Toughest Courses in Kenya

Not all university courses are created equal. Some have a higher dropout rate, take more time to complete and guarantee more financial freedom than others.

Arguably, there is a huge correlation between the difficulty index of a course and career success. Generally, it seems like the harder the course one takes, the more likely they are to enjoy financial freedom in the future.

Which is why the hardest courses in Kenya especially are reserved for the best brains and those with average minds but more money (self-sponsored courses).

But today, I want to put some focus on the hardness part of it. In this list, you’ll discover the most demanding courses in Kenya based on several very important factors.

First, the time it takes to complete a course. If something is hard to do or comprehend, then it means you need more time to study and practice to be good at it. This, therefore, means more hours of study per week, a considerable amount of time in fieldwork and consequently more years to complete the course.

Secondly, the rate of acceptance into the course. This is based on the idea I presented earlier that hard courses are more likely to result to fulfilling careers which means more people will demand them but due to the limited capacities available, the rate of acceptance will be low.

Lastly, the success rate which can be approximated based on first, the number of dropouts; more dropouts means the course is harder. Secondly, the number of first-class honours graduates; harder courses typically have less first-class honours graduates or none. Thirdly, the pass rate in final examinations.

Of course, many other factors would help determine how demanding a course can be but I’m gonna focus on the factors mentioned above.

Now, let’s find out the most demanding courses in Kenya.

10. Law

When we were young, most of us wanted to be lawyers, it was one of the careers we were promised would ensure riches and high class lifestyle. But as soon as we started to grow, most people lowered their dreams having realized what it really takes to be a successful lawyer.

Law can easily be the hardest humanities course in the world, which is why it earns a spot here. To begin with, it takes an average of 5 years to complete a bachelor’s degree in Law in Kenya; 4 years in university and 1 year at the Kenya School of Law which is the only bar school in Kenya.

Secondly, did you know that every year less than 40% of Law students pass the final bar exam from the Kenya School of Law? In 2018, only 20 % passed while in 2016 a mere 15 % passed. This tells you how hard these exams are and only the most hardworking students manage.

Let’s not forget how expensive a course in Law is. UoN charges a total Ksh 715,500 for a full course in law and considering how expensive the bar examinations are, you might as well spend millions before getting certified as a lawyer in Kenya.

Check out universities accredited to offer law courses in Kenya.

9. Architecture

Architecture is the art and science behind the design of the built environment, a fundamental skill that has existed since the very beginning. All buildings and structures in this world began from a simple concept in the mind of an architect. Yet these people don’t get as much credit as they deserve.

Well, for what it’s worth, architecture is one of the most demanding courses in the world. The nicest thing about architecture is that with passion, anyone can succeed. But further details will scare a feeble heart.

You are required to undertake a minimum of 6 years to complete a degree in architecture. These years are divided into 4 years of basic and 2 for advanced level. While in university, it was obvious that architecture students had the most work that they had a designated technology house designed for their work.

Architecture students would spend days and nights in architecture theatres while engineering students drooled and watched movies. Architecture isn’t technical as such, but the amount of time you have to dedicate is what earns its spot as one of the hardest courses in Kenya. Lucky enough architects make more money than any other profession in construction projects, about 10% of the project.

8. Accountancy

Did you hate Math at any point in your childhood? If you did, then the worst mistake you could do besides throwing a stone at a police station is take a course in accountancy. This is one of those courses where you either get it or not; there is no in between, no lukewarm.

Accountancy requires a high deal of mathematical skills and resilience to master. You literally have to put in thousands of hours of practice, consistently solving mathematical issues every day for you to become a worthy accountant.

Taking a bachelor’s degree in accounting is a small contributing part of this field. The other more important section is undertaking several short courses and examinations such as CPA and ACCA which will enable you to become a certified accountant.

And these exams are not as easy as you think. Many people take CPA and ACCA courses part-time but most never complete due to the dedication it needs and the difficulty level of the exams leading to low pass rates for instance ACCA exams in which an average of 56% pass. No wonder there are only about 22,000 certified accountants in our country of 50 million citizens.

7. Actuarial Science

A very close relative to Accountancy is Actuarial Science which is a science that uses mathematical and statistical methods to assess risk in insurance, finance and other fields. Personally, I would describe actuarial science as mathematics in steroids. A no go zone for math haters.

The sheer amount of mathematical problems you’ll solve while in pursuit of a degree in Actuarial science is enough to give you a heart attack. Here you need resilience more than ever. You’ll solve questions whose calculations can fill an entire book.

While the course only takes 4 years to complete, it involves one of the toughest curricula in university. Students are always on toes courtesy of many lectures, CATS and examinations. Most of the mathematical concepts that other students such as engineering scholars complain about are basic math to actuaries. Yet that’s just a tip of the iceberg.

Would you like to know the most astonishing fact about actuarial science in Kenya? By 2017, there were only 46 certified actuaries in the entire East African Region and all of them were Kenyan. This certification is offered by the International Actuarial Association, the global body for actuaries.

6. Pharmacy

Enough about mathematics, now let’s get to technical courses and to start off is this gorgeous damsel called Pharmacy. Yes she’s beautiful, but this girl will blow you brains off if you’re not her type.  She’s the type you’d dismiss as a snob but wait until you get her attention and you’ll realize how high maintenance she is.

Pharmacy is the science that links medical science with chemistry and is responsible for discovery, production, handling and effective use of medicine. For instance, at this very moment the world is at the mercy of Corona Pandemic. Apart from doctors and nurses, pharmacists are third in line in the fight against this pandemic. They’re in the race to discover medicine that would at least control it.

But they can’t do this if it wasn’t for the 5-6 years they spent in university studying complex medicine and health terminologies. The hours and days spent in libraries perusing books, querying the internet, and asking question is a must for them. Not only while in university, but also during the entirety of their career.

In Kenya, Pharmacy is considered one of the most highly demanded courses and consequently has very high cut off points especially among top preferred universities. The many career opportunities it presents especially for entrepreneurs might be the motivation behind why people persevere its tough journey.

5. Civil Engineering

If Pharmacy is the gorgeous damsel that breaks necks, civil engineering for sure is the Alejandro that sweeps her of her feet. This well build hunk incarnated by the massive structures we see every single day is her perfect type who doesn’t mind her high maintenance needs and knows how to make her happy.

Civil engineering takes the concept created through architecture and materializes it. Yet that’s just an inch of the nine. Apart from buildings which are mostly conceptualized by architects, civil engineers design and create other structures such as bridges, roads, dams, power plants, irrigations schemes, harbors, airports, sewage systems, the list can go on.

They are so fundamental to the modern world that without them we would revert to Stone Age. So it’s not a surprise that there is a lot of complex learning involved in civil engineering. They undergo 5 years of intense curriculum especially from year two. Every week is packed with hours of lectures which sadly involves professors who teach 10% and require students to do the rest.

Consequently students have to squeeze free time to grasp the concepts they were almost taught. Such include theory of structures, Strength of materials, civil engineering materials, hydraulics, survey, highway engineering and much more. They are also required to learn how to use computer-aided programs to design projects and present their ideas for review.

Civil Engineering courses are highly demanded especially because of the real estate and infrastructure sectors in the country which present many opportunities. Nonetheless, very few students graduate with first-class honours which also spells how demanding the course can be.

4. Dental Surgery

You might be wondering how a course that deals with only one part of the body can be considered one of the toughest courses in Kenya, but hear me out. The fact that it has the term surgery on its name gives it the audacity to claim a spot here, because surgery of any kind is a very risky profession which requires mastery.

There are only two universities in Kenya certified to offer courses in dental surgery, University of Nairobi and Moi University and the cutoff points for acceptance are very high. Every year only a bunch of few high achievers are selected to join the profession unlike many other courses which receive an influx of students every year.

Dental surgery requires a minimum of 5 years to complete. The course involves the study, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of diseases, disorders and conditions of the oral cavity. Odontology is just a part of it and the many other related units make this course wider than you’d expect.

Just like any other healthy course, students are required to master information and skills since the lives of patients are in their hands and any mistake made might result in health complications or even death. You must spend hundreds of hours studying and practicing before you become a qualified dentist or dental health worker.

3. Aeronautical or Aerospace Engineering

There must be a reason why there is a limited number of institutions offering courses in either aeronautical or aerospace engineering. Probably, most cannot afford the equipment required to offer these courses.

We can also argue that these course are not admired by many university graduates. Is it because they are hard or is it courtesy of the limited opportunities present in our country. Either way, you cannot dismiss the technicality of concepts taught under this course.

To begin with it takes a minimum of 5 years to complete a course under this field. While some of the units you’ll do especially in the first year are common among engineering students, more technical courses will be introduced as you advance. At one point everything you’ll be learning will be dealing with aerospace.

Such units include; aeronautics, aero-thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, flight dynamics, avionics, propulsion among others as evident in Bachelor of Aeronautical Engineering from TUK. This course requires a student to portray mathematical skills and easy comprehension especially due to the numerous abstract scientific concepts that will be involved.

Once you’re done with this rigorous curriculum, you can secure employment opportunities in the lucrative aero industry especially oversees since Kenya’s market is quite limited.

2. Electrical and Electronics Engineering

Back in high school, the hardest subject was a Group 4 subject called Electricity. I remember in form one while students in other subjects such as business studies and agriculture scored 90s, 90% of electricity students couldn’t manage a mere 50%. This led to massive transfer of courses and by form four the electricity class was left with a handful of very brave students.

The electricity and electronics industry is a complex field more so due to the fact that electricity was discovered less than a century and a half ago. Arguably, it has had more impact on the modern world than any other field including civil engineering.

A course in electrical and electronics engineering takes five years of a highly demanding curriculum not to mention the complex theories, concepts, mathematical problems and volumes content that have to be studied before completion of the course. I might have a phobia for anything within this field but that’s a phobia I share with many people.

Its cutoff points are very high especially in top institutions such as JKUAT which is highly recognized for engineering courses and thus very few students manage to secure a spot despite the high demand. Yet soon after students join, a good number begins to drop out or transfer to other courses when they realize how tough it is.

During projects, the engineering students are required to conceptualize totally new ideas in an industry where almost every innovative idea has been thought of. In short you need math skills, cramming power, comprehension, creativity and any other brain weapon you can think of, to scale its walls.

1. Medicine and Surgery

This was obvious. I don’t think there is any other more intense course than medicine and surgery. Firstly, the highest KUCCPS cutoff points for any course in the country are found within this discipline in every university. This paints a picture of high demand but at the same time shows that universities only want the very best brains pursuing a career in medicine and surgery.

Secondly, 6 years is what it takes to be a doctor in Kenya, nothing less. You must endure over half a decade of study and practice before being called a doctor. Again, this shows how much seriousness has been directed to ensure that the doctors our universities produce are capable to handle people’s lives with utmost dexterity

Thirdly, let’s just dive a little into the units taught under medicine and surgery. Anatomy, pathology, medical biochemistry, pharmacology, psychiatry, paediatrics, enzymology, neuroanatomy, reproductive system, metabolism, human genetics etc. These are just some of the basic subjects involved and I’m already tired reading through.

The amount of scientific terms you’ll have to master is astronomical and the only fun among them which I know luckily is Gluteus Maximus. If you don’t possess the cramming power (1TB of memory) this ain’t for you. Nothing else will save you. You might need to use mnemonics and daily narrations to grasp some of these things.

Let’s also not forget the practical part of it. Surgeons spend an average of 2 hours and 10 minutes operating on patients. That’s a whole football match including half time and extra time fiddling with the insides of a person. Talk about the blood and gross fluids which most people can’t handle the sight of. I’m just gonna leave it at that. Doctors! Mad respect for you guys.

Do you mind? 🙂
  1. J Mutisya 3 weeks ago

    Glad to see pharmacy in the list. Its massively underrated in terms of how hard it is. And should I add that it takes 5 years continuous study of 3 semesters each. In my opinion tough than most eng courses.

    Accountancy falls under as on its options including finance, Audit, Banking and Insurance. Not the easiest of courses but not also not hard. Mechatronics Eng is a better option. Nevertheless a very well put together list

    • Author
      Onsomu 3 weeks ago

      Thanks for the input Mutisya and well noted

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