Which students work hardest?

Business? Engineering? Arts? You may be surprised.


Courtesy of NSSE. Click to enlarge.

Engineering students have been known to curse friends in other majors. That’s because they often spend hours sitting in their residence rooms sweating over near impossible differential equations while their non-engineering roommates leisurely read a couple chapters and then head out to party.

Then again, ask an arts major how hard they’re working and they’ll start rattling off the number of essays they have due.

But finally, it’s settled. Engineering students study more. The new release of the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) shows that North American Engineering students spend 19 hours per week, on average, preparing for class. Arts, humanities and biology majors study 17 hours per week. Social science and business students study only 14 hours.

But don’t assume all non-engineers are slacking. Business students study the least, but they aren’t socializing any more. Instead, they work seven hours more per week at paying jobs. In fact, if you add jobs and study together, business students work the most—30 hours per week. Social sciences students work the least overall (27 hours). Engineering students are in the middle (28 hours).

NSSE, considered the gold standard of student surveys, involved polling of senior year students at 683 U.S. and 68 Canadian institutions in 2011. It had a response rate of 33 per cent.


Which students work hardest?

  1. NSSE is a poor survey with self-selection bias (33 percent response rate?) and self-reported figures. The results tell us nothing.

    • I would argue that no survey is perfect, NSSE included. But a 33 per cent response rate is extremely high.

      • I would also like to throw in that the work engineers do is much more challenging than that of other majors. 1 hour of writing an experimentation report is much harder than 1 hour of reading a sociology textbook.

      • CR
        Please spend an hour reading Immanuel Kant

  2. Well, Engineering Science at University of Toronto is definitely an exception. We seriously study more than 50 hours a week on top of a 30+ hour weekly schedule.

  3. Engineering students, ugh how much I dislike the majority of them. They all think they are the top superior bunch because they can do some math equations. Studying to get into Medical School is much harder than any engineering program. Funny thing is you all think you’ll be making 70 grand a year straight out of University. You all complain, whine, and brag about how Engineering is the best major.

    • I went through Engineering and Med school, and let me tell you Engineering was way harder. I got top marks on my MCAT barely studying for it, spending the majority of my time on engineering. And a lot of my buddys in engg did even better than $70 000 right out of University. I made that just on my internship.

      So please, don’t talk unless you know what you are talking about.

  4. I would also like to point out that this graph does not show any correlation to grades. It is only showing us how much time people in a major work, not how well they do. As difficulty is more a question of how hard you need to work to get a specific result, I think that this information is necessary. It could actually be possible for the “lower working” majors to be in the hardest degrees because they are all failing, or for engeneers to still be in the hardest program because there average GPA is a full point below arts students.

    Just saying…

  5. It is interesting that those who are pursuing business degrees are also holding down longer hours in a job… but then again, perhaps their minds are more consumed with finances.

  6. Also missing is actual class time. Let’s not forget the weekly 2-4 labs that science and engineering students are subjected to. Even fine arts students have more time spent in rehearsal than those in social sciences or humanities.

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