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What is a CV?

A curriculum vitae, or CV, is your first point of contact between you and your future colleagues. The role of a CV is to grab the interest of the reader and encourage him/her to look over your other application materials. For this reason, it is important to think about how you describe and format your experiences. What will your audience be looking for? What do you have that other applicants may not? Your job is to make it easy for your reader to find the strengths and achievements that you can bring to the position.

The Difference between the CV and Resume:

A curriculum vitae and a resume are similar in that both highlight one’s education and relevant experience. However, a CV tends to be longer and is used more widely when candidates have published works like scientific evidence or journals. Common for graduate students, a CV tends to include any research experience, teaching experience, and publications. CVs are more comprehensive as they are used when applying to positions where specific field knowledge or expertise is required. Like a resume, there is no one correct format for a CV- the key is formatting and organization.

Curriculum Vitae

Goal: Obtain an academic position, research position, or grant
Audience: Fellow academic/researcher of similar field
Structure: Text-heavy
Length: (Flexible) as long as necessary

  • Doctoral CVs typically three to four pages
  • Master’s CVs typically one to three pages

Content: Complete history of academic pursuits (including teaching, research, awards, and service) Tailored to highlight ability to conduct research/teach OR tailored to highlight ability to fit with specific job/field


Goal: Obtain a nonacademic job

Audience: Potential nonacademic employers.

Structure: Minimal text, concise, achievement-oriented bullet points
Length: Typically, one page; limited to two pages maximum
Content: Summary of most relevant skills and experiences tailored to ability to fit with specific job/company

Quick Tips on Formatting:

  • Be consistent in your formatting
  • Use formatting (bold, italics, underlines) to separate sections and help readers navigate the page
  • Some opportunities prefer a traditional CV (very basic formatting, essentially lists, no descriptions)
  • After the first page, begin page numbering (2,3,4,5….)
  • 5 Margin Minimum; 11pt Font Size Minimum
  • Use Standard Fonts (i.e. Arial, Times New Roman)
  • When applying to professional schools/programs, it is important to check their website for required CV formatting (CVs vary per school, program, and even field of study)
  • Tell what you did, how you did it, and what the result was. For some fields, it might be more common to have short paragraph descriptions vs. bullet points. Make sure to look at CV
  • If altering your CV into a resume for a non-academic job, focus more on the processes than the content of the work, and use bullet points.

Common Categories to Include on your CV

The categories on your CV should be customized based on your experience. For a CV, you may include more detailed categories to showcase your unique skills for you field. Here are some examples:

For detailed information about how to build a CV including formatting, using references, and an example, please download our CV guide.

CV Examples:

Here are few examples of CVs from different industries: