Are you wondering what is the hardest degree in Guinness World Record? If you are, you’ve come to the right place! In this article, we will shed some light on the term “hard” degree through different criteria and give you an insight into the Guinness World Records categories.
Let’s start by clearing up the issue on the hardest degree. To find the “hardest” degree, you must understand what is by definition a hard degree. This is very subjective because a degree that might seem hard for one person, may seem easy for another. The general belief is that the degree programs in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) disciplines are the “hardest”, but for many students, these study programs feel like “a walk in the park”. Again, we hit a wall! The explanation of the term “hardest” degree is subjective and can’t be simply defined and connected to specific degrees.
The second part of the question concerns the Guinness World Records and its criteria for recognizing records. Guinness World Records encourages the best objectively measurable, breakable, verifiable achievements in the world. The “hardest” degree doesn’t fulfill any of the Guinness World Records criteria, so it is safe to say that there is no official record under the category “Hardest degree in Guinness World Records.” Still, since this topic is on your mind, we did our research to help you get as close as possible to the answer to what seems to be the “hardest” degrees.
Examining the Criteria for a “Hard” Degree
Before we examine the criteria for a “hard” degree, let us remind you there is no objective, measurable data determining which degree is the “hardest”. Some degrees are more challenging than others as a result of a person’s strengths and interests. But that’s not all! To understand the term “hard” degree from a broader perspective you should consider the following criteria:
- The difficulty of the degree’s coursework;
- The individual’s experience during their academic journey;
- The complexity of the subject matter;
- The internships or practicum placements’ requirements;
- The strengths and weaknesses of the learner;
- The dedication of the student;
- The length and workload necessary to complete the program;
- The demand for the degree in the job market;
- The overall difficulty of obtaining the degree (admission requirements and standards).
As you can see many criteria should be considered in identifying a “hard” degree. Having that in mind we have created a list of degrees that may be considered “hard”.
Examples of Degrees that may be considered “Hard”
To stay true to the challenge and answer the question on “hardest” degrees, we created a list of degrees that may be considered “hard” based on the general criteria of a “hard” degree (coursework length and difficulty, severe academic standards and requirements):
A degree in medicine is considered to be the “hardest” because of the rigorous requirements, and the significant amount of time, effort, and dedication necessary to obtain it. According to U.S. News experts’ statements, the fulfillment of these criteria is an absolute must for enrolling, completing, and obtaining one of the “hardest” degrees:
- Admission requirements include good grades and test scores;
- High GPA and Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) that is considered harder than a typical college exam;
- Students work 60-80 hours a week;
- Clinical rotations (students assist experienced doctors in various medical specialties);
- Upper-level medical students perform coursework and clinical work simultaneously which is extremely difficult;
- 4 years of medical schoolto receive either an D. or a D.O. degree;
- Medical training, a residencyin there are if expertise like surgery or radiology;
- Sub-specialization if you want to focus on a specific niche of a medical specialty;
- A decade or longer of training may add up to a medical studentwho subsequently completes a residency and fellowship.
After finishing medical school, future doctors must pass many demanding exams, including the US Medical Licensing to start practicing medicine.
Experts say that obtaining a law degree is both emotionally intense, academically challenging, and time-consuming. To become an aspiring lawyer and earn one of the “hardest” degrees you need to fulfill the following requirements:
- A four-year undergraduate degree before enrolling in law school (three years for full-time students, five years for part-time students);
- Pass the Law School Admission Test (LSAT);
- To earn a Juris Doctor (JD) degree you will need 7 years of schooling (4 years for a bachelor’s degree plus 3 years for a JD);
- To earn a Master of Laws (LLM) degree in a specialized area of law you will need 8 years of schooling (4 years for a bachelor’s plus 3 years for JD from an ABA- Approved Law School plus 1 year for LLM);
- To earn a legal certificate in a particular law subject you will need from three months to three semesters to complete, and most need a bachelor’s degree as a precondition.
Once you finish schooling you have to pass the bar exam in the state where you want to practice law (each state has different licensing requirements). You can also pass the Multistate Bar Exam or the Uniform Bar Exam if the state of your residence allows, and be ready to demonstrate your good moral character.
Engineering is another notoriously “hard” program that takes longer time to graduate than other less difficult degree programs. Here’s what you need to know when starting your educational path to becoming an engineer:
- A GPA of at least 3.0 or proof that you are, at minimum, in the top 25% of your graduating high school class;
- Pass standardized tests;
- 4 to 5 years for a bachelor’s degree in engineering (for full-time students);
- Master’s degree programs are usually finished in two years (for full-time students), while 55,4% of graduate engineering students earn their online master’s degree in 3 years, according to S. News and World Report;
- A Ph.D. in engineering is a research degree and it can take twice as long as a bachelor’s degree and it entails a dissertation and high-level research.
All US states compel engineering graduates to pass the engineers’ licensure exam to offer their services directly to the public. Even though the licensure laws vary from one state to another, these are the usual requests for obtaining a license in engineering:
- You need a bachelor’s degree in engineering from an accredited school by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET);
- You have to pass the exam on Fundamentals of Engineering (FE);
- 4 years of engineering experience.
Finally, you are eligible for the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam test to acquire the level of competency in your specific engineering discipline.
Physics is a very challenging field that studies the basic principles of the universe, energy, and matter and it requires a strong foundation in science, and math, strong critical thinking skills, and sharp problem-solving abilities. No wonder it’s considered one of the “hardest” degrees. The educational path for acquiring all the necessary degrees in physics is as follows:
- You can start with an Associate of Science Degree (AS) which usually takes 2 years and around 60 credits. Coursework varies by field and school, but you need to be prepared for courses like general physics, stars and galaxies, principles of chemistry, and geology;
- To continue your education, you will need a bachelor’s degree that takes 4 years to complete, but students typically take between 4 to 6 years and around 120 credits and a required culminating experience;
- If a BA in physical science is not enough, you may take on a master’s program in the physical sciences that requires around 30 credits and can be finished in 2 years or less;
- If you pursue a Ph.D. in physical science it will usually take 4 to 6 years of your time and 60 or more credits.
Even though the physics major program is different from one school to another, if you decide to choose a physics major you can start by checking out this full list of colleges before making a final choice.
A degree in chemistry is considered to be “hard” as it requires wide and diverse skill and knowledge set in areas ranging from physics to biology to statistics, and a balance of theoretical and practical knowledge. Chemistry is well-known for its test-heavy coursework and the following requirements:
- As a chemistry major be prepared to spend more than 18 hours a week on average preparing for class;
- You can earn an Associate Degree in chemistry in 2 years with coursework that includes the basics of biology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, and general education course;
- For a Bachelor’s degree in chemistry you will need 4 years of laboratory and lecture courses;
- If you decide on a Master’s Degree in chemistry you should know that it varies by school and specialization and it includes around 2 years of coursework;
- Obtaining a doctorate in chemistry can take 3-10 years of your time.
If you decide to take upon the journey of one of the “hardest” degrees make sure to check out the accreditation status of potential schools and programs. Chemistry schools must have regional accreditation making sure they meet educational standards for the field, or programmatic accreditation through the American Chemical Society (ACS). The ACS accreditation stands for academic standards for chemistry education and encourages active training, innovation, and variety in chemistry education.
6. Computer Science
A computer science degree is considered “hard” as it takes a lot of time and effort to study the design principles and computer systems and software development. When pursuing a degree in computer science you will come across the following four levels of computer science degrees:
- Associate Degree in computer science will take 2 years of full-time study and approximately 60 credits, which makes you eligible for entry-level position jobs like computer programmer, web developer, or computer systems administrator;
- A Bachelor’s Degree in computer science will take around 4 years for full-time study and 120 to 128 credits which makes you eligible for entry-level jobs in software design, computer engineering, and computer science;
- Master’s Degree in computer science requires 30 to 45 credits or 18 months to 2 years if you are a full-time student, which makes you eligible for a high-level job as a computer and information research scientist;
- Doctoral Degree in computer science takes from 4 to 5 years to complete and it mainly focuses on research and theory enabling you to get a job as a professor or researcher.
You may also want to consider computer science courses for free before you consider earning your computer science degree.
Mathematics is considered a “hard” degree to pursue because it requires a strong foundation in math and coursework in areas like algebra and geometry. Let’s take a look at the time and coursework credits necessary to earn one of the following degrees in mathematics:
- Associate Degree in mathematics typically includes 60 credits and a possibility for business and financial occupations, financial clerks, claims adjusters, and actuaries;
- Bachelor’s Degree in mathematics typically takes 4 years to complete and includes 120 credits and a possibility to pursue careers like operations research and financial analyst, and accountant or auditor;
- A Master’s Degree in mathematics takes 1-2 years of training and a possibility for a career as a mathematician and statistician, survey researcher, and economist;
- The highest and “hardest” level of education in mathematics, is earning a Ph.D. that takes 4-7 years to finish and a career as a postsecondary teacher, physicist or astronomer, and some economist positions.
We must note once more that the list of degrees that may be considered “hard” is subjective and may vary depending on your skills, level of dedication, understanding of the subject matter, goals, strengths, and weaknesses. But one thing is for sure, they all require a significant amount of time, energy, commitment, and hard work!
Degrees Recognized by Guinness World Records
Now that we know that there is no official record for the “hardest” degree in Guinness World Records we can consider some of the objectively measurable and verifiable records in the world of academia that could be recognized by Guinness World Records:
- The longest degree program: Medicine (at least 11 years in total);
It takes a lot of time and effort to become a doctor. A typical 4-year undergraduate degree, plus another four years to complete medical school, and a residency of 3+ years, so on average, it takes at least 11 years to complete the entire medical training;
- The degree with the highest number of clinical hours: Medicine (over the 10,000-hour rule);
Medical students study and work in a hospital for around 80 hours a week, or around 16,000 hours a year. If you include residency hours after graduation, an M.D. would have around 30,000 hours of clinical work.
Medicine has record qualities, doesn’t it? No wonder it proudly stands as number one on our list of degrees that may be considered “hard”. And that’s not all! Many measurable record-breaking academic categories could be recognized by Guinness World Records. Who knows, maybe medicine wins one!
Alternative Measures of Difficulty
Due to the subjectivity of the topic, it’s wise to study the alternative measures of difficulty in finding the “hardest” degrees. When preparing our list of the degrees that may be considered “hard” we considered many criteria like the degree’s coursework difficulty, length, and workload to have a more reliable outcome. Still, we need to take into account the following measures of difficulty:
- Subjective assessment by students and graduates (ex. assessing the complexity of introductory programming exams to measure the level of questions’ difficulty);
- Rankings by educational institutions and publications (ex. Washington Post ranks average study hours by academic major as a way to measure degree’s difficulty);
- Employment trends and starting salaries for graduates (according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics the occupation with the highest projected employment growth between 2021 and 2023 is nurse practitioner with a growth rate of 46%, while the medical graduates in the following 5 specialties can expect highest-paying salaries: ophthalmologists, physicians, radiologists, psychiatrists, and pathologists- average annual salary of $208,000 or higher).
Factors to Consider When Determining the Hardest Degree
Besides the general criteria for a “hard” degree and the alternative measures of difficulty to get closer to the “hardest” degree we should consider the following factors:
- Students’ aptitude and interest;
You should consider your capabilities when determining the “hardest” degree. There is no “hard” degree if you follow your interest and your abilities, skills, and talent in a certain academic discipline. On the other hand, if you have no regard for your aptitude and interest every degree is “hard”. It is simple, once you choose a major that suits your capacity and potential, the rest is easy! All you have to do is make the most of it and work hard!
- Students’ future career goals and opportunities;
Make sure you add your future goals and employment opportunities when determining the “hardest” degree. Follow your goals and don’t give up just because the degree of your choice is considered “hard”. Usually, with the “hardest” degrees there are plenty of high-paying employment opportunities (average annual lawyers salary of $127,990, engineers salary of $91,010, etc.) to choose from and many chances for career growth. So, don’t let go of your dreams, follow your goals and seize the opportunities that await you, no matter how “hard” the path may seem!
- The required finances and personal sacrifices to earn the degree;
Another factor that determines which degree is considered “hard” concerns finances and the personal sacrifices necessary to earn the degree of your choice. If your mind is set on a specific degree that is considered “hard” you should take into consideration tuition fees, financial aid, and the personal sacrifice necessary to earn it. For example, the average total cost of medical school is $230,296. Because the cost varies due to the school’s type and location it ranges between $159,620 for in-state, public medical schools and $256,412 for out-of-state, private medical schools. However, there are tuition-free medical schools and medical schools that offer financial aid for their students for you to consider. When it comes to personal sacrifice it’s up to you to determine how many hours you are willing to sacrifice for the benefit of earning your degree.
Hopefully, now you know what determines a “hard” degree, what factors to include when deciding on the “hardest” degree, and what degree records could be recognized by the Guinness World Records. But, first things first!
It is essential for you to consider multiple factors, measures and criteria when determining the difficulty of the degree. Also, make sure to put your intelligence, skills, and interest on the weighing scale before you decide whether the degree of your choice is “hard”. Once you examine every criterion and data on our list, you will be more than ready to give an elaborated answer on the topic Hardest Degree in Guinness World Records!