Curriculum Vitae (CV)

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What Is a Curriculum Vitae (CV)?

A curriculum vitae (or CV for short) is an extended document that presents a quite detailed summary of your credentials and accomplishments, particularly from an academic standpoint. (In fact, curriculum vitae is a Latin term that loosely translates to “course of life.”)

You might need a CV in the following situations:

  • If you are applying to graduate/professional school.
  • If you are applying for fellowships/assistantships/scholarships.
  • If you are pursuing a position in an academic (college/university), scientific, medical, or research capacity.
  • If you are pursuing a position internationally. In many European and Asian countries, for example, employers expect job applicants to submit CVs, not resumes. (Note: Different countries have different expectations for CV content and formatting, so make sure you know what those expectations are for the countries where you’ll be pursuing an opportunity. You can learn more about country norms by using the GoinGlobal resource in Handshake.)

How is a CV different from a Resume?

A CV is similar to a resume in that both documents serve as an overview of your achievements and potential. But a CV differs from a resume in a few key respects.

A CV Is Usually Longer Than a Resume

When you’re a college student or recent graduate especially; your resume rarely exceeds one page. And if it does, it most certainly will not exceed two pages.

CVs, on the other hand, are often longer than resumes. Even when you’re a college student or recent graduate, your CV can easily run two pages if not three or four.

A CV Grows as You Grow

No matter how much experience you accumulate over the course of your working life, your resume will probably never exceed two pages. In fact, you’ll edit your resume a little (or a lot!) for each position you pursue in a professional context.

But your CV is different; it’s a cumulative document, and thus it grows as you grow. You simply keep adding to your CV as you accomplish different things. 

If you co-author a paper that is published in an academic journal, for example, you can add that reference in a section of all the citations of papers you have written or co-written previously

International CV requirements

In the United States, employment laws generally prevent employers from asking job applicants about personal details like their age or whether they are married. But in countries outside the United States, where employers expect to receive CVs (not resumes) from job applicants, you may need to add such personal details to your CV.

Be sure to research country-specific expectations by using the GoinGlobal resource in Handshake.

What Information Should Be Included on a CV?

Whereas your resume—especially if you’re a college student or recent graduate—will feature limited information and only a few section headings (e.g., “Education,” “Experience, “Skills”), your CV will include more detailed information and a significantly longer list of potential section headings. 

At a minimum, your CV should include the following sections:

  • Name and Contact Information
  • Education
  • Research/Academic Projects
  • Experience (i.e., Employment History, Internships, On-campus Involvement, Volunteering, etc.)
  • Awards/Honors

You can also include your choice of the following sections (and/or create others as necessary):

  • Biographical Statement
  • Committee Experience
  • Conference Papers
  • Conference Presentations
  • Computer Skills
  • Editorial Experience
  • Exhibitions
  • Dissertation (Thesis)
  • Grants Awarded
  • Interests
  • Language Skills
  • Professional Activities
  • Professional Membership/Leadership
  • Publications
  • Published Articles
  • References
  • Research Experience
  • Service Experience
  • Teaching Experience

You may be wondering how you can speak to so many topics on your CV, especially if you’re an undergraduate! Know first of all that you don’t need to speak to all of them; this is simply a list of CV categories you can select from as you develop your CV structure. 

However, it's easy to overlook and ignore the many things you have accomplished so far in your life. Chances are, you have more to write about on your CV than you think. 

If you want to convince yourself, simply start writing down everything you can think of that you’ve done (or are currently doing) in each of the CV categories. Let it all come out of your brain and onto the paper/screen. Ask trusted people in your life to help you; they will often point out your accomplishments and skills that you overlook or take for granted.

CV Examples and Resources

Just as there is no one, “right” way to format and write a resume, there is no one, “right” way to format and write a CV. Everyone will develop their CV a little differently, depending on their specific needs and goals.

Perhaps the best thing you can do as you begin writing your own CV is to look at some solid examples of other people’s CVs. If you have a professor or someone similar in your life who serves as a mentor to you, for instance, ask them if you could look at their CV for ideas. 

You’ll also find many good examples of CVs online. Here are a few places to start:

You might also want to check out these helpful resources on writing a CV:

Of course, we are always available here in CLA Career Services to help you one-on-one with the CV-writing process. Visit drop-in hours in 411 Bruininks Hall or schedule an individual appointment with a career counselor for assistance.

The CLA Career Readiness Guide covers resume writing and a host of other career-related topics in depth. Access it online, or pick up a copy in CLA Career Services or in one of the CLA Academic Advising offices.