What is an academic CV (or research CV)?
An academic CV or “curriculum vitae” is a full synopsis (usually around two to three pages) of your educational and academic background. In addition to college and university transcripts, the personal statement or statement of purpose, and the cover letter, postgraduate candidates need to submit an academic CV when applying for research, teaching, and other faculty positions at universities and research institutions.
Writing an academic CV (also referred to as a “research CV” or “academic resume”) is a bit different than writing a professional resume. It focuses on your academic experience and qualifications for the position—although relevant work experience can still be included if the position calls for it.
What’s the difference between a CV and a resume?
While both CVs and resumes summarize your major activities and achievements, a resume is more heavily focused on professional achievements and work history. An academic CV, on the other hand, highlights academic accomplishments and summarizes your educational experience, academic background and related information.
Think of a CV as basically a longer and more academic version of a resume. It details your academic history, research interests, relevant work experience, publications, honors/awards, accomplishments, etc. For grad schools, the CV is a quick indicator of how extensive your background is in the field and how much academic potential you have. Ultimately, grad schools use your academic resume to gauge how successful you’re likely to be as a grad student.
Do I need an academic CV for graduate school?
Like personal statements, CVs are a common grad school application document (though not all programs require them). An academic CV serves the same basic purpose as a regular CV: to secure you the job you want—in this case, the position of “grad student.” Essentially, the CV is a sales pitch to grad schools, and you’re selling yourself!
In addition to your college transcripts, GRE scores, and personal statement or statement of purpose, graduate schools often require applicants submit an academic CV. The rules for composing a CV for a Master’s or doctoral application are slightly different than those for a standard job application. Let’s take a closer look.
Academic CV Format Guidelines
No matter how compelling the content of your CV might be, it must still be clear and easy for graduate admissions committee members to understand. Keep these formatting and organization tips in mind when composing and revising your CV:
- Whatever formatting choices you make (e.g., indentation, font and text size, spacing, grammar), keep it consistent throughout the document.
- Use bolding, italics, underlining, and capitalized words to highlight key information.
- Use reverse chronological order to list your experiences within the sections.
- Include the most important information to the top and left of each entry and place associated dates to the right.
- Include page numbers on each page followed by your last name as a header or footer.
- Use academic verbs and terms in bulleted lists; vary your language and do not repeat the same terms. (See our list of best verbs for CVs and resumes)
How long should a CV be?
While resumes should be concise and are usually limited to one or two pages, an academic CV isn’t restricted by word count or number of pages. Because academic CVs are submitted for careers in research and academia, they have all of the sections and content of a professional CV, but they also require additional information about publications, grants, teaching positions, research, conferences, etc.
It is difficult to shorten the length without shortening the number of CV sections you include. Because the scope and depth of candidates’ academic careers vary greatly, academic CVs that are as short as two pages or as long as five pages will likely not surprise graduate admissions faculty.
How to Write an Academic CV
Before we look at academic CV examples, let’s discuss the main sections of the CV and how you can go about writing your CV from scratch. Take a look at the sections of the academic CV and read about which information to include and where to put each CV section. For academic CV examples, see the section that follows this one.
Academic CV Sections to Include (with Examples)
A strong academic CV should include the following sections, starting from the top of the list and moving through the bottom. This is the basic Academic CV structure, but some of the subsections (such as research publications and academic awards) can be rearranged to highlight your specific strengths and achievements.
- Contact Information
- Research Objective or Personal Profile
- Education Section
- Professional Appointments
- Research Publications
- Awards and Honors
- Grants and Fellowships
- Conferences Attended
- Teaching Experience
- Research Experience
- Additional Activities
- Languages and Skills
Now let’s go through each section of your academic CV to see what information to include in detail.
1. Contact Information
Your academic curriculum vitae must include your full contact information, including the following:
- Full name
- Professional title and affiliation (if applicable)
- Institutional address (if you are currently registered as a student)
- Your home address
- Your email address
- Your telephone number
- LinkedIn profile or other professional profile links (if applicable)
In more business-related fields or industries, adding your LinkedIn profile in your contact information section is recommended to give reviewers a more holistic understanding of your academic and professional profile.
Check out our article on how to use your LinkedIn profile to attract employers.
2. Research Objective or Personal Profile
A research objective for an academic CV is a concise paragraph (or long sentence) detailing your specific research plans and goals.
A personal profile gives summarizes your academic background and crowning achievements.
Should you choose a research objective or a personal profile?
If you are writing a research CV, include a research objective. For example, indicate that you are applying to graduate research programs or seeking research grants for your project or study
A research objective will catch the graduate admission committee’s attention and make them want to take a closer look at you as a candidate.
Academic CV research objective example for PhD application
MA student in Sociology and Gender Studies at North American University who made the President’s List for for six consecutive semesters seeking to use a semester-long research internship to enter into postgraduate research on the Impetus for Religious In-groups in Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century.
Note that the candidate includes details about their academic field, their specific scholastic achievements (including an internship), and a specific topic of study. This level of detail shows graduate committees that you are a candidate who is fully prepared for the rigors of grad school life.
While an academic CV research objective encapsulates your research objective, a CV personal profile should summarize your personal statement or grad school statement of purpose.
Academic CV personal profile example for a post-doctoral university position
Proven excellence in the development of a strong rapport with undergraduate students, colleagues, and administrators as a lecturer at a major research university. Exhibits expertise in the creation and implementation of lifelong learning programs and the personalized development of strategies and activities to propel learning in Higher Education, specifically in the field of Education. Experienced lecturer, inspirational tutor, and focused researcher with a knack for recognizing and encouraging growth in individuals. Has completed a Master’s and PhD in Sociology and Education with a BA in Educational Administration.
What makes this CV personal profile example so compelling? Again, the details included about the applicant’s academic history and achievements make the reader take note and provide concrete examples of success, proving the candidate’s academic acumen and verifiable achievements.
3. Education Section
If you are applying to an academic position, the Education section is the most essential part of your academic CV.
List your postsecondary degrees in reverse chronological order. Begin with your most recent education (whether or not you have received a degree at the time of application), follow it with your previous education/degree, and then list the ones before these.
Include the following educational details:
- Year of completion or expected completion (do not include starting dates)
- Type of Degree
- Your major
- Any minor degrees (if applicable)
- Your department and institution
- Your honors and awards
- Dissertation/Thesis Title and Advisor (if applicable)
Because this is arguably the most important academic CV section, make sure that all of the information is completely accurate and that you have not left out any details that highlight your skills as a student.
4. Professional Appointments
Following the education section, list your employment/professional positions on your academic CV. These should be positions related to academia rather than previous jobs or positions you held in the private section (whether it be a chef or a CEO). These appointments are typically tenure-track positions, not ad hoc and adjunct professor gigs, nor TA (teacher assistant) experience. You should instead label this kind of experience under “Teaching Experience,” which we discuss further down the list.
List the following information for each entry in your “Professional Appointments” section:
- Institution (university/college name)
- Your professional title
- Dates employed (include beginning and end dates)
- Duties in this position
5. Research Publications
Divide your publications into two distinct sections: peer-reviewed publications and other publications. List peer-reviewed publications first, as these tend to carry more weight in academia. Use a subheading to distinguish these sections for the reader and make your CV details easier to understand.
Within each subsection, further divide your publications in the following order:
- Book chapters
- Peer-reviewed journal articles
- Contributions to edited volumes equivalent to peer-reviewed journals
All of your other research publications should be put into a subcategory titled “Other Publications.” This includes all documents published by a third party that did not receive peer review, whether it is an academic journal, a science magazine, a website, or any other publishing platform.
Tip: When listing your publications, choose one academic formatting style (MLA style, Chicago style, APA style, etc.) and apply it throughout your academic CV. Unsure which formatting style to use? Check the website of the school you are applying to and see what citation style they use.
6. Awards and Honors
This section allows you to show off how your skills and achievements were officially acknowledged. List all academic honors and awards you have received in reverse chronological order, just like the education and professional appointments sections. Include the name of the award, which year you received it, and the institution that awarded it to you.
Should you include how much money you were awarded? While this is not recommended for most academic fields (including humanities and social sciences), it is more common for business or STEM fields.
7. Fellowships and Grants
It is important to include fellowships and grants you received because it evidences that your research has been novel and valuable enough to attract funding from institutions or third parties.
Just like with awards and honors, list your grants and fellowships in reverse chronological order. Enter the years your fellowship or grant spanned and the name of the institution or entity providing the funding. Whether you disclose the specific dollar amount of funding you received depends on your field of study, just as with awards and honors.
8. Conferences Attended
Involvement in academic conferences shows admissions committees that you are already an active member of the research community. List the academic conferences in which you took part and divide this section into three subsections:
- Invited talks—conferences you presented at other institutions to which you received an invitation
- Campus talks—lectures you gave on your own institution’s campus
- Conference participation—conferences you participated in (attended) but gave no lecture
9. Teaching Experience
The “Teaching Experience” section is distinct from the “Professional Appointments” section discussed above. In the Teaching Experience CV section, list any courses you taught as a TA (teacher’s assistant) you have taught. If you taught fewer than ten courses, list all of them out. Included the name of the institution, your department, your specific teaching role, and the dates you taught in this position.
If you have a long tenure as an academic scholar and your academic CV Appointments section strongly highlights your strengths and achievements, in the Teaching Experience sections you could list only the institutions at which you were a TA. Since it is likely that you will be teaching, lecturing, or mentoring undergraduates and other research students in your postgraduate role, this section is helpful in making you stand out from other graduate, doctoral, or postdoctoral candidates.
10. Research Experience
In the “Research Experience” section of your CV, list all of the academic research posts at which you served. As with the other CV sections, enter these positions in reverse chronological order.
If you have significant experience (and your academic CV is filling up), you might want to limit research and lab positions to only the most pertinent to the research position to which you are applying. Include the following research positions:
- Full-time Researcher
- Research Associate
- Research Assistant
For an academic or research CV, if you do not have much research experience, include all research projects in which you participated–even the research projects with the smallest roles, budget, length, or scope.
11. Additional Activities
If you have any other activities, distinctions, positions, etc. that do not fit into the above academic CV sections, include them here.
The following items might fit in the “Additional Activities” section:
- Extracurriculars (clubs, societies, sports teams, etc.)
- Jobs unrelated to your academic career
- Service to profession
- Media coverage
- Volunteer work
12. Languages and Skills
Many non-academic professional job positions require unique skillsets to succeed. The same can be true with academic and research positions at universities, especially when you speak a language that might come in handy with the specific area of study or with the other researchers you are likely to be working alongside.
Include all the languages in which you are proficient enough to read and understand academic texts. Qualify your proficiency level with the following terms and phrases:
- IntermediateNative/bilingual in Language
- Can read Language with a dictionary
- Advanced use of Language
- Fully proficient in Language
- Native fluency in Language
- Native/Bilingual Language speaker
If you only have a basic comprehension of a language (or if you simply minored in it a decade ago but never really used it), omit these from this section.
Including skills on an academic CV is optional and MIGHT appear somewhat amateur if it is not a skill that is difficult and would likely contribute to your competency in your research position. In general, include a skill only if you are in a scientific or technical field (STEM fields) and if they realistically make you a better candidate.
The final section of your academic CV is the “References” section. Only include references from individuals who know you well and have first-hand experience working with you, either in the capacity of a manager, instructor, or professor, or as a colleague who can attest to your character and how well you worked in that position. Avoid using personal references and never use family members or acquaintances–unless they can somehow attest to your strength as an academic.
List your references in the order of their importance or ability to back up your candidacy. In other words, list the referrers you would want the admissions faculty to contact first and who would give you a shining review.
Include the following in this order:
- Full name and academic title
- Physical mailing address
- Telephone number
- Email address
Academic CV Examples by Section
Now that you have a template for what to include in your academic CV sections, let’s look at some examples of academic CV sections with actual applicant information included. Remember that the best CVs are those that clearly state the applicant’s qualifications, skills, and achievements. Let’s go through the CV section-by-section to see how best to highlight these elements of your academic profile. Note that although this example CV does not include EVERY section detailed above, this doesn’t mean that YOU shouldn’t include any of those sections if you have the experiences to fill them in.
CV Example: Personal Details (Basic)
Write your full name, home address, phone number, and email address. Include this information at the top of the first page, either in the center of the page or aligned left.
- Tip: Use a larger font size and put the text in bold to make this info stand out.
CV Example: Profile Summary (Optional)
This applicant uses an academic research profile summary that outlines their personal details and describes core qualifications and interests in a specific research topic. Remember that the aim of this section is to entice admissions officials into reading through your entire CV.
- Tip: Include only skills, experience, and what most drives you in your academic and career goals.
CV Example: Education Section (Basic)
This applicant’s academic degrees are listed in reverse chronological order, starting with those that are currently in progress and recently completed and moving backward in time to their undergraduate degrees and institutions.
- Include the name of the institution; city, state, and country (if different from the institution to which you are applying); degree type and major; and month/year the degree was or will be awarded.
- Provide details such as the title of your thesis/dissertation and your advisor, if applicable.
- Tip: Provide more details about more recent degrees and fewer details for older degrees.
CV Example: Relevant Experience (Basic)
List professional positions that highlight your skills and qualifications. When including details about non-academic jobs you have held, be sure that they relate to your academic career in some way. Group experiences into relevant categories if you have multiple elements to include in one category (e.g., “Research,” “Teaching,” and “Managerial”). For each position, be sure to:
- Include position title; the name of organization or company; city, state, and country (if different from the institution to which you are applying); and dates you held the position
- Use bullet points for each relevant duty/activity and accomplishment
- Tip: For bulleted content, use strong CV words, vary your vocabulary, and write in the active voice; lead with the verbs and write in phrases rather than in complete sentences.
CV Example: Special Qualifications or Skills (Optional)
Summarize skills and strengths relevant to the position and/or area of study if they are relevant and important to your academic discipline. Remember that you should not include any skills that are not central to the competencies of the position, as these can make you appear unprofessional.
CV Example: Publications (Basic)
Include a chronological (not alphabetical) list of any books, journal articles, chapters, research reports, pamphlets, or any other publication you have authored or co-authored. This sample CV does not segment the publications by “peer-reviewed” and “non-peer-reviewed,” but this could simply be because they do not have many publications to list. Keep in mind that your CV format and overall design and readability are also important factors in creating a strong curriculum vitae, so you might opt for a more streamlined layout if needed.
- Use bibliographic citations for each work in the format appropriate for your particular field of study.
- Tip: If you have not officially authored or co-authored any text publications, include studies you assisted in or any online articles you have written or contributed to that are related to your discipline or that are academic in nature. Including any relevant work in this section shows the faculty members that you are interested in your field of study, even if you haven’t had an opportunity to publish work yet.
CV Example: Conferences Attended (Basic)
Include any presentations you have been involved in, whether you were the presenter or contributed to the visual work (such as posters and slides), or simply attended as an invitee. See the CV template guide in the first section of this article for how to list conference participation for more seasoned researchers.
- Give the title of the presentation, the name of the conference or event, and the location and date.
- Briefly describe the content of your presentation.
- Tip: Use style formatting appropriate to your field of study to cite the conference (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.)
CV Example: Honors and Awards (Basic)
Honors and awards can include anything from university scholarships and grants, to teaching assistantships and fellowships, to inclusion on the Dean’s list for having a stellar GPA. As with other sections, use your discretion and choose the achievements that best highlight you as a candidate for the academic position.
- Include the names of the honors and official recognition and the date that you received them.
- Tip: Place these in order of importance, not necessarily in chronological order.
CV Example: Professional/Institutional Service (Optional)
List the professional and institutional offices you have held, student groups you have led or managed, committees you have been involved with, or extra academic projects you have participated in.
- Tip: Showing your involvement in campus life, however minor, can greatly strengthen your CV. It shows the graduate faculty that you not only contribute to the academic integrity of the institution but that you also enrich the life of the campus and community.
CV Example: Certifications and Professional Associations (Optional)
Include any membership in professional organizations (national, state, or local). This can include nominal participation as a student, not only as a professional member.
CV Example: Community Involvement and Volunteer Work (Optional)
Include any volunteer work or outreach to community organizations, including work with churches, schools, shelters, non-profits, and other service organizations. As with institutional service, showing community involvement demonstrates your integrity and willingness to go the extra mile—a very important quality in a postgraduate student or faculty member.
While the CV template guide above suggests including these activities in a section titled “Additional Activities,” if you have several instances of volunteer work or other community involvement, creating a separate heading will help catch the eye of the admissions reviewer.
CV Example: References Section (Basic)
References are usually listed in the final section of an academic CV. Include 3-5 professional or academic references who can vouch for your ability and qualifications and provide evidence of these characteristics.
- Write the name of the reference, professional title, affiliation, and contact information (phone and email are sufficient). You do not need to write these in alphabetical order. Consider listing your references in order of relevance and impact.
CV Editing for Research Positions
After you finish drafting and revising your academic CV, you still need to ensure that your language is clear, compelling, and accurate and that it doesn’t have any errors in grammar, spelling, or punctuation.
A good academic CV typically goes through at least three or four rounds of revision before it is ready to send out to university department faculty. Be sure to have a peer or CV editing service check your CV, academic resume, cover letter, and other application essay documents to ensure that there are no glaring errors or major room for improvement.
For professional editing services that are among the highest quality in the industry, send your CV and other application documents to Wordvice’s admissions editing services. Our professional proofreaders and editors will ensure that your hard work is reflected in your CV and help make your postgrad goals a reality.