How to Write an Academic CV the Right Way
The curriculum vitae or CV is a synopsis of your academic profile. Your CV serves as a comprehensive record of your educational background, professional experience in teaching, research, and service. Your CV represents your academic credentials when applying for post-doctoral positions or for faculty positions at four-year institutions.
If you are applying for a teaching position at a community college, or if you are applying to non-academic jobs, you’ll need to submit a résumé or tailor your CV to prioritize your teaching experience.
Know your audience
The curriculum vitae is part of your faculty application packet and will be read by the hiring committee chair and the other members of the hiring committee.
Most faculty positions, especially tenure-track positions, attract dozens if not hundreds of applications. The CV tends to be a longer document, so it’s in your best interest to present the information in the most accessible and attractive way possible. You want the members of the hiring committee to keep reading past page one!
The hiring committee might include faculty members who are not in your specific field. For instance, you may be applying for a Spanish faculty position in a Modern Languages department, but your application will be read by a committee member in Slavic Studies. To avoid any misunderstandings or language barriers, provide translations where necessary and spell out acronyms of associations and journals.
Write clear headings and be consistent in your formatting throughout the document.
Cite presentations and publications using the standard style guide for your discipline.
Because there are so many applications to sift through, a serious typographical error in your document could be reason enough to land your application in the “no” pile. Ask someone to proofread your work and get feedback from your academic advisor, who certainly has seen hundreds of academic CVs throughout their career and can give you advice on how to improve yours.
Use standard formatting practices for your discipline
There is no set page count for the academic curriculum vitae. In comparison to the résumé, which is much shorter (between one and two pages long), the CV can be several pages long. Your CV will grow in length over time, and it will be longer as you add publications, presentations, and grants. As a recent PhD graduate, you might expect to have a four-page CV.
Since there is no space limit to your CV, use white space to your advantage to separate categories and to highlight each section. The white space and bullet points will increase the readability of your document.
Academic CVs tend to be quite conservative in terms of formatting. Use bold and italics sparingly, and choose a font that is standard for your field. Be consistent in whatever styling you do apply.
Use a readable font no smaller than 11 points.
Avoid using any graphics. Also, do not include your photograph.
Your CV will likely be submitted electronically, but many university search committees still print out applicants’ materials. To ensure that your application materials stay organized, add your name and a page number in the header of each page subsequent to the first one.
Tailor your curriculum vitae for every application
You need to tailor your academic CV for every application you send out. This will depend on the requirements in the job ad and the type of institution. There are different ways to do this:
- You can vary the order of topics (e.g. place teaching before research or vice versa).
- You can elaborate on certain accomplishments and skills more than others.
- You can omit certain sections (e.g. omit research interests if the position does not require research).
- You can add headings to highlight certain experience areas (e.g. teaching awards if the position requires evidence of teaching effectiveness).
First, consider the type of institution to which you are applying. Are you applying to a position at a top research institution or at a liberal-arts college? Read the job description carefully. Oftentimes, it will include a few sentences with a profile of the institution.
Be careful: Some liberal-arts colleges might have an aggressive five-year plan to increase research production. They might seem teaching-focused now but are actually looking for applicants who will bring in external grant funding to increase the university ranking and prestige. If that is the case, focus more on your research in your application materials. You will find information on planning documents on the university’s website.
Then, consider the role to which you are applying. Are you applying to a teaching-focused position (e.g. lecturer, instructor, professor of teaching, adjunct) or for a research-intensive role (e.g. assistant professor, postdoc)?
Finally, think of the university’s mission. Is it a flagship state university? Is the university serving large minority populations and focused on diversity? Is it private? Is it religiously-affiliated? You will want to modify your academic CV to demonstrate that your interests and experiences make you a great fit in that particular setting.
Organize your curriculum vitae into sections
There are sections common to all CVs (e.g. heading, academic history, work experience), but each academic CV is highly customizable and will vary by discipline. Do ask for field-specific advice from experts such as your PhD advisor or dissertation committee members. Find sample CVs from other scholars or professors in your field to see how they formatted or articulated their experience.
Always list your experiences in reverse chronological order.
Here are some standard sections that could appear in your academic CV:
Includes your name, email, mailing address (put only one, preferably your university office address), and phone number.
Lists your academic degrees, including your bachelor’s degrees and degrees in progress, in reverse chronological order.
3. Honors and awards
Lists any competitive honors or academic awards you have received. Includes fellowships, scholarships, assistantships, teaching or research awards that are relevant to your discipline.
4. Research and/or teaching interests
When applying for tenure-track positions at four-year institutions, you may want to list your research interests near the top of your CV, right under the education section. Make sure that your research interests align with any other research statement documents required for your application.
5. Recent/current research
If you are applying to a research-intensive institution, you will want to describe recently-conducted research projects or research projects that are in progress.
Be careful when applying for a teaching-intensive role (e.g. with 3/3 or 4/4 load). If the position does not explicitly mention research responsibilities as part of the role, you might want to omit this section on your CV. If the hiring committee perceives you as too ambitious with your research projects, they may conclude that a heavy teaching load won’t be a good fit for you, or that you will neglect your teaching duties to work on research projects that are not officially part of your job.
6. Research and/or teaching experience
Includes the title, the name of the university, organization or committee, the location, and the dates you held the position.
7. Grants received
Includes the name of the grant, the granting agency, the title and purpose of your research project, and the date received, in reverse chronological order.
Lists your publications in reverse chronological order, using the standard style guide for your discipline (e.g. Modern Languages Association, Chicago Manual of Style).
If your publication list is particularly long, you can create subcategories and divide your publications in a way that makes sense to someone in your discipline (e.g. chapters in books, encyclopedia entries, peer-reviewed articles, books).
Presentations include poster sessions, workshops, guest lectures, public lectures, and conference papers. It may be appropriate to include a brief description in addition to providing the titles of your presentations and the name, dates, and location of the event or conference.
For consistency, list your presentations in reverse chronological order, using the same standard style guide you applied for your publications.
10. Professional service
If you have served in more than one professional association or journal board, you may want to create a separate “Professional Service” section on your CV. List any significant appointment you held in these settings (e.g. journal managing editor, editorial assistant, secretary, membership chair). Include your title and dates in which you served, in reverse chronological order.
11. Institutional or university service
Includes the university committees you have served on and student clubs or groups you have advised or supervised.
12. Community involvement
Play up this section of your CV if applying to institutions that are very service-minded or religiously-affiliated. List any appropriate and relevant volunteer work (e.g. building houses for Habitat for Humanity with college students) or church membership (e.g. participation in a church choir or mission trips). Only add community involvement that is either related to your field (e.g. advocacy for domestic abuse victims if working in sociology) or could be relevant to the institution.
If your field requires and recognizes certain professional certifications, make sure to list these on your CV with the year received.
14. Educational travel
The educational travel section of your CV might be useful if you are applying for interdisciplinary positions that require experience abroad (e.g. Mediterranean studies, International relations). List study abroad experiences, Fulbright scholarships, and internships abroad with the name of the countries, dates of travel, and purpose of the trip.
15. Qualifications or skills
Depending on the position, it might be appropriate to create a list or summary of special and relevant skills you want to highlight. For instance, you could list your software or technical skills if applying for an engineering role or a position in digital humanities. You might add your language certifications and fluency level if applying for a foreign language instruction position.
16. Professional memberships
List your membership (even if it’s only a student membership) in regional, national, or international professional organizations (e.g. American Historical Association).
It is appropriate to include three to five references, one of which should be your PhD thesis advisor. At least two of your references should be academic. Some job advertisements might ask for references in a separate document.
Include your references’ title, university or other place of work, department, and contact information (phone and email).
Consider extra help with your CV
Composing your academic CV, along with your other job application materials, can be incredibly overwhelming while conducting your usual academic responsibilities. It’s challenging to manage your time so you can put in the quality effort you need to stand out in the hiring process.
At Beyond the Professoriate, we offer academic job market editing and coaching services and faculty job search courses (in our e-learning platform) to help you create competitive job materials in your academic career search.
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