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How to Write a Curriculum Vitae

Click here for a CV Example

Despite their name, curricula vitae are simply a specific sort of resume, the style preferred by candidates for medical, academic, teaching and research positions. Most of these candidates have an educational background directly related to the positions they seek, so education is always featured first. Even after twenty years of research, your degrees and the schools where you earned them will overshadow your experience. 

The main differences between resumes and c.v.'s are: 

C.v.'s almost never list an objective, and seldom have a long narrative profile. They are sometimes diagrammatic, giving exceptionally brief listings for each experience. Your credentials and preparations will have to speak for themselves. If you want to make a more elaborate argument for your candidacy, you must do it in your cover letter. 

C.v.'s are properly more understated than business resumes, and any hint of self-congratulation is likely to backfire on the author. Similarly, c.v.'s should look rather plain. Even if your computer is full of little pointing hands, fancy page borders, bullets, bells, and whistles, save them for another time. When they are nondiagrammatic, c.v.'s can contain blocky job descriptions of some great length but the emphasis is always on content, not form. 

Name dropping is more common in c.v.'s than in resumes. If you performed research under a certain professor, while you would probably list only her title in a business resume, a c.v. would be more likely to include her name. Science and academia are small worlds, and is likely that a prospective employer will have hard of a given specialist in her own field. Similarly, if you went on clinical rotations at a given hospital, name it; your future employer might have hospital privileges there. 

Unlike resumes, c.v.s' can run on for pages and pages. They should, however, be very neatly organized, with clear headings and distinct conceptual divisions, so that they can be skimmed as easily as a two-page resume.

In addition to the usual catalog of degrees and job histories, c.v.'s often contain many more categories of information. Experience may be divided between headings for Teaching and Research; education may be divided between Degrees and Continuing Education or Advanced Training; publications may be divided into subcategories of Books, Articles, Conference Presentations, Abstracts, Book Reviews, and Unpublished Papers. How you organize this material determines its impact on your reader.

As with technical resumes, employers get clues about your intelligence and focus from the way you organize and present your c.v. data.

Your presentation will be judged largely on the number and nature of listings. Material that you may think of as irrelevant may end up cinching your presentation. If you give fourteen lectures in the last year, don't say, "but that's obvious" - list them!

When you have published dozens of books and journal articles you can afford to skip the obvious; when you are fresh out of school it is better to let the search committee know exactly what you have done and, by inference, what you can do.

Citing your doctorate in nonverbal communication establishes your basic credentials, but listing lectures like the following is a much more effective way to give the search committee a feeling for who you are as a person and an intellectual:

Outside Lectures and Courses (dates optional on all)
Portland Bar Association
"The Total Argument"
"Choosing Jurors: Consider the Nonverbal Evidence"
"The Defense Attorney and Nonverbal Communication"

University of California, Long Beach
"Proxemics"
"Use of Space to Communicate"


As with any other resume, review your total universe of material before deciding on what to include, what to feature, and what to omit. Review all potential data in the following categories:

DegreesStudy AbroadVolunteer ExperienceAppointments
DissertationsTeachingServiceConsulting
ThesesWorkshopsLanguagesPractica
Other College StudiesClinicsLaboratory SkillsAcademic/Service/Performance Awards
Continuing EducationConferencesComputer SkillsActivities
TrainingSymposiaLicensesExpertise
SpecializationPublicationsCredentialsTravel
ExpertiseTranslationsHonorsHonorary/Professional/social Affiliations
PapersFellowshipsAddendaBibliography
EmploymentLecturesAssistantshipsClass Projects
ExhibitionsGrantsResearchPro bono
CommitteesAdditional  

Bibliographies longer than two pages, or any other category with more than two pages of information, should be separated out from the main body of the c.v. Of course, different disciplines have different protocols for bibliographic data and you will need to learn and follow those for your profession. 

All information should be in reverse chronological order.

What to include in a Curriculum Vitae

  1. Name, address, phone number, email, website (if applicable)
    • State these items at the top of the first page. Include your work phone number in addition to your home number if you want to be reached during business hours.
    • State your name and page number on subsequent pages at the top left corner in case the pages come apart.
    • Some vitae begin with the title Curriculum Vitae - this is unnecessary.
  2. Education
    • List your educational experiences in reverse chronological order with the highest degree earned, or anticipated, first.
    • State the institution, degree and year received, major and area of specialization (if applicable). Either the institution or the degree can be listed first, depending on which you want to emphasize.
    • Doctoral degree holders should list under the Ph.D. the title of their dissertation and their chairperson. A short (2 or 3 line) summary of the research can also be included. Master's students may list their thesis.
    • Do not list grammar or high schools.
    • Do not list grade point averages. You may, however, say that you graduated with distinction or cum laude, etc.
    • Additional coursework or private study (particularly for Fine Arts people) can be included in the Education section after your formal studies have been listed.
    • You may list qualifying, comprehensive or preliminary examinations passed (optional).
    • Do not list all your graduate courses. This should be in your credentials and/or transcript.
  3. Dissertation
    • By listing your dissertation in a category separate from Education, you are calling attention to it. This may be desirable if your topic is of special interest to the types of academic institutions you are applying to.
  4. Honors/Awards
    • List academic and professional awards you have received.
    • Honors and awards can be listed within the Education or Professional Activities section when appropriate. This might be done if one had only a few awards and did not want a separate section.
  5. Military Experience
    • Optional
  6. Professional Employment
    • List full or part-time related experiences in reverse chronological order.
    • Provide title of the position, place, and date of employment and a brief description of duties.
    • Indicate any unique responsibilities you may have had such as "designed the course", "selected texts", or "team taught".
    • Do not over-emphasize routine tasks such as grading papers, constructing tests, etc. Emphasize your accomplishments!
    • Teaching assistantships, internships, practicums, and field experiences may be included.
    • Do not include summer or part-time jobs unless professionally relevant.
    • Professional Employment can be sub-divided into appropriate categories if you have had a variety of professional experiences. Typical sub-headings could be: Teaching, Research, Administration, and Consulting.
  7. Performance or Exhibit Experience (for Fine Arts Majors)
    • This category allows you to highlight your performance and exhibit experiences.
    • List both professional and non-professional activities which may include: dances performed and/or choreographed, plays acted in or directed, one person shows, MFA exhibits, symphonies, performances, student and faculty recitals, etc.
  8. Teaching Interests and/or Research Interests
    • This section allows you to demonstrate a range of teaching/research interests.
    • Helpful especially if your education and experience do not necessarily indicate all of your interests.
    • Present a balance of interests - course you will be required to teach and special interest areas.
  9. Publications (Can be placed before Professional Experience for more emphasis)
    • Include completed publications or those in press, cited in full, in the form customary in your field.
    • Do not include unpublished dissertations, addresses, conference papers, works in progress or projected work.
    • Can also use these headings if appropriate: Publications and Professional Activities, Proposed Research, Research Interests, Publications and Presentations.
  10. Professional Activities (related titles might be Professional Memberships, Academic Service, etc.)
    • List activities which contribute to your professional credentials such as professional association memberships, conference presentations, committee memberships/activities, etc.
    • If you have extensive community service activities (i.e. Rotary, youth counselor, Red Cross, etc.) you should have a separate category called Community Service.
  11. Languages
    • Indicate the languages in which you are fluent.
    • You may qualify the level of fluency (i.e. Italian-excellent speaking, fair reading and writing).
  12. References
    • Should go on a separate page. Three to five professional references. Include name, title, organization/business, address, and phone (email and fax numbers are optional).
    • Give references to an employer only if they request them.