10 Easiest and Hardest Science Majors – 2024

February 10, 2024

easiest and hardest science majors

When you think of the word “science,” a few images may come to mind: steaming green beakers, soaring rocket ships, and Albert Einstein standing before a chalkboard backdrop of complicated physics equations. But when it comes to studying and working in an actual scientific career, science is a much broader and more nuanced field, encompassing dozens of major options. Some of these potential careers certainly do include labs and space travel, but many more deal in human relations, civic participation and collaboration, and behind-the-scenes tinkering and creating for corporations selling products, services and apps. If you’re considering a career in science, you may be wondering: what exactly do I want to do with my science degree when I graduate? And to get that degree, what are the easiest science majors I could study? What are the hardest science majors?

How to Determine the Easiest and Hardest Science Majors?

In compiling a list below of the easiest and hardest science majors, a main factor we want you to consider is your own qualifications for what makes a major “easy” or “hard.”

“Easiest” and “hardest” are subjective terms – what might be the easiest science major for you might be the absolute hardest science major for someone else! If you’re a hopeful psychology major, you may love calculating the statistical likelihood of mental and social behavior, but determining a titration volume and computing a chemical quantity might feel like a herculean task. You may find empirically examining living organisms and dynamic environmental systems fascinating while your fellow scientists may relish the stark certainty of mathematical solutions.

In general, however, science majors are often ranked as more difficult than non-science majors (check out our list of hardest college majors, half of which are in the sciences, and our list of easiest college majors, which only includes psychology). As you whittle your search and try to determine what sounds “hard” and “easy” to you, you may want to consider: what kinds of courses will I complete within this major?? Will I still need to go to grad school for my desired job, even after I achieve my bachelor’s degree? What jobs can I expect to attain? What kind of return on investment (ahem, future salary!) can I hope for? Perhaps most importantly: am I actually interested in this branch of science? Answering these questions can hopefully help you make a more informed decision about the types of science majors you find appealing.

Interest: the Key to the Easiest Science Majors?

So, what might make a field the easiest science major for you? Your own interest and strengths! This may seem obvious, but as you map out your career plans and draft your Common App essays, it can be easy to forget something fundamental about choosing your major: you should choose to study something you like (if not love)!

Put simply, not liking your major can result in burnout and poor grades.[i] What’s more, students who don’t like their courses are more likely to switch not just majors, but also schools – around one-third of college students transfer, and a top reason is dissatisfaction with one’s original major choice. In particular, students majoring in a science might be more likely to switch majors than others: in 2017, while 35% of students who originally declared a STEM major switched majors, only 29% of those in non-STEM fields did so.[ii] [iii]

While there is absolutely nothing wrong with transferring or changing majors, it’s better to do so for positive reasons (e.g. transferring into an Ivy League, moving to a more desired location, or being inspired to pursue your true calling) rather than negative ones (e.g. repeatedly failing your chemistry lab). And unless you’re a self-made billionaire who’s just going to college for fun, you probably won’t want to spend even more money on tuition and extra time on courses you don’t need.

Salary Estimates for the Easiest and Hardest Science Majors

Below, we’ve included median salary estimates for each of the easiest and hardest science majors – an important factor, as return on investment is a crucial consideration when choosing your course of study. The salary figures listed are estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2022. Please note that these are averages that include median data from mid- and late-career salaries, along with salaries from entry-level positions. In other words, these numbers can only give you a rough estimate of what you may earn by mid-career in each major – your actual job choice, location, and years on the job will dramatically affect these numbers!

Finally, it’s worth remembering that if you are determined, hard-working, and a little lucky, you can succeed in almost any field or major.

Easiest Science Majors

1) Psychology

Psychology majors don’t need to strictly imagine a future with clipboards in their hands and patients lying on leather couches before them – the field is dynamic and encompasses jobs in rehabilitation, workplace and school counseling, social work, business and human resources. To become an actual psychologist, you can expect to go to graduate school for a master’s degree or even a Ph.D. (around 50% of psychology majors go to grad school). To practice, you will also need a psychology license – each state has different requirements to obtain one.

2) Environmental Science

Just because we’ve listed environmental science as one of the easiest science majors, that doesn’t mean that it’s not an important one! Environmental scientists study the natural world to positively affect change in many career fields: government, green consultation for businesses, oil and gas exploration, public health and safety, conservation science, ecosystem protection and surveying. Not to mention they are often actively fighting climate change. Environmental scientists can also expect a 6% increase in jobs over the next decade, which is higher than average.

Easiest Science Majors (Continued)

3) Nutrition sciences

Nutrition sciences is one of the easiest science majors that can lead to a wide array of potential careers. Whether you hope to start your own wellness business or use nutrition science as a springboard for medical school or a career in public health, this degree will help get you there. Hospitals, rehabilitations centers, nursing homes, government centers, clinics, and cafeterias all hire dietitians to offer outpatient counseling and supervise nutrition on-site, making this a field with many employment opportunities. Many nutritionists will need to complete a bachelor’s degree and possibly an internship or a licensure (depending on the state in which you’ll work).

  • Courses: Biology, Biochemistry, Human Physiology, Research Methods, Microbiology, Public Health, and courses in Food and Culture.
  • Median Pay: $66,450
  • Related: Best Colleges for Nutrition

4) Agricultural Science

If you have a green thumb or an interest in sustainability, agricultural science is one of the easiest science majors that might just be the right fit for you. This field is expected to see 6% growth in the next ten years. Additionally, it encompasses a variety of nature-based jobs in both the government and private sector, including: arboriculture and forestry, sustainable farming, soil science, marine and coastal biology, public health and sustainable environmental design. Depending on your intended career, you may ultimately pursue a master’s degree or a Ph.D. As you choose, you may also want to consider where you’d like to work: in a lab? A government or business office? The field?

  • Courses: Biology, Chemistry, Research Methods, Marine Science, Plant Science, Nutrition Science, Conservation, Environmental Toxicology.
  • Median Pay: $74,940
  • Related: Top Environmental Science Programs

Easiest Science Majors (Continued)

5) Information Systems

Information systems is a fascinating field that lies at the intersection between computer science, business, and human interaction: an information systems student makes “smart” systems smarter. The corporate and government worlds are teeming with career options for students who major in this field. You might find yourself working as a consultant who improves user interfaces on company apps or websites, tracking trends for social media platforms, or even designing technological tools to support public health, public policy and government transparency. We’ve listed this as one of the easiest science majors because it is so versatile (and lucrative) – you can expect innovative and exciting career opportunities with this degree, which is primed to see 15% growth in the next decade.

  • Courses: Computer Science, Data Analytics, Mathematics, Health Information Systems, Technical Support and Cybersecurity. You can also expect to take on internships and team-based projects while you’re in school.
  • Median Pay: $165,000
  • Related: Best Colleges for Information Systems

6) Geology

You might not think that the study of rocks is one that’s very profitable (or indeed, very interesting), but a degree in geology can lead to a variety of careers. Geologists find themselves working for oil and mining corporations, consulting for civil engineers and advising government agencies in sustainability. With this degree, you might consider whether your interests are more theoretical or hands-on: would you rather spend your days in a lab as a researcher or in the field as a professor? Or would you love to work as a geological technician or engineer, helping companies explore and extract natural resources?

  • Courses: Chemistry, Earth Sciences, Structural Geology, Earth Dynamics, Climate Systems, Field Geology, Research Methods, and courses on the Anthropocene.
  • Median Pay for Geological Technicians: $49,590
  • Median Pay for Geological Engineers: $97,490
  • Median Pay for Geoscientists: $87,480
  • Related: Best Colleges for Geology

Easiest Science Majors (Continued)

7) Statistics

From the outside, it may seem dull to look at numbers and probabilities all day, but statisticians calculate everything from political elections to business viability to sports outcomes. What’s more, the field of statistics is expected to grow by at least 30% over the next ten years – a much faster growth rate than in most other fields. We’ve listed this major as one of the easiest science majors because of its versatility and its potential for such growth. While some positions are available to those with a bachelor’s degree, budding statisticians may also anticipate earning a master’s degree as well.

  • Courses: Calculus, Data Analysis, Game Theory, Probability, Research Methods, Statistical Learning and Inference, Machine Learning, Biostatistics and Numerical Analysis.
  • Median Pay: $99,960
  • Related: Best Colleges for Statistics

8) Marine Biology, Zoology / Animal Sciences

If you’ve always known you want a career involving animals, a major in animal sciences, zoology, or marine biology may just be for you! Similar to environmental science majors, students in these animal-loving fields can find themselves useful in government and private sectors as consultants on sustainability. Students with a degree in animal sciences may work immediately in animal management (in kennels, zoos, stables, shelters, aquariums or stores), or may pursue graduate school to complete advanced research in the field. Finally, you may pursue a bachelor’s degree in zoology so you can ultimately enroll in veterinary school. This field is expected to grow by 16% over the next decade, providing ample opportunities for employment.

  • Courses: Biology (including Molecular Biology), Chemistry (particularly Biochemistry), Mathematics, Physics, Physical Sciences, Geology, Oceanography
  • Median Pay for Animal Caretakers and Service: $29,790
  • Median Pay for Animal Trainers: $35,620
  • Median Pay for Veterinarians: $103,260
  • Related: Best Colleges for Animal Science  Best Marine Biology Colleges

Easiest Science Majors (Continued)

9) Civil Engineering

Elsewhere, we’ve listed civil engineering as one of the easiest engineering degrees because there is a “low threshold for understanding the concepts” involved in the degree: civil engineers work to improve infrastructure, design sustainable power, sewage and water systems, and help fortify buildings for safe and lasting use. In addition, this is one of the easiest science majors because we can expect this field to grow by about 5% over the next ten years and civil engineers can often begin work with a bachelor’s degree (though you’ll probably need state-specific licensure to practice).

10) Computer Science

Computer scientists can find themselves working in numerous ways: designing data communication networks, writing and modifying code, analyzing systems, securing and storing data, developing software or even (ahem, AI) revolutionizing the entire world. Not to mention, it’s one of the highest paying college majors you can find. We’ve listed it as one of the easiest science majors, but whether you need to go to graduate school or can expect a readily available job in computer science will strongly depend on your choice of career. For instance, while both computer systems analysts and computer programmers can often begin work with a bachelor’s degree, systems analysis is set to grow by 10% in the next decade, while programming can expect a decline in growth by 11%.

Hardest Science Majors

1) Chemical Engineering

Chemical engineering is listed as one of the hardest science majors because you can expect to dive directly into difficult, major-specific courses. Additionally, engineering majors in general have some of the highest rates of attrition: an estimated 50% of engineering students change majors or drop out before graduating.[v] If these facts don’t deter you, however, chemical engineering can be a lucrative and versatile major! You can expect to work in any of the following fields: pharmaceuticals, oil and minerals, nuclear energy, or environmental sustainability. Graduate school in chemical engineering is not always necessary, though many employers value job candidates who have had internship experience if they are applying with only a bachelor’s degree. Finally, the field is growing swiftly (we can expect an 8% growth over the next decade).

  • Courses: Chemistry (organic and inorganic), Physics, General Engineering, Calculus, Computer Science, Thermodynamics and Biology, plus career-specific courses tailored toward the student’s particular interests (e.g. Nuclear Engineering vs. Bioengineering)
  • Median Pay: $106,260
  • Related: Different Types of Engineering Majors   So You Want to Be an Engineer…

2) Aerospace Engineering

Perhaps you’ve wanted to design airplanes since you first rode on one as a child – or maybe you’ve been to space camp every year since grade school. Or maybe you’re just learning that aerospace engineering is one of the most profitable fields out there, with a chance for 6% growth over the next decade and dynamic career options in defense, commercial flight, and even space travel. Whatever the reason for your interest in this field, it’s worth knowing that aerospace engineering is one of the hardest science majors out there, with a no-nonsense course load and a grueling curriculum filled with mathematics and physics. But if this is your dream major, don’t let this deter you – get out there and soar!

  • Courses: Physics, Mathematics, Propulsion, Structural Design, Aero- and Astrodynamics, Structures and Materials, and Research Methods
  • Median Pay: $126,880
  • Related: Best Colleges for Aerospace Engineering

Hardest Science Majors (Continued)

3) Biology

Many students use a bachelor’s degree in biology as a starting point for medical, dental, or veterinary school. This field, however, is a broad one that can additionally serve as an entryway for careers in botany, genetics, environmental science, zoology, nursing, ecology, microbiology and immunology, pharmaceuticals and forensic science. Depending on your career of choice, you may find that biology can be one of the easiest or hardest science majors (e.g. if you’re going to be a physician, you’ll need to spend at least 6-13 years in med school and a residency).[vi] Most careers in biology will see around 3%-5% growth over the next decade.

  • Courses: Introductory Biology, Plant Biology, Genetics, Microbiology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Environmental Science, Research Methods
  • Physician Median Pay: $229,300
  • Dentist Median Pay: $159,530
  • Microbiologist Median Pay: $81,990
  • Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists: $67,450
  • Biological Technician Median Pay: $49,650
  • Related: Best Colleges for Biology

4) Chemistry

Like biology, chemistry is incredibly versatile, even if it is one of the hardest science majors. Many chemistry majors go on to become physicians, researchers, engineers, pharmaceutical developers, forensic scientists, patent agents, professors and lab technicians. To become a chemist, you’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree, though most research-based positions will require a master’s or a Ph.D. as well. The field itself is also expanding, with a 6% growth rate.

  • Courses: Chemistry (organic and inorganic), Computational Chemistry, Analytical Chemistry, General Physics, Calculus, Chemical and Statistical Thermodynamics, and Research Methods
  • Median Pay: $81,810
  • Related: Best Colleges for Chemistry

Hardest Science Majors (Continued)

5) Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Although “biochemistry and molecular biology” is a mouthful, careers in these fields are ultimately some of the most lucrative. Graduates with degrees in these hardest science majors can expect jobs in the pharmaceutical, medical, genetics, immunology, forensics, ecology and toxicology fields. If you’re considering majoring in biochemistry or molecular biology, you should note that many jobs in these fields require a Ph.D. (especially to conduct research) and your workplace environment may be primarily situated inside a lab or behind a computer screen. If that sounds like your cup (or beaker!) of tea, you should be excited to learn that this field is expected to grow by 7% in the next ten years.

6) Mathematics

Along with biology and chemistry, mathematics majors can find themselves with a wealth of career opportunities upon graduation. Maybe you’d like to major in math because you know it can lead to careers in business, medicine, finance, engineering, or even law. Or perhaps you simply long to luxuriate in numbers and want to become a teacher or professor of mathematics. If you’re gifted with math, you might not find mathematics to be one of the hardest science majors at all; however, your career choice will greatly affect your course load, potential years spent in graduate school, and your ultimate return on investment.

Hardest Science Majors (Continued)

7) Physics

Okay, Einstein! If you’re interested in this field, which is arguably one of the hardest science majors (at least stereotypically, anyway), chances are that you’re at least a little bit brilliant. At least 45% of students who earn a bachelor’s degree in physics will go on to pursue a master’s or Ph.D. in physics or related fields. In general, this adaptable major will instill you with transferable skills in a growing field (expect 5% growth within ten years) and highly profitable career options in astrophysics, engineering, applied physics, teaching, research, nuclear power or even astronomy.

8) Electrical Engineering

As we’ve noted above, engineering majors face some of the highest rates of attrition, and those who do leave the major have “demonstrated statistically significant decreases in their general impressions of engineering, enjoyment of math and science courses, confidence in chemistry, and perception of the engineering profession.”[vii] However, if you’re willing and able to stick it out, you can expect a lucrative salary and a 5% growth in the field over the next ten years. In other words, though it’s one of the hardest science majors, the payoffs are great. After securing a bachelor’s in electrical engineering you can expect to find a high starting salary and employment opportunities in research and development, robotics, infrastructure, government, telecommunications, manufacturing, or even gaming!

Hardest Science Majors (Continued)

9) Neuroscience

This fascinating major explores the function, structure, and development of the nervous system; students who study neuroscience may take on careers in fields as diverse as linguistics, psychology, engineering, computer science or medicine. Because this major is so widely applicable, many students use it as a springboard for graduate school or medical school. As with many of the other hardest science majors, the salary and expected field growth within neuroscience will vary widely, depending on a student’s choice of career.

  • Courses: Biology, Chemistry, Statistics, Human Neuroscience, Psychology, Anatomy
  • Medical Scientist Median Pay: $99,930
  • Psychologist Median Pay: $85,330
  • Related: Best Colleges for Neuroscience

10) Materials Science

Materials science is an interdisciplinary field that examines the physical properties of matter to optimize material utilization in tools and structures. In other words, materials scientists explore how we can make and better use of materials. Materials science majors may ultimately seek careers in the medical field, bioengineering artificial limbs or more efficient diagnostic tools. They may work in environmental engineering, exploring new ways to optimize sustainability. Or they may find themselves consulting for automotive, aerospace, or electronics businesses to create better products. Most students with a materials science degree can expect to need internship experience in this diverse field (with an expected 5% growth in the next ten years).

Easiest & Hardest Science Majors – Works Cited

[i] American College Health Association: National College Health Assessment. Fall 2017 Reference Group Executive Summary.  https://www.acha.org/documents/ncha/NCHA-II_FALL_2017_REFERENCE_GROUP_EXECUTIVE_SUMMARY.pdf

[ii] Beginning College Students Who Change Their Majors Within 3 Years of Enrollment. National Center for Educational Statistics. Data Point December 2017. https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2018/2018434/index.asp#:~:text=About%20one%2Dthird%20of%20students,percent%20of%20bachelor’s%20degree%20students.

[iii] Chen, Xianglei and Matthew Soldner. STEM Attrition: College Students’ Paths Into and Out of STEM Fields. National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education. November 2013.

[iv] Salary figures are estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2022 Occupational Outlook Handbook. Please note that these are averages that include median data from mid- and late-career salaries, along with salaries from entry-level positions. In other words, these numbers can give you a rough estimate of what you may earn by mid-career in each major.

[v] Shuman, Larry J., Cheryl Delaney, Harvey Wolfe, Alejandro Scalise. Engineering Attrition: Student Characteristics and Educational Initiatives. Engineering Education: Assessment Methodologies and Curricula Innovations. 20 June 1999.

[vi] Wood, Sarah. How Long is Medical School and What is it Like?. U.S. News and World Report. 12 January 2024.

[vii] Shuman, Larry J., Cheryl Delaney, Harvey Wolfe, Alejandro Scalise. Engineering Attrition: Student Characteristics and Educational Initiatives. Engineering Education: Assessment Methodologies and Curricula Innovations. 20 June 1999.