Which Degree Has the Highest Dropout Rate?

College is an exciting time for millions of students, but it’s not without its challenges. Many factors play a role in college retention rates, and some degrees have higher dropout rates than others.

Computing college degrees have the highest dropout rate with 10.7% of students not completing their study, followed by advertising at 7.7% and agriculture at 7.4%

Let’s take a look at the list of university degrees with the highest dropout rates.

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1. Computer science – 10.7%

Computer science leads the way in college degree dropouts, and the main reason why is that many students start with a vague interest in computers, not realizing the full extent of math involved in this degree.

The coursework can be challenging and highly technical, so students who struggled with high school math may fall behind in college, too.

While an appreciation for technology is a good start, computer science students also need to have a firm grasp of quantitative skills to succeed in the field.

computer science students

There is also a misconception that computer science is easy money, so students who aren’t sure what they want to study fall into the degree almost by accident.

Laziness won’t get computer science students very far, so those who lack motivation or a clear comprehension of the course matter are more likely to drop out before they can get their degree.

With computer science, in particular, students need to stay focused and demonstrate proficiency in a variety of technical areas.

2. Advertising – 7.7%

Advertising and related liberal arts degrees like communications and journalism also have a high dropout rate, with nearly 8% of students abandoning their degrees.

For some students, the advertising industry isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and they may find it discouraging at times.

Other students thrive in advertising, which requires a mix of creativity, design, and critical thinking. It all just comes down to the individual student and what they like and don’t like.

Also, advertising captures the attention of a lot of incoming students, especially those who are interested in media but not sure exactly what they want to do.

Advertising student

There are many different jobs in marketing and advertising which makes it a popular choice for students who need more time to truly decide what they want to study.

Eventually, a fair number of advertising students will drop out to pursue other interests.

3. Agriculture – 7.4%

Agriculture degrees have a 7.4% dropout rate, likely due to the challenging courses and competitive program requirements.

Agriculture majors may cover agribusiness, soil management, plants, or animals, which are very interesting subjects for some students but not appealing to others.

On top of the normal reasons for college dropouts like finances or family matters, students have a lot to think about when pursuing an agriculture degree.

In some cases, students with a farming background go to school for agriculture, only to realize they prefer hands-on labor rather than hours behind a desk.

One other consideration is that most agriculture majors require college algebra, physics, and data analysis classes.

Agriculture students

If students are surprised by these prerequisites and uninterested in such subjects, they may struggle in an agriculture degree program.

4. Art – 7.3%

Art is another college degree with a relatively high dropout rate, as around 7.3% of art students don’t finish their degree.

So much creativity and technical knowledge is required to succeed in the art world, but some students find so much studying actually dims their natural passion for the subject.

In that case, they may choose to pursue another profession and leave art as a hobby.

Teachers can also have a large influence on art students. If students feel uninspired by their teachers or like they know just as much, if not more than their instructors, they may wonder if there’s a better fit out there.

Lastly, there are also valid concerns for employment prospects in the art world. Students may feel external pressure to focus on a field with higher-paying jobs, leaving their art degrees behind.

5. Architecture – 7.2%

Architecture students

Architecture has a 7.2% college dropout rate, similar to other technical studies that require a strong math background and an eye for technical design.

Architecture degrees often extend past four years with internships and certifications, and if students feel discouraged within their first year, it can be hard to stay motivated.

Occasionally, students studying architecture may realize they are in the wrong program when they complete their first internship and find they aren’t as interested in building construction and design as they once thought.

Also, many schools have highly competitive architecture programs, so there’s quite a bit of pressure on those students to perform.

Sometimes it becomes too much for university students who either take a break from their demanding architecture studies or drop out altogether.

6. Business – 7%

Business is one of the most popular majors, but it also is up there in terms of dropouts. That’s because a lot of students default to a business degree if they aren’t sure what to study, and then when they change their minds or decide college isn’t right for them, they leave the business school.

business students

Also, business is considered quite a broad area of study, so sometimes students drop out to pursue a more specific field.

On top of that, entrepreneurial students may come up with a great business idea and decide they want to pause on their degree and work on making their business ideas a reality instead.

Long discussions, study hours, classroom projects, and internships may seem overwhelming to some business students, which could also influence the decision to stay in the degree program or drop out.

7. Engineering – 6.9%

Engineering students have a 6.9% dropout rate, which is linked to the high rigor of engineering programs around the world.

Extensive math and science studies are required to thrive in an engineering program, and not all students are interested in such an intense degree program.

For those who aren’t sure what to study, engineering doesn’t really work as it requires passion and technical knowledge.

Engineering students

Students who aren’t up for long nights studying and hands-on engineering projects may consider dropping out in favor of a more laidback field.

Also, engineering is known as a career path with the potential to make a lot of money. This means some students may be influenced to take up engineering even if it isn’t what they are really passionate about.

8. Biology – 6.7%

Biology is similar to engineering in that it requires a strong science and math background, which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

Even college students who enjoyed biology class in high school may find that this degree is too demanding and takes away from their innate love of studying living things.

Science degrees require careful research and hands-on testing, which puts pressure on students to perform well while making industry connections at the same time.

biology students

If a lifelong career in science seems like too much after a few biology courses, then students may opt to drop out and find a profession that’s a better fit.

9. Education – 6.1%

There is a 6.1% dropout rate for educational degrees, which makes sense considering all the challenges teachers go through in today’s world.

Some prospective teachers simply realize they can’t imagine the rest of their lives in a classroom, while others prefer to focus on their families or personal interests rather than all the demands of teaching.

Student teaching is another challenging aspect of educational degrees that may lead some students to shy away from completing their degree in the community.

10. Medical – 5.9%

Medical college expenses are next level compared to normal four-year college degrees, which are already expensive enough.

These financial concerns are one reason why there is a 5.9% dropout rate for medical degrees.

Not only are medical degrees extremely expensive, but they also take up a lot of time and require extensive studying for several years.

medical students

While the potential payoff is high, so are the personal sacrifices, and many students may change their minds before getting too far into medical school.

College students who want enough free time to connect with family and friends or those who want a well-paid job without missing out on their college experience may opt out of this degree path.