For the majority of jobs out there, you need to send a CV. This becomes more important when you are a PhD graduate and applying for a job at a university, whether it’s an academic or non-academic position. Going after a job in academia is tough, considering that it’s as competitive as it is for business and other industries. This means that it’s not enough to create just any CV, but one that can be adapted to each application you make. That’s because every position is different in terms of specifications and you need to show how you are the best candidate out there.
In order to do this, you need to become more familiar with academic CV writing and what an academic CV is, what it does and what it should include.
What is an academic CV?
An academic CV is based on the chronological CV format, with the most obvious difference that it doesn’t follow the two-page limit. Otherwise known as a PhD CV, it’s usually required to demonstrate your ability to undertake a PhD and it’s used to support information that is relevant to your PhD and other related research. It often exceeds two pages, though this depends on individual experience; in most cases, it extends to five pages which is its average length.
When do you need It?
The purpose of any CV is to sell your professional skills and experience in the most appropriate way in order to connect to the right ‘audience’. An academic CV that speaks the language of academics, whether you are applying for an academic or non-academic position in the university sector, can help you present yourself in the best light possible. Becoming a lecturer or getting a job in a research position carries a lot of responsibility and if you are applying for these kinds of jobs, you need to show that you have what it takes.
What are the benefits?
This can be used when you want to present your research, publications and teaching experience, your grants, fellowships, professional associations and licenses, awards or any other details that make you the best candidate for the job. These elements are not typically needed or found in any candidate who is applying for an entry-level job without a PhD or experience in working in a university.
How to write an academic CV
An academic CV is different to other types of CV, not only in terms of length but also in terms of content. Your CV needs to include the following information:
- Your PhD extract and a detailed synopsis
- Past, current and future research interests
- Published research and articles
- Research methodologies and techniques
- Teaching experience and student supervision
- Administrative skills
- Conferences attended describing your role (eg: visitor or presenter)
- Funding and awards
- Professional memberships
- Any industry contact
Taking this into account, your CV should include your personal details and career summary, followed by your education, research and publications. It should then refer to your teaching and administration experience, funding, awards, professional memberships and references. Let’s go over the following information to find out what you need to include in each section:
This includes your name, address of residence, phone number(s) and professional email address. If you are applying for an overseas position, you can also include your visa status, if relevant.
Career summary/Personal profile
This section’s goal is to provide an overall image about your experience, key areas of expertise and what you can do in a job. This is usually five to seven sentences about how many years of experience you have in the field and any noteworthy research findings, key achievements and publications.
In this section, you need to provide a detailed subject breakdown of your university undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, starting with the most recent first (reverse chronological order). Prefer to list higher education and onwards. Don’t waste your time or space by including qualifications of a lower educational level than this. You can also include your thesis title and provide a brief synopsis of the research you have undertaken. If you need to add more, you can do so in the appendix section (see below).
It’s important to highlight your research experiences, interests, findings and accomplishments. This is one of the main sections on an academic CV that need to stand out as it shows employers what you have worked on in the past, what you are working on now and what you would wish to do in the future.
This is an essential part of your CV. In this section, you should list your most reputed publications in a ranking of type (eg: books, book chapters, peer-reviewed journal articles, non-peer-reviewed articles, articles presented at prestigious conferences, forthcoming publications, reports, patents, etc). Make sure that these are presented in a chronological order, using a standard and consistent style throughout the CV. Also, explain the status and your contribution in the publication (eg: ‘Peer Reviewed’, ‘In Progress’, ‘Conference Proceedings’, etc).
Honours and recognitions
This section provides you with the opportunity to write about your biggest accomplishments. You can write about any prizes, awards, honours or other recognitions for your research and work. Make sure you add the year for each honour or recognition, as well as who/which body the award was granted.
It’s important to list your teaching experience on your CV, including the institutions you worked at, the years you taught, as well as the subject matters you taught and the level of the course(s). This helps to show evidence of your teaching and presenting skills, including leading seminars and practicals.
This is where you highlight any positions of responsibility, event and course organisation or a committee membership. If you ever had to carry out any administrative duties within a faculty or a research institute, you need to include it on your CV. Doing so is essential, especially when it’s relevant to your discipline. If you are applying for a non-academic position, it’s still important to show evidence of administration skills. This ability is useful in other roles such as research support, student admissions, IT services, HR and marketing.
With a PhD, you gain valuable knowledge of higher education and equip yourself with a range of skills, including research, project management, writing and interpersonal abilities. These are some of the skills you need to demonstrate on your CV, while you should list any other skills and qualifications that are relevant to your research and academic work. You can also refer to technical and practical skills, certifications and languages.
Here you need to list any conferences and seminars you have attended or conducted. Employers need to see the date of the conference (month/year), the subject/title of the conference, where it took place (at a company, university or other organisation) and how long it lasted. Also, it might be a good idea to refer to presentations or poster displays of your own work.
If you are a member of any professional group or network that you can directly relate to your areas of expertise, you need to mention it in this section. You can list any affiliations or memberships which you have been active in (eg: for the last five years).
This is another important section that needs to be on your CV. Getting funding for your research and work shows that you have gained recognition for your efforts. It also shows employers what kind of funding you can attract. If you want, you can merge this section with your awards section if you are talking about grants, scholarships and funds.
Usually, up to three references are enough. Just like in any other type of CV, you need to include the contact details of each referee, their job title, the institution they are based, as well as their phone number and email address. When choosing your referees, you need to include people who can talk positively about you, your research, work and character. Also, don’t forget to ask for permission to include their information on your CV.
An appendix is not necessary but you can use it if you have a long list of publications or want to provide a detailed synopsis of your PhD. If you are applying for a non-research job, however, you don’t need it. This section can be particularly helpful when you want to keep the main content of your CV brief. Here, you can also include short research statements or excerpts, conferences or seminar participation, or anything else you consider to be relevant and would like to provide more details about.
How to design your CV
Generally, it should follow the traditional CV format and have a clear structure. Unusual designs and use of colour aren’t appropriate here and can easily confuse the readers. Make sure you keep it simple and that you are consistent throughout to achieve a logical and readable layout. You can get this result by bolding or italicising your headings, and writing dates and similar information on the same page. In terms of format, prefer to use common fonts like Times New Roman or Arial at 10 to 12 points. Finally, try to keep your CV to no longer than two sides of A4 paper (or 4 pages). This should help employers scan your CV quickly.
- Include page numbers to avoid confusing employers with the order of pages
- Tailor content to the job application
- Use language that is clear and concise
- Keep to one style of referencing
- Write your name on the top of each sheet
- Use powerful action verbs when talking about your experience
- Use ‘Curriculum Vitae’ as a heading
- Overuse bold and italics
- Put too much information on a page
- Use abbreviations
- Use long sentences
- Include job descriptions
- Include a photograph (unless you are applying for a job which asks for one)
Writing a CV isn’t difficult; it just takes time. This is probably the reason why almost every jobseeker postpones the process and leaves it to the very last minute. However, that’s not an effective plan to follow and some preparation is always needed. While you are at it, don’t forget that your CV needs to be accompanied by a cover letter.
If you need help, check out these CV and cover letter templates intended for PhD students from Harvard University to give you a head’s start!