A Message from the Founder

Vay Cao, Ph.D.

Welcome to Free the PhD!
Our 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.


Five Tiers to Your Home at FTP

Join the Community

Get actionable advice and emotional support with other PhDs who have real-world experience or are in the same boat as you!

Network with PhDs

Chat with hiring managers and other PhDs who have successfully transitioned out of academia.

Complete the Courses

The 3 module self-paced courses provide videos, guides, templates, social support, a Job Hunt Blueprint, digital office hours and much more!

Personalized Coaching

We provide advice throughout the application process: resume/CV editing, interview coaching, and negotiation coaching.

Post-Transition Mentorship

Free the PhD is for post-transition career success, mentoring, and advancement too!

What PhDs Say About Us

Click here for our full list of testimonials!


Medical science liaison positions are notoriously difficult to obtain, even with industry experience but I had none. From the very beginning of the application process Vay coached me on techniques to break into industry and how to craft my interview skills for this process. I found her advice invaluable and truly feel that every step of my interview process went superbly well as a result of her advice. I can now happily say I landed a medical science liaison position at a dream-company for me and have Vay to thank.

Steven L. Miller, Ph.D. - Medical Science Liaison | Greenwich Biosciences

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.

Thao Do, Ph.D. - Education and Academia Marketing Manager | 23andMe

Vay tailored my CV or resume for each job that I applied, and edited my cover letters for email inquiries. Without her help, I cannot put all the information together to allow me to confidently search in the job market. I landed on a real job not long after I took a detailee position Vay helped me apply for. It was from a diagnostic company, and one of my informational interviewees was my internal reference. The job interview was scheduled with short notice. With so much previous practice, I handled it well.

Yizhou Ye, Ph.D. - Senior Analyst | Gene Dx

I got a clear plan with action steps, a timeline, and confidence that what I was doing was the right path. She helped me evaluate my experience and abilities in a way that helped me prove my worth to myself." The company initially offered me a rate that was much lower than what I wanted. Vay helped me clearly identify how much I would take and therefore how much I should ask for in my negotiations. I ended up asking for more than what I thought I should have initially. The organization came back at me with the exact number I was looking for. Vay helped me with my email back to the organization and gave me the next steps to take.

Kristen K, Ph.D. - Scientific Director | Cure CMD

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