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What is a CV?

 waiting in queue for job interview

Once you reach a certain level of education, many people will ask you for a CV. What is a CV? A CV stands for a curriculum vita or curriculum vitae. Idealist share that a CV should provide your career ‘course of life’.  A CV can look very different in different parts of the world.

What does a curriculum vita look like in the United States?

Typically, in the United States, a curriculum vita is an in-depth look into your career as an academic. A CV covers both your academic and professional abilities. In the United States, a CV is a detailed document that is a comprehensive record of your education and career history. It is not uncommon for a person with a Ph.D. to have a CV that is 15-30 pages. When writing a CV, you should include an exhaustive description of your education, achievements, teaching, research, service, professional work, publications, presentations, and more.

What does a curriculum vitae look like in European nations?

In Europe, Ireland, Australia, India, South Africa, and New Zealand the term curriculum vita has quite different a different meaning. A standard European CV is only 1-2 pages and is more like a resume in the United States.  When writing a CV, you should not list every achievement, instead, you should share the accomplishments you’ve made that highlight skills needed for the job. If you are applying for a position abroad that requires a CV, you should check on the meaning of a CV for that particular country.

Who needs a CV?

It is common to need a CV to apply for a job in the education and research fields. It is also common to need a CV when applying for grant funds, especially federal grants and grants for large amounts of funding. Careers that are known require a CV:

  • Higher education institutions
  • Academic researchers
  • Scientific researchers
  • Careers that require a Ph.D.

Why is a CV important?

A CV is a way to introduce yourself to the world. If you are job searching, after your cover letter, your CV is your first introduction to the search committee. The CV summarizes your educational background, research, and professional experiences. It serves as a tool to help you move from an application to an interview. If you are already in a tenure-track position, the CV is one of the most important tools for tenure and promotion.

What should be included in a CV?

If you are applying for a position, you should always tailor your submission materials to the position. This is true of the CV as well. Read the call for applications and make sure your material address the critical components of the position for which you are applying. If you are applying to a research 1 (R1) university then your CV should highlight your research in a way it can’t be missed. If you are applying at a teaching-focused institute then the emphasis should be on your teaching experience.

There are seven basic essential components in a CV:

  1. Identification and Contact Information. Your full name. contact address, contact phone number, email address. Your personal webpage is not necessary on the CV, but you may add it. Some academics suggest that you choose your home address or your business address but not both.
  2. Educational Information. Degrees(with commencement honors & specializations), certifications, licensures, accreditations, clearances, registrations, diplomas. These are usually in backward order with your most recent listed first.
  3. Academic and Work Experience. These should be broken down into faculty positions, post-doctoral positions, academic administrative, editorial, or other non-teaching experience, graduate student teaching and/or research assistantships, undergraduate student teaching and/or research assistantships, K-12 teaching, tutoring, other relevant employment.
  4. Teaching Activity. You should list all courses taught and what level (graduate, undergraduate), concise student evaluations of your teaching, theses and dissertation students, formal academic advising, curriculum development.
  5. Research/Scholarship/Creative Activity (depending on your field). This area should include peer-reviewed publications (books, journal articles, book reviews, abstracts, reports, multimedia materials), conference presentation, grants, contracts, patents awarded, faculty fellowships, performances, exhibitions, compositions, arrangements, scores, prizes, product, or engineering designs, patents. You may also want to include non-referred such as keynotes or other invited talks, invited papers, invited chapters, etc.
  6. Service and Citizenship Activity. This area should include service and citizenship within the department, division, or school, the college, the university, the profession, and the community. These could include committees, review panels, leadership positions, consultantships, partnerships with schools, other forms of outreach, as well as professional development courses and workshops presented.
  7. Miscellaneous Topics. This area can include professional development or continuing education experiences (courses, workshops, trainings), honors & awards, membership in professional organizations, honor societies, endorsements, study abroad, language competencies, references and recommendations, placement file.

How should a CV be formatted?

There is no specific format for a CV and much depends on your professional field. I would suggest looking at examples of people in your field. Many academics post their CV on their webpage. LinkedIn, ResearchGate, or other academic social media sites. Here I am including a table with a list of information typically found in CVs with a description of what to include.

Section headingDescription
Contact InformationFull name
Professional title and affiliation
Institutional address
Your home address
Email (make sure this is professional sounding)
Telephone number
Web address
LinkedIn or ResearchGate link

Rory Ela Smith, Ph.D.
1222 W. Main Street
Summertime, State 10001
Optional – concise Research Objective or Academic ObjectiveInclude a very brief, concise paragraph in which you outline your research experience and plans OR Provide a summary of your academic plans, academic background, and your best achievements  

An example:  

The principal investigator on 8 federally-funded projects totaling over 10 million dollars seeking to work on a team of researchers. Supervised 12 graduate and post-graduate students on grants. Co-authored 2 book chapters and published 14 articles in peer-reviewed journals.
EducationThese go in reverse order with your most recent first

Year of completion or expected completion (no starting dates)
Degree type (use the acronyms Ph.D., M.A., B.S., etc.)
Your major
Your minors, if applicable
The department and institution
Your honors
Dissertation/Thesis Title and Advisor  

An example:  

2021 Ph.D. in Educational Research Educational Leadership
Southern State University
Graduated Magna Cum Laude
Dissertation: The Role of Principals in Educational Attainment for Indigenous Students
Advisor: Maximum Jones, Ph.D.
Professional ExperienceAgain, this should go in reverse order with your most recent first and should focus on roles in academia
Your position
Your institution
Dates worked
Brief description of your responsibilities  

An example:  

Maria Saldana Assistant Professor of World History Theory and Methods
Eastern State College
Taught a total of 10 graduate semester sessions focused on the theories and methods used in world history with an emphasis on the period after 1950. Advised 12 M.A. students. Served as a member of the curriculum committee from 2018-2020.
Grants, Contracts, and FellowshipsIf you are applying to a research-focused institute of higher education this section should be next. If you are applying for a teaching position you may want to share publications next.  

List all financial support for scholarship and creative activities, both internal and external, indicating the period of the award, the amount awarded, and role (principal investigator, co-principal investigator, or other roles.)  

List the grant PI and co-PIs
The years funded
Name of grant
Funded grant number (if any)

An example:  

Johnson, J. (co-PI; 2019-2021). The social emotional wellbeing of aging adults. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services #HSE12345678. $1,500,000.
Refereed PublicationsPublished or completed works (accepted or in press) only. Works still “in progress” should be included under the category “Scholarly Works in Progress.”  Give author(s) name(s) in the same order as they appear in the publication

Books (give the author(s), title, press and date of publication)       
Edited chapters (give the author(s), title, press, date of publication, and page numbers)  

Articles (give author(s), title, journal, date, and page numbers)  

Book reviews (include full publication data)  

Other completed works (be specific, i.e., author(s), title, press or journal, chapters completed or title of the article, number of pages and expected date of publication)  

Completed exhibitions, performances, productions, films, etc. (describe nature of accomplishment, location, dates, etc.)

Completed compositions, scripts, scores, commissions, etc. (Accepted or installed)  

Non-Refereed PublicationsBooks (give the author(s), title, press, and date of publication)       
-Edited chapters 
(give the author(s), title, press, date of publication, and page numbers)  

 (give author(s), title, journal, date, and page numbers)  

Book reviews (
include full publication data)  

Other completed works 
(be specific, i.e., author(s), title, press or journal, chapters completed or title of the article, number of pages and expected date of publication)  

Completed exhibitions, performances, productions, films, etc. 
(describe nature of accomplishment, location, dates, etc.)

Completed compositions, scripts, scores, commissions, etc. 
(Accepted or installed)  

Presentations at Professional MeetingsInclude meeting name and professional organization, place, date, title of paper, poster, etc., and publication information, if appropriate.]
Honors and AwardsList name of award, date, and who awarded it
Scholarly Works in ProgressInclude expectations as to when each will be completed and in what form it will appear
Other Research and Creative AchievementsIf applicable
Professional ServiceService Activities for the Department, College, University [Committees, internal guest speaking, etc.  Include dates of service.]  

Service to the Profession [List membership, committee service, offices held, editorial boards, etc.  Include dates of service.]  

Service to the Community
Languages and SkillsList all languages, skills, and certifications
OtherSignificant Professional Development Activities
ReferencesYou can either list references with their contact information or state references upon request

Top 10 tips for making a good impression with your CV

I researched several of the top research and teaching universities to see what is recommended in a CV. Here are 11 recommendations to help you make a good impression with your CV:

  1. Make your CV look professional, appealing, and make sure it’s legible
  2. Follow your fields’ style guide for formatting (e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.)
  3. Always start with your contact information
  4. Check, double-check, and triple-check f or spelling and typographical errors
  5. Using one font throughout is recommended
  6. Stick to one or at most two sizes of font and keep italics, bold, and underlines to a minimum
  7. Keep your summaries descriptive but concise
  8. Don’t pad your information by making your experience bigger than it really is
  9. Very personal information should not be included. Thinks like age, ethnic identity, political affiliation, religious preference, hobbies, marital status, sexual orientation, place of birth, photographs, height, weight, and health
  10. Get feedback from someone knowledgeable
  11. Always share your CV as a PDF file to keep your formatting intact.

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