Creating a Curriculum Vitae (CV)

A curriculum vitae (CV) is a detailed record of your academic life and is typically used for the following purposes:

  • Applying to graduate or professional school
  • Applying for academic work (post-doctorate programs, teaching and research positions in higher education)
  • Preparing for a masters defense exam, or doctoral candidate and defense exam
  • Accompanying document with your academic conference presentation submission 
  • Applying for fellowships, awards, grants and recognitions, etc.

Your CV will continue to evolve and expand throughout your academic career. For example,  your CV will look different when applying for a Masters degree compared to applying for a tenure track academic position. The purpose of a CV will determine what information will be included, the sequencing of information, and details about your role in an experience. 

In North America, a CV and resume are not the same. In Europe, a CV is used to find employment in any field, not just in academia. 

The resume and CV have different purposes. A resume is a targeted document to apply for a job. Learn more about how to create a resume. Your CV is a record of your academic life and focuses on 3 areas of your academic experience: teaching, research, and service.

Although resumes are generally limited to 2 pages, a CV can be as long as needed to contain all relevant information.

This sample CV is designed to follow accepted conventions (content, formatting, wording and presentation) and norms within academic settings. The CV structure is applicable to many different disciplines. 

For more information on CV conventions and norms and to receive feedback on your CV book an advising appointment

Content - what information to include

An effective CV is constructed of three pillars: teaching, research and service. The information included in your CV aims to demonstrate your relevancy to a specific use. 

Uses of a CV

1. Applying to Graduate School or Professional Degrees

  • Indicate areas of interest
  • Demonstrate alignment with potential supervisors’ area of study
  • May present as an “academic resume” and will develop throughout graduate school

2. Applying to Research Positions or Postdoctoral Fellowships

  • Ordered to highlight record of research (activities, publications and presentations)

3. Applying to Academic Teaching Positions

  • Ordered to highlight the position which may have a focus on teaching or research or both
  • Can include teaching professional development and training such as the Graduate Teaching and Learning (GTL) program

4. Applying to Fellowships, Awards, Grants and Recognitions, etc.

  • Present the activities/experiences that address the requirements of the award, grant, etc.
Formatting - the sections you will include, and the strategic sequencing of those sections

CVs are typically organized into clear sections and subsections that help inform the reader of different activities. Including subsections can help group together relevant activities and make it easier to read and find the value in these activities. For example, professional activities could be grouped into subsections of peer-reviewer, steering committee member, and/or judge to indicate the focus of the activities. 

The order of sections will depend on their relevance to the purpose of your CV (ie. applying to an academic position, applying to graduate school). 

Common CV section titles include:

  • Degrees/Licensure Awarded
  • Thesis and/or Dissertation Title and Research Interests
  • Grants/Awards
  • Publications and Presentation List
  • Teaching Experience
  • Advising/Mentoring Experience
  • Academic Service/Interests 
  • Professional Activities

Different academic fields may use discipline-specific sections. For example, fine arts or design studies may include sections related to solo and group exhibitions. Reach out to professors in your department to learn about CVs in your discipline and which sections are and are not typically included. Examples can sometimes be found on faculty member bio pages on departmental websites.   

Additionally, some institutions and departments require candidates and current faculty members to structure their CV and sequence the sections in a specific way. They may provide a template to faculty members to use and follow. In this case, it is important to follow the established conventions. Similarly, some funding agencies may provide guidelines on the sections that must be included in a CV. 

It is important to follow proper citation conventions based on your discipline of interest. For example, some disciples use APA primarily while others use MLA and/or Chicago. This is particularly important when formatting the content for publications and presentations. 

Wording - the vocabulary you use to describe your experiences and attributes

In general, a CV will use less wording to describe your education, experience, and activities. Rather, you will list these activities without providing a detailed description of what you did or accomplished. 

Aim to use consistent wording and formatting throughout your CV. Similar to creating a reference list, items included in your CV should be written in a standardized way. Your field of study or supervisor may dictate the wording; if not, determine a consistent format for yourself.

Presentation - the visual appearance and readability of your document

Like a resume, there are many considerations to make when organizing, editing, and formatting your CV. The importance of optimizing the overall presentation of your CV is to enhance the overall readability of the content. Readability is the ease by which information is read in print and/or digital format. Below are typographic tips to enhance your presentation:

  • Aim for consistency in the design of your CV, including fonts, alignment, hierarchy of information and spacing
  • Highlight information that is more relevant and important before secondary details. For example, decide if it is more important to stack the name of your role (eg. Research Assistant) on top of the institution, a more highlighted placement, or the other way around. 
  • Use spaces, formatting (bold, italics, or underlining), and subtle changes in size to create a hierarchy of information and visual distinction. Make sure you are using a consistent style throughout your CV. Also keep in mind that some formatting, notably italics, can be hard to read on a screen. 
  • Use white space to allow for breathing room on the page. Do not adjust your margins to fit in more content - this can make the document harder to read. 
  • Bullet points should not be overly disconnected from text with a space large gap/space. Bullets should not be too large also. 
  • Do not include additional graphic elements, such as graphic bars, if you do not need them. If included, use sparingly and in a manner that is de-emphasized, these are not common on a traditional CV design.
  • Use en-dashes for number ranges, opposed to hyphens (e.g. 20XX–20XX). 
  • Limit the use of colour as this does not follow the traditional CV format.
Hybrid Format
A Hybrid resume/CV is often used to apply for work in government, research, and other positions that straddle both academia and industry. Hybrid resumes borrow conventions from both CVs and resumes.