Recent Survey Reveals Which Majors Require the Most and Least Study Time

Posted By Terri Williams on August 27, 2015 at 9:51 am
Recent Survey Reveals Which Majors Require the Most and Least Study Time

College students should expect to spend a considerable amount of time studying and preparing for class, no matter their major. Time management and organizational skills are critical, and success in higher education is largely determined by the amount and quality of a student’s investment.

However, some majors require more study and prep time than others. The most recent National Survey of Student Engagement, conducted by Indiana University, sought to determine how academically challenging some majors are, specifically as it relates to the amount of time spent preparing for classes.

Students were asked how much time they spent in an average 7-day week prepping for class (including studying, reading, writing papers, doing homework or lab work, rehearsing, analyzing data, and other activities). Then students were asked specifically how much time they spent on reading assignments each week, and how many pages of assigned writing were required during the school year.

Major Class Preparation (Hours/Week) Reading (Hours/Week) Pages of Assigned Writing (During the Course of School Year)
Arts & Humanities 16 8 80
Biological Sciences, Agriculture, & Natural Resources 16 7 66
Physical Sciences, Mathematics, & Computer Science 17 6 58
Social Sciences 14 8 92
Business 14 7 81
Communications, Media, & Public Relations 12 6 81
Education 15 6 80
Engineering 19 5 86
Health Professions 16 7 75
Social Service Professions 13 7 92


Some of the findings are interesting:

    • There is a weekly 7-hour difference between the majors with the most and least prep times; in the course of a month, that’s a 28-hour difference
    • Engineering majors spend more total time preparing for class than students in other majors; however, they spend the least amount of time reading
    • Social service professions majors spend the 2nd least amount of total time studying, but they’re are tied for the most pages of assigned writing during the course of the year

However, prep time only tells part of the story. One anonymous senior majoring in international business told survey organizers that the most important part of his education was the real-world case studies used during class. In addition, while some majors may not have as rigorous prep times as others, these students may spend more time learning other types of skills that can help them succeed.

Some students collaborate in class and engage in peer-to-peer learning. “College graduates who can showcase that they are good team players have a leg-up on their competition,” according to Brian Braudis, the founder and president of The Braudis Group Consultants in Philadelphia, PA. “These students often have to think quickly on their feet, and critical thinking – showcasing a student’s ability to quickly make a contribution with minimal training and input – is also a desirable trait,” says Braudis, who is also an adjunct faculty member at Wilmington University Graduate School of Business, and the author of The Complete Leader Audiobook Leadership Development Program.

“Succeeding in the professional world requires not only business and technical knowledge, but also effective writing and speaking skills,” says Jennifer Magas, an English professor at Fairfield University and vice president of Magas Media Consultants in Fairfield County, CT. She says that students who write a lot of papers – especially those who develop persuasive writing skills – can use this expertise to create resumes, cover letters and more to help land a job. “The ability to communicate effectively is essential for success in the professional world. It is so important because it will help you to obtain employment, contribute significantly to your employer’s operations, and advance your career.”

Val Matta, vice president of business development at CareerShift in Jacksonville, FL, adds, “Skills like communication, problem-solving, and teamwork aren’t the same as hard skills like coding or operating equipment – you can’t learn them by reading a manual.” Matta says these soft skills are learned through a variety of experiences. 

”Employers want employees who can take ownership of situations and use what they’ve learned from other positions to face new challenges.”

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

You May Also Like