Academic CV Writing: Insights from Professional CV Services


The terms ‘CV’ and ‘resume’ are often used interchangeably. Nevertheless, they refer to two different types of documents, and sending the wrong one may eliminate you from the competition for the role. Today we are going to explain what stands behind the CV abbreviation and how to create a successful CV.

The difference between the CV and resume explained by a professional CV service

In the US and Canada, employers in non-profit, for-profit and government organization typically expect you to apply with a resume. A resume is a 1-2 page document which summarizes your education, work history, professional skills and any other information which is relevant to a prospective employer. Note that a resume is NOT your career history – its purpose is to portray you as the best fitting candidate, which often leads to removing the old or irrelevant details of your career history. If it’s the resume that you need to create, read our guidance on creating modern resumes here:

A CV, or curriculum vitae, is only used to apply for jobs in academic or research fields. As the name indicates, when writing a CV, you should cover your entire education and professional experience – no facts are left outside. A CV typically includes additional sections which a resume doesn’t have, such as academic achievements, research, publications, professional affiliations, etc. As the CV is more detailed and comprehensive than the resume is, it reflects on the document’s length: CV usually exceeds 2 pages, and even a 4- or 5-page document is acceptable.

Note that in Europe a CV means the same as resume. That is, if you apply for jobs in the UK or France and they request a CV, be sure to attach a resume.

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CV writing guide from the professional CV writing company

The most essential difference between the CV and resume is that the former contains full information about your educational and professional endeavors. Below, you’ll find a step-by-step guide on what to include in this type of document.

  1. Name and contact information
    Just like a resume, a CV starts with the applicant’s name and contact information, such as address, e-mail, and phone number. While it is acceptable to attach a link to your professional profile or personal website, be sure to omit any personal information, as well as your picture.
  2. Educational background
    List the university names and degrees in reverse order, for example, PhD, MA, BA. You may want to indicate your most significant coursework or thesis subjects. In the CV, Education section always goes above the Experience since in the research field your academic background matters more than the paid employment.
  3. Academic achievements
    If you have had a solid number of academic accomplishments or awards, it’s recommended that you create a separate section for them. If there are only 1-2 achievements you can think of, it’s better to include them as a part of your Education section.
  4. Dissertations
    Have you completed a dissertation (or several ones) which is highly relevant for the academic area you are applying for? If so, it’s highly recommended that you include a separate section to draw the readers’ attention to it. Write the subject, publication details and a few sentences summarizing your work.
    If you’re in the middle of writing your PhD thesis, check these hints for phd student writers to get inspired and organized.
  5. Work experience
    As you have summarized your key academic milestones, it’s time to outline your work history. If you’re an experienced professional, write this section exactly as if you were writing it on a resume – in a reverse chronological order. List company names, position names, employment dates and a short bulleted list of your daily responsibilities and accomplishments in each role. In a CV, it’s typical to include all the jobs you had from the beginning of your career.
    If you’ve worked in several areas throughout your long career, you can group the experiences into relevant categories (examples of categories might be Teaching experience, Research experience, Leadership experience, etc.)
  6. Internships  
    If you are a student with no paid experience, it’s recommended that you include any internships, fellowships or assistantships within the company or university. Write about this experience as if you were writing about the full-time employment – with the organization name, position name and a list of your responsibilities/successes.
    Struggling to present your internship experience on a CV? The CV writing experts of our team can create a document for you in accordance with academic standards.
  7. Publications
    For academia, it’s highly important that you demonstrate the list of publications in books, research reports, industry journals or any other reputable sources. Include any academic publication you authored or co-authored, using the format appropriate in your field.
  8. Presentations and conferences
    Whether you were teaching students, giving lectures at the conferences or events, be sure to list the lectures and presentations you delivered in a separate section. The Presentations section highlights your subject matter expertise, oral communication skills as well as teaching experience. Include the organization name, year, the subject of your presentation and 1-2 sentences going deeper into detail if necessary.
  9. Research experience
    Have you participated in a research or led a research group? This worth being mentioned on a CV. Describe the research type, its purposes or any other information which is relevant for a job you’d like to obtain. The current projects can be mentioned as well – outline its purpose and let the reader know that the research is still ongoing.
  10. Skills
    Although the Skills (or Core Competencies) section is considered optional for a CV, the professional CV writing service recommends that you include it. This section communicates your areas of expertise at a glance, highlighting that you are a perfect fit for the opening. Note that your proficiency with the skills you’ve listed should be proven by the facts from your academic or professional background.
    Curious about which skills are in demand for the companies in all fields and which skills to capitalize on in your CV? Read our top skills list here:
  11. Memberships/professional affiliations
    Memberships in local or national professional associations should be indicated as well. Write down the organization’s name, and if you’re an active contributor, mention your successes or appointments to positions in these organizations.
  12. Design and formatting
    Note that the CV typically has more conservative design than the resume. This means using black font on white paper sheet only, with no extra colors or fancy formatting tricks. Use no other formatting except for bulleted lists.
    Take care of the readability of your CV: keep the font from 10 to 14pts, and opt for one of the common font types (such as Arial, Calibri, or Times New Roman). Capitalize and boldface the subheadings to make it easier for the reader to navigate through the document. Boldface the most important information such as university names, position names or dissertation title. Keep it plain yet neat and concise, and remember that the appearance and clear structure of the CV contributes to the first impression about you as well.
  13. Honors and awards
    Have you won a prestigious industry award? Or maybe, you’ve received a scholarship to complete your Master’s degree or received a grant for your research? Collect your educational and professional awards and recognition under this section.
    To succeed both at work and in academia, you need to take initiative and to display it in the right way. Learn how to show initiative in the right way to forward your career.
  14. References
    Just like with resumes, references shouldn’t be a part of your CV. Create a separate reference sheet to provide it upon request. Remember to include only professional references in that list – i.e. your university professors, colleagues, tutors, former employers, etc. Including your friends or acquaintances as references is considered unprofessional.
  15. Covering letter
    To apply for the majority of academia and research jobs, you’ll also need a cover letter. The cover letter is written to outline your motivation for joining the academic institution. It can be longer than a standard cover letter for the position in a commercial organization, but it’s recommended that you keep it to one page. However, if you have 10+ years of experience and impressive research/scientific background, it is acceptable to make it two pages.
    The typical cover letter structure consists from the introduction (where you briefly outline your strengths and inform where you’d learnt about the opening), the letter body (the main part where you expand on your education, experience and accomplishments) and a closing part (used for salutations and display of courtesy). Be sure to avoid the don’ts of a covering letter to make it more appealing for a potential employer.

As you can see, a quality CV should give a comprehensive perspective of your education, professional and research experience, as well as your accomplishments in your field. Unlike the resume, it stresses your academia involvement and intellectual accomplishments and has no limit in length. Therefore, you can feel free to expand on aspects of your background – all of them will increase your chances to get an interview.

Get professional help with your CV

If you are too busy to construct your CV by yourself, hiring a professional writer might help. Our company provides affordable help with CV writing. Send us your old CV, fill out a questionnaire, and the writer will collaborate with you to create a comprehensive CV that will make your academic background shine. Hiring a professional will also save your time, so you’ll have the opportunity to check how to ace a phone interview.

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