Curriculum Vitae

Curriculum vitae (CV, also often informally called a “vita”) is a Latin expression loosely translated as "course of life”. In contrast to a resume (also resumé or résumé) from the French meaning “summary”. 

Both a CV and resume represent you as the best qualified candidate, demonstrate your "fit" for a position, and are used in an application process to get you an interview. A CV presents a full history of your academic credentials so length is variable, while a resume presents a concise picture of your qualifications with length prescribed by years of experience. For more information on the differences between a CV and resume.

Many European countries use “CV” to describe all such documents and do not use the term resume. In the United Kingdom, most Commonwealth countries, and Republic of Ireland, for example, a CV is a short document, containing a summary of the job seeker's employment history, qualifications, education, and some personal information. Some parts of Asia also require applicants' photos, date of birth, and most recent salary information. When applying to international positions, be sure to check if you are unsure just what kind of information they want.

Check with your advisor about any discipline specific variations when preparing your CV.

When to use a CV

A CV is used when applying for:

  • Graduate school
  • Academic (research and teaching) positions in a four-year university, state college, community college, or liberal arts college
  • Fellowships and scholarships
  • Research funding and grants

Although largely the same format for all academic positions, there is some variation and a difference on emphasis for a CV depending on the type of institution you’re applying to (e.g. community college vs. four-year university).

Review discipline specific CV samples.

CVs for Undergraduates Applying to Graduate School

When applying to graduate school, the application instructions may request that a CV be included in your application packet. You can check with the admissions office at the institution you are applying to, but in general this request is not for a full CV, but rather a more comprehensive resume.

The graduate school application CV will still be no longer than 2 pages. Items to include on the graduate school application CV might include (if applicable):

  • Descriptions of academic projects
  • Presentations, posters, or publications
  • Teaching assistantships
  • Academic service, such as mentoring and/or leadership on committees

General tips and guidelines

See our CV/Resume builder to help you get started compiling your information.

General things to consider when developing your CV:

  • Readability is important
    Reviewers will likely read 100s of applications. You want to make this as easy and painless as possible. Use 12 point font (or no smaller then 10). One inch margins (or no smaller then .8). Include a footer starting on the second page with your name and "page 2 of X". See CV samples for footer options.
  • Briefly highlight your dissertation or thesis in the Education section
    When describing your dissertation or thesis in a CV, you typically include the title within the Education section included just under the degree. The details of the work will be include later within the Research Experience section. For those in the Humanities, you will add a Dissertation section with a brief synopsis of your research. See Humanities CV sample.
  • Include common CV sections
    The header with contact information (see header samples), Education, Research Experience, Teaching Experience, Publications, Presentations, Grants and Awards, Academic Service (could include mentoring, committee work, journal editing), and References. See additional CV categories for further explanation. Also see CV samples for formatting and layout.
  • Use paragraphs instead of bullets
    When describing your experience a CV generally uses a paragraph structure, compared to a resume which is typically formatted using bullet points. The emphasis for a CV is on academic accomplishment, research inquiry, methods or techniques used, and analytical approaches. A CV could include names of collaborators and your PI, research outcomes or future areas of inquiry. Skills and abilities are also included in a CV. Those skills particular to graduate students and postdocs include the ability to analyze data, conduct archival research, test hypothesis, and reason logically. For additional suggestions and a list of skills, view the CV supplement.
  • Include a reference section
    A Reference section is typically included when applying for a faculty or postdoc position. Follow the instructions. If the position description calls for three references, provide them with three. Be sure to include the name, department, email, address and phone number. Referees for academic appointments generally send the reference letter directly to the institution, so you will want them to know exactly how to contact your references in case the letter does not arrive.

Emphasis Depends Upon the Institution

A CV for an academic teaching position in a:

  • Community College
    Emphasizes teaching over research, pedagogical training and qualifications as a generalist as well as academic service, mentoring and work with undergraduate students. The Teaching Experience section on your CV will follow the Education section and include details about your particular role (e.g., Adjunct, Lead Teaching Assistant, Teaching Assistant) as well as a list of all of the courses (by course title, not course number) you have taught or supported. The Teaching Experience section may include lecture materials you have presented, class size, lab responsibilities, etc. Teaching-focused community college CVs may also have a research section, but will include limited detail. See community college CV sample.
  • State or Liberal Arts College
    Emphasizes a balance of teaching and research, thus will include equal emphasis on the research and teaching sections.
  • Four-Year University
    Emphasizes academic accomplishments, scholarly productivity, research experience, technical expertise, successful grant writing and collaboration potential. The emphasis for a tier one research institution will be placed on the research section, with a less prominent section on teaching and mentoring experience. The Research Experience section should follow the Education Section.