Information Technology: Hardest Undergraduate Classes?

Here are the hardest undergraduate classes in information technology:

The hardest classes in IT tend to be the most technical and the ones that require the most time.

While each student will have their own opinions on what is hardest, advanced computer programing, analytics, databases, networking, security, and senior projects are most commonly cited as the hardest.

So if you want to learn all about the hardest undergraduate classes in IT, then this is the right article for you.

Let’s get started!

Information Technology: Hardest Undergraduate Classes?

Is IT Hard?

Before we get into the hardest classes, let’s ask another question.

Is IT a hard major?

Are you really expecting any of the classes to be hard?

Difficulty is always subjective, and for some people, IT is not a terribly hard major.

That said, the general consensus is that IT is not easy.

Most people consider degrees like engineering and physics to be more challenging, but IT is still considered tougher than the average degree program.

Since it has that impression, then it wouldn’t be surprising if there were at least a few classes in an IT program that are quite challenging.

What Is the Hardest Class in Information Technology? (7 Classes)

This probably goes without saying, but here we are.

There is no single class that is definitely harder than the rest.

There are a lot of factors that can impact the difficulty of a class.

For any given degree program, the very hardest class will depend on the professors who teach there. 

The curriculum, in general, also might make some topics more challenging than others.

The nature of the university itself can have an impact.

More than anything else, the factor that weighs heaviest on which classes are hardest is you.

People find different topics challenging.

On top of that, study habits change over time.

You might talk to upperclassmen or graduates who say a certain class is the hardest only to disagree by the time you’re done.

This is subjective, after all.

So, instead of naming a single class, I’m going to give you more information to work with.

I’ll go over the topics that tend to be mentioned the most when people talk about the hardest IT classes.

#1 Data Communications and Networking

Data communications and networking is a core class for most IT degrees.

In this class, you cover essential topics related to networking and how devices actually communicate.

Most of the time, this is taught as a 300- or 400-level class, meaning it’s intended for juniors and seniors in the degree program.

What makes it so difficult?

Well, networking is often considered one of the most challenging concepts in IT.

Networking certifications are considerably more challenging than most other IT certifications, largely because the topic is deep and varied.

If you’re going to have the skills to build any network for any business or purpose, there’s just a lot of ground to cover.

You have to learn how the hardware works. You have to learn about internet protocols and communication rules.

And, you have to understand these topics well enough to design and troubleshoot all kinds of networks.

It’s the sheer depth of the topic that tends to make it so challenging.

#2 Information Systems Security

I just said that networking is one of the toughest topics in all of IT.

The reason I didn’t say it’s clearly the toughest topic is that security is also really tough.

From an IT perspective, security is the other super challenging idea, and it’s a constantly changing field of study.

As an IT major, you will typically take an advanced information systems security class in your final year, and for many, this is as hard as it gets.

Security concepts are arguably as vast as networking, but security is based on a solid understanding of probabilities as well.

In order to build and maintain secure systems, students have to understand the fundamentals of networking and how a system can be breached.

They also have to learn how security protocols work with computers.

This means learning about hash functions, software, and code that can manipulate or crack security functions, security hardware, and more.

Information systems security requires a deep understanding of multiple ideas, and students have to be able to put those ideas together in creative ways to really master the topic.

#3 Database Systems

Database systems is a class that is miserable for some and not so bad for others.

It’s also one of those classes where the professor’s teaching style makes all the difference in the world.

Database systems are all about software.

Advanced database software systems catalog information and make it easy to access and use.

These systems are made to handle very large volumes of data.

As an example, Amazon uses database systems to manage all of the inventory for the whole company.

That’s pretty big.

Database systems have their own quirks, and when students study the topic, they have to learn how to work with the common database languages, like MySQL and Oracle. 

So, why is it hard?

It really depends on you.

If you take to new computer languages and syntax pretty well, then this class won’t be your hardest.

It still might be challenging, but it won’t be miserable.

If dealing with new languages and syntax is hard for you, then this will be one of your toughest classes.

Dealing with databases isn’t all that hard.

The real gatekeeper for this topic is learning to use the languages effectively.

#4 Systems Design and Implementation

Systems design and implementation hits the other side of the brain.

While database systems require you to function in limited logical spaces and follow very clear rules, systems design is where you flex a lot more creativity.

And, that’s why this is hard for some IT majors.

For the most part, IT is a logical and systematic discipline.

You can follow a set of rules to troubleshoot most computer systems (such as split-half troubleshooting).

With networking, databases, and even cybersecurity, you’re mostly checking boxes and going through lists—all while applying your accrued knowledge.

When it comes to systems design, you’re the one making the list.

You’re coming up with whole systems to ensure that they can perform the required tasks and functions.

While that might not sound so hard, there are so many different ways to approach systems design that it can be overwhelming.

For some people, this is the most fun and rewarding part of IT.

For others, it’s nightmarishly hard.

This won’t be everyone’s hardest class, but it’ll definitely be very tough for some students.

#5 Advanced Programming

For the most part, an IT degree is not a programming degree.

You don’t get this degree to become a software engineer or spend your life writing code for some software development firm.

IT is usually more about designing and maintaining computer-based infrastructures.

You’re in charge of making sure their company’s computer systems work well, and that can involve a lot.

But, if you’re going to work that closely with computers, you should probably know more than a little about how programming actually works.

It’s not uncommon for IT professionals to get stuck writing scripts in order to solve problems.

Sometimes, you might even write rather long strings of code.

So, you need to know about programming, and you need some level of proficiency with programming.

But, if you were already great at programming, you probably would have gone into computer science or software engineering.

You’re in IT, presumably, because coding isn’t your favorite.

And, that’s what makes this class so tough.

Most IT students aren’t strong programmers, so getting through an advanced programming class takes a lot of time and energy.

It’s doable, but this is one of the harder classes for a lot of IT majors.

#6 Information Systems Analysis

Nearing the end of the list, we get to information systems analysis.

This is hard for the same reason that other classes with “analysis” in the name tend to be difficult.

The truth is that analysis is a challenging topic in general, and no matter the application, it often requires a strong mix of logic, analytical thinking, and creativity.

In this class, you’re going to participate in data modeling, database design, data management, and database administration.

Many of these topics are covered in database classes, but this takes the applications to the most extreme form you’re likely to see as an undergraduate.

If you’ve never done data modeling and analysis, it’s heavy on the math.

As an IT student, you probably won’t be responsible for the most calculus-intensive forms of modeling, but modeling and analysis require a certain outlook no matter the application.

It’s hard for a lot of students to learn to think in this way.

Once you do, it’s a powerful tool and you become a much more valuable IT professional, but it can be a challenging bridge to cross.

#7 Senior Project

I saved this one for last, and it’s easy to put on the list.

In terms of raw effort and time commitments, this is the hardest class for pretty much any IT student that has to do a senior project.

IT senior projects are comparable to Capstone projects in engineering.

You usually have around six credit hours devoted solely to the project, and it lasts all semester (sometimes two semesters).

The specifics of the project will vary by a lot.

What is consistent is that the project is supposed to force you to display professional levels of competence in practical IT skills.

You might have to build a specific system or carry out specific analysis.

There are a lot of different possibilities.

But, you will spend hundreds upon hundreds of hours on your projects, and the concepts will be challenging.

There are only two reasons why this isn’t always the hardest class for every IT major.

The first is that not all degree programs have a senior project.

It just depends on the university and the specifics of your degree program.

The second reason is that even when you do have to complete a senior project, parts of it might be really enjoyable.

It’ll definitely take up a lot of your time, but if you have a passion for what you’re doing, then you might find more drive to complete this course than others.

In that way, it will feel easier than some of the classes that don’t appeal to you as strongly.

As I said, this all depends, but for most students, the senior project is the thing they remember strongly as the class that made them feel like real IT professionals.


  • Theresa McDonough

    Tech entrepreneur and founder of Tech Medic, who has become a prominent advocate for the Right to Repair movement. She has testified before the US Federal Trade Commission and been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, helping influence change within the tech industry.

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