10 Hardest Degrees in the UK, Ranked
Here is our list of the 10 hardest degrees in the UK, ranked with the most difficult at number 1. This will give you an idea of how challenging you might find the subjects are that you are considering
List of 10 Hardest Degrees in the UK, Ranked
Pharmacy is a mandatory degree for those who have ambitions of becoming a Pharmacist, the degree creates strong clinical and scientific foundations for students, making them experts in the use of over-the-counter medicines and treatments to provide care for patients. It encompasses just about every single element of science; you need to know the chemistry of certain medicines, as well as their physiological effect on the human body (biology), just so you can be sure of how a medicine will interact with the person you’re giving it to.
And if an intellectually and time-challenging degree wasn’t enough for you, once you graduate from university, you then need to complete additional training and a GPhC examination to register as a pharmacist in the UK. So you need to prepare yourself for a lengthy time commitment.
It’s widely accepted that Chemistry is one of the hardest subjects in the scientific world, so it’s no surprise that many students note it as being on the list of the most challenging degrees in the UK. As one of the three core sciences, you’ll need advanced knowledge of maths, physics and biology to understand the theory behind the subject.
Chemistry also involves lots of practical learning too, while this can be great at keeping your learning varied and engaging, it also means you need to grasp lots of different skills, including knowing how to operate testing equipment and write comprehensive laboratory reports.
But with that being said, a degree in Chemistry will equip you with plenty of transferable skills that can be used across a whole range of careers and job roles – preparing you well for the future workplace.
For many years now, Physics has been hotly contested as the most difficult science subject to study. But it’s also one of the most interesting to learn about, making it a popular degree choice for many students. With fascinating concepts such as the mystery of black holes, the creation of the universe, and how light travels to earth, it’s obvious to see why so many students are encapsulated in its study.
The whole beauty of studying a subject like Physics is that it’s a passion for so many researchers, who love to immerse themselves in a career of exploration, learning and discovery. Something which makes it so incredibly intriguing and challenging at the same time.
7. Electrical Engineering
One of the newer, and quite possibly hardest branches of engineering is in the field of electrical, which deals with the technology and production of electricity. Electrical engineering involves a lot of abstract thinking. You need to be able to imagine what you’re constructing, rather than being able to physically see it in front of you, many of the processes which take place in electrical engineering aren’t visible to the human eye. Therefore, a solid scientific background is essential for this subject; you need strong theoretical knowledge of how electricity works in principle, so that when these things are physically built, they’ll work safely.
Focusing on the brain, neuroscience is all about its impact on our behaviour and cognitive processes, including how we think, feel and see things. And, as such a highly specialist subject, it’s no surprise that neuroscience is considered to be one of the most challenging degrees in the UK. Combining chemistry, psychology, mathematics and physics, the subject requires a strong foundation of technical knowledge in some of the hardest A-Level subjects.
According to statistics, Law is officially the hardest course to get a first-class degree in. It demands a lot of time from students, reading, understanding, and scrutinising various case studies and legislation from around the world – often looking at texts that date back by hundreds of years. You need to learn a whole new vocabulary and re-learn what it really means to be ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in the eyes of a jury.
There really is a big jump in terms of workload from A-Levels to studying for a degree in Law, and, it’s a subject which takes longer than most others for you to qualify – 6 years of studying in fact to become a solicitor or barrister in the UK!
So you should really take some time ahead of needing to submit your university application to get some experience of the subject, either by trying to find time to shadow barrister or attending a Law summer course.
This is a straightforward degree option for those who want to pursue a career in oral healthcare, either as a dentist or dental nurse, like Medicine, dentistry is a longer degree than average running at five years in length, dentistry requires hard working and highly intelligent candidates, and can be a hard profession to secure a place at. Studying dentistry at university means you need to be prepared for a heavy workload. Assignments can include written and practical assessments, as well as coursework which you complete throughout your modules.
In addition, your final year will focus on refining practical clinical skills, where you’ll need to focus on being able to diagnose and liaise with your team and patients effectively to provide the best possible patient care.
3. Aerospace Engineering
Aerospace engineering. A subject name which sounds as equally impressive as it does difficult. But one which is responsible for some of the most incredible feats of mankind. In essence, aerospace engineering deals with the design and build of machines that fly. Much more than simply making sure we all make it on our summer holidays (or summer courses), aerospace engineers are also responsible for producing equipment that make weather forecasts, mobile phones, and space flight possible, to name a few.
When you graduate, you’ll be highly skilled, highly technical and almost certainly highly in-demand. And that’s because aerospace engineering is an incredibly technical subject, demanding a strong scientific skillset, logical thinking, as well as a lot of determination.
Your job could one day lead to ensuring people are kept safe and comfortable on the 40-million flights which take place each year, so it’s no surprise that aerospace engineering is considered to be one of the most difficult degrees to study. You’ll need excellent ingenuity, computing, numeracy and technological talents. But you’ll also have a great pool of skills to use throughout your career once you graduate.
Architecture is widely recognised as one of the most challenging degrees – with long hours, a huge workload, and a need for you to focus on little details. So, it’s important to know what you’re letting yourself in for before applying to study this subject at university.
Architecture is a heavily theoretical subject, meaning that you need to have strong mathematical, drawing and scientific knowledge to ensure buildings are structurally sound and safe for people to use. Beyond this, you’re also required to bring along certain levels of creativity. Architecture degrees and training take approximately 5 years to complete, making it a longer than average path.
It might not come as a surprise that Medicine tops our list as one of the hardest degrees in the UK. Many students and academics accept that it’s challenging in both the subject knowledge and emotional pressures of the role, but it’s also one of the most competitive courses in the UK. The journey to becoming a doctor in the UK is an arduous one, relying on your to complete a five-year long degree, before completing a further rigorous several years of on-the-job training later down the line.
In the years that you study Medicine, you’ll need to learn and memorise a vast amount of medical information, including how to diagnose, treat, and manage long-term conditions – while being able to draw on that knowledge during often very pressurised and emergency situations. On top of this, you also need to have excellent clinical skills, communicating effectively with patients and staff, while also being able to handle quite emotionally-complex scenarios. You’ll be dealing with many patients when they’re often at their very most vulnerable, and you need to be there to assure them.
More information about how to become a doctor in the UK can be found here.
Gain clarity on what you want to study at university
Still unsure what you want to study at university? Trial a subject before selecting it as your chosen degree. Embarking on a 2-week summer course here in the UK may just be the perfect opportunity to help you explore a new subject, gain a taste of university life here in the UK, and help you narrow down your future options.
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Discover the 20 hardest UK degrees, ranked by difficulty. From Psychology to Microbiology, Economics to Philosophy, choose wisely based on your abilities, interests, and future aspirations. Remember, subject difficulty is subjective—trust your gut and enjoy the journey!