create a personalized curriculum at Caltech through the college’s Interdisciplinary Studies Program.


Caltech is notable for its facilities—its campus is home to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Caltech Seismological Laboratory, and the Palomar and Keck Observatories. Equally impressive are Caltech’s alumni and faculty, 46 of whom have won a total of 47 Nobel Prizes.


3. Stanford University


Location: Stanford, CA

Undergrad Enrollment: 7,800

Acceptance Rate: 3.68%


  • 94.4% scored between 1400 and 1600 on the SAT
  • 96.1% scored between 30 and 36 on the ACT


With a sterling reputation and in close proximity to Silicon Valley, Stanford is a top-choice college for many aspiring engineers. Stanford’s School of Engineering offers 10 defined engineering majors:


  • Aeronautics and Astronautics
  • Bioengineering
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Civil Engineering
  • Computer Science
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Environmental Systems Engineering
  • Management Science and Engineering
  • Materials Science and Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering


Eight other interdepartmental programs also result in engineering degrees:


  • Architectural Design
  • Atmosphere and Energy
  • Biomechanical Engineering
  • Biomedical Computation
  • Engineering Physics
  • Individually Designed Major in Engineering
  • Product Design
  • Petroleum Engineering (Energy Resources Engineering)


Research plays a critical role in the education of engineers at Stanford—more than 200 undergraduates annually work with faculty and research groups over the summer. Out of the classroom and lab, students will find a variety of engineering-related student groups, including Stanford Student Robotics, the Stanford Solar Car Project, and the Society of Women Engineers.


4. Princeton University


Location: Princeton, NJ

Undergrad Enrollment: 4,800

Acceptance Rate: 4.3%

SAT/ACT: 1470-1560 SAT/34-36 ACT


Approximately one quarter of Princeton undergraduates are engineering students and—as you might expect from an Ivy League institution—one enormous benefit of this experience is being surrounded by some of the country’s most talented teachers and students. Liberal arts studies and a solid foundation in engineering’s scientific principles constitute a large part of Princeton’s undergraduate engineering education, and position students for success in a variety of careers.


Princeton University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science is divided into six academic departments:


  • Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Chemical & Biological Engineering
  • Computer Science
  • Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
  • Operations Research and Financial Engineering


All Princeton engineering students conduct an independent investigation—either a semester-long project or a full-year senior thesis—as part of their undergraduate curriculum.


5. Harvard University


Location: Cambridge, MA

Undergrad Enrollment: 13,100

Acceptance Rate: 4%

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1480-1580 SAT/33-36 ACT


Approximately a mile down the road from the number one school on our list lies the number five school on our list—Harvard. While Harvard is perhaps the most recognizable college in the country, it isn’t generally thought of as an engineering school in the way that colleges like MIT and Caltech are. This offers engineering students some hidden advantages, such as less competition, a smaller, more tight-knit community, and easier access to faculty.


Similarly to how Princeton engineering students are taught, Harvard engineering students develop a solid foundation in applied science and mathematical analysis as well as a foundation in liberal arts. This exposes them to a wide breadth of study and ensures they graduate with a broad set of skills, whether it’s solving technical challenges or thinking critically about the impact of innovations and technology.


Harvard’s undergraduate engineering programs fall under four primary areas of study:


  • Bioengineering
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Environmental Science & Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering


Research opportunities abound at Harvard both on campus in the school’s dedicated undergraduate research laboratories and Active Learning Labs, and in the Cambridge/Boston area, which is a hotbed for STEM-focused companies.


What Are Your Chances of Acceptance to Top Engineering Schools?


Most engineering programs are extremely selective, even if the university overall has a higher acceptance rate. To help you figure our your chances of acceptance, CollegeVine has developed a free chancing engine that helps you develop a balanced school list! It also offers suggestions on how you can improve your admissions profile.

Short Bio
A graduate of Northeastern University with a degree in English, Tim Peck currently lives in Concord, New Hampshire, where he balances a freelance writing career with the needs of his two Australian Shepherds to play outside.