What Is The Most Stressful College Major? (2023)

Choosing a college major is one of the most personal and most challenging decisions a high school graduate needs to make. Making a good decision can lead to easy college completion. However, choosing a major that you’re not interested in or expertized at the can, by contrast, be quite unfruitful and lead to various difficulties while completing them.

Since choosing a major is a personal decision based on your interests, as well as the career path you want to take, deciding on the most stressful college major, can be quite subjective, and biased.

With that in mind, we looked into different college majors, the challenges that come with them, as well as their durations and decided to list them as the most stressful college majors.

It’s not a secret that college students are exposed to a lot of stress. Some of that stress accumulates from the more stressful college majors. According to recent statistics 36.5% of students in the United States blame stress for significant performance decline.

Students may also feel anxious because they’re not sure whether they’ll pass the major or not. About 30% of students lists anxiety as the reason their performance at a certain major declined.

Interestingly, between 2009 and 2015, 30% more students visited the counseling centers and therapists inside the campus, even though there was no significant increase in the number of enrolled students, which only points that there is a possibility that students are stressed out because of choosing the wrong major.

Keep in mind, however, that our list may not fit everyone’s thoughts or expectations from one major. While it may be hard for some people, others managed to take advantage of the curriculum and excel without any difficulties. On the other hand, some courses, or majors ended up more difficult for some other people.

10 Most Stressful College Majors

What Is The Most Stressful College Major? (1)

Although the list contains college majors we found the most difficult and stressful, the same may not go with you. This list doesn’t encourage anyone to give up on their dreams, even if the college major they want to choose is listed as stressful.

Stress is usually a part of higher education, and knowing the challenges that come with certain majors may help us overcome those struggles we face.

1. Fine Arts

Average studying time per week: 12-17h

Fine arts may not be stressful for some people, but studying all the theoretical bits and pieces about the history of art and different directions it took in history in combination with practical work in the studio can take a serious toll on students, especially because the market is oversaturated and it’s increasingly difficult to find a job that will help students repay the student credits and have a valuable return of investment.

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Unfortunately, fine arts are just a single example of other art majors that face the same fate. A lot of students go through different stressful and challenging endeavors throughout their studies, just to have even more difficulties finding a job in the future.

2. Nursing

Average studying time per week: 14-17h

Nursing is a great major with a lot of perspective in the future career path. Not only that, a lot of good students are guaranteed to get a job once they graduate. What’s more, the students can continue schooling to get the Master’s degree and have even more career opportunities.

There are different career paths for graduate nurses. However, the studying process is nowhere near easy. It’s stressful because it combines a lot of theoretical syllabi, while also utilizing practical classes at hospitals and other healthcare institutions.

The practical work is often quite unpleasant and your overall performance at those small internships decides for your grade in the future. It’s worth noting that some of the practical work is not everyone’s cup of tea and may discourage them from studying further due to stress and pressure from work.

This degree may not be for everyone for that reason.

3. Theoretical & Experimental Physics

Average studying time per week: 15-17h

A degree in physics alone is quite difficult, and stressful in the process. Students are expected to have broad knowledge about different scientific concepts when enrolling in studies. More importantly, they need to have excellent knowledge of math.

Given that many students come from different environments and schooling backgrounds, having the same amount of prep from mathematics can be difficult for many students who want to get a hold of the curriculum.

What makes this degree even more stressful is that future jobs as researchers depend on GPA, the overall performance of students, and the number of research papers published in the field.

With that in mind, a theoretical and experimental physics major is exciting and full of challenges but also quite stressful.

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4. Philosophy

Average studying time per week: 11-15h

Philosophy majors are often perceived as easy to get through, but it’s far from that. Students enrolled in this major need to do a lot of reading, researching, and examining. They also need important assets and skills like logic, and a keen eye for the details.

More importantly, to get a high-paying job with a philosophy degree, you usually need to complete additional education like a Master’s and Ph.D. so that you can pursue a career in politics or law, as well as some other career path.

5. Architecture

Average studying time per week: 18-22h

Architecture is a beautiful major, but also quite stressful and challenging. As listed above, you will notice that architecture’s weekly study time takes longer compared to the other majors we listed. Architecture is all about combining complex, thorough and broad theoretical information with hardworking practical work.

Not just that, the architecture degree is quite expensive to obtain, and the market can easily get oversaturated.

With a lot of architecture directions and different freelance gigs, temporary work is easy to get. However, finding a long term gig is far more difficult, which can be stressful for a lot of architecture graduates.

6. Molecular Biology

Average studying time per week: 17-18h

Similar to physics, molecular biology is a major that takes a long to complete. Not just that, a bachelor’s degree may likely not suffice your needs to find a respectable and well-paid job. Instead, you will likely have to go through several specializations as well as get a doctoral degree.

Not surprisingly, the average study time per week exceeds 17 hours which can be quite stressful for students who are not used to working in the lab for an extended amounts of time.

Also, the average GPA is low compared to some other majors, yet the work that has to be done throughout the studies is pretty vast.

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All in all, there’s not much luck to find a respectable job right after graduating, at least without the corresponding specialization degree. That can put a lot of stress on students who spent a long time studying and working at internships to pass certain classes.

7. Electrical Engineering

Average studying time per week: 18-20h

Electrical engineering is one of the most popular engineering majors and it attracts a lot of students fighting for their spot at university or college every year. However, not many of those students remain until the end of the major, with many giving up before the freshman year is complete.

The return of investment is indeed pretty high, but students have to face both thick and thin during their studying days and learn about various topics that will be a requirement in future job positions. It also requires a lot of studying every week, with frequent tests, laboratory examinations, and midterm exams.

The lab classes usually take long and students find it difficult to balance between the theoretical and practical work. That’s why electrical engineering is considered one of the most stressful majors.

8. Chemical Engineering

Average studying time per week: 20-24h

Chemical engineering is a major with some of the most opportunities for future graduates. But, just like every other STEM discipline, it requires a lot of work, giving up, and discipline. What’s more, is that students have to learn how to balance the theoretical curriculum with that practical inside the laboratory.

It’s no secret that the chemical engineering degree offers a huge return of investment if you’re lucky enough to find a proper and respectable job.

However, more often than not, bachelor’s degree graduates are tasked to complete additional specializations like the Master or Doctoral degree to have a better opportunity at certain jobs as well as join the academia and come up with great achievements as researchers.

9. Medicine & Healthcare

Average studying time per week: 20-25h

Medicine and healthcare majors are both broad terms, but, since we already mentioned nursing above, these are the studies that will prepare you to become a general practitioner or earn a specialization in a certain field.

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They are both stressful for several reasons. First, they take a long time to complete, the degree for a pediatrician or a doctor who is a general practitioner can take at least 6 years plus the specialization. The doctoral studies can take between 3 and 5 more years.

Additionally, it includes a lot of theoretical studies and wide and heavy textbooks that need to be absorbed in the long term. Lastly, there are a lot of ethical questions and moral concerns given that doctors are entrusted with human lives.

10. Law

Average studying time per week: 15-18h

Some will say that law schools are not that hard, but to become a lawyer or another profession in the legal waters, one has to go through years of studying and thorough specialization. There are different titles that law graduates earn that enable them to become a judge, attorney or a lawyer.

More importantly, law students have to be knowledgeable both about the ancient laws like the Roman law, as well as the legal systems around the world. This knowledge can be stressful for a lot of people, and many give up on studying before completing their major.

Tips To Choose The Right Major

A lot of stress regarding studying at certain degree plan stems from the fact that students don’t choose majors that they’re interested in or they fit their skills and abilities. The ACT, College Choice conducted a report on preferences for students graduating high schools.

About 80% of students taking the survey selected the major that they wanted to pick once they went to college. However, about 65% of the participants chose the major that didn’t reflect their grades, skills or general interests.

That’s why it’s important to work with your advisors, take a look at your grades and think deeply about the major you’re choosing, as your college life determines the scope of your career path.

Some majors can be stressful, but the stress may stem because secretly you’re not that interested in those majors. Here are a few tips that will help you recognize the right major for you.

  • Consider your interests and hobbies, as well as things that you’re good at doing. There’s nothing wrong with asking your parents, teachers, or advisors about what majors could be good for you.
  • How much time do you want to spend studying on weekly basis? If you don’t want to spend the entire weekend and weekdays studying and catching up on the classes you took, you shouldn’t consider the most demanding topics from this list.
  • What do you want to do in the future? Your major will influence your career path in the future, make sure to choose wisely.
  • Will the major I choose to have a good return on investment? Some majors have a great return on investment but are incredibly challenging and stressful. Some majors can be easy and laid-back to complete but finding a job is incredibly difficult. Even if you don’t want to become super-rich with your degree, it’s important to consider a major that will lead to a prospective career.

Also Read:9 Low-Stress Jobs That Pay Well Without a Degree ($40.000 is a good starting point)


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