of PhDs are in “alternative” careers.

Yet so many PhDs feel lost

when they’re ready to leave the bench!

Vay Cao, Ph.D.
Vay Cao, Ph.D.Founder, Free the PhD.
Welcome to Free the PhD – our joint passion project and grassroots community initiative!

I’m a Ph.D. in neuroscience who made the transition from academic postdoc to business professional at a biotechnology startup. Having seen what it takes to get hired and accelerate professional advancement outside of academia, our Advisors and I are passionate about reaching back to empower more PhDs, researchers and scientists to get out into society.

Advisors with Free the PhD are all PhD trained researchers who are now professionally employed outside academia. They donate time and energy to work with PhD job hunters on their careers and professional growth.

We also work with university and institutional career and professional development centers, graduate student councils, postdoc groups and other partners advancing the career preparedness of our research trainees and colleagues.

New! Career Card Decks!

Free the PhD card deck teaching tools have been tested in workshop, classroom and group settings – students report feeling engaged, inspired and challenged by the various activities.  Perfect for individual use, student and postdoc retreats, conference symposia sessions, career workshops and integration into career programming.

  • Engaging, unique career exploration tools!

  • Career demystification and skill-identifying activities!

  • Great for individual use or integration into career development programming!

Pre-order Our Career Card Decks Today!
It's time to Free the PhD, together!
It's time to Free the PhD, together!
Research trainees and employees – graduate students, postdocs and academic research professionals – power scientific innovation. They are doers, thinkers, teachers, hackers, and dreamers, producing both incremental steps and quantum leaps that fuel discoveries big and small in diverse fields of study all around the world.

Although the vast majority of PhDs end up in “alternative” careers, it remains a challenging transition for many. Talented researchers struggle to navigate the job market having done little preparation, often not seeking out any support, enduring the emotional abuse of the job search process alone.

We want you to know that you’re not alone!

Our mission is to assist all graduate students and PhDs in getting hired in a job they love – especially if your skills and interests are best suited to a life outside academia.

“Vay is an amazing career coach. She coached me through the interview process as I was transitioning from my doctorate studies to my biotech job. The world of academic research and the world of corporations can be very different and it can be challenging to navigate.

I love having Vay as my supporter. I often share with her my challenges and my accomplishments and it’s very valuable for me to have a coach, who has gone through a similar process, as she can easily relate to my experiences and the emotions that come along with such a journey.

Her advice is always on-point, effective, and best of all, delivered in a kind and gentle way. She is a great listener and helps me identify the core values that matter to me. I highly recommend her to anyone who would like to make the transition from graduate studies/academia to the professional/industry arena.

Thao Do., Ph.D. Education and Academia Marketing Manager, 23 and Me

“Having someone be your personal cheerleader is invaluable. I had a one job where I was negotiating with a company for the first time. Vay provided me with step by step advice, and we worked on a game plan together.

Her input was integral in my forming a solid counter offer, which was accepted! I got everything I asked for, and it gave me confidence that I can take with me to my next salary and benefit negotiation.

The caliber of FreeThePhD advisors is top notch!”

“I would absolutely recommend Free The PhD (FTP) to anyone looking to break out of academia. Especially if you feel like you’ve been following all of the advice we all get given (online, in books, at seminars ) with little return on investment. The few months I’ve spent with FTP have already advanced my prospects beyond the last 2+ years of job applications.” – Brown University Ph.D. alumni

“What I like most about this platform is the diverse types of topics that are discussed and shared. While we become more specialized in our areas of expertise, it is important to constantly learn new skills and tools because the idea a single, long-lasting career is outdated.

Free the PhD has offered valuable information on useful courses, books, events that encourage continuous learning and develop new skills.”

“After three years of ineffective job-searching, I met Vay Cao, Ph.D., who provided the knowledge and direction to completely overhaul my approach.

I was trapped in a terrible job and was sending resumes out, left and right, but they just seemed to be falling off the face of the earth.  I had a long list of skills, experience and education, but it didn’t seem to matter and I couldn’t figure out why the response was so poor.

Vay helped me construct a resume that was more attractive to employers, and explained WHY my applications never seemed to be reaching human reviewers; under her guidance, I finally managed to secure a challenging, satisfying new position with a significantly better salary and work-life balance.

It was amazing to see how seemingly-small, targeted changes made a tremendous difference in employer response, and this is the kind of information that only an expert can provide.

Vay was always interested and invested in my success, and it was a genuine pleasure to work with her. I fully recommend her services to anyone who feels lost in their job search, or just needs to update their applicant profile to get an edge.”

P.C., Ph.D. Program Manager, Genomics., STEM Ph.D. stuck after transitioning into a disappointing first job out of academia, and past user of Cheeky Scientist.

Wish you had a Community?

Feel alone?

Don’t go it alone when you don’t have to. Join the Free the PhD Community and help grow a budding community of scientists and professionals outside academia. Get the newsletter, grow your network, learn from peers and discuss issues with colleagues across industries.

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