Occam’s Razor, Ergo, Social Entrepreneurship

Author: Notre Dame ESTEEM

Although more than 650 years have come and passed since William of Ockham published the “Razor,” the proof continues to hold sway over scientists, engineers, and designers who are developing new, predictive models. To this date, opting for simpler solutions gives professionals more control and is more likely to succeed.

If you are a recent college grad or are considering joining the working world, then you are in the process of building a model for life. Will you choose to stay in school, or join the workforce? What profession will lead you to the greatest fulfillment? Which model is better?

Traditional Model: A Masters or Doctorate in Mathematics

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, mathematicians held just 3,500 jobs in 2012, and the field was expected to grow by 23% in the next eight years. The projection for growth is above the U.S. average; however, the field’s small size means that only 800 positions will open over the next 8 years.

The American Mathematical Society (AMS) reported 1,582 degrees awarded to doctors of mathematics in the 2010-2011 academic year alone. Without numbering master’s candidates, it is clear that mathematicians should be prepared to start careers other than math after their education completes. Many of those careers are decent jobs, such as Wall Street “quants.”

However, many of these career options do not satisfy the impulse to explore new possibilities, as many students hoped when matriculating in higher degree programs. This state of affairs has led mathematicians to entrepreneurship.

An increasing number of degree-holders have shown up at New York City Hackathons, wanting to know whether their academic training will serve them in application to real problems. A number of math startups have been funded successfully within the last six months in both [social entrepreneurship and private industry - LINK to Blog 3].  

For individuals who want to be creative, continuing education in strict math might not lend any additional explanatory power over the entrepreneurial route. If that is the case, then Occam’s Razor would prefer the latter solution. It does the same amount of work in less time.