6 Responses to “Why Is Chemical Engineering Considered The Hardest Major?”
Having survived a BS and MS in ChemE, I’m really not sure why we get such a ‘bad’ rap as being the ‘hard’ engineering. I didn’t find it horribly difficult. Time consuming, yes, but I didn’t see where it was so much more intellectually demanding than the other engineering fields.
IS it actually harder? I don’t know. It might be that I didn’t see enough of the other engineering disciplines to know how much easier they were? *shrug*. I’ve had a lot of folks say to me stuff like “oh, chemical engineering… that’s way harder than the others isnt it?” So, maybe there is something to it?
Regardless, I think that each person has certain aptitudes that make some things easier or harder. For example, I couldn’t write a novel to save my life, but some people [obviously] are very skilled in that area. They, on the other hand, probably can’t apply a fluid flow equation to find pressure drop in a pipe. Even among other engineering fields, I think people have areas they do better in. I am completely baffled by electrical engineering. That’s all voodoo magic so far as I can tell.
I have heard this before and my guess is that it is because of the number of science and math classes that you have to take. Engineering is an applied science based on a heavy foundation of mathematics and physics. A chemical engineer would have to take these same classes plus additional course work in chemistry that most other engineers probably are not required to take. For example analytical and organic chemistry classes would not be necessary for a civil or mechanical engineer, but a chemical engineer would probably have to take these classes. Many of these classes have labs that are time consuming and take up large chunks of your schedule, making it difficult to finish in four years and keep up with your other classes.
A chemical engineering student buddy told me he thought that his courses should be harder than my mechanical engineering courses because he had to memorize so many chemicals and formulas. Of course most engineering students must study the basics of other disciplines (mechanical, electrical, chemical, etc.) before taking their advanced courses. Each discipline likely has its own most difficult advanced courses (Fourier series for electrical and heat transfer for mechanical engineering students, etc.).
Organic Chemistry is notorious for convincing would-be pre-meds to become art majors, and pre-meds notoriously find Orgo monstrously hard, arranging their schedules so they have no other hard courses at the same time.
But as a ChE student, when I was taking Orgo, I was also taking Differential Equations, Staged Operations [design of distillation towers, extraction, etc], and a couple of other hard courses; Orgo was one of my easier ones.
I think that part of the reputation is because ChE IS very hard, but also because much of it is incomprehensible to the layman.
The difficulty of the coursework with the high amount of mathematics and hard sciences. This requires you to devote a large amount of time to studying than most majors. In addition most of the people you compete with in these classes are dedicated and smart.
Nothing is harder. Only your taste and educational backgroung matters.
But it is probable that in your school/college, coverage of the background subjects may not be adequate for a particular branch of engineering.