What is the hardest degree to get?

generals3

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Well it kinda depends on the unis. Over here there is trend that the more math/science is involved the more difficult it gets. But technically you could make any study absurdly hard.
 

Nomad

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Tarfeather said:
Yeah, I suppose so. So, in this ideal universe, where subjects are taught properly, what's actually relevant with regards to the OP is which subjects require the least intellectual skill to actually "do right". I don't know whether there is such a distinction, though.
Yeah, I agree. I frankly don't see how you could make such a distinction at all - what is intellectual skill, for starters? Is there just one single intellectual skill? If so, what is it composed of and how do we measure it? If there are several, then how do we compare them? How do you quantify not only the levels of individual intellectual skills, but also the differences in levels between differing skills?

Is running 5mph faster than weighing 60kg?
 

lacktheknack

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I like how you but general biology (probably including anatomy) and nutrition in the middle, but put physical education at the bottom. Those wouldn't be sour grapes I smell, would they be?

I think you got the content of the top and bottom halves right, but the order of the subjects in those halves? lolnope. Law should be much higher, and electrical engineering should be SO much lower (I have an electronic engineering tech diploma, dangerous work =/= excessively difficult work). Phys Ed and Music should swap places, computer programming needs to be lower, journalism should be higher, blah blah blah. (This is based off of my observations while moving around Central Alberta's post-secondary schools.)

Quantum at the top might be about right, but rocket science is still pretty intimidating.
 

yamy

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lacktheknack said:
I like how you but general biology (probably including anatomy) and nutrition in the middle, but put physical education at the bottom. Those wouldn't be sour grapes I smell, would they be?

I think you got the content of the top and bottom halves right, but the order of the subjects in those halves? lolnope. Law should be much higher, and electrical engineering should be SO much lower (I have an electronic engineering tech diploma, dangerous work =/= excessively difficult work). Phys Ed and Music should swap places, computer programming needs to be lower, journalism should be higher, blah blah blah. (This is based off of my observations while moving around Central Alberta's post-secondary schools.)

Quantum at the top might be about right, but rocket science is still pretty intimidating.
I agree. The engineerings should be much lower whilst the pure sciences higher. Mathematics should be much higher given it forms the basis of so much of the sciences.

From my understanding, in general applied sciences are perceived to be simpler than the pure sciences. It is generally harder to understand the concepts then it's application.

An easy way to look at a degree's difficulty, at least at the undergraduate level, is to compare the entry requirement for each subject in the same or different university.

Of course generalizations like this is always difficult since different universities have different standards, not to mention the inherent differences and skills required for each subject that makes comparison almost impossible.

A more interesting question would be: what degree is perceived to be the hardest to get in the public's eye?
 

PoolCleaningRobot

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I find this funny that this is the first thread I see considering I just had my commencement ceremony today and was handed the portfolio that will contain my Bachelor's of Science in Chemistry whenever it comes in the mail

As for your question, it really is relative. Chemistry is considered one of the hardest majors at my school, even by our faculty. And while I would say it might be harder than a degree like accounting, I wouldn't be able to do the vogue majors my school is filled with like physical therapy or athletic training. They need a lot of blatant memorization and Physical therapy requires time for unpaid clinical hours

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.

My college is small and doesn't have a physics department, but we do have one doctor of physics who is also the co-chair of the science department. His favorite quote which he framed in the physics lab is "physics is the only real science. Everything else is stamp collecting"

And iit's true about the variance in research. I did mine in synthetic organic chemistry. But I could have done mathematical simulations on proteins or working closer with instruments and detecting contaminations


shootthebandit said:
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
I know a computer science and programming professor who burnt down a factory once because he didn't properly test the code for the assembly line robots he was programming. Really, that just shows all these jobs can carry a lot of weight. And they say art gives us a reason to do science in the first place. I don't even think I could do an art degree. It's not as easy as people think
 

Bellvedere

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Something is always going to be more intellectually difficult if you have no interest in it, stuff like your educational institute and the quality of particular teaching staff will also play a huge role. People certainly have different intelligence levels, but those who have a greater intelligence don't all gravitate towards quantum physics because anything else would be unchallenging and boring.

Even if it were the case that some (entire) subjects are inherently more difficult than others it would be very difficult if not impossible to determine due to the above and would be entirely pointless anyway. You'll also be working with and relying on a multitude of different people from different disciplines in the course of your life and thinking of yourself as intellectually superior or inferior to others based purely on the differing fields of expertise has got to be unhealthy.
 

theboombody

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Nomad said:
This is not clear at all. And what the heck is a "politically correct person" anyway?
People who make it a habit to use the term "blanket statement" are politically correct people. And they tend to be easily offended. Like someone who has a degree in education may get offended that their degree is not as intellectually challenging as an electrical engineering degree. Some people know this and don't get offended, because they know most electrical engineers probably couldn't deal with rooms full of first graders on a daily basis. They know they have special skills that aren't based on intellectual challenge, and are too content with their own value to be offended.

Politically correct people pretend that we are all cookie cutter similar and don't have individual strengths and weaknesses. Communists believe in redistribution of wealth, and politically correct people believe in redistribution of perception. "Don't make so-and-so look weak in that ability, even if they are weak! And don't make them look strong in that ability even if they are strong!" Rather than give Jimmy first place in spelling and Ryan first place in racing, give nobody any place in anything at all, so no one's feelings get hurt.
 

theboombody

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Bellvedere said:
Something is always going to be more intellectually difficult if you have no interest in it, stuff like your educational institute and the quality of particular teaching staff will also play a huge role. People certainly have different intelligence levels, but those who have a greater intelligence don't all gravitate towards quantum physics because anything else would be unchallenging and boring.

Even if it were the case that some (entire) subjects are inherently more difficult than others it would be very difficult if not impossible to determine due to the above and would be entirely pointless anyway. You'll also be working with and relying on a multitude of different people from different disciplines in the course of your life and thinking of yourself as intellectually superior or inferior to others based purely on the differing fields of expertise has got to be unhealthy.
So you went into college thinking all majors were on the same level? Or there were no blow-off classes in high school? Yeah right.

Some people are intellectually superior. Bottom line. But no one can be #1 in everything. In some places where they are strong, there will be other places they aren't so strong. Ben Franklin could run intellectual circles around me. But my deadlift was better than his for sure. Being able to realize where we are weak and where we are strong is much healthier than living in denial.
 

theboombody

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lacktheknack said:
I like how you but general biology (probably including anatomy) and nutrition in the middle, but put physical education at the bottom. Those wouldn't be sour grapes I smell, would they be?

I think you got the content of the top and bottom halves right, but the order of the subjects in those halves? lolnope. Law should be much higher, and electrical engineering should be SO much lower (I have an electronic engineering tech diploma, dangerous work =/= excessively difficult work). Phys Ed and Music should swap places, computer programming needs to be lower, journalism should be higher, blah blah blah. (This is based off of my observations while moving around Central Alberta's post-secondary schools.)

Quantum at the top might be about right, but rocket science is still pretty intimidating.
I have no problem with anyone who wants to modify the list. I have more of a problem with people who say there should not be a ranking at all since the difficulty level in all subjects is equal. Anyone who ranks physical education as equal to rocket science is living in a dream world. In the movie "Annie Hall" the quote is, "Those who can't do teach, and those who can't teach, teach gym." I told that to a buddy of mine who was studying physical education, and he laughed and agreed entirely. And the guy was smart as heck. Had a much better vocabulary than I ever will. He was just smart enough to know he had an easy major, but he liked his field of study.
 

theboombody

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Johnny Novgorod said:
theboombody said:
Yeah, but pure math sometimes makes you wonder why you're doing it.
EVERY career makes you wonder why you're doing it at some point.

My dad told me this a while ago. It's a depressing but wise statement. That's why I'm at the point where I only go to school for money now. No other reason. If I want to study for truth or for fun, I'll do it on my own time. My career is not for fun. It's for money. I found out I am incapable of being able to have fun making money. Totally incapable. I'm envious of anyone that does have that ability, but not so envious that I forget to be grateful for the blessings I already have.
 

theboombody

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generals3 said:
Well it kinda depends on the unis. Over here there is trend that the more math/science is involved the more difficult it gets. But technically you could make any study absurdly hard.
I know that's right. The IRS sure as heck found a way to make taxes extremely difficult, even though I've always felt that the taxation process should be easy for the common man to understand.

I'm studying accounting myself, and half the time I think, "You know, a field like biochemistry is naturally complex, but accounting doesn't have to be. Accounting has been made artificially complex for some reason or other." And that bothers me.
 

Fox12

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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.
Individually, no, making a mistake may not be as drastic in history, in terms of your career. On a larger scale? Not so much. Keep in mind that history is the number one tool for indoctrinating people, and for spreading misinformation. For instance, most politicians will tell you that our problems with Iran began with the Iranian Hostage Crisis in 1979. As if a bunch of Iranians just decided to randomly abduct American Citizens, because, I don't know, it was slow Saturday night. The crisis is a staple of modern American history. Do you know what isn't taught? The fact that the CIA helped overthrow the freely elected Iranian government in 1953, and that we installed a dictator, the Shah, in power for decades. That's why Iran hates us. This information, or lack thereof, completely shapes the way people see their world, and has massive consequences on how we conduct our current foreign policy. That's why I've always said that everyone should study history, even if they don't major/minor in it in college, or even if they don't go to college.
 

EvilRoy

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generals3 said:
Well it kinda depends on the unis. Over here there is trend that the more math/science is involved the more difficult it gets. But technically you could make any study absurdly hard.
I suppose difficulty depend on how readily you could eliminate wrote memorization from examinations. I really want to say that history would just be reading the book, memorizing it, and spewing it at a test paper - but I don't know shit about history, it could be way different/harder. There's no way for me to compare it to a field like mathematics where I know it is completely possible to ask questions nobody in the class has ever seen before but is wholly based on concepts learned in class.
 

Dimitriov

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EvilRoy said:
generals3 said:
Well it kinda depends on the unis. Over here there is trend that the more math/science is involved the more difficult it gets. But technically you could make any study absurdly hard.
I suppose difficulty depend on how readily you could eliminate wrote memorization from examinations. I really want to say that history would just be reading the book, memorizing it, and spewing it at a test paper - but I don't know shit about history, it could be way different/harder. There's no way for me to compare it to a field like mathematics where I know it is completely possible to ask questions nobody in the class has ever seen before but is wholly based on concepts learned in class.
Well, I will just say in response to this that I have had a history exam where there was a primary source document (of maybe 2-3 pages), that was not covered in class, and you were simply asked to write a brief essay analyzing it.

So that kind of counts. But honestly, as has been said previously, History isn't really about exams. At lower levels it is because basic history is just learning about events and dates, as that's kind of a big part of the raw data, and you are generally expected to be able to place specific events or documents into some form of larger context.

But the actual process of writing, studying, and working with history comes from analysis of actual historical sources.
 

EvilRoy

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Dimitriov said:
EvilRoy said:
generals3 said:
Well it kinda depends on the unis. Over here there is trend that the more math/science is involved the more difficult it gets. But technically you could make any study absurdly hard.
I suppose difficulty depend on how readily you could eliminate wrote memorization from examinations. I really want to say that history would just be reading the book, memorizing it, and spewing it at a test paper - but I don't know shit about history, it could be way different/harder. There's no way for me to compare it to a field like mathematics where I know it is completely possible to ask questions nobody in the class has ever seen before but is wholly based on concepts learned in class.
Well, I will just say in response to this that I have had a history exam where there was a primary source document (of maybe 2-3 pages), that was not covered in class, and you were simply asked to write a brief essay analyzing it.

So that kind of counts. But honestly, as has been said previously, History isn't really about exams. At lower levels it is because basic history is just learning about events and dates, as that's kind of a big part of the raw data, and you are generally expected to be able to place specific events or documents into some form of larger context.

But the actual process of writing, studying, and working with history comes from analysis of actual historical sources.
So yeah, it would be a matter of how much analysis or abstract application can be squeezed out of a given field as opposed to how much wrote memorization is required. And to be able to accurately compare them you would need a polymath on crack.

I appreciate that it isn't all about the exams, but that's the only real metric for comparison we have. Once you get beyond the undergrad level pretty much every single field of study is going to be based on some kind of original research, except maybe fine arts which would focus more on original composition (maybe?) or physED which I can't even guess where that would go.

Once you get to original research the difficulty would have more to do with the level of effort required to exceed existing knowledge. You get into a weird situation where something relatively pedestrian like, say, masonry explodes in difficulty compared to its undergrad iteration because there is literally centuries of research and knowledge in the field that you need to understand before proceeding, while a relatively new field has a lot more ground to cover with less background prerequisites.
 

theboombody

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DANGER- MUST SILENCE said:
And this reveals what is so very wrong with the American education system. Properly, an education degree should be one of the most difficult degrees because it requires a synthesis of extremely difficult content knowledge from more than one field (the discipline being taught, plus pedagogy, learner psychology, educational policy, etc.) coupled with skill assessments demonstrating the ability to put that content knowledge into practice. It should be very, very hard. If it's not (and I wonder if you've actually completed an education degree to make you qualified to comment), then that would go a long way toward explaining why we have an education crisis.
Trust me, it's not hard to get. I obtained a teaching certificate, became a teacher, hated it, became unemployed for a while, found a new job shoveling corn, found a less physically laborious job after that, and let the darn certificate expire. My undergraduate is not in education, but I obviously had to take a few education classes at the university to get the certificate. Those classes were in the school of education, as the university was divided into various schools (school of business, school of natural science, etc.) I remember an assignment in the education classes where we played with clay. Seriously. How hard is that to do? Making good grades in those classes was a piece of cake provided you just went with whatever the teacher said and didn't argue. I think I had to take five to eight classes in the school of education. Certainly enough to get a feel for how it worked. Those classes were easier than my classes in 5th grade.

And you're right, we have a long way to go in the education system because of this. Of course the "experts" who have the education degrees are never going to tell you this, because it's how they make their money. Trust me or trust them. I don't care. I would simply rather speak out and be wrong and risk ridicule rather than be silent about how freakin' easy these education classes were.

Teaching is a very hard job and anyone who can do it right has my deepest respect. But the certification itself is worthless. The true test is can you hang when you get in the classroom? The kids in the class don't make it easy, especially when you go to a school with a reputation for disobedient students.

In my state half of the money collected goes straight to the schools, and it's a shame, because so much of that is flat out wasted on unruly students who never shape up. The crisis American education is in is absolutely horrendous, and I see no end in sight.
 

Tanis

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Engineering for me.

But I think it also depends on if you're good with math and other things.

I'm GREAT at math, I just don't like it.
 

Therumancer

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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. 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

Well a lot of it comes down to the specifics inherent in the degree. Something like "History" is comparatively easy to learn because it mostly just comes down to agreeing to the teacher at your university (or being seen to) and being able to largely parrot back what they tell you, while interpreting research projects based on what you hear. Other than say getting a job in teaching, or pushing for a set of degrees towards another academic or professional goal such degrees carry little weight, have little in the way of employment potential, etc... You live in a day and age where you will have "Teachers with degrees in American History" and "A focus on constitutional studies" who can't tell you even basic facts about The Founding Fathers of the US, and will insist on things like the original colonies being founded in the spirit of communism and the first pilgrims refusing to establish leadership or a chain of authority and government, not even knowing who people like John Carver or William Bradford are (and these are people with degrees, or claiming to have them, I've even met a few on The Escapist). As a result History is not well respected. Probably lower on the totem pole would be something like "English", "General Studies", or various "Liberal Arts" degrees. Most of those as I said on their own have little value unless it comes down to teaching the subject of the degree or reinforcing something else.

The most difficult degrees would be things that require a wide range of disciplines to be mastered. Case in point, while it wasn't the most difficult degree ever, when I was studying Criminal Justice: Forensics, I had to pursue both criminal investigation, certain law classes, and then sciences (biology, chemistry, physics), and of course a few specialty psych classes (criminal and abnormal psychology). In fact there is no such thing as a two or four year degree, you start out with an associates in criminal justice (which takes longer than the normal 2 years given the path you follow and the foundations your getting), move on to a bachelors in either Biology or Chemistry, and then you have the foundation to do a 4 year program in Forensics (which is the equivalent of a master's degree), and then of course if you want to get seriously into it you probably need to pursue a doctorate from there. I put a lot of time and money into this and for reasons (largely financial) I won't get into I wound up with nada, and wound up in the lovely field of Casino Security.

I'd have to look into it, but there are classes and fields of study you can't even enter into until you already have at least one PHD. Certain types extreme science, highly specialized fields of medicine, etc... Basically any degree that can only be earned once you already have 8-12 years of school behind you is probably a good candidate. I tend to look more towards "hard sciences" here as well because they tend to be less political, you either qualify or you don't, as opposed to being largely subjective like various history degrees where people argue constantly and it all comes down to what the guys teaching the classes think happens to be right and has the most political support at the moment.