What is the hardest degree to get?

theboombody

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Attempting to categorize subjects of knowledge is not entirely easy, but certain things are clear. All degrees are not intellectually equal, despite what politically correct people would like you to believe. A person studying history and a person studying computer programming can each acquire a vast amount of knowledge of their subject that the other person has no clue about, but in general, most people would consider computer programming more intellectually difficult than studying history. Some of these differences are quite vast, so much that a PHD in an easier subject is much easier to get than a bachelors in another. But it should also be noted, that just because a certain degree may require little intellectual effort to get, it may still lead to quite a difficult career in the real world. Sales and teaching are some of the easiest degrees to get, but may very well be two of the most difficult careers. It's also difficult to include all subjects, particularly since few people (if any) have taken every subject there is and have no idea how hard or easy a certain degree path is. I myself am particularly puzzled regarding the difficulty of architecture. Many subjects I have in the list below I had to totally guess on, but based on the little I know regarding courses of study, here's where I'd rank fields of study in terms of difficulty, with quantum physics at the top:

Quantum Physics
Electrical Engineering
Neuroscience
Medicine
Molecular Biology
Organic Chemistry
Chemical Engineering
Computer Programming
Mechanical Engineering
Civil Engineering
Law
Mathematics
Foreign Language
Accounting
Economics
Philosophy
Nutrition
General Biology
Music
History
Literature
Political Science
Management
International Relations
Industrial Arts
Graphic Design
Journalism
Cultural and Religious Studies
Criminal Justice
Social work
Psychology
Marketing
Education
Fine Arts
Physical Education
 

shootthebandit

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Surely it depends on what you want to do after uni. theres no point studying astrophysics if you want to be a lawyer. And no point studying law if you want to be a doctor.

Im an advocate of vocational courses and apprenticeships as an alternative to a degree.

you are correct. Not everyone is academically equal but it doesnt mean to say they are not as important. Education is pretty low on your list but educators are very important people in our society
 

Esotera

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Depends on what your skills are. From what I've seen, the majority of physics/computer science undergraduates would not be able to complete a degree in Sports Science (and vice versa). That said, the stereotype in the sciences is that biology is easiest, then chemistry, then physics, then maths...and sociology/psychology don't even count. I would regard that as somewhat true, but only because physics tend to use a lot more maths than biology. Once you get to a research level, it doesn't really matter and you might not fit any of the pigeonholes, for example, I've just completed an undergraduate research project for my biochemistry degree but it mostly involved programming.

 

Euryalus

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theboombody said:
most people would consider computer programming more intellectually difficult than studying history.
Wait what? No. History may be easy when you're reading the textbooks full of information people have pieced together for you, but finding, interpreting, verifying, and presenting all that is far from being less intellectually challenging than programming.

Especially when sometimes your evidence is a god damn pile of rocks that may have been a building or something (who knows?), or when you have conflicting accounts from the records.

And I'm not even a history major, so It's not like I'm trying to justify anything. :/

OT: In an attempt to be subversive, I'll say the 9th degree Red belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. You basically have to be Bruce Lee and then some.
 

Silvanus

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T0ad 0f Truth said:
Wait what? No. History may be easy when you're reading the textbooks full of information people have pieced together for, but finding, interpreting, verifying, and presenting all that is far from being less intellectually challenging than programming.

Especially when sometimes, your evidence is a god damn pile of rocks that may have been a building or something (who knows?), or when you have conflicting accounts from the records.
Entirely agreed. Besides, studying history is primarily qualitative, so I would baulk at making the comparison at all.

(Quite a coincidence that Theboombody chose those two subjects, actually: I studied modern history, and my ex studied computer science).
 

Random Argument Man

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T0ad 0f Truth said:
theboombody said:
most people would consider computer programming more intellectually difficult than studying history.
Wait what? No. History may be easy when you're reading the textbooks full of information people have pieced together for, but finding, interpreting, verifying, and presenting all that is far from being less intellectually challenging than programming.

Especially when sometimes your evidence is a god damn pile of rocks that may have been a building or something (who knows?), or when you have conflicting accounts from the records.

And I'm not even a history major, so It's not like I'm trying to justify anything. :/
Wow man?you basically summed up most of my major? I'm impressed. Most people don't even understand the basic of studying history since they only seen it in high school.

I'll add the fact that you have to explain the differences between pretty much any historians that ever existed or changed the field of subject. This, in turn, focus most comprehension on concepts, events and perception of reality in order to better understand our world.
 

theboombody

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T0ad 0f Truth said:
theboombody said:
most people would consider computer programming more intellectually difficult than studying history.
Wait what? No. History may be easy when you're reading the textbooks full of information people have pieced together for, but finding, interpreting, verifying, and presenting all that is far from being less intellectually challenging than programming.

Especially when sometimes your evidence is a god damn pile of rocks that may have been a building or something (who knows?), or when you have conflicting accounts from the records.

And I'm not even a history major, so It's not like I'm trying to justify anything. :/

OT: In an attempt to be subversive, I'll say the 9th degree Red belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. You basically have to be Bruce Lee and then some.
Yeah, but the consequences of a wrong historic theory aren't as drastic as the consequences of an incorrect program. If your program is typed in incorrectly it won't work at all. At least if your theory in history is off a little bit, you won't lose your job. At least I'd hope you wouldn't.
 

theboombody

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Silvanus said:
T0ad 0f Truth said:
Wait what? No. History may be easy when you're reading the textbooks full of information people have pieced together for, but finding, interpreting, verifying, and presenting all that is far from being less intellectually challenging than programming.

Especially when sometimes, your evidence is a god damn pile of rocks that may have been a building or something (who knows?), or when you have conflicting accounts from the records.
Entirely agreed. Besides, studying history is primarily qualitative, so I would baulk at making the comparison at all.

(Quite a coincidence that Theboombody chose those two subjects, actually: I studied modern history, and my ex studied computer science).
I wouldn't think it's that much of a coincidence. Those are both large fields.
 

theboombody

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Esotera said:
Depends on what your skills are. From what I've seen, the majority of physics/computer science undergraduates would not be able to complete a degree in Sports Science (and vice versa). That said, the stereotype in the sciences is that biology is easiest, then chemistry, then physics, then maths...and sociology/psychology don't even count. I would regard that as somewhat true, but only because physics tend to use a lot more maths than biology. Once you get to a research level, it doesn't really matter and you might not fit any of the pigeonholes, for example, I've just completed an undergraduate research project for my biochemistry degree but it mostly involved programming.

Yeah, but pure math sometimes makes you wonder why you're doing it. I fail to understand the drive to discover the prime number pattern other than the fact that it's a hard problem. There may be applications in encryption, but I think most people just study it because it's a hard problem. And they spend a lot in college tuition just to fiddle around in number theory.

Over the course of time I've come to find out that discovering truth is quite expensive. Takes A LOT of resources. Sad really.
 

Slenn

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theboombody said:
Quantum Physics
The ideas or concepts behind quantum physics are not that hard to learn. However its implications and its scope can get abstract. All it really takes to understand the fundamentals is imagination and a few thought experiments. Schrödinger's cat doesn't take any math, all it takes is thinking abstractly. Beyond that is the actual math (which you probably need to take calculus and matrix theory). Quantum physics isn't necessarily a degree, as it is part of a numerous variety of fields in physics (condensed matter, astrophysics, biophysics, nuclear, high-energy, and so on)
 

shootthebandit

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theboombody said:
T0ad 0f Truth said:
theboombody said:
most people would consider computer programming more intellectually difficult than studying history.
Wait what? No. History may be easy when you're reading the textbooks full of information people have pieced together for, but finding, interpreting, verifying, and presenting all that is far from being less intellectually challenging than programming.

Especially when sometimes your evidence is a god damn pile of rocks that may have been a building or something (who knows?), or when you have conflicting accounts from the records.

And I'm not even a history major, so It's not like I'm trying to justify anything. :/

OT: In an attempt to be subversive, I'll say the 9th degree Red belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. You basically have to be Bruce Lee and then some.
Yeah, but the consequences of a wrong historic theory aren't as drastic as the consequences of an incorrect program. If your program is typed in incorrectly it won't work at all. At least if your theory in history is off a little bit, you won't lose your job. At least I'd hope you wouldn't.
You wont lose your job if your coding is wrong. Coding is thoroughly tested for this very reason.

History isnt so much about x happened on y date its more about what factors caused x to happen and what we can learn from this to ensure it does or doesnt happen again. So yes getting history correct is a pretty big deal. Imagine the only historical documents of WWII we had were of holocaust deniers

Losing your job isnt a big deal. What if the doctor on your list makes a mistake. He could kill someone. If the engineer on your list makes a mistake he could kill thousands

By arguing that one degree has more weight than another you are also arguing that the associated careers have more weight. Yes medicine and engineering are important but what would society be without art or music. Art or music certainly dont save our lives but they do enrich our lives
 

Darknacht

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Its going to depend on your school, the more serious your school takes the degree the more rigorous the course load will likely be, at the one a went to Quantum Physics was a fairly easy degree, compared to the other science degrees, and EE was a joke, but Education was a fairly rigorous.
 

Happiness Assassin

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I have always heard engineering to have one of the highest turnovers of any program, with +60% of people who list it as their major eventually changing to something else. I myself am going into ME whereas all my friends are going into EE.
 

dyre

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From what I've seen of what my peers do, Organic Chemistry is the hardest undergraduate major, no question. Btw, you put Philosophy over Gen Biology?! >_>

T0ad 0f Truth said:
Wait what? No. History may be easy when you're reading the textbooks full of information people have pieced together for, but finding, interpreting, verifying, and presenting all that is far from being less intellectually challenging than programming.

Especially when sometimes your evidence is a god damn pile of rocks that may have been a building or something (who knows?), or when you have conflicting accounts from the records.

And I'm not even a history major, so It's not like I'm trying to justify anything. :/
Random Argument Man said:
Wow man?you basically summed up most of my major? I'm impressed. Most people don't even understand the basic of studying history since they only seen it in high school.

I'll add the fact that you have to explain the differences between pretty much any historians that ever existed or changed the field of subject. This, in turn, focus most comprehension on concepts, events and perception of reality in order to better understand our world.
Now, I love history as much as the next guy, but as someone who is about to earn my bachelor's in History (alongside a Finance degree), I've gotta say it's not that hard. Flipping through the FRUS volumes, searching Proquest newspaper archives, and doing ever-interesting archival research of some dead senator's personal diaries is more work than people imagine, but it's more diligence and hard work than real difficulty. And there are only a few classes that require that level of primary research! Optimizing an investment portfolio using Markowitz Portfolio Theory and CAPM is a LOT tougher.
 

TheIceQueen

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It depends purely on the field that you really want. I was a pharmacy major once upon a time before settling down with my life goal of becoming a psychologist. Both were equally hard and both were stressful. Both had me pulling my hair out from difficulty, but the difference between my C's in pharmacy (which involved a lot of chemistry, which I am good at despite my lackluster grades) and my A's in psychology are not the difficulty of the subject, but rather my love for the latter and dislike of the former.

Most majors will run you through hell and back if you want to pass. It's whether you're willing and wanting to trudge through that hell that makes the difference.
 

EvilRoy

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Not to smack talk the field of study of good friends and family, but Electrical Engineering is not the second hardest degree to get. Neuroscience should probably be higher on the list, and although I love the idea of my BSc in Civil being harder to get than one in mathematics, you're going to need to ratchet that shit up to the top of the list...

I know this will vary between schools to one extent or another, but I have never heard of a bachelors of mathematics being easy by any stretch of the word at any university. And at many universities you basically already have to have bachelors in a related field to even go into medicine or law. I don't see dentistry on there, but it should be neck and neck with medicine, those guys are pretty intense. Eng Phys isn't on there either, and its was basically king of the engineering castle where I went to school - you needed a 3.85/4.00 in your first year of university to even apply for it.



Happiness Assassin said:
I have always heard engineering to have one of the highest turnovers of any program, with +60% of people who list it as their major eventually changing to something else. I myself am going into ME whereas all my friends are going into EE.
It really depends on the school, but in a lot of places there are way more people who want to be engineers than there is room for, so one of the first things they do is crank up the competitive average to get in. From there, you will encounter a few classes specifically designed to convince people that they don't really want to be engineers.

In my first year there was a class - something something 130 (maybe Eng phys 130?), that had a 30%ish drop out rate, plus something like 15% failures. And you needed this class to apply for a specialization (at my uni you had to do one year of general engineering and then apply with the GPA you got to the different fields), so if you didn't make it then that was it.
 

Ryotknife

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I would probably say medicine and law are the two hardest because of their sheer number of hoops you have to jump through, the amount of details that must be memorized, how long it takes to get a degree, and the cutthroat competition
 

Naeras

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theboombody said:
I fail to understand the drive to discover the prime number pattern other than the fact that it's a hard problem.
There's a very, very simple answer to that question:



Seriously, that's it. People are interested in it, and will therefore work with it. Screw the applications, those come later(and yes, they do come. Every damn time).

None of the scientists I know of will ever state that the main reason they're doing their research is to help advance humanity(unless it's for publicity/funding). It's always because they find their field of research so exciting that they'd rather keep on doing it.
 

Nomad

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theboombody said:
Attempting to categorize subjects of knowledge is not entirely easy, but certain things are clear. All degrees are not intellectually equal, despite what politically correct people would like you to believe.
This is not clear at all. And what the heck is a "politically correct person" anyway?
theboombody said:
A person studying history and a person studying computer programming can each acquire a vast amount of knowledge of their subject that the other person has no clue about, but in general, most people would consider computer programming more intellectually difficult than studying history.
Yes. Because most people are neither programmers nor historians, and fewer still are both programmers and historians - they therefore have no proper basis for comparison. Even the few who are both programmers and historians are unequipped to make blanket statements about the relative difficulty of the fields, because their personal talent distribution will skew their perceptions.

Many people believing something does not necessarily make it so - case in point, Jesus.
theboombody said:
Some of these differences are quite vast, so much that a PHD in an easier subject is much easier to get than a bachelors in another.
I saw someone refer to xkcd earlier in the thread, so I'll hop onto that train and say [citation needed] [http://xkcd.com/285/].
theboombody said:
Many subjects I have in the list below I had to totally guess on, but based on the little I know regarding courses of study, here's where I'd rank fields of study in terms of difficulty, with quantum physics at the top:
There's your problem - "based on the little I know" (your perception of quantum physics as the most difficult field can probably be attributed to it having "quantum" in the title, which is a cool-sounding word that falls outside of the common frame of reference). You may have studied one of these fields to an advanced level. You are therefore equipped to pass judgement on how difficult your learning experience in that field was. You are not at all qualified to pass judgement on fields you have little or no experience with - not without adding a link to a peer-reviewed study, or at the very least official statistics on student throughput in higher education.

Anything else becomes a question not of "how difficult is this subject?", but of "how difficult is this subject perceived to be?".

As has already been pointed out by others - the question is based on a faulty premise from the start. Many fields are simply not at all comparable, because they utilize vastly different skillsets. People with a talent for engineering do not necessarily possess a talent for political analysis, and vice versa.