How to write an Academic CV

Academic CV illustration

It’s simple, if you want to apply for an academic position, you’ll need an academic CV. In it, you’ll provide prospective employers with comprehensive information about who you are, what you can do, and what you’ve achieved. You’ll use your academic CV to convince them that you’re the right candidate for the job.

And your CV’s importance can’t be understated. How you write, structure, and present your skills, education, and experience in your CV is one of the critical parts of the application process. The problem is that there’s so much information out there that purports to show you what information you should include and how it should be structured, that it could be challenging to separate fact from fiction. This guide is here to demystify academic CVs by showing you how to write one that will get you noticed.

Academic CVs and resumes

Before looking at how to write an academic CV, let’s first take a closer look at CVs and resumes. Here, the distinction is important as people often refer to these two documents interchangeably even though there are significant differences between them, not only in the information they should contain but also in the purpose they serve.

At their core, both these documents aim to give potential employers and hiring managers an idea of your skills, qualifications, and experience. The differences between them, however, relate to their formatting and the audience they’re used for.

Resume

Resumes are concise documents of two pages or fewer that provide a succinct overview of your qualifications, skills, and experience. Because of this, they don’t go into a lot of detail and should only highlight why you’d be a good candidate for the job you’re applying for.

Typically, when you’re applying for an industry-related position like a software developer, engineer, or accountant, you’ll use a resume to apply.

Academic CV

In contrast to a resume, an academic CV is a comprehensive document that outlines your educational background, skills, and experience. It also outlines your accomplishments, awards, honors, and special qualifications. In an academic CV, all this information is presented chronologically and not edited based on a specific position’s requirements as is the case with a resume.

Considering this, their goal is to provide prospective employers with an in-depth overview of your suitability for a specific position. Moreover, because they provide such a comprehensive overview, they’re a lot longer than resumes and, in some cases, can consist of four, five, or even more pages.

When you’re applying for a fellowship, research, or teaching position, you’ll use an academic CV. It’s also the appropriate choice when you’re for a position in the medical, scientific, or any other academic position.

What should you include in an academic CV?

Now that we’ve seen what resumes and academic CVs are and how they differ, let’s look at the information you should include in an academic CV.

Heading

The header section of your academic CV is where you’ll introduce yourself to a prospective employer. As such, it contains two crucial sections of your academic CV: your personal information and your personal profile or research objective.

Personal and contact information

Your academic CV should contain your personal and contact information. As such, you should include your full name, professional title, home address, institutional address, telephone number, and email address. Here, it’s also a good idea to include your LinkedIn profile if you have one.

Personal profile or research objective

Apart from your personal information, you’ll also add a personal profile or summary statement in your academic CVs header section. Alternatively, you could also choose to add a research objective depending on the specific position you’re applying for.

But what is the difference between the two? A personal profile gives a short summary of your background, experience, and achievements. In other words, it highlights why you’re a good candidate for the position.

In contrast, if you’re applying for a research position, you’ll be better served by a research objective. Unlike the personal profile, it doesn’t provide background information but rather a concise summary of your planned research.

Education

In the education section of your academic CV, you’ll provide information about your educational background and credentials. Here, you’ll list all these educational credentials in reverse chronological order. For example, you’ll start with your most recently completed degrees or the degree you’re currently busy with and then list the older degrees.

For every degree you list in this way, you should include:

  • The date of completion of the degree. If you’re still busy with the degree, you’ll need to provide your expected completion date.
  • The name of the academic institution and the department.
  • The city and state where the academic institution is located.
  • The degree type and your major.
  • Your minors, if applicable.
  • Your thesis title and advisor, if applicable.

Experience

In your academic CV’s experience section, you’ll want to showcase the skills and expertise that make you a suitable candidate for the position you’re applying for. Like with your education, you’ll list your experience in reverse chronological order. When doing so, it’s also a good idea to group your experience into relevant categories.

For example, you can group your experience into different subsets of teaching, research, or administrative experience. No matter how you list the experience on your academic CV, you should include the following information for every position you’ve held:

  • Your title or the name of the position.
  • The organization or institution’s name and address.
  • The dates during which you held the position.
  • A summary of your responsibilities or duties, your accomplishments in the position, and the successes you achieved.

Publications

In the publications section of your CV, you include bibliographic references to all the work you’ve authored. These can include anything from books, book chapters, articles, book reviews, pamphlets, and more. For every publication on your list, you need to include:

  • The title of the publication
  • The date of publication
  • The page number in the specific publication, if applicable.

Depending on the works you’ve offered, you might also want to divide your publications into two separate groups, one for peer-reviewed publications and the other for other publications.

Presentations

In this section, you’ll provide details about the professional presentations you’ve given, including poster presentations. As such, you’ll provide details about invited talks where you’ve been requested to present at other institutions, campus talks where you’ve presented on your institution’s campus, and conferences you’ve participated in.

For each of these presentations, you’ll provide:

  • The name of the conference or event.
  • The date of the event and its location.
  • If applicable, a brief description of what the presentation was about.

Awards and honors

In this section, you’ll showcase all the awards and honors you’ve received related to your work. As is the case with the other sections of your academic CV, you should list these awards and honors in reverse chronological order. And when you list these awards, you’ll need to include the name of the award, the year you received it, and the name of the institution that presented you with the award or honor.

Fellowships and grants

This section will include information about all the grants, fellowships, or internships you’ve received. For an academic CV, this is important as it shows that your work has been valuable enough to attract funding from other institutions. Here, you’ll once again list your grants and fellowships in reverse chronological order and include the following:

  • Name of the organization.
  • Name of the grant.
  • The date on which you received the grant or fellowship.

Depending on your specific field and the position you’re applying for, you could also consider including the amount of funding awarded for each grant.

Certifications

In this section, you’ll include information about the licenses, certifications, or accreditations you’ve received. For each of these, you’ll list the type of accreditation or certification, the institution or professional body that awarded it, and the date on which it was awarded.

Languages and other skills

If you can read or write any other language and if it’s relevant to the position you’re applying for, you can include these languages in your academic CV. For every language you include, you should include your level of proficiency. This includes, for example, if you’re fully proficient, advanced, or intermediate. Any languages that you only have a basic comprehension level should not be included.

In addition to these language skills, there might also be some other skills you want to highlight to make your academic CV stand out. These can include both hard and soft skills that are relevant to the position you’re applying for.

Keep in mind, however, that this is totally optional, and in some cases, it might seem unprofessional. Generally, though, you should include these skills if you’re applying for a position in a technical or scientific field.

Professional associations

In this section, you’ll list all your professional association memberships and affiliations. Here, you can also list your appointment in significant positions with these associations. Moreover, you can also list the institutional committees you’ve served on, including the offices you’ve held and the academic projects you’ve assisted on.

As an optional section, you can also include information about relevant volunteer work that you’ve performed.

References

In the final section of your academic CV, you include references. Typically, three to five references will suffice unless the requirements for a specific position require that you provide more. If this is the case, you might wish to include these references in a separate addendum to your academic CV.

For each of these references, you’ll need to include:

  • The reference’s full name and title.
  • Their contact details including the telephone number, email address, and traditional mail address.

5 tips to write an effective academic CV

Now that you’ve seen what information you should include in your academic CV, let’s look at five simple tips you can use to ensure that your academic CV is effective and that it stands out from the crowd.

1. Consider your audience

Ideally, you want the person that receives your resume to start reading and continue until the end. In other words, you should ensure that your resume is engaging and draws the reader in.

To do this, you should consider the audience you’re writing for. As a result, you should consider the specific university, college, or department you’re applying to and their qualities and values. You should also give careful consideration to who will most likely read your resume first.

2. Focus on readability

Remember, prospective employers don’t have much time to decipher small fonts and walls of text that are challenging to read. So, you should ensure that your academic CV is easy to read. Some strategies here can include anything from including ample margins and whitespace to using the right font and, in some cases, including bullet points to improve readability.

Ultimately, if your CV is easy to read, an employer will likely spend more time reading it.

3. Focus on structure

Considering the sections and information you should include in your academic CV as described above, it’s probably clear that you should set out the information in your CV in clearly defined sections.

Moreover, it’s crucial that you place the most important information at the top of your CV with other, less relevant information towards the bottom. This will grab the employer’s attention and will make them read further.

4. Be consistent

Another vital consideration is that you be consistent with the formatting you use. For instance, if you use a specific type of heading for your CV’s sections, you should use that heading consistently throughout your CV. The same applies to your font and spacing. Ultimately, this increases the readability of your CV.

5. Edit, edit, and edit

Finally, and probably one of the most important aspects, is that you carefully edit your CV before sending it to a prospective employer. Let’s face it, you want your CV to appear professional, and one of the simplest ways to ensure this is to ensure that there are no spelling or grammar errors.

Here, you could also ask a colleague or family member to proofread your CV for you. Often, someone else will spot errors that you’ve missed. Also, if they do proofread your CV, they could give you some valuable advice on where to improve it.

You can see your academic CV as the stepping stone to your dream career in academia or research provided, of course, that you include all the relevant information and structure the information in a way that attracts prospective employers’ attention. Hopefully, this post helped illustrate these aspects in more detail.

Frequently Asked Questions about academic CVs

🐶 What is an academic CV?

If you want to apply for an academic position, you’ll need an academic CV. In it, you’ll provide prospective employers with comprehensive information about who you are, what you can do, and what you’ve achieved. You’ll use your academic CV to convince them that you’re the right candidate for the job.

🪐 What is the difference between a resume and an academic CV?

Resumes are concise documents of two pages or fewer that provide a succinct overview of your qualifications, skills, and experience. They don’t go into a lot of detail and should only highlight why you’d be a good candidate for the job you’re applying for. An academic CV is a comprehensive document that outlines your educational background, skills, experience, accomplishments, awards, honors, and special qualifications. They provide prospective employers with an in-depth overview of your suitability for a specific position and are a lot longer than resumes.

💮 How long is an academic CV?

Since an academic CV is a very comprehensive document outlining all your qualifications in depth, it can consist of up to 10 pages or in some cases even more.

🙃 How do I write an academic CV?

To write an academic CV, consider our 5 tips:

  • Consider your audience - who is going to read your resume?
  • Focus on readability
  • Focus on structure
  • Be consistent with the formatting you use
  • Carefully edit your academic CV to make sure it is professional
📗 What skills should I put on my academic CV?

Besides information like your education and professional experience, you want to add your publications, presentations, awards and honors, fellowships and grants, certifications, language skills, and other skills you want to highlight to make your academic CV stand out. These can include both hard and soft skills that are relevant to the position you’re applying for. Keep in mind, however, that this is totally optional, and in some cases, it might seem unprofessional.