IT Postgraduate: Hardest Classes?

Here are the hardest classes in information technology for postgraduate studies:

The hardest classes will depend on the student, place of learning, subject matter, course instructor, and a lot more, so there are no classes that universally fit into this category.

There are courses that are frequently cited as hard.

They usually involve artificial intelligence, analysis, networking, and security.

So if you want to learn which classes are the most difficult in an IT postgrad degree, then this article is for you.

Let’s get started!

IT Postgraduate: Hardest Classes? (All the Info)

What Are the Hardest Courses in Information Technology for Postgraduate Studies? (7 Classes)

The truth is that it varies, and not by a little.

It helps to remember that we’re talking about postgraduate degrees and not undergraduate degrees.

In postgraduate study, the entire point is to develop a specialty.

Even when you compare two IT students in the same department, they might have extremely differing areas of specialty.

For a postgraduate degree in IT, you can focus on security, networking, administration, or even cutting-edge areas of research like AI and experimental materials.

That’s a lot of variety, and it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

All of this is to say that it’s completely impossible to claim with confidence that one or two classes are the hardest in every postgrad IT program.

And, all of that ignores how much the difficulty of a course depends on who teaches the class, how you tend to learn, what source materials are used, and the countless other factors that influence course difficulty.

So, I’m not going to try to tell you that any of these courses are definitely the hardest.

But, I am going to suggest that the courses I list can be incredibly difficult, and students who have taken them certainly agree that they involve some of the hardest coursework for a postgrad degree in IT.

As you read, keep in mind that I can’t thoroughly research every single IT program in the country, so there could be some brutal classes that belong on this list that I just happened to miss.

With all of that said, let’s get into the classes.

#1 Machine Learning and Data Mining

These are cutting-edge topics.

You’ve probably heard of both before, but let’s really try to pin down what students are studying. 

Machine learning is a specific approach to artificial intelligence development.

The idea is to find ways to program computers so that they can self-improve on any given task.

A really good example is the invention of Deep Blue.

This is a computer with a machine-learning algorithm that was made solely to play chess.

It’s seen years of development, and these days, it’s extremely good at chess.

For an IT graduate student, machine learning could apply to ay number of specific subjects, but the focus is usually zoomed out.

Students learn how to design machine learning approaches to solve problems (normally related to IT specialties).

This requires deep levels of thinking in programming, logic, and other really tough computer science topics.

As for data mining, it’s frequently grouped in the same class because a lot of data mining techniques rely on machine learning.

Here’s an example.

What if a company wanted to know what type of content was on the websites of their leading competitors?

They could use a machine learning system to mine data from those websites to provide the answer.

Data mining students are learning how to build and manage these kinds of systems.

It’s not a simple topic.

#2 Statistical Analysis

Statistical analysis comes in many forms, especially as a college class.

You can find plenty of examples of undergraduate stats classes that don’t use calculus.

The focus on some basic ideas of statistical analysis, and it’s an appropriate look at the topic for many fields of study.

Most art history majors don’t need to be experts in statistical analysis, but it helps if they know more about some of the sales or trading graphs that might come up in their line of work.

That’s the idea, at least.

But, an IT graduate student is typically going to be faced with a more advanced take on statistical analysis.

Not every program will have calculus-based statistics, but many do.

In these classes, students use calculus tools to derive statistical analytical functions and techniques.

This definitely qualifies as advanced math.

If you’re not a math person, it’s a tough class.

And, that’s not the end.

You can actually get an M.S. in IT Data Analytics.

The entire degree is specialized around statistics.

Such a student would face multiple advanced math classes that fit under this umbrella topic.

#3 Enterprise Security and Forensics

This class covers security for major enterprises.

That alone is already a challenging topic.

Enterprise is a term that refers to large organizations, typically with multiple hundreds or even many thousands of users.

The knowledge and techniques used to manage such large systems are definitely harder than what you would use for smaller scales, which is why, for the most part, enterprise IT topics tend to be at the graduate level.

Then we have forensics.

IT forensics is the study of finding security faults.

It’s meticulous and challenging, and a common example will help paint that picture.

Imagine that a major company, like Equifax, has a data breach.

The IT forensics experts are responsible for finding out how the breach occurred, how to mitigate any damage, and how to prevent it from happening again.

If that sounds difficult, then this might be one of your hardest postgrad classes.

#4 Middleware Programming and Database Security

If you’re not in IT, you might not be familiar with middleware programming.

Middleware is what exists between an operating system and third-party apps that interact with that system.

Many refer to it as the glue between these two levels of software.

What this means for a student is that middleware programming is where you build functions that allow apps to talk to computers and pull needed resources.

It’s a pretty deep topic.

And, it combines nicely with advanced database topics.

For a lot of undergraduate IT studies, database management is one of the hardest classes.

Graduate database security tackles some of the most complicated security topics you can find.

Database systems tend to be large, powerful, and complicated.

Building security measures for such systems requires a broad outlook.

You have to cover a lot of different angles, and then you have to find a way to implement it without inhibiting the database system in any way.

What students quickly learn in this class is that it’s very easy to break a database system with new security measures.

So, this class is building one challenging, deep topic on top of another.

Some find it challenging.

#5 Advanced Storage Technologies

If you took this class in 1992, it might not have been so bad.

All storage technologies worked on principles of magnets.

There were universal concepts.

It could get tough, but it was a much more manageable class.

Today, there are a ton of different storage technologies, and they work on entirely different aspects of physics.

You still have magnetic storage.

You might also deal with volatile and non-volatile storage.

There are solid-state systems, quantum systems, optical systems, chemical systems, and more.

With so much, classes take varying approaches to the subject matter.

Some courses stay zoomed out and loosely look at each of the prevailing technologies.

Others are not so forgiving, and they dive deep into each of these complicated mechanisms.

If you’re in the latter kind of class, then this can be the most technologically and conceptually advanced course that you ever take.

#6 IT Infrastructure and Sustainability

This class is not always a bear.

It depends on the approach, but searching for sustainability within IT infrastructure is not an easy challenge.

In fact, it’s one of the leading challenges facing IT specialists today.

Everyone wants to be more sustainable, but they  don’t want to sacrifice IT power along the way.

Needless to say, it’s tough.

Some classes focus on already proven methods, and that’s not the hardest way to learn about sustainability.

Other classes foray into the frontiers of the field, and even the most astute students can have a hard time keeping up.

#7 Research

As I’ve said before, every program is different.

In IT, you can get graduate degrees that emphasize research or not.

To oversimplify a little, some programs require a major research project while others don’t.

Either way, you’re still doing a postgrad degree, but this difference is particularly important for the point I’m making right now.

If you don’t have a research-based degree program, then this doesn’t apply.

Such programs require more class coursework, and they usually involve more intense testing before you graduate.

For research-based degrees, the research constitutes roughly half of your degree.

A master’s thesis or PhD dissertation comes to mind.

Not all degrees use these formalized research projects, but the concept is pretty similar.

If you’re doing a research-based postgrad degree, then your research will probably be the hardest part of the whole thing.

Hopefully, you’re passionate about your research, so the process isn’t miserable.

But, things can be difficult and invigorating, and many graduate students feel their way about their research.

You’ll spend thousands of hours on the project.

You’ll hit dead ends.

You’ll have to make major revisions.

There’s tons of frustration involved.

But, when you’re done, you’ll be a bonafide expert in your field, and you will have contributed to the greater body of knowledge used by IT professionals.


  • Yukio McDonough

    Yukio McDonough, co-founder of TechWithTech, combines his expertise in audio engineering and tech entrepreneurship to lead a tech blog dedicated to offering actionable tech advice. After success in tech repair and IT with Tech Medic, he now aims to make TechWithTech a top source for understanding and leveraging technology to enhance daily life.

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