If you work in academia, you’ll probably notice you have a lot to fit into your résumé. Not only have you got your education and your work experience to list, but you are going to have teaching and research achievements, as well as possible publications and awards to mention. This is a lot to fit into the standard two pages. Luckily, as an academic, it’s acceptable to take a bit more space to list your accomplishments and credentials. Within an academic CV, you’ll find some extra sections, and you’ll find the longer layout very handy.
In this article, we explain what an academic CV is, how it differs from a normal résumé, how to structure one and some useful tips to help you along the way.
What is an academic CV?
An academic CV, or an academic curriculum vitae, is simply a résumé for someone with an academic history who’s working in academia. When applying for roles in teaching or research positions, to gain a fellowship, or to apply for a PhD, there are things that you need to list that aren’t highly relevant when applying for a role in industry.
An academic CV focuses on your academic ability above anything else. This level of interest isn’t necessary in a standard résumé, where your professional experience is usually paramount, or at least as important as your education. With an academic CV, work experience is featured lower down, below education and the focus is on teaching and research experience.
When to use one
An academic CV is typically used if you are applying for a PhD or fellowship, or another academic course, as well as funding for research, through research grant applications, or for a job in academia. You may also need your academic CV when applying for membership for certain bodies, or to secure a place at an academic conference. Applying for anything related to academia, whether you are in a job role — or still looking for one — will definitely require the use of a CV, so it is a great idea to have one ready to go for all the eventualities you might need one for.
How to structure an academic CV
An academic CV has the same sections as a standard résumé, but there are additional sections and the CV structure will be different. As we’ve established, the focus on education is higher than with an industry targeted résumé, as your educational achievements are directly related to a career in academia.
Here’s how to structure the CV so it’s suitable for all applications in academia and is easy to read.
The best place to start is with a strong header where you can outline your name and personal details, including address, email and telephone number. Here you may also want to include a title or line detailing your area of expertise or field of study. This is helpful for the reader to immediately see whether your experience fits with what you are applying for.
Next, like any résumé, a summary or profile is effective. Not all academic CVs have a summary, but it is advised, as it allows you to outline your relevant experience and qualifications, research efforts, and skills that mean you will be an attractive candidate for whatever it is you’re applying for. Like any résumé, it’s very important that this section is tailored. For example, if you are applying for a research grant, it needs to outline your past research and how it links to what you will use the grant for. This is different to a summary you would write if applying for a teaching role, which would concentrate on your teaching experience to date and any positive accolades.
Education comes next, because education is vital if you are working in academia. This is what will be most noted, so it needs to be prominent. List your education from degree level to most recent in reverse chronological order, including any projects or thesis’ that are particularly relevant. You can include your grade average if it’s good, otherwise there is no need. Make sure to include any awards and accolades from your courses.
When it comes to experience, here you will include what is most relevant and can break it down into multiple sections, rather than including all of your years of experience under one heading, as you might in a standard résumé. Most common is to head your experience “teaching experience” and “research experience”, with the most relevant or impressive first. You may also include an “other experience” section if you have industry experience, or relevant professional experience from another time, or because you studied part time.
This means that you can avoid a list with your most recent experience first, if that isn’t your most relevant experience. For example, you might be working part time whilst studying and the role may be simply to fund your studies and won’t be as relevant as the research and teaching work you are also doing.
This is where the sections start to differ from your average résumé. As an academic, there is a strong chance you will have some publications to cite. You can list all of these, or at least those that are relevant, on your CV using the standard Harvard referencing system.
Awards and contributions
This is an optional section, and you can change the heading so that it fits with what you have to include. You may have won an award for academic excellence, you may have contributed as a speaker at a prestigious event, you may have been awarded a grant for your research. You can include anything that fits here. Make the section work for you.
This section may or may not be needed on your academic CV. If you have been awarded any patents or have any patents pending, include them here. You may want to include further details if they are highly relevant to your research and what you’re applying for.
Other options include things like a languages section, and your other skills. If you are multilingual, it is always good to make this point. Skills sections aren’t always included in academic CVs, which are already comprehensive and longer than standard résumés, but if you think it will benefit you, include it (in bullet points, preferably). The same goes for any other additional sections you’d like to include that will help you sell yourself as a genuine prospect in a tailored way.
How long should it be?
A standard résumé is ideally 2 pages long, or in some instances, a single page. When it comes to an academic CV, however, there is no limit. It is understood that someone in an academic field will have research experience and teaching experience, along with publications, awards, possible patents, memberships to bodies and attendance at conferences, all of which could be highly relevant and need to be included. An academic working in industry would stick to a standard résumé format, but if you are asked for an academic CV, the former will be expected, so don’t miss anything important off in an effort to save space.
Academic CV writing tips
So, we know that an academic CV is different from a standard professional résumé, so when it comes to writing, in addition to the length, there are some subtle differences and also some elements that need to be followed in the same way as any other résumé. Take note of our top 5 tips:
1. Research your organization
As with anything you’re applying for, you need to do your research, so you know what to include in the CV. If you are applying for an academic grant from an organization focusing on a very specific field, your CV needs to be tailored to this. It should be mentioned in your summary and your experience section should be ordered in such a way that it is prominent.
You can also use your research to find appropriate keywords to use in your CV that will be recognized by the organization. These can be found on their website, job ads or any other literature you can find.
2. Reorder appropriately
To make your CV as tailored as possible, reorder the sections in a way that suits you. Education needs to stand out, of course, and should come first, but the rest of the CV can be used in a way that effectively highlights the rest of your credentials. If your research experience is your highlight, put that next. However, if you are lacking experience, you can move up your awards section if you have a big accomplishment there, or you can present your teaching experience, or even some industry experience that is highly relevant next. The choice is yours and it’s really important that you take the time to think about how the order of your CV will make you look.
3. Write a compelling summary
Your summary is the way to draw together all the most important points about your education and career and present it, ahead of the rest of the CV, as a taster for what’s to come. Think of it as your sales pitch. What you say here can influence whether the reader continues or not.
4. Make sure your header spells out your credentials
Your header isn’t just functional, you can use it as a way to draw the reader in with a title detailing your areas of expertise, your relevant qualifications, or your latest impressive role (or all three). After your name and contact details, include a line to help sell you and lead into your summary.
5. Make sure your education is paramount
Education is what an academic CV is all about and it needs to be a high priority. Every section should lend itself to your impressive educational ability, from your summary to your experience working in academia to your awards and publications. The education section is especially important, of course, and should not be limited. List your courses and qualifications, but also list special projects, modules, thesis’, research projects, awards, grants, etc. that are relevant and highlight your educational abilities in your field.
Academic CV example
Academic CVs tend to start with a summary, before leading into an education section. Any sections following that are down to you and what you have to offer but they usually include experience and publications as a minimum. Here is a résumé template example using one of the CareerAddict templates:
Like the Classic template?
Writing an academic CV can be time-consuming, because there is a lot to include. However, it also means you don’t have the stress of trying to fit everything into a small, limited space to craft the perfect résumé. With an academic CV, there is no limit, so include whatever you need to, but it is still vital that you keep it relevant and tailored to the role or situation.
Remember to focus on your educational achievements throughout your career and studies and clearly link how they all gel together, making you a prime candidate for whatever it is you are applying for. Don’t be shy about including all of your achievements, rather than just a standard list of qualifications, as you’d expect from a standard non-academic résumé.
The main points to remember when writing your academic CV are:
- Start strong — Use your header and summary to pull together your highlights to really sell you and as a taster for what is to come in the rest of the CV.
- Order to suit — Use any order to your sections that aids in selling you as a strong academic in your field, whether you start with research, teaching, or something else listed after education.
- Tailor it — As with any résumé, it is vital that you tailor it to whatever you’re applying for. Just because there is no word or page limit, don’t let that make you tempted to simply include everything in your career if it isn’t relevant.
Do you have any further tips for creating an academic CV or any résumé writing advice? Let us know in the comments below!
Originally published 19 May 2017.