IT (Information Technology): Hard Major?

Here’s how hard an IT major is:

For some, IT is quite a challenging major, and plenty of people never finish the degree.

For others, it’s not terribly difficult, and they succeed with few setbacks.

Overall, IT is probably just above average in terms of difficulty.

It is definitely not the hardest major, nor is it the easiest for most students.

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

Let’s get started!

IT (Information Technology): Hard Major? (All the Info)

What Is Difficult About IT? (3 Aspects)

If you really want to understand how hard or easy IT is, then we can break up the concepts.

There are aspects of IT that are definitely challenging, and understanding them can help you gauge this whole thing for yourself.

After I cover the challenging bits, I’ll go over some of the ways that IT isn’t so hard.

Then, we can put it all together, rank the major, and leave you, hopefully, with a better understanding of what is involved in the pursuit of this degree.

#1 Different Math

I’m going to bring up math again in a later section where I discuss what is easy about being an IT major.

That might sound contradictory, but there are two important takes on math for an IT degree.

The first take is that IT math is challenging.

That’s largely because IT majors have to learn atypical mathematical concepts (at least, they’re atypical for anyone not deep into STEM).

In particular, IT degrees often require a class (or more) in finite mathematics.

This is a branch of math that worries about systems and sets that don’t work on a traditional continuous spectrum of math.

If you’ve already worked in finite or discrete mathematics, then this won’t sound weird.

If this is a new concept, then allow me to explain it in a little more detail.

The math you learn as a child is based on a continuum.

That is, there are an infinite number of points that exist between any two numbers.

So, between 1 and 2, you can describe infinity different numbers.

And, that makes sense because you can have ½, ⅓, ¼, . . . etc., and every number that exists from 1 to infinity can just be put on the bottom of the fraction.

This creates continuous math.

No matter how many times you divide a number, you can always go smaller.

Finite math doesn’t work like this.

With finite math, there is an absolute smallest number that can exist.

And, if you work with that number, then you no longer have a continuum.

When you draw a graph on a continuum, there are an infinite number of points to work with.

In finite math, your graph will always have graphs.

Until you learn the mechanisms, this is actually pretty tricky.

You can’t use traditional algebra and techniques to work in finite mathematics, and everything gets weird.

All of this is important for IT majors because computer systems have to work in terms of finite math.

They can’t actually calculate infinitely small numbers, so finite math is the only possibility, and understanding that helps IT majors gain a deeper appreciation for how computers work.

#2 Diverse Subject Matter

That math stuff got a little deep. This topic is a lot easier to understand.

IT majors cover a lot of ground.

For a typical computer scientist, you’ll take general programming classes, and then you’ll start to move towards a CS specialty, even as an undergrad.

So if you ask two random graduates what computer science classes they took, you’ll see some major differences, especially in the last two years of their coursework.

This concept is partially true for an IT major; you can still have a specialty.

But, IT majors are expected to be more well-rounded than students in most other technology fields.

To be an IT major, you have to know networking, critical thinking, security, scripting, spreadsheets, web development, and operating systems.

You can add specialties from there, but that’s already a huge base of knowledge to cover. 

The point of an IT degree is to provide a well-rounded foundation so that someone with this degree can then pursue a specialty in any niche area of IT.

Because of that, IT majors are covering a wider range of specialized topics when compared to many other majors, and even when compared to a lot of STEM fields, IT is difficult in this regard.

#3 Capstone Projects

If you aren’t familiar with them, Capstone projects are a big deal.

They are required in a number of STEM degrees, and you especially see them come up a lot in engineering.

The idea is that a Capstone project should take a full semester (sometimes two).

It is a massive project that allows students to demonstrate their theoretical skills through practical applications.

In IT, these concepts hold true.

IT majors typically have to complete a Capstone project, and it takes hundreds of hours to get through the whole thing.

The project will include formal proposals and final write-ups.

They will also involve a student taking on a significant IT project to prove that they know their stuff.

A few examples can help put this in context.

A student might design and deploy a home surveillance and automation system.

Now, they aren’t inventing the tools used in this system.

Instead, they’re picking out what should be included in the system.

They’re designing the system so that everything can work together and be managed in a reasonable way.

And, they’re installing everything to ensure that it works.

This is a real project that IT professionals face on a regular basis, and it takes a lot of hours for both planning and execution.

A few other examples could include building a notification system, making an app, building a website, deploying a fleet management system, and many other ideas.

Keep in mind that any of these would be on par with the surveillance system in terms of size and time.

What Is Easy About IT? (3 Points)

Clearly, there are challenges that exist for IT majors, and that’s because of an often-forgotten secret about college.

There are no easy majors. Not really.

No matter what you study, completing a degree will require a lot of time and effort.

It will present unique challenges, and no one is good at everything.

So, every degree program will provide you with things that are tough and difficult.

That said, every degree program comes with its light points too, and IT is no exception.

It might be harder than the exact average of all majors, but very few people would ever try to tell you that IT is the hardest major out there.

The concepts below help to explain that.

We can go over the specific aspects of IT that aren’t as hard as other majors.

We can also think about some ways that learning IT is easier than learning certain other fields of study.

#1 Low Math Requirements

I told you I was going to come back to math requirements, and here we are.

I mentioned before that IT covers finite math, and that it can be tricky for a lot of people.

That remains true, but for most IT programs, it’s only one class.

If you can get through that one class, you’ll likely have smooth sailing for the rest of the degree’s math requirements.

That’s because IT doesn’t require a lot of math.

You still have to get through the same basics that are required for every single degree ever, but you don’t have to go much deeper than that.

Most degrees will require proficiency in algebra, and a lot of students can even test out of that requirement.

Beyond that, it’s just one class in finite math, and you’re done.

Compare that to most other STEM fields, and it’s not very much math.

IT majors don’t have to get through calculus, and they don’t have to take calculus-based versions of a lot of other advanced math that could include the following:

  • Statistics
  • Modeling
  • Linear algebra
  • Complex systems
  • Analytical geometry

Overall, IT majors spend a lot less time in math classes than most other STEM majors, and for a lot of us, that makes it sound a bit easier.

#2 Consistency

IT involves a lot of problem solving.

One of the main aspects of IT is troubleshooting computer systems and fixing them.

So clearly, critical thinking is very important.

But, IT doesn’t always require a lot of creative problem solving.

By all means, you can use creative approaches and succeed, but you don’t have to.

That makes IT topics a lot more approachable than many other fields.

Everything you learn is consistent.

There are no “sometimes” rules like when you’re trying to learn grammar or spelling.

You’re not graded on your creativity like you would be in the arts.

And, while you’re learning these consistent things, you’re not tasked with reinventing the wheel like you might be in hard science or engineering.

Instead, IT fits in this nice space where the concepts are logical and consistent, but they’re still quite approachable.

The truth is that most people really can learn the bulk of IT concepts (as evidenced by the fact that every last one of us uses a computer these days).

It’s just a matter of whether or not that’s how you want to spend your time.

You’ll still have to work hard, and some concepts will be more challenging for you than others, but the consistent nature of IT makes it feel more universally learnable than a lot of concepts in a lot of degrees—even degrees that are considered “easier” than IT.

#3 Hands-On Learning

Another thing that helps people learn IT is that the teaching is two-fold.

With virtually every IT concept, there is a theoretical and practical way to learn.

Even if you’re doing something like web design, you can read about design philosophies in a book, or you can open up an editor and build a website yourself.

This is true across IT disciplines.

It’s an extremely practical field, and that means that there are always hands-on learning approaches available.

Compare this to a lot of other STEM fields where huge swaths of the learning are entirely theoretical.

Sure, people get through it, but if you have ever successfully learned with your hands or by doing, then you might be able to appreciate this aspect of IT.

Even if you prefer learning through theory, that is still available for IT students.

The fact that you get to learn in both ways is what makes the degree more accessible to a wider range of minds and modes of thinking.

Where Does IT Rank as a Major? (2 Ways)

We’ve covered what’s hard. I went over the things that take some of the sting out of studying IT.

So, where does it rank? Is it hard?

As I said at the beginning, very, very few people would consider it the hardest major.

By that same token, very, very few people would consider it to be the easiest major, or even an easy major at all.

The truth is that it probably sits just above the middle of the pack.

Now, judging the difficulty of a major is subjective, so there’s no exact answer here.

But, when you compare IT to STEM and non-STEM fields, it kind of starts to fall into place.

#1 Above the Majority of Majors

IT is still definitely a STEM field, and as such, it is generally considered harder than most non-STEM fields.

Obviously, this is not a hard or universal truth.

There are aspects of performing arts, business management, and all manner of other degrees that are just as challenging as things you see in IT.

But, IT also has clear right and wrong answers to a lot of things.

Either the computer system functions or it doesn’t, and that lack of leeway can make it more challenging in some respects.

Since there is no perfect way to rate the difficulty of a college major, I’ll leave it at this.

IT is probably one of the easiest STEM degrees, but as a STEM degree, it’s going to require more hours of weekly study than many non-STEM programs.

#2 Below Most STEM Fields

But, as I just said, it is arguably one of the easiest STEM degrees.

It requires a lot less math than the rest of STEM, and for a lot of people, that makes it quite a bit easier.

Also, the learning aspects I mentioned before lead IT students to have higher success rates, on average, than plenty of other areas of STEM.

So, it’s a challenging major, but you could probably find things that would be considerably harder for you.


  • 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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