Information Technology Major: How Hard?

Here’s how hard an information technology (IT) major is:

Information technology degrees are a little harder than average to attain.

They are considered STEM degrees, and as such, they come with some technically challenging content.

But, these degrees don’t require as much math as other STEM majors, and there are some topics that feel a little easier to learn.

So if you want to learn all about how hard an IT major is exactly, then this article is for you.

Let’s dive right into it!

Information Technology Major: How Hard? (Everything to Know)

How Hard Is an Information Technology Major?

two IT technicians working together in a server room

I’ll take you through a deep journey exploring the challenges of information technology studies, but let’s start this whole thing with a simple answer.

An IT major is harder than the average major, but it’s not the hardest major you can find.

It’s considered easier than most engineering degrees, but it’s still deep enough in STEM that you can expect a good challenge.

That’s the general viewpoint, but it’s important to remember that difficulty is subjective.

For some people, math is the easiest realm of study.

For others, it’s the hardest.

As an individual, no one can tell you how difficult an IT degree will be for you, but if you want to look at these generalizations, they can at least give you some idea.

And, that’s what we’ll really be exploring today.

What Are Some of the Challenges in Information Technology Majors? (2 Factors)

Young woman working on her laptop at home

Now we can really get deep into this topic.

IT degrees are considered harder than average.

Why is that?

What’s making these degrees so challenging?

There are a lot of factors, and I’m going to lay them out one at a time below.

After that, I’ll also explain why IT isn’t considered the hardest major out there.

You can compare the areas that are commonly considered to be challenging versus the aspects of the degree that seem a little easier.

Then, you can make up your own mind as to how hard this major is.

#1 Diverse Studies

focused young man working on his computer at desk full of books

Out of the gate, IT is challenging because it covers a very wide range of topics.

When you’re studying information technology, your studies basically encompass all of modern technology.

It’s a vast field, and even when compared to a lot of other STEM degrees, IT covers a lot of ground.

When studying IT, you will study programming, networking, operating systems, logic, probability, business models, languages, and more.

In fact, an IT degree is intended to be less specific and more generalized than a lot of other STEM degrees.

What this boils down to is that the range of topics makes it likely that something you study will be hard for you.

Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, and IT studies are diverse enough that they hit on most people’s weaknesses at some point.

#2 Tough Classes

young programmers working on algorithm

The diversity of study will present challenges on your path to obtaining an IT degree.

Aside from that, there are some topics that are considered tough in general.

Maybe you’ll have a natural affinity for some of these and they won’t seem too hard, but for most people, these are areas that eat up the most time.

Algorithms and Data Structures

This class often shows up before the senior year, meaning it’s not the most advanced course in the curriculum.

Despite that, it seems to be one of those classes that weed out a lot of people who aren’t right for IT studies.

The class covers two topics.

Algorithm is the study of programming structures that allow computers to work in intended ways.

More or less, the algorithm is the logical recipe that a computer will follow when executing a program.

As you might imagine, this is a big topic, and since it is rooted in pure logic, it can be challenging for a lot of people.

Data structures are the study of systems that allow computers to deal with large amounts of information.

For many in IT, data structures and databases are among the most difficult topics. 

Regardless of how a specific IT curriculum introduces these topics, they remain at the top of the list of hard classes for many IT majors.

Advanced Programming

As the name suggests, this is an advanced class.

It is usually taken in the third year or later.

Advanced programming is all about understanding some of the more difficult topics that come up in computer programming.

Usually, one to two other programming classes are required as a prerequisite for this class.

Programming is hard for a lot of people, and advanced programming only exacerbates the challenge. 

Specific topics in this class might include complex methodologies in object-oriented programming, multithreaded programming, database connectivity, and reusable integral components.

These are very technical ideas, and that’s why they’re tough for a lot of students.

Enterprise Systems

In IT, an enterprise is a large organization.

Such organizations would include things like the entirety of First National Bank, Apple Inc., and other major companies that you can imagine.

If you go to school at a major university, the school itself would be considered an enterprise organization.

In general, you’re expecting to deal with thousands of users at a time or more in enterprise IT.

The sheer scale makes it harder than other aspects of IT.

This is where you have to master concepts that allow you to make changes to systems without taking them down, create robust plans that keep all of the users active and working, and provide stability and security to tons of concurrent users.

All of the fundamentals of IT get harder at the enterprise scale, and this class throws you right into those ideas.

Senior Project

Arguably the most challenging part of an IT degree is the senior project.

You might be able to find some degree paths that don’t include such a project, but it’s pretty normal.

In fact, senior projects are common in a lot of STEM degrees.

Some schools will make the IT project a formal Capstone venture.

Others do things their own way.

Regardless, the senior project usually consists of anywhere from 3 to 10 credit hours, all devoted specifically to this project.

It is intended to display the culmination of your knowledge and skills as a near-graduate IT student.

It requires tons of time, thought, and energy, and there is a world of difference (in the eyes of many employers) between a student who has or has not completed the senior project.

What Makes an IT Degree Easy? (3 Reasons)

A female student with glasses studying in the library with her laptop

Now that we’ve talked about the challenges related to studying IT, let’s get into some of the reasons that it’s not the very hardest major.

The truth is that there are some aspects to IT studies that make them more approachable and a little easier for the average person to understand.

#1 Light Math Requirements

College students solving math on whiteboard

The leading reason that IT degrees are considered one of the easier paths in STEM boils down to math requirements.

Many IT degrees only require college algebra as the most advanced math class.

Some programs might also require a non-calculus statistics or probability course.

Even in the toughest IT programs, Calc I is usually as hard as the math gets.

Let’s put this in context.

Calc I is introductory calculus and usually covers single-variable differentiation and analytical geometry.

Those words might seem intimidating, but they’re often considered the easiest concepts in calculus.

Compare this to the majority of engineering degrees.

Calc I is usually the first math class of at least four taken for these degrees.

After introductory calculus come classes on integration, multivariable calculus, and ordinary differential equations.

Specific engineering degrees might require additional classes in statistics, linear algebra, and/or complex variables.

In fact, a lot of engineering degrees require students to complete a minor in math.

There’s just that much.

IT degrees just aren’t that steeped in math by comparison, and for those who don’t love math, it makes the major a lot easier.

#2 Diverse Studies

Smiling college girl studying in classroom

I mentioned this as something that makes IT hard, but it’s really a two-edged sword.

There are good odds that you’ll find at least one of the core subjects in IT to be challenging.

By that same token, there are also good odds that you’ll really take to one of the topics.

The good news is that you can focus an entire IT career on whatever specialty suits you.

To finish the general degree, you’ll have to get through the harder stuff, but you can spend more of your elective credits and energy on the subjects that you prefer.

In this way, IT can feel easier than other STEM majors.

#3 Systematic Processes

Young beautiful student girl working, learning in college library

There are definitely people in IT who innovate and write new books on new topics.

But to get an undergraduate degree, you don’t have to hit that level.

Instead, an IT degree is built around consistent systems, and that is one of the things that makes it a little bit easier.

If you can learn the systems, you will succeed.

You don’t have to worry about subjective answers or the rules dramatically changing from one course to the next.

If you understand the principles of how a computer works, you can do a lot of IT very successfully.

On top of that, each subject builds on the last, so every new thing you learn helps you with the next topic.

That progressive approach to learning makes IT a little more accessible than some of the more esoteric and theoretical topics that often come up in STEM majors.


  • 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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