College Majors That Require The Most Effort


If you're college bound, listen up: How much time you spend studying can vary depending on what you decide to major in.

By Danielle Blundell

We all know collAege is a commitment that takes hard work and dedication. But did you know that majoring in business might take a little less hard work andA dedication than something like engineering? According to the most recent annual report by The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) titled "Promoting Student Learning and Institutional Improvement: Lessons from NSSE at 13," the time spent by students on school-related activities does vary depending on what you study.

And Pamela T. Rambo, owner of career and college advising firm Rambo Research and Consulting in Williamsburg, VA, emphatically agrees. "All majors are not created equally - absolutely not. The prep work required for certain subjects and the intensity of the workload definitely differs."

The NSSE report surveyed full-time seniors and teachers enrolled at 31 institutions in 2012 to find out which majors are most demanding. The results are broken down between actual hours of study versus teachers' expected hours of study.

Want to get down to brass tax on how time-consuming each college major is? Keep reading to learn which programs will sentence you to the library and which might offer a little more room for party time.

Area of Study #1 - Engineering

Average Hours Seniors Spent Preparing for Class Per Week*: 18 hours
Average Hours Faculty Expected Seniors to Study Per Week*: 17 hours
Common Majors**: Civil engineering, computer engineering, electrical engineering

Engineering majors top the NSSE survey, reporting more hours of study per week than any other field. And is it really a surprise? According to the College Board, an organization that promotes higher education, engineering majors learn to solve practical problems and help design MP3 players or oil-drilling techniques.

Why It's Time-Consuming: Clearly, engineering majors have a lot on their plates. "Every paragraph you read needs to be dissected for comprehension, and every problem can take hours to solve," explains Rambo says.

Plus, peoples' lives are often at stake as a result of what engineers create, so training in school must be rigorous, says Rambo. "The coursework is demanding for very good reasons. Schools want to train students effectively - no one wants the person whose bridge fails to come from their school," she says.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Engineering Program.

Area of Study #2 - Physical Sciences

Average Hours Seniors Spent Preparing for Class Per Week *: 17 hours
Average Hours Faculty Expected Seniors to Study Per Week*: 18 hours
Common Majors**: Astronomy, chemistry, physics

The physical sciences represent another highly-demanding field of study in the NSSE report. The College Board says physical sciences students examine the non-living physical world's phenomena in subjects like astronomy, geology, and physics. Sounds like some pretty heavy stuff.

Why It's Time-Consuming: According to Rambo, chemistry, physics, and other similar areas of study tend to be time-consuming because of the demanding nature of their related careers. "When you're talking about the physical sciences it's a high-risk, high-reward career where rigorous prep starts in the classroom," she says.

In fact, demanding coursework, she says, is preparation for working in a field that could have a direct impact on people's lives. For example, if you don't have full command of the principles of chemistry or physics, Rambo says, you could develop some drug that has harmful effects. [Six Degrees That Could Pay You Back]

Area of Study #3 - Arts & Humanities

Average Hours Seniors Spent Preparing for Class Per Week *: 17 hours
Average Hours Faculty Expected Seniors to Study Per Week*: 18 hours
Common Majors**: Fine and studio art, philosophy, English

Arts and humanities also require a great deal of out-of-class work, according to the NSSE report. A humanities program is typically interdisciplinary, notes the College Board, involving classes that could cover on art, music, or languages. On the other hand, art majors might study different types of visual arts, such as painting and photography. The one thing that students in both areas probably agree on? Creating a masterpiece requires a lot of time outside of the classroom.

Why It's Time-Consuming: With the arts and humanities, Rambo says time commitment outside the classroom can run the gamut. She notes though that majors like studio art, photography, and graphic design require more hours because of major independent projects and the subjectivity of their completion and evaluation.

"The graphic arts can be very time-consuming because you work and work and work on a project, and there's no formula to follow that says that what you've done is right or perfect," says Rambo. [Four Foolish Majors to Avoid]

Area of Study #4 - Education

Average Hours Seniors Spent Preparing for Class Per Week *: 15 hours
Average Hours Faculty Expected Seniors to Study Per Week*: 15 hours
Common Majors**: Education, special education, early childhood education

Education as an area of study can be very time-consuming, according to the NSSE's findings. And given that the College Board says education programs typically teach students how to manage a classroom and design inspiring lessons and activities, it seems reasonable that those in this major spend some serious time studying outside of class. Courses often span topics like teaching methods, instructional technology, and educational psychology.

Why It's Time-Consuming: Rambo thinks education can be quite a demanding field of study for the student who really wants to excel and motivate his or her own students in their own classroom one day.

"[I]f you really love teaching, you're going to want to put in the effort to be the 'teacher of the year' type one day. And that takes time and focus while you're in school learning the best ways to break information down and manage young minds."

Next step: Click to Find the Right Education Program.

Area of Study #5 - Social Sciences

Average Hours Seniors Spent Preparing for Class Per Week *: 14 hours
Average Hours Faculty Expected Seniors to Study Per Week*: 16 hours
Common Majors**: Communications, psychology, public relations

Human thought and behavior takes time and experience to understand - which is why the social sciences is such a time-consuming area of study. Social sciences students generally study how humans behave, and the different institutions they've formed, such as the government, says the College Board. They'll also learn how to use statistics and do research.

Why It's Time-Consuming: While the social sciences are not as rigorous as the physical sciences, Rambo says that the potential difficulty of high-level coursework could take up a good chunk of your time. This coupled with the lab work required of a major like psychology, for example, can be a time suck.

"In a field like psychology, things begin to pick-up by the third year," says Rambo. "You might be spending tons of time in the labs experimenting with animals or humans."

Next step: Click to Find the Right Psychology Program.

Area of Study #6 - Business

Average Hours Seniors Spent Preparing for Class Per Week *: 14 hours
Average Hours Faculty Expected Seniors to Study Per Week*: 15 hours
Common Majors**: Finance, accounting, business administration and management

Judging from the NSSE report, majoring in business will keep you fairly busy after class is dismissed - though not as busy as the fields detailed above. Business students typically focus on the buying, producing, and selling of goods, says the College Board. They also could take common courses such as accounting, marketing, and management.

Why It's Time-Consuming: It might not demand as much time as other fields of study, but being a business major isn't all fun and games either. For Rambo, business disciplines can sometimes be a bit demanding because of the high-level math skills required and the specific processes that students need to understand to be successful.

"There's tons of terminology in business and formulas that you have to learn to use in problem-solving," says Rambo. "It definitely takes time and experience to master these certain concepts."

Next step: Click to Find the Right Business Program.

* Data on hours of study per week collected by the NSSE from a survey of teachers and full-time students at 31 institutions in 2012. The survey asked seniors to rate how many hours per week they spend studying or preparing for class and asked faculty to rate how many hours per week they expect students to study by selecting one of the following hourly ranges: 0, 1-5, 6-10, 21-25, 26-30, or more than 30. The NSSE calculated the per week average by using the midpoint from each data set of responses.

** Common majors are those listed by the College Board under the corresponding field of study.

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