What is an Academic CV (Curriculum Vitae) and Why Do I Need One?
The CV or “curriculum vitae” is a full synopsis (usually around two to three pages) of your educational and academic background and related information. In addition to college and university transcripts, the personal statement/statement of purpose, and cover letter, postgraduate candidates need to submit a CV when applying for research, teaching, and other faculty positions at universities and institutions. An academic CV is a bit different from a professional resume as it emphasizes your academic experience and qualifications for the position—although relevant work experience can still be valuable to include. For reference, here is what a strong academic CV might look like:
Before you look too closely and begin copying from the example (please don’t do that!), we need to answer some important questions: What exact information should be included? What should you leave out? And how do you organize this information in a way that will maximize relevance and clarity and show that you are a good fit for this position?
What Information Goes Into an Academic CV?
The best way to think about your CV is as a personal narrative: it should tell your story, beginning with the mimportant and recent information first and moving in reverse chronological order within each section. Some of your information will be essential to include, and other details might be helpful but supplementary. Here are the most important sections that are most frequently included in academic CVs for postgraduate positions:
Basic CV Sections
- Personal Details
- Relevant Experience
- Conference Publications
- Honors and Awards
Optional CV Sections
- Profile Summary/Personal Statement
- Special Qualifications or Skills
- Institutional Service
- Certifications and Professional Associations
- Community Involvement
Important CV Information by Section
Although the order of information in the CV is somewhat flexible, there is a certain logic behind the way your profile details are laid out. The best CVs will be those that make the applicant’s interests and qualifications very clear. Let’s go through the CV section-by-section to see what information you should include and how to order it to highlight your relevant skills and interests.
Personal Details (Basic)
Write your full name, home address, phone number, and email address. Include this information at the top of the first page, either in the center of the page or aligned left.
- Tip: Use a larger font size and put the text in bold to make this info stand out.
Profile Summary/Personal Statement (Optional)
This is a brief (1-2 sentences) statement that follows your personal details and describes your core qualifications and interests. Its aim is to entice the reader into looking into the details of your full CV.
- Tip: Include only skills, experience, and what most drives you in your academic and career goals.
List academic degrees, starting with those that are currently in progress and recently completed and moving backward in time to your secondary education history.
- Include the name of the institution; city, state, and country (if different from the institution to which you are applying); degree type and major; and month/year the degree was or will be awarded.
- Provide details such as the title of your thesis/dissertation and your advisor, if applicable.
- Tip: Provide more details about more recent degrees and fewer details for older degrees.
Relevant Experience (Basic)
List positions that highlight your skills and qualifications. When including details about non-academic jobs you have held, be sure that they relate to your academic career in some way. Group experiences into relevant categories if you have more multiple elements to include in one category (e.g., “Research,” “Teaching,” and “Managerial”). For each position, be sure to:
- Include position title; name of organization or company; city, state, and country (if different from the institution to which you are applying); and dates you held the position
- Use bullet points for each relevant duty/activity and accomplishment
- Tip: Use strong verbs, vary your vocabulary, and write in active voice; lead with the verbs and write in phrases (NOT in complete sentences)
Special Qualifications or Skills (Optional)
This is a summary of skills and strengths that are relevant to the position and/or area of study. Although your major skills are usually not included in a separate section (being listen instead in your bulleted list of duties and activities with your research or professional work), you may include these in a separate section to list skills such as specific knowledge of computing programs or language ability. Where you place these skills depends on how crucial the skill is to this position and/or area of study.
Include a chronological (not alphabetical) list of any books, journal articles, chapters, research reports, pamphlets, or any other publication you have authored or co-authored.
- Use bibliographic citations for each work in the format appropriate for your particular field of study.
- Tip: If you have not officially authored or co-authored any text publications, include studies you assisted in or any online articles you have written or contributed to that are related to your discipline or that are academic in nature. Including any relevant work in this section shows the faculty members that you are interested in your field of study, even if you haven’t had an opportunity to publish work yet.
Conference Presentations (Basic)
Include any presentations you have been involved in, whether you were the presenter or contributed to the visual work (such as posters and slides).
- Give the title of the presentation, the name of the conference or event, and the location and date.
- Briefly describe the content of your presentation.
- Tip: Use formatting appropriate to your field of study to cite the conference.
Honors and Awards (Basic)
Every good graduate student has received official recognition in some way or another. These can run anywhere from university scholarships and grants, to teaching assistantships and fellowships, to inclusion on the Dean’s list for having a stellar GPA.
- Include the names of the honors and official recognition and the date that you received them.
- Place these in order of importance, not necessarily in chronological order
Professional and Institutional Service (Optional)
List the professional and institutional offices you have held, student groups you have led or managed, committees you have been involved with, or extra academic projects you have participated in.
- Tip: Showing your involvement in the life of the school (even if you only participate occasionally) can greatly strengthen your CV, as it shows the faculty that you not only contribute to the academic integrity of the institution but that you also enrich the life of the campus and community.
Certifications and Professional Associations (Optional)
Community Involvement (Optional)
Include any volunteer work or outreach to community organizations, including work with churches, schools, shelters, non-profits, and other service organizations. As with institutional service, showing community involvement demonstrate your integrity and willingness to go the extra mile—a very important quality in a postgraduate student or faculty member.
This is usually the final section of an academic CV. Include 3-5 professional or academic references who can vouch for your ability and qualifications and provide evidence of these characteristics.
- Write the name of the reference, professional title, affiliation, and contact information (phone and email are sufficient). You do not need to write these in alphabetical order. Consider listing your references in order of relevance and impact.
Formatting and Organization Tips for a Strong Academic CV
Remember that no matter how compelling the content of your CV is, if it isn’t well organized and easy for faculty members to read, they probably won’t bother reading through all of your notable achievements and skills. Keep these formatting and organization tips in mind when composing and revising your CV:
- Whatever formatting choices you make (e.g., indentation, font and text size, spacing, grammar), keep it consistent throughout the document.
- Use bolding, italics, underlining, and capitalized words to highlight key information.
- Use reverse chronological order to list your experiences within the sections.
- Include the most important information to the top and left of each entry and place associated dates to the right.
- Include page numbers on each page followed by your last name as a header or footer.
Revising and Editing Your CV/Resume
After you have finished composing your academic CV or resume, you still need to ensure that your language is compelling and accurate, that your organization is clear and tidy, and that your documents is free of errors. A good CV will generally take at least three or four revisions before it is ready to send out to university department faculty. Be sure to have a peer or professional editor check your work to ensure that there are no glaring errors or major room for improvement.
For professional editing services that are among the highest quality in the industry, send your CV and other application documents to Wordvice Editing Services. Our editors will ensure that your hard work is reflected in your CV and help make your postgrad goals a reality.
Curriculum Vitae Tips and Samples (U of Illinois Grad School)
Graduate CV–What to Include (Graduatejobs.com)
Writing an Effective Academic CV (Elsevier)