The 5 Hardest Business Majors: Ultimate Guide (2021 Updated!)

Business is an extremely popular major, with thousands of people graduating from it each year. In fact, it is so popular that a 5th of university degrees conferred in the year 2016-2017 was in business, by far the majority of them, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Business is a diverse field, with many different majors to pick from. Some majors are definitely harder than others, mostly because of what they deal with.

Are you more interested in the problems of the economy in general? Or do you want to work in a business? Do you like math? Are you more of an analytical thinker?

These are all questions you should answer before picking your major. Analyze your interests and strength, to pick the right one for you. Business has so many applications that you will definitely find the right major for you if you make a conscious effort of understanding yourself.

In this article, you are going to learn about the hardest business majors, and what makes them so.

Naturally, there are outside factors that can impact this ranking, like what school you attend, and your professors. It’s possible for a harder major to end up being easier than supposedly-easier ones purely because you went to a certain school.

Earning a business degree will prepare you for a long and fruitful career. Businesses are always looking for great employees who could give their company a boost.

Analyze your Interests and Strengths

This might sound like an obvious platitude. Which it is. Somewhat. You need to have an interest in what you are going to study. You’re going to spend years and a lot of money at a college to earn your degree. The least you could do for yourself is putting in the right amount of effort.

Your strengths can also give you guidance. Not all majors are created equal. Some, like finance rely more on analytical skills than hard math, whereas accounting is more about math and knowing how the accounting system works.

Interests can also guide you in picking a major that will result in the right career for you. Some majors lend into a career full of long hours and monetary returns. Other people might be looking for a more modest life. Do not ignore these clues!

What Makes a Business Major Hard?

Since business is such a popular degree, you can expect some of its majors to be relatively easy compared to other fields such as nursing or engineering. That is partially true. The average business major is easier than the average engineering major.

But average doesn’t mean much.

We are looking for the hardest majors, which are about as hard as the hardest majors in other fields.

Let’s see what makes them difficult.

Reliance on Math

Math is important for any business, doubly so for some business majors. Some business majors aren’t as demanding though, so definitely consider how much math knowledge you’ll need to succeed.

If you hate math, stay away from majors like Economics and Finance, as they require a lot of complex math, whereas a major like Human Resources won’t need it as much.

Also Read: What Majors Don’t Require Math?

math is hard
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Analytical Skills

Analytical skills are crucial in today’s world, but not all majors need advanced analytical skills. You’ll find that some don’t really need anything beyond the basics. Analytical skills can be trained like any other skill, so don’t get discouraged if you feel like they aren’t your forte.

Examples of majors requiring advanced analytical skills are Marketing and Management Information Systems. Compare it with something like Accounting, where it’s more about knowing what to do in each situation from a law standpoint.

How Often Does the Field Changes?

This is more about your work career than the academic path per se, but it’s still a factor to consider. Getting a job in accounting, for example, will require you to keep up with the government and its tax laws. Economics on the other hand relies more on general principles.

Still, depending on how willing you are to keep up with new information as the field progresses, you should pick the right major for you.

The School you Attend

It’s a fact that some schools are harder than others. There’s no other way around it. You can measure how hard a school is by checking its acceptance rates, and its graduation rates.

For example, the hardest business schools to get into are Stanford, MIT, and Harvard. Getting into Stanford’s business majors is so hard that the acceptance rate for these programs is of only 6.9%.  The other two have almost double the rate.

The 5 Hardest Business Majors

Now that you know what makes a major harder than others, you will have no issues understanding how we made this list. We tried to be as objective as possible, but of course you are the ultimate judge. There are plenty of people who thrive completing the hardest business majors, and you might just be one of them.

1. Finance

The world of finance is fascinating. In this major, you’ll learn about stocks, bonds, derivatives, and anything else related to finance.

How did it get to the top of our list?

Finance is an ever-changing field. It’s true that the fundamentals are always the same, and that things like technical analysis are always going to be there for you to rely on, but that doesn’t mean it’s any easy to learn and apply them.

Think about it: not even investment banks with decades of experience in the field can guarantee returns in the stock market. That’s how complex the field is.

Majoring in finance will equip you with advanced analytical skills, as well as knowledge about advanced math.

Another reason that propelled this major up here is how complicated finance is in the real world, not just in academia. So many people try their hand at finance and end up losing everything. Even people with a solid understanding of the market.

2. Economics

Economics is another hugely complicated field. There are many schools of thought when it comes to finance, and we still haven’t figured out which one works best for humans.

Economics is complicated because it deals with incomplete information, and it’s hard to predict the impact of an economic theory before testing it.

If hearing names like Keynes, Böhm-Bawerk, von Mises, Marx, and their contribution to the field of economics sounds interesting, then this might be a good major for you.

Economics is more focused on general topics such as macro and microeconomics, and it feels more like a philosophy course at times, since you’ll read the works of the greats I mentioned, and debate them. It’s less about math and more about principles.

Naturally, the more advanced classes are still full of complex math and statistics. How else are you supposed to calculate whether an economic theory is sound? Statistics play an important role in the teaching of economics. If your math skills aren’t up to speed, you might find it hard to progress through the more advanced economic classes.  

Another factor that makes economics hard is that it can be hard to apply its principles in the real world. There’s a lot of theory, and most of it doesn’t bode well with the way our current system is set up.

3. Management of Information Systems (MIS)

An ever-increasing part of business is dealing with information systems. Our world is always connected, and the technological infrastructure of a business is a vital part of most of them.

MIS majors improve a business by creating information systems. These systems will mostly be about managing data in an efficient way. You’re like a weird hybrid of data science and business administration. You make the business’ life easier by making sure all the raw data and information gets visualized and interpreted the right way.

What makes this major so hard is its interdisciplinarity. You still have to learn about business administration, since you need to know which data is relevant to the business. But you will also learn how to make sure the data gets visualized and used properly.

Managing databases and a bit of coding will be your bread and butter. But you’ll also become an expert in all things business. It’s a hard, yet interesting major to pursue. I’d expect many businesses to look for this type of degree in the near future.

Note: do not confuse this with a career in IT. You aren’t there to fix technological issues. You are there to bridge the gap between the technological infrastructure and the other aspects of the business.

4. Accounting

Accounting is a difficult major. Virtually every business needs an accountant, and accounting is a whole world unto itself.  

Accountants deal with the monetary part of businesses. They track expenses, income, and all the weird hybrids in between. One wonders if we even need to do all of that, but apparently, we do.

On the surface, accounting isn’t that complicated compared to the other majors in this list. You don’t need advanced math or analytical skills. But it makes up for it by requiring you to deal with the law system.

Anyone who has ever tried to read our penal code, or any other law code for that matter, without a strong law education knows what I mean. It doesn’t help that you might end up having to completely change things you’ve learned during the course because of new laws.

There are many branches of accounting you can specialize in. You can become a tax expert, or you can work more alongside the financial department of a business.

5. E-Commerce

This is a new major that’s starting to become more and more popular. E-Commerce is a booming industry, and it’s expected to keep growing for the foreseeable future. Business schools understand this, and started offering majors in e-commerce.

Why would this be a hard major? After all, anyone can throw up a store in a couple of hours. Well, opening an online store might be easy on the surface, but opening a successful store is a completely different beast.

You need to understand how the technology works, and you have many limitations that don’t happen with typical brick-and-mortar businesses. For example, you don’t get to personally know your clients, and getting feedback might be hard.

Plus, opening an actual e-commerce store with the features you need means having the technical skills to do so. Security is also extremely important, and the average layperson doesn’t know much about keeping their e-commerce store safe.

Majoring in e-commerce will give you an exciting opportunity to work in this relatively new field, and manage complex systems to sell a product of service to the right people.

Some of the Easiest Business Majors

We’ve been talking a lot about hard majors, but what about the easy ones?

All principles we’ve outlined so far still apply. If you don’t have an interest in the material, the major will feel difficult to you no matter what. You need to put in the work to earn your degree, no matter which school you picked.

I won’t give you a comprehensive explanation for each major. It’s just a list that is complementary to the one about the hardest majors.

  • Marketing

It seems like everyone wants to work in marketing nowadays. That’s cool, I’m a marketing fan myself, but getting a degree in it might be the most useless thing in the world. Marketing is learned by doing, and the field changes so rapidly most things you’ll learn in school will be obsolete by the time you graduate.

  • Business Administration

This major is easy because it’s a mishmash of every other one. You’ll become a jack-of-all-trades. You’ll know a bit about accounting, marketing, economics, finance, and so on. There’s nothing wrong with that, but you’ll hardly get past the introductory-tier of knowledge for each of these fields.

  • Human Resources

This is another general major that will get you to learn about various topics, not all related to the world of business. Human resources majors work in selecting candidates for companies and training them. As you can tell by this description, you don’t really need advanced math or analytical skills. On the other hand, you need strong communication skills and empathy.

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Conclusions

There are many business majors you can pick from, some harder than others. At cost of sounding annoying, I’ll reiterate that picking an easier major doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have an easier time completing it.

Your interests and passions matter a lot, way more than the intrinsic difficulty of the major. For example, if you don’t care about human resources, majoring in it will be a difficult and frustrating ordeal.

Now you’re armed with the knowledge needed to pick the perfect business major for you. You also know what makes a business major hard.

One thing is certain: if you’re (only) in it for the money, you won’t last long in this field. There are people who are extremely passionate out there. They live and breathe business. You won’t hold a candle of them if you don’t put in the needed effort to succeed in business.

What are you waiting for? Pick the best business major for you today. Enrolling early improves your chances of getting accepted!

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