What is an academic CV?
A CV (or curriculum vitae if you want to be fancy) is essentially a resume. However, unlike a resume it’s not typically a nice one page summary of your most recent skills and experiences. Rather, a curriculum vitae (meaning “course of life” in Latin) is a much more comprehensive document that gives an overview of all your academic accomplishments over the span of multiple pages. In general, CVs are most commonly used when searching for academic positions and should show a detailed summary of your professional experiences and educational background. This means including sections such as research opportunities, internship experiences, teaching appointments, etc.
General Formatting Tips
Because CVs are so much longer than a typical resume, keeping all this information neat and orderly may create a bit of a challenge. Though there really isn’t one single format that you can follow, I’ve provided some general tips that I’ve used when formatting my CV.
- Be consistent! In other words, make sure the formatting you choose is the same throughout the whole document. It wouldn’t exactly look appealing if your choice of font changed randomly in the middle of page two or you decided somewhere that you’d rather type your headers in all caps instead.
- Create a footer with your name and page numbers. Because chances are the pages of your CV may get separated as they get passed around to different people. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to make it easier on those who can determine the fate of your professional future and let them easily identify if a page is missing.
- Cut the field specific terminology. Depending on your job, the person looking at your CV may not necessarily be in your field. Therefore, they may not exactly appreciate you throwing lots of lingo at them. Some might even think you’re trying to compensate by “pretending to seem smart.” While I think that’s complete crap, you might as well avoid annoying HR or admissions committees.
- Structure sections in reverse chronological order, just like a resume. After all, how thoroughly do you think your CV will be read? So, make sure your most recent experiences will be the first to be seen.
- Add, delete and reorganize sections to cater to each position you’re applying to. Similar to a resume, your CV must be altered and adjusted depending on the job you want to get. Essentially, your CV is a fluid document and should be revised constantly.
- Don’t get too fancy with designing your CV. At the end of the day it serves the single purpose of relaying your qualifications to recruiters and admission committees. Don’t use overly distracting fonts nor bother with lots of color. Just keep it simple, but still pleasing enough to the eye.
Of course, the most important part of your CV is what you put on it. Though the order and types of headers you’ll use will change as you progress through your academic career, here are some of the most common ones I see in a typical CV.
This one may seem obvious, but it’s worth pointing out. Though in this day and age your contact information would have already been inputted in an online applications, having it written out on the very top of your CV is always very helpful. After all, you never know who might have your CV handed to them and want to contact you for this new position they think you’re qualified for.
Pretty straightforward right? List by you your highest degree first and make sure to include your department, university and year of completion (or expected completion). If you want, you can include your thesis title and advisor or any academic honors you received (e.g. cum laude, etc.) It really depends on how much room you have and is it relevant to the people who will see it.
Again, another obvious one. Be sure that this section is written in reverse chronological order and is not filled with positions that irrelevant to whatever you’re applying for. After all, if you’re applying to grad school, I don’t think they care if you worked at Starbucks all throughout undergrad. Rather, they want to see research and teaching experiences. Likewise, if you’re applying for an industry position, they would much rather see internship experiences than anything else. Another option is to separate this part of your CV into different categories. For instance, you can have a section for research experience, teaching experience, volunteer gigs, etc. Just be sure that the section most relevant to whatever your applying for is at the top.
If you happen to have any nice publications under your name, you can add them in this section! Be sure to keep your citation format is consistent and appropriate for your academic discipline. I also always find it a good idea to bold your name, especially if there are a large number of authors on one paper. Finally, though I’ve heard conflicting view points, I would advise including papers that are in review or in prep, especially if you’re still very early in your career. Just be sure to label them as such to avoid false advertising!
This section includes both oral and poster presentations you’ve given at conferences or events! Again, make sure your citations are appropriate for your discipline. Some good information to include on here (aside from title and authors, of course) is the name of the conference or event, the date, the location and what type of presentation was it (e.g. oral, poster, etc.).
Your CV is the place where you want to brag about yourself and show just how awesome you are. So, give them a reason to think you’re amazing and deserving! Be sure to include all relevant and recent scholarships, awards, honors or fellowships that you have gotten in reverse chronological order. Don’t forget to include the dates you received each award and delete entries that may be deemed too far in the past. For instance, unless it’s amazingly prestigious, high school awards should not go in a CV if you’re nearing the end of your undergrad.
This particular section comes and goes on my CV, but overall I was told that including professional affiliations shows that you’re active in your professional community. So, be sure to include things you’re a member of. If you joined a sorority/fraternity, honors society or became a member of a professional society (e.g. ACS for chemists, AGU for earth science) you should list all of them in this section.
This is of course not a complete list and there are plenty of other sections that one can include in their CV depending on the stage of their career. For example, listing technical skills (lab skills, coding languages, etc) or non-degree certifications might serve useful depending on the positions your applying for. You could even have a blurb about research interests at the top of your first page. It’s really up to you. Just remember that your CV strengthens your potential as an applicant, so making sure you include sections that can do that is of high importance.
Last Minute Advice
Well, that about covers how your CV should look and the important things you should include in it! However, my final suggestion is to find as many sample CVs as you can. That way, you can get a better idea of what information other people include as well as which formats you are typically drawn to. To find sample CVs, simply google search “CV [discipline] [grad school/undergrad]” and you should be able to find plenty that are relevant to you. You can also always check out my own CV as a nice starting point. 🙂
Hope this helps! If you have any questions or advice of your own, leave it down in the comments below!