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What Are the Top Toughest Courses in the World?

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University Life


24 October, 2023


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By Samir Badawy

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What Are the Top Toughest Courses in the World?

Tips and Advice

University Life


24 October, 2023


8 mins read

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By Samir Badawy

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Curious to know what the toughest courses in the world are? Keep reading to get a list including some of the world’s most complex courses based on several factors. It is essential to know, however, that a course’s complexity should not deter you from your goals and passions, as high effort and risks often lead to high rewards!

This is why many of our picks on our list of the toughest courses in the world lead to high-paying jobs. In the following sections, we will be listing the typical course contents, examination methods, career outcomes, and expected salaries upon graduation. Lastly, we’ll be exploring what makes a course difficult as a whole while providing solutions.


The Top Toughest Courses in the World 

Some of the toughest courses in the world include but are not limited to the following:

1. Aerospace Engineering 

Often regarded as one of the toughest courses in the world, Aerospace engineering is a field of study that combines various scientific subjects, which include mathematical studies such as trigonometry, algebra, and calculus. It not only depends on mathematical skills but also writing and good design skills.

Examination methods include essays, reports, practical demonstrations, presentations, coursework, and exams.

Aerospace Engineering Course Material

  • Aerodynamics

  • Space mission analysis and design

  • Heat transfer

  • Airframe design and flight dynamics

  • Mechanics of flight

  • Space systems

  • Aircraft design

  • Aircraft design

  • Management and business

Aerospace Engineering Career Outcomes

  • Aerospace engineer

  • Engineering consultant

  • Aeronautical designer

  • Manufacturing engineer


According to the UK government, a starting salary for aerospace engineers typically starts at £25,000 a year and ultimately goes up to £52,000 a year for experienced engineers. Note that these are the average salaries and that figures may vary depending on the company.

2. Architecture

As an architect, you are expected to have a wide range of mathematical background knowledge, which includes geometry, trigonometry, and algebra. You should also be good at design.

If you do not have a good background in those subjects in particular, you may face difficulty studying architecture. Architecture also has a heavy workload compared to other majors and will often require you to study for long hours. However, this difficulty is often rewarded upon graduating.

Assessment methods include essays, design portfolios, projects (design-based), reports, case studies, coursework, and exams (written-based).


Architecture Course Material

  • Technology and environment

  • Design process and communication

  • Sustainable design

  • Buildable, habitable design

  • Design process and communication

Architecture Career Outcomes

  • Architect

  • Architectural technologist

  • Building surveyor

  • Conservation architect

  • Interior designer

  • Landscape architect

  • Lecturer

Architects Average Salary

According to the UK government, an entry-level average salary for architects is £30,000 for starters and £60,000 for experienced individuals per year.

3. Chemical Engineering

Chemical engineering combines various studies, including life sciences, physical sciences, and mathematics. It would certainly help if you had background knowledge on these subjects. This study is concerned with converting raw materials into useful products such as electronics, food, medicine, plastics, etc. Chemical engineering also utilises various technologies, such as bioengineering and nanotechnology.

Assessments typically include exams, essays, reports, projects (design and research), coursework, and presentations.

Chemical Engineering Course Material

  • Structures, materials, and dynamics

  • Fluid mechanics, mass and heat transfer, and thermodynamics

  • Introduction to Biochemical Engineering

  • Chemistry and processes

  • Engineering computation

Chemical Engineering Career Outcomes

  • Biotechnologist

  • Nuclear engineer

  • Design engineer

  • Chemical engineer

  • Product development scientist

Chemical Engineering Salary

According to the UK government, depending on your experience level, you can make anywhere from £30,000 to £65,000, with those earning the latter figure being on the experienced level.

4. Pharmacy

Pharmacy is a difficult course, not only because of its workload but also because of the background knowledge required, as it includes various scientific subjects, which will be showcased in the course material section. 

Assessments are often based on research papers, coursework, projects (group-based), presentations, and exams.


Pharmacy Course Material

Pharmacy course materials include the following:

  • Business and pharmaceutical enterprise

  • Chemistry for pharmacists

  • Health, disease and therapeutics

  • Clinical drug development

  • Cellular and molecular biology

Pharmacy Career Outcomes

  • Clinical researcher

  • Drug discovery consultant

  • Lecturer

  • Pharmacist

  • Pharmacologist

  • Pharmacovigilance manager

  • Toxicologist

Pharmacy Graduates Salary

Entry-level pharmacy graduates will typically earn £19,000–£30,000 in the UK.

5. Astrophysics

Astrophysics is concerned with the universe, which includes the solar system, as well as material sciences, electronics, and optics. While studying astrophysics, your main focus will be on how physics applies to astronomical objects and phenomena.

Astrophysics students undergo various assessment methods, which include presentations, lab reports, exams, critical reviews, peer assessments, and presentations.

Astrophysics Course Material

Some of the typically covered course materials include:

  • Quantum physics and electromagnetism

  • Big bang cosmology

  • Mathematics for physics

  • Thermal properties of matter

  • Particle and atomic physics

Astrophysics Career Outcomes

Career outcomes for astrophysics typically include the following:

  • Research scientist

  • Aerospace engineer

  • Teacher or lecturer

  • Research development leader

  • Data analyst

Astrophysics Average Salary

According to Glassdoor, astrophysics professionals can make anywhere from £18,042 to £108,528 per year on average, depending on experience level.

6. Medicine

We cannot mention the toughest courses in the world without mentioning medicine, which requires memorization, vast background knowledge, and a high workload. You will need a minimum of five years to complete your training. 

Assessments in medicine are often based on essays, presentations, assignments, and, more importantly, anatomy practice and simulation exercises.


Medicine Course Material

Some of the course materials include the following:

  • Clinical procedural skills

  • Medical cell biology and genetics

  • Health behaviours, musculoskeletal, respiratory and digestive systems

Medicine Career Outcomes

Some of the career outcomes of medicine graduates include:

  • Civil servant  

  • Clinical research

  • Expedition medical officer

  • Forensic medical examiner

  • Genetic scientist

  • Consultant anaesthetist

  • Health service manager

Medicine Graduates Salary

In the UK, medical graduates are paid based on specific pay scales for healthcare occupations in the UK. However, in general, the minimum earnings are £20,330 per year for a Band 3 healthcare professional and can go up to £107,840 per year for Band 9 healthcare professionals. This also differs based on location, as salaries differ between England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

7. Electrical Engineering

Electrical engineering is also among the toughest courses in the world among its other engineering counterparts. It studies the application of electronics, electricity, and electromagnetism and is typically applied in the robotics, construction, and transportation industries, among others.

Examination methods typically include coursework, reports, presentations, and lab observations.

Electrical Engineering Course Material

  • Circuits and analysis

  • Electrical power and machines

  • Mathematics for engineers and scientists

  • Semiconductor electronics

  • Structures, materials and dynamics

Electrical Engineering Career Outcomes

  • Electrical engineer

  • Avionic systems engineer

  • Generator engineer

  • Systems analyst

  • Software and systems engineer

Electrical Engineering Salary

According to the UK government, you can make £20,000 per year as a starter and £60,000 per year on an experienced level.

8. Chartered Accountancy 

Unlike the other previously mentioned courses, its difficulty does not only stem from its complexity or workload but is, in fact, its study duration. To become a chartered accountant, you must finish your undergraduate programme, which lasts three to four years, depending on the country, and later take a CA course, which takes three or more years.

Accounting programmes typically follow the following examination methods, which include coursework, projects, presentations, exams, and group assignments.


Chartered Accountancy Course Material

  • Accounting

  • Business Laws

  • Taxation

  • Cost Accounting and Financial Management

Chartered Accountancy Career Outcomes

  • Internal auditor

  • Tax auditor

  • Statutory auditor

  • Finance controller

  • Forensic auditor

Chartered Accountancy Average Salary

According to, chartered accountants can make £40,000 a year upon graduation.

9. Law

A law degree’s difficulty is in the amount of reading required. This takes us to the previously mentioned difficulty of workload in terms of reading amounts, and it will also require the memorization of certain laws. Law is also often combined with other courses such as finance, human rights, ethics across various fields, and more.

Law examination methods typically include exams ( can include open book exams); they also depend on essays, coursework, presentations, reports, and lastly, your dissertation.

Law Course Material

During your law studies, you will study various useful subjects such as communication, government and history, statistics, and more. You will also study law-related subjects such as:

  • Contract law

  • Tort law

  • Criminal law

  • Constitutional/administrative law

  • Land/property law

  • Equity/trusts law

Law Degree Career Outcomes

  • Tax Lawyer

  • Defence Lawyer

  • Arbitrator

  • Barrister

  • Barrister's clerk

  • Litigators

Law Graduates Average Salary

According to the UK government, a grade 7 lawyer typically has a salary of £47,541 or £58,000 a year, depending on post-qualification experience.

10. Nursing

 Nursing is another course that is often regarded as one of the most challenging. Nursing is primarily concerned with helping different kinds of patients who are either unwell or who need support to get back to health. Nursing’s difficulty lies in the need to not only develop practical skills but also theoretical knowledge. Its other difficulty will be the long hours required to be spent in the hospital as part of ward shifts.

Examination methods include reports, essays, exams, and presentations.


Nursing Course Material

  • Nursing practice and simulation

  • Anatomy and Physiology

  • Pharmacology

  • Core values and complexity in nursing knowledge and interventions

  • Applied mental health practice

Nursing Career Outcomes

  • Paediatric nurse

  • Nurse paramedic

  • Health visitor

  • Occupational health nurse

Nursing Average Salary

According to prospects, starting nurses can make a starting salary of £28,407 a year.

Other courses worthy of mention include astronomy, actuarial science, biomedical engineering, and criminology.

What Makes a University Course Difficult?

What typically gives a course its association as a difficult course from the learner’s perspective includes:

A High Workload and Fast Pace

A common characteristic of many of the toughest courses in the world is the high workload associated with them. Workload refers to the amount of work you are expected to do, and combined with a fast pace, it may lead to difficulties. 

Fast pace, in an academic sense, refers to the speed at which the course material is covered, which ultimately adds to the workload. There are, however, ways to overcome this, which will be laid out in the solutions section.

Solution: To overcome the issue of a fast pace and high workload, it is very important to have high time awareness, so you’ll need to create schedules and study plans that ensure you have enough time to study and revise. 

You can also make yourself familiar with the course material so that you can have a little head start during your next lecture. In the incoming section, you’ll learn of the importance of making yourself familiar with new concepts in the next item on our “what makes a course difficult” list.

No Previous Background Knowledge

Students who have, for instance, a previous background in math will find the course easier than those who do not. This is one of the main indicators that gives a student a sense of whether or not this course is easy or difficult.

While studying a new subject where you have no previous background, you will also have to deal with new abstract concepts as well as vocabulary. This is why various institutions offer pre-university courses, which can help students get a head start at university. No previous background knowledge can also extend to other subjects that support the course that you are currently studying.

Solution: You can always get acquainted with your course prior to enrolling. This can be done in various ways, the first being looking up your intended course and its related topics. Get your hands on some old materials from the same course and get a feel for what this course has to offer.

You can also start early by taking a pre-university course, which will help you get ahead at your institution. Regarding abstract concepts, students generally prefer visual subjects where visuals are used to explain complex concepts.

Memorisation Challenges

Students also often struggle with courses that have a high dependency on memorization, especially whenever similar concepts are presented, often leading to confusion.

Solution: Students generally find applied course concepts easier to remember than theoretical concepts. You can also try to refer to practical applications of your theoretical concepts.

Other factors that contribute to course difficulty include uninteresting subjects, not being able to relate to new concepts, difficult examinations, and aesthetic differences, mainly in artistic majors.


So, with all that said, what makes a study difficult is all of these efforts combined, which are commonly referred to as “academic rigour," which is the total effort exerted in a course.

Lastly, we highly encourage you to follow your passion and, most importantly, “study smart and not hard”. We can also share a wide range of helpful resources, such as Studying at Night: Night Owls Studying Tips and Tricks, Tips for Studying in a Foreign Language, and  Pros and Cons of Studying in Groups, among other resources. If you require additional support, such as finding your perfect student home, make sure to contact us.

Tips and Advice

University Life


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By Samir Badawy

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Tips and Advice

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By Samir Badawy

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the hardest degree in the UK?

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Some of the UK’s hardest degrees include neuroscience, law, economics, medicine, architecture, electrical engineering, and chemistry.

What is the No. 1 toughest degree in the world?

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The toughest degree actually made it into the Guinness Book of World Records, and it is the Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Hong Kong.