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Career Basics: The Curriculum Vitae

The main purpose of the curriculum vitae (CV) is to get you an interview. Your CV should summarize your relevant experiences and education. But... a CV is not a resume! You will need to write a CV for any academic positions and some government or industrial positions. A CV can be longer than a resume, but it still needs to look clean and organized.

A CV is also expected to contain complete descriptions of your doctoral work, teaching experience, and publications. And here is the great difference between a CV and a resume. You get more than 20 seconds of the employer's time. Most academic positions have a hiring committee of faculty to look over CV's very closely. And, thankfully, no one has informed these faculty members that they only get 20 seconds.

The Parts of a Curriculum Vitae

Unlike the cover letter, the parts of a CV are not cut and dry. This list suggests possible parts you may want to include in your CV. You will not have room for all of them and some are redundant, so select which ones are best for you.

  • Name and Relevant Information - Include your name, address, phone, and email in this section. If you also have a work address, include this as well. Dual addresses can be located on opposite sides of the page. Use a slightly larger or bolded font for your name, but do not go overboard.
  • Education - Include the name of each institution, location, year of graduation or expected graduation, major or area of degree,and minor, QPA, or special honors. This section is usually arranged in reverse chronological order.
  • Thesis - List your thesis title, date of expected completion, and a short description of your work. Some students have included this information in the Research Experience section.
  • Research Interests - Interests are short descriptions of work you would be interested in pursuing. They should be well researched and thought out. These can also be on separate pages. If included in the CV, they should each be one paragraph in length. Try to keep the descriptions concise and clear.
  • Research Experience - This is one of the most important parts of your CV. List each relevant experience, dates of employment, location, position, and job description. A job description should be to the point and relevant. List those aspects of the position that make you stand out from the crowd. Use action verbs. It is even okay not to use complete sentences for the sake of brevity.
  • Teaching Experience - Like the Research Experience section, this is a very important part of your CV. Be specific about what courses you assisted with and what your responsibilities included. Also include the location and dates for each teaching assignment.
  • Awards and Memberships - List all scholarships, awards and professional associations. Be sure to include a date with each . It is also important to spell out all abbreviations or acronyms.
  • Publications - Very important - use full citations including the title! List each publication you have, along with poster presentations and talks. Indicate clearly which articles have been published and which are pending review.
  • Skills and Techniques - List the valuable hands-on experience you have with various techniques. This is particularly important for industrial positions which ask for a CV.
  • Computer Experience / Computer Skills - Be brief, no more than a few lines. Include the basics as well as any technical software and hardware you have used. You should also include your proficiency level on more difficult software packages.
  • Reference - Include the name, contact information ( including phone or email), and relationship for about three references.


  • General Appearance - It is impossible to express the importance of a clean and well organized CV. If a CV appears to be sloppy, the employer will promptly file it in the garbage can. Another negative of sloppy CVs, is that they do not scan well. This technology is very common now, so be aware. Take a good look at your CV when you are finished and ask yourself, "Does it look good?"
  • Fonts - Fonts on a CV should range from 10pt for some common fonts to 14pt for your name or a header. Use normal fonts, these are the easiest to read and are recognized by most scanners. Do not use any italics, underlining or shadows. If you need some variety, use a bold or all caps Helvetica for your titles and Times for your other text, or put your name in a slightly creative font.
  • Spacing and Length - You want the page to appear full. Large white spaces imply that you did not have enough to include on your CV. Yet, you do not want your page so tight that it is impossible to read and looks too busy. Try to have a little white space, but not large sections. As for length, most CVs are about three pages including publications and references. If you have many publications, it could extent to many more pages.
  • Use Action Verbs - For all experiences and many skills parts, it is very important to use good action verbs. Action verbs highlight your experiences in quantitative ways. You want to be very specific and use as few words as possible; action verbs are the answer.