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Top 10 Hardest Bachelor’s Degree in Science

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 hardest bachelor’s degrees in science.

The Hardest Science Degrees

1. Chemistry

Chemistry is famous for being one of the hardest subjects ever, so it’s no surprise that a Chemistry degree is fiercely challenging. Just one topic in Chemistry (for example, organic chemistry) is incredibly complex. As well as involving huge amounts of memorisation, organic chemistry covers more than 15 million compounds, and there are an infinite amount of organic chemical reactions to investigate.

Then, take the fact that Chemistry has multiple topics as well as organic chemistry, including inorganic chemistry (which involves learning about molecular orbital theory, acids and atomic structure) and physical chemistry (which you need to be a maths whizz to understand), and you get the picture.

If you were to study Chemistry at a top university like the University of Oxford, your weekly schedule would look something like this: 12 hours of labs, 10 hours of lectures, 1 Chemistry tutorial and tutorials in Maths, Biochemistry or Physics, where you’ll learn things, you can apply to Chemistry.

Chemistry is one of those subjects where you have to have advanced knowledge of maths and physics because these subjects tie so much into Chemistry. If you struggle with mathematical and logical thinking, Chemistry may be the degree to avoid.

Also, there’s a lot of practical learning involved in Chemistry, which means that when you’re not trying to get your head around macromolecules and redox reactions, you’ll be spending the rest of your time in the lab. This brings with it a whole new skill set, including writing lab reports and carrying out complex experiments, to put your learning into practice.

2. Astronomy

An Astronomy degree involves studying one of the most advanced branches of physics (Astrophysics), which gives you a clue as to how hard it is. Like with any hard science, astronomers have to make falsifiable predictions about space and the universe, which they have to test in a controlled environment.

Sciences like Astronomy necessarily involve a lot of failures, as you continually experiment with hypotheses to try and reach a conclusion. It’s not the same as just having an idea: if you can’t follow through with it, it’s not worth much.

There’s also a lot of mathematics in Astronomy, which is enough to put many students off. You’ve got to have the logical skills to do basic special relativity calculations, as well as understanding differential equations and linear algebra.

However, if you love exploring space, stars and the planets and the very complex mathematics and physics behind them, Astronomy may well be the subject for you.

3. Physics

Physics is an astoundingly rigorous degree. It’s one thing to find the general ideas of Physics interesting (after all, who wouldn’t be interested in a subject that explores the very make-up of the universe, from the mystery of black holes to the waves of the electromagnetic spectrum?). But it is quite another to dive into the mathematical principles, complex formulas and calculations within each area of Physics, and apply them enough to excel in your exams.

There are no shortcuts to understanding Physics, which is what makes it such a hard degree. The truth about STEM subjects like Maths and the Sciences is that while there is plenty of information, as well as plenty of formulas, to memorise, it’s not enough to know the correct answer to something. You need to understand why and how it is the correct answer. While you might just get away with rote learning equations and formulas in A-Level Physics, this won’t fly at degree level.

One of the most important things to know about a Physics degree is that if you’re confused, you’re doing something right! What this means, is that to truly understand Physics (rather than just find out the answers to solutions without understanding their application), you have to sit down and sweat it out over those formulas, and accept that the answer is going to take a long time to come. Allow yourself to make mistakes, and then go back and work out how you got to those mistakes, and slowly, your understanding will grow.

The huge amount of mathematics in Physics can pose a challenge to students. The fact that one wrong calculation can affect your whole conclusion when it comes to Physics problems means that it is probably not the right course for you if you’re not competent at Maths.

Physics is a truly satisfying degree, once you accept that it’s going to take a while to grasp the subject. Researchers work for a decade or more in the field, and just feel like they’re scratching the surface, which is part of the beauty and frustration of this challenging subject.

4. Biomedical Science

Medicine is rightfully touted as one of the hardest degrees ever, but did you know that Biomedical Science shares a lot of content with Medicine? In fact, Biomedical Science students have to understand the science of medicine in more detail than most doctors!

If you were to take Biomedical Science at Imperial College London, your degree would overlap quite a lot with students taking medicine. You’ll share some modules in the first year, and then do a more research-focused second year, where you have to spend hours in labs. Your final year will then overlap with medical students’ fourth year.

As Biomedical Science explores the science behind medical topics, you have to work extremely hard to understand everything from human physiology, pathology and microbiology, to haematology, cells and organs and system function. The sheer depth of knowledge means that you’ll sometimes have to learn about things you’re just not interested in (for example, learning all the names of pharmaceutical drugs!) because you need a good grade.

Aside from learning and understanding highly technical, medical information, you have to do a lot of heavy, independent research as a Biomedical Science student. At Imperial College, for example, you’d complete an intensive research project of your choice, as well as massive amounts of private study to grasp lecture content.

However, Biomedical Science can be a very rewarding degree, if you’re passionate about science and medicine. You’ll understand how Biomedical Science works from all angles, in research, policy and industry, as well as understand the diseases and conditions which significantly impact the human body.

5. Neuroscience

Neuroscience is a fascinating degree, but it is incredibly challenging. As intricate as the human brain is, it makes perfect sense that a subject dedicated to it would be equally complex.

As a multidisciplinary degree, Neuroscience involves many very difficult subjects. These include organic chemistry, psychology, mathematics, physics and cognitive science. One of these subjects alone sounds difficult enough, but having to grasp all of them in some capacity while studying neuroscience emphasises just how tough this degree subject is.

If you were to take Neuroscience as a BSc at King’s College London, you’d be studying everything from aspects of cell, molecular and developmental biology, to neuroanatomy, physiology and pharmacology.

Neuroscience is particularly hard to grasp because it mixes the physical and the abstract. There are so many mysteries about the human brain and consciousness that empirical science can’t entirely explain, hence why Neuroscience also includes aspects of philosophy.

6. Molecular Cell Biology

Molecular Cell Biology is one of the hardest Biology degrees to study, and Biology in itself is a very challenging discipline. Studying Molecular Cell Biology is like learning a new language, as there is an incredibly complex vocabulary to describe the structure and function of life at the molecular level. Get ready to memorise a lot of names!

You also need a very intricate understanding of very technical processes, including the relationship between proteins and nucleic acids, and the molecular mechanisms of immunology, genetic engineering and cancer. You’ll have to grasp very complex areas in biomedicine and biotechnology to do well at this degree.

There’s often a misconception that Biology subjects don’t involve a lot of maths, but anyone who thinks that is deeply mistaken. As soon as you enter your first year of a Molecular Cell Biology degree, you’re likely to be exploring subjects like genetics, as well as things like microbiology and animal and plant biology. Genetics involves a lot of maths, as geneticists use very complex equations in their field.

7. Mathematics

Most of us have had our personal rage against mathematics at school. Hence, it’s no surprise that it makes it to this list of hardest college majors. Any degree in mathematics at any level deals with a great deal of reasoning, critical thinking, formulas, and other technicalities.

The courses under a mathematics major deal with either general, or pure, or applied mathematics. Some basic subjects that are covered across all the courses are algebra, differential calculus, geometry, statistics, and probability.

Some of the specializations in this major are topology and foundations, analysis and functional analysis, algebra and number theory, geometric analysis, and applied mathematics.

8. Nursing

Nursing is one of the most popular majors in the United States, but that’s not for its reputation as an easy degree!

Nursing students spend hours working early morning and midnight shifts for their clinical, where they shadow real nurses and learn what it’s really like to be a nurse. These experiences make for some pretty intense hours.

If you expect to be able to sleep in while you’re at college, a nursing degree will make that difficult!

In the classroom, nursing students take classes such as anatomy, chemistry, biology, pharmacology, nutrition, and psychology. The standards are high: for many programs, you must maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA to remain in the program.

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Students with a love for science and helping people would thrive in a nursing program, as would students who want real-world experience while they are still in school.

9. Computer Science

Computer scientists are in increasingly high demand, but you have to be ready to commit to an intense major if you want to pursue computer science!

Computer science majors spend a lot of time troubleshooting and problem-solving, rather than learning a specific set of curricula that you might find in the hard sciences.

Students majoring in computer science learn computational methods while also learning the theory and application of computers, from informatics to systems.

Typical coursework for a computer science major includes algorithms, discrete structures, and computer architecture. This is in addition to programming courses that cover many languages – C, C++, Python, Java, and many more (depending on your program).

Those who love tinkering with computers and who love a challenge might find a good match in studying computer science.

10. Statistics

Statistics is a more complicated course than most people imagine it to be. This is true, the level of difficulty of this course could be understood only if you enrol for the course and start learning it. The collection of an extensive amount of data in tables itself is complex in nature. This is true, have you tried to understand the course, it is very complicated. The course demands strong memory power, an extensive number of formulas, theories, tests, etc. All of these together make statistics a difficult course.

The argument about which college major is the hardest and which is the easiest to complete is highly subjective even though an objective view exists. You’ll have to concentrate on other criteria like passion towards a field and employment outlook when selecting a major, rather than the difficulty level. This is because, contrary to popular opinion, the easier a major doesn’t necessarily mean you will not study hard to pass.

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