Tips | Curriculum Vitae for Graduate Students

For graduate students creating a CV (Curriculum Vitae) is one of the most important tasks in your academic job search. A Curriculum Vitae, Latin for “course of life”, is referred to as a CV or vita. Like a resume, it is a summary of your skills, experience, and education, however, it contains more detail and is often longer than two pages. CVs are required to apply for graduate school, scientific research, and academic positions.

Writing a CV is an art, not a science. The goal is not to force your content into a particular template, but rather to find a format and style that highlights your experiences and strengths. The order and emphasis of your sections should also reflect the level of priority of your reader.


Resume or CV - What is the Difference?

What's the Difference?

CV Resume
Audience Fellow Academics in your field of study Employers who hire for a wide variety of positions
Purpose Applying for a job in academic or medical fields Applying for a job in most non-academic sectors
Goal To display your academic credentials and accomplishments in great detail To demonstrate that you have the experience and skills necessary to succeed within the position you are seeking
What Employers See A big picture of you as a person and your scholarly potential A compelling introduction of your experiences and skills

Adapted from: Student Success Centre –Western University

Although different in content and presentation, CVs and resumes do share a common purpose: which is to present yourself as an attractive candidate to potential employers and educational opportunities. As such, there is a strong element of strategy to what you choose to include, and how, in your CV. Outlined below are some typical CV sections.


1. Personal Information

 Full first and last names followed by your degree(s) such as BSc, MSc (where applicable). Names may be bolded, centered, and followed by your current mailing address or institutional address, phone numbers and professional email address.


2. Educational Information

List formal post-secondary education in reverse chronological order. You may include honours, awards, thesis titles, topics and supervisors in this section if not discussed elsewhere. Training courses may be included here or in another section such as “Professional Development” or “Additional Training”.


3. Awards and Distinctions

List awards and honours in reverse chronological order. If you have only one award/honour per degree, you may choose to place them under the appropriate degree in the “Education” section. If you are applying for a research position and have received awards, put this section on the first page, after education to catch the reader’s attention.


4. Research Interests / Research Techniques

In short, bulleted format, list your existing research interests and/or point to future directions for your research. This section may also detail technical skills such as research techniques and/or knowledge of specialized equipment, coding languages, etc. if not discussed elsewhere.


5. Teaching Experience

List the courses you have taught or been a TA for including course name and number, department, university, date. You may include a one-line statement about the course content. If you are targeting this CV for teaching positions, place this section before sections on your research and professional experience. Consider developing a teaching dossier. Also, consult this U of T Guide to building a teaching dossier


6. Community Involvement 

List the academic committees and/or student organizations on which you have served including a brief (one-line) description of your activities and accomplishments.


7. Publications

Provide full bibliographic information for publications already published or accepted by publishers. If your publication list is extensive include a partial list and consider posting your complete list of publications online and referencing the link in your CV.


8. Professional Affiliations and Honours

List memberships in professional organizations, significant appointments/elections to positions, honours from professional, business, educational, or related organizations.


9. Professional Experience

List related experiences in reverse chronological order stating job title, employer name, city/country, and dates. Emphasize leadership roles, successes, accomplishments, and recognitions where possible.


10. Other Experience

List other jobs you have had or other activities that you have been involved in not directly relevant to your academic career objective. It is common to include so-called “unrelated experiences” both to fill in the chronology of your experiences as well as to take advantage of another opportunity to discuss your transferrable skills. Include brief details emphasizing skills and achievements rather than simply listing duties.


11. References

Write references on a separate sheet as the last page. Three to five references are typical. Include each referee’s name, title, employer, and complete contact information. For further information see the Graduate Students section of our website.


12. Ordering of Sections

No CV will contain all of the categories mentioned above. Information will not appear in the same order always. Deciding what to include and how to present it requires strategic thinking and an eye towards the priorities and interests of the recipient of your application. Highlight your strongest qualifications for the position to ensure they are visible.


13. Using The CV Outside of Academia

Finally, a CV for industry may require a different emphasis than a CV for academia. A CV intended for industry may emphasize categories not emphasized in CVs for academia including lab techniques, leadership, project management, assessments, tools and software to name a few. Be aware of what is important to your reader, and tailor your CV to best present your skills and achievements accordingly. For an example of a hybrid document intended for industry research positions, see the Graduate Students section of our website under Careers Outside of Academia.

Different disciplines may have different expectations regarding CV content and presentation. Consult with faculty members and the Career Centre for feedback. For examples of CVs for different disciplines see “The CV Handbook” and “The PhD Handbook for the Academic Job Search” available for use in the Career Centre.


To schedule an individual CV critique, make an appointment by phone (905) 828-5451. For updated information on COVID 19.


Please note that this information is subject to change. It is best to refer to the original sources for the most up-to-date information.


Updated August 2, 2022