15 Hardest Degree Subjects Ranked by Oxford Royale Academy 2024

Students pursuing these fields must work hard, and learn their chosen subject with passion.

Hardest Degree Subjects: Embarking on the journey of higher education is a significant milestone in one’s life, marked by intellectual growth, personal development, and the pursuit of knowledge. While every academic pursuit comes with its own set of challenges and rewards, some degree subjects are renowned for their rigorous demands and formidable academic hurdles. Oxford Royale Academy, a respected institution known for its commitment to educational excellence, has compiled a list of the 15 hardest degree subjects. Let’s delve into this ranking, exploring the intricacies of each discipline and uncovering the factors that contribute to their reputation as academic juggernauts.

What are the hardest degree subjects?

The hardest degree subjects are Aerospace Engineering, Law, Chartered Accountancy, Architecture, Chemistry, Medicine, Pharmacy, Psychology, Statistics, Nursing, Physics, Astrophysics, Biomedical Engineering, Astronomy, and Dentistry.

Let’s dive right in, and look at why these courses are the hardest degree subjects.

Aerospace Engineering

Aerospace Engineering

Aerospace Engineers study the design, manufacturing and testing of aircrafts. The study can be divided into aeronautical, astronautical, and avionics. Studying aerospace engineering opens the door to many integral careers in today’s society and allows you to work with aeroplanes, jets, missiles, spacecrafts, and satellites.

It is an extremely rewarding subject, but there is a reason it is one of the most difficult degrees. You must be skilled in multiple mathematics principles, including calculus, trigonometry and algebra, as well as having apt design and writing skills. The subject is based in practical applications, so you must also have good critical thinking and problem solving abilities.

Law

Law

Law is officially the hardest subject to get a first class degree in4, so we all know it’s hard going. If you think you know what it’s like to have a lot of reading, go and talk to a Law student. Except that you probably won’t find any, because they’ll be in the Law library, reading. If you want to study Law, get ready for many, many hours with your nose in Law books.

While you’ll learn fast how to pick up the vital details from masses of text, there are no shortcuts when it comes to Law. You’ll need a detailed understanding of the legislature on different issues in different countries, surrounding, so that you can interpret them well when it comes to exams.

Chartered Accountancy

Chartered Accountancy

Chartered Accountancy is the realm of accounting that is officially accredited by trusted bodies, including the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. One of the reasons this is a difficult degree to undertake is that it includes a three year accountancy degree, followed by up to three more years of training, or a longer degree that is accredited by the right bodies. Students often say that the hardest part of the process is waiting for the day they become fully accredited,as  this can take many years, and there are no milestones along the way to fill the gap.

An accounting degree sets students on a strong career path in business and finance, but in order to gain the benefits, students of accounting must have a comprehensive understanding of the field. You must have good mathematical skills as well as, often, computer science skills. Your degree will require you to have good analytical and problem solving skills, as well as background knowledge– or the willingness to learn– business management and economic principles.

Architecture

Architecture

Architecture is one of those degrees that we wish was easy. Who doesn’t want to wander around the city, pointing out a stunning building and saying: “I built that”?. But the truth is, Architecture is extremely challenging, and in some cases, as hard as a medical degree in terms of length and intensity.

Sadly, Architecture is not just sitting around drawing cool design plans. You have to be good at maths, and have enough understanding of geometry, trigonometry and algebra to plan out the dimensions, quantities, volumes and areas of buildings. Not only this, but four years of an Architecture degree is only the beginning of becoming a professional architect.

Chemistry

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.

Medicine

Medicine

It’s no secret that Medicine is one of the hardest degrees in the world, not least because courses are so competitive. UCAS figures show that 29,710 people applied to study medicine in the UK in 2022. The number of applicants from the four countries of the UK shot up 3.5%  from last year.

With acceptance rates for Medicine at only 12.1% (Oxford University) and, in some cases, as low as 5% (Aston Medical School, Birmingham), the course is undoubtedly rigorous.

Pharmacy

Pharmacy

Pharmacy is one of the least well known degrees, and one of the most extraordinarily  challenging. Not only will you immerse yourself in the complex science and makeup of medicines, you’ll also have to do many hours of clinical placements, to learn how to become an experienced healthcare professional.

Pharmacy is one of the toughest subjects because it encompasses practically every part of science. Just one science subject is hard (we’re looking at you, Chemistry), but for Pharmacy you need an understanding of inorganic and organic chemistry, as well as biology in order to understand human anatomy, and how medicines interact with it.

Psychology

Psychology

Psychology is the scientific study of the human mind, particularly in relation to behaviour and functionality. As with some of the other degrees mentioned, psychology is challenging due to the rigorous academic expectations in a number of fields, not just one. You will need to be skilled and interested in both the scientific and social aspects of psychology, including biology and evolution, social anthropology, politics, philosophy, and sociology.

There are numerous avenues that you can specialise in when studying a psychology degree, and you will be expected to become familiar– at least– with them all, which could include subjects such as Social and Developmental Psychology, Neuroscience and Cognitive Function, and Experimental Psychology.

Statistics

Statistics

Statistics, or statistical science, is the study of data. A statistician uses mathematical principles to determine what types of data are needed in numerous different scenarios, how to collect such data, and how to appropriately analyse data in order to answer specific questions. If that sounds slightly ambiguous compared to other degree outlines, it’s because it is. Statistics is a degree that is applied across hundreds of careers: data analytics, financial risk analysis, operational research, economics, financial trading, as well as general statistical analysis.

Statistics in itself and how to apply statistics in a useful manner is a hard concept in itself to grasp, and the degree is made harder through the rigorous academic expectations that are set. When studying Statistics you must be adept in calculus, linear algebra and probability, strong computer science skills, analytical and problem solving skills, and matrix methods. What distinguishes statistics from other analytical subjects like computer science is that you also need excellent communication and people skills, as a key part of the practice is being able to accurately and succinctly interpret and convey data on a large scale, often to people who may not be as well versed in data analysis.

Nursing

Nursing

As with Medicine and Dentistry, Nursing is one of the hardest degrees, for good reason. As a nursing professional you would be responsible for the health and care of a number of patients. Good programmes take a rigorous and immersive approach to prepare you for patient care. You will have pressing deadlines, lab skills to master, and essential exams to undertake. It is an exhaustive practice, but highly rewarding.

At degree level you will be required to learn both the practical skills of nursing and the extensive background knowledge. As a nursing student, you must be able to understand the concepts of equity, equality and diversity and how they apply to healthcare. You need to grasp the global context of environmental determinants of health, as well as having the basic understanding of bioscience and its application to nursing. The large amounts of theoretical and practical knowledge highlights the difficulty of the degree.

Physics

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 which 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.

Astrophysics

Astrophysics

Astrophysics is the branch of physics that studies objects outside of our solar system, a combination of both Physics and Astronomy that covers subject matter from planets and stars to galaxies and blackholes. Astrophysics specifically looks into the interactions between astronomical objects and their interactions with physical conditions, including gravity.

Astrophysicists must have a good grasp on physics, astronomy, and maths. If one of these subjects is your weak spot, you will find astrophysics difficult, as the interaction between these disciplines is crucial to the subject.

Biomedical Engineering

Biomedical Engineering

Once again, Biomedical Engineering is a degree that requires the study of many subjects all at once. The subject itself requires the problem solving skills of engineering with the aim of developing new technology and equipment to improve human health.

The subject is a combination of biology, chemistry, computer science, physics, mathematics, and medical science. This interdisciplinary field of study requires the ability to tackle medical and engineering principles together– a tricky combination of two subjects that are incredibly hard studied alone.

Astronomy

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 failure, 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.

Dentistry

Dentistry

Dentistry, like medicine, is an important profession, and if you wish to study it at university you must be prepared to undertake high volumes of both theoretical and practical work.

You need an interest and background in biology, chemistry, and mathematics, as well as having the fine motor skills required for dentistry.

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