How to Craft a Strong Academic CV
Published: Nov 30, 2012
By Alex Twersky, Marketing Consultant and Career Expert
You are about to embark on an academic career, whether as a lecturer, researcher, or some hybrid of the two, so one of the most important tools at your disposal will be your curriculum vitae, or CV. As the name implies, a CV is a broad accounting of your life’s work. In this case, it will cover your academic and professional like, as opposed to that great vacation you took to Fiji last year. Unlike a resume, a CV is expected to run over one page, but the litmus test for relevance of all content should still be applied (more on that later). Like a resume, a CV is a living document and should be updated regularly, especially as you expand (or focus) your research interests, gain teaching experience, or publish more scholarly works.
To ensure you have the strongest academic CV at your disposal, we’ve provided you with the following easy-to-follow guidelines, which begin with the top of the document and proceed onward:
The Header and Lead-in
Make sure you start off on the right foot and include all of your contact details, such as your address, a convenient phone number, and professional email address. These can be plugged into the header of your document to ensure they appear on every page. You may also want to include a footer with your name and automatic pagination. The lead-in to your CV is traditionally an objective statement, which outlines in one or two cogent sentences what your professional objective is. You can indicate that you’re seeking a specific research role or teaching position, and get even more detailed by specifying particular attributes of the former or latter.
List all of the educational institutions you’ve attended in reverse chronological order. For each, make sure to include the title and description of your dissertation or thesis, as well as a list of your advisors. The latter is especially important if you have noted names in your field on your dissertation or advisory committees. Also be sure to include academic distinctions you may have earned in your undergraduate, graduate, and/or doctoral experiences.
Research, Teaching and Administrative Experience
If any or all of the above are germane to you, you will want to designate a separate section for each. These entries are listed as you would job descriptions on a professional resume, and should also be in reverse chronological order. You should arrange these sections in order of where you have the strongest experience (this would naturally come first). Make sure to indicate any special contributions you made to research projects. In the case of teaching, describe the subject matter you taught and indicate whether it was on the graduate or undergraduate level, as well as other important identifying details, such as number of classes instructed per semester and class size.
Presentations and Publications
It is very important to provide a detailed catalog of all of your published scholarly articles and presentations delivered, especially if you’re applying to a research university. List your publications in standard citation format in reverse chronological order. You may also include papers that have been submitted and which are still in the review process, as long as this is clearly indicated. In your presentations section, make sure you indicate whether you delivered an oral or poster presentation. In terms of which of these sections to list first, choose the one where you have the most robust credits.
Fellowships and Awards
There’s nothing wrong with tooting your own horn on a CV, especially as it pertains to awards won and fellowships received. Make sure you list all possible accolades you have received, including grant applications you’ve successfully filed. Remember, one of your benchmarks as an academic will be your ability to viably fund the research projects you want to work on, so your adroitness in securing grants is no small matter and should be featured prominently, if applicable.
You may want to consider appending some additional information to your CV, especially if it bolsters your suitability for a particular type of position. For example, you might include a special skills section where you list your proficiency in specific research techniques or statistical analyses. This is a good place to note foreign language abilities and software skills as well. An optional research interests section might be appropriate if you want to clearly delineate your particular aptitudes, especially if they fall into very specific niche categories. Another optional section could be community service, especially if you have some novel experience in this domain.
While there is no standard CV format, there are some formatting issues to bear in mind as you craft yours. First, do some research on recommended formats, which can easily be done with a little help from Google. Many respected institutions of higher learning post recommended formats, all of which will provide a good framework for you. Whichever format you choose, make sure you apply stylistic details consistently. Use the same type of bullet and section heading (and subheading) throughout, and make sure there is no variance in font type. Sentences should be constructed using active verbs (in general, the passive voice should be avoided on both resumes and CVs).
Don’t forget to enclose your referees and their contact information as part of your CV package. These can be listed at the tail end of the CV.