Timothy Peck 6 min read 11th Grade, 12th Grade, Academic Tips and Info

The Easiest and Hardest Science Majors

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The decision to study science in college is a wise one. College students graduating with a science degree routinely have numerous employment opportunities available to them—and, once employed, benefit from high salaries and strong levels of job security. Achieving a degree in science is no easy task, however; the most successful science students possess strong math skills, a natural curiosity, persistence, and the ability to work within a team. 

 

Given that science is a broad field encompassing majors from biology to physics, some majors are easier than others. Below is a list of the easiest and hardest science majors, along with some tips for deciding what field of science to study. 

 

5 Factors to Consider When Choosing a Science Major 

 

There’s a lot to think about when choosing a science major, as programs range from broad-based subjects like physics, biology, and chemistry to more focused areas such as animal behavior, botany, and geophysics. Because science encompasses such a wide variety of interests, many students struggle to identify the aspect they want to pursue. If you’re struggling to select a science major, here are a few things to consider. 

 

1. What are your personal interests and goals?

 

Think about what got you excited about science in the first place. Was it your childhood chemistry set, the first time you peered through a microscope, or how you felt when you got your first telescope? Choosing a major that you’re passionate about is a great start to an engaged, fulfilling, and successful college career.

 

2. What are your strengths? 

 

Since science majors cover a broad spectrum of fields, they also require a diverse set of skills. For example, a major such as physics calls for a deep understanding of mathematics, while the study of biology will still require strong, but less complex, math skills. Figure out where your strengths lie and look for science majors that match them. 

 

3. What are the course requirements for each major?

 

In general, science majors feature a heavy load of science and math classes. Dive deeper into the science majors that interest you and see what the other coursework looks like, then decide if it’s appealing and something you feel you can succeed in. 

 

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

 

College is an investment and while earning potential shouldn’t be the sole reason for choosing a particular major, you should at least examine earning potential. Graduates with a science degree typically land on the higher end of the pay scale, but there is a variance between fields. 

 

5. Which field best suits your lifestyle?

 

Do you like long days in the lab or working outside in the field? If you love spending time in the field, what is it that attracts you? Is it the ocean, cornfields, or animals? If you prefer the comfort of a lab, would you rather work with your hands or crunch numbers? Are you more of a one-person show or do you enjoy working as a team? The beauty of a science degree is that there’s a path for nearly every type of personality and person. 

 

How We Made This List 

 

Just as there are numerous factors you must contemplate when choosing a science major, we also took into consideration an extensive amount of elements when building our list of the hardest and easiest science majors. 

 

Although we name our easiest science majors, it’s important to note that earning a science degree is inherently difficult. From learning the vocabulary of a biologist to acquiring the skills to solve complex mathematical problems, a science degree is a time-intensive endeavor that challenges even the best students. If you’re looking to coast through college, a science major isn’t for you. 

 

We took the following factors into consideration when building our list of the easiest and hardest science majors.

 

General Reputation: Some science majors are known for offering an easier/harder path than others. 

 

Course Requirements: We’ve accounted for the unique course requirements of each science major, looking at the amount of math, physics, and other advanced topics covered.  

 

Study Time: While all science majors will spend a lot of time hitting the books, some will require more time than others. This is especially true for classes that involve extensive lab work. 

 

It’s important to remember that this list is subjective. For example, students with superior math skills might find earning a physics degree less challenging than others. Similarly, a student with impeccable attention to detail might cruise through coursework that others are befuddled by. 

 

The Hardest Science Majors 

 

1. Chemistry 

 

Students majoring in chemistry study the elements that make up the world—investigating their properties and how they interact, combine, and change. Chemistry isn’t merely a challenging science major; CollegeVine ranked it the most difficult of all the majors in its rankings of The 10 Easiest and 10 Hardest College Majors.

 

What makes chemistry so challenging is that it requires a diverse skill and knowledge set—graduates with a chemistry degree typically have strong general knowledge in fields ranging from physics to biology to statistics. It also requires a balance of book- and hands-on- learning. 

 

Chemistry is also known for its test-heavy coursework, which is one reason that chem majors spend more than 18 hours a week preparing for class, on average. 

 

2. Neuroscience 

 

An incredibly demanding major, neuroscience is the study of the human brain and nervous system, from its development to its role to its structure. 

 

One of the factors that contributes to neuroscience’s difficulty is its interdisciplinary nature. A graduate with a degree in neuroscience will have studied coursework covering everything from physiology to hard sciences, such as chemistry and physics. 

 

The study of neuroscience requires a full complement of academic skills—in addition to a sound foundation in science, quantitative and analytical skill with data is vital, as are critical thinking skills, communication, and a curiosity about the inner workings of the human mind.

 

3. Astronomy and Astrophysics

 

The perfect major for students who want to shoot for the stars (but not for those with their head in the clouds), astronomy is more than merely identifying constellations. Rather, astronomers use physics and mathematics to study the universe—gaining knowledge about planets, moons, stars, and other celestial matter and phenomena like black holes.  

 

What makes astronomy such a challenging subject is that it’s huge, much like space itself. Common coursework contains traditional general science and math classes like physics and calculus, while also incorporating work in subjects such as computer science, cosmology, and geology. The subject is also difficult because it’s so theoretical; you’re oftentimes unable to witness the phenomena studied in-person, making it tougher to grasp.

 

Astronomy and astrophysics majors possess a deep skill set with an aptitude for science and math, but they are also critical thinkers and problem solvers. Because much of the work is done in teams, communication is another key skill, as astronomy majors need to share theories and convey information both written and verbally.

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The Easiest Science Majors 

 

1. Psychology 

 

Psychology majors study how people behave along with the influence their motivations and desires have on their behavior. The study of psychology further investigates the behavior of the individual within culture and society.

 

Psychology is commonly thought of as the easiest of the science majors thanks to its relative lack of complex math, although psych majors can still expect to do a fair amount of statistical analysis on their way to a degree. More social than many other science classes, psychology puts an emphasis on working with people and prioritizes skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, and communication. 

 

While it is one of the easiest science fields to major in as an undergrad, students who want to work as a psychologist will need to continue on and earn an advanced degree like a Master’s or Doctorate—and the coursework for an advanced degree in psychology is considerably more challenging. 

 

2. Biology 

 

A biology major studies living organisms, including their origins, characteristics, and habits. Through their pursuit of a biology degree, students will learn how living organisms work. 

 

Because biology is a broad field, it lacks the intensity and specific skill sets required of other science majors. It also features less math than other types of sciences, focusing on concepts, theories, and memorization rather than hard math. Perhaps this is why biology is one of the most popular science majors: in 2017-2018, nearly 6% of all undergrad degrees were granted to people studying biological and biomedical sciences. 

 

The flexibility needed in biology also makes it less singularly focused than other science majors. Students will work both independently and in teams; coursework also takes place in the classroom, lab, and field. 

 

3. Environmental Science 

 

Students studying environmental science will explore how the physical and biological worlds interact. Degree holders often transition to careers focused on conservation, in positions varying from activism to consulting to research. Students might work for governmental agencies in policymaking, or go into the private sector to assess a company’s environmental impact.

 

Environmental science is commonly thought of as one of the easier science degrees to obtain. One of the reasons for this perception is that it is very hands-on and requires a minimal amount of complex math, at least by science major standards. Despite environmental science’s reputation, it’s still a comparatively challenging major that requires an understanding of core sciences such as chemistry, physics, biology, and geology, as well as scientific methodology. 

 

Environmental science is popular with students who enjoy learning outside of the classroom. Although fieldwork attracts many, there are also plenty of administrative opportunities in the area for those who prefer life in an office or lab. 

 

As you consider a career in science, you might also wonder what your chances are of getting into the best schools for science. 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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Timothy Peck
Blogger at CollegeVine
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.