Writing a Curriculum Vitae

A how-to written by: Sam Smidt, University of Florida

The curriculum vitae (CV) is a standard application document that highlights your academic/professional accomplishments, experiences, and affiliations (i.e., it is an academic/professional profile of what you have done, accomplished, or gained). Curriculum vitae is roughly latin for “the course of my life”, and its contents should fully satisfy this definition (professionally speaking). All prospective graduate students should have a well-developed CV prior to contacting a prospective adviser, as this is the most succinct way to communicate your qualifications and skill sets. It is also required as part of the graduate application.

The CV is not to be confused with a résumé (a standard application document outside of academia). In short, a résumé seeks to promote where a CV seeks to record and identify. For example, a résumé may have a section titled “Technical Skills” with a description that reads “proficient in data processing softwares Matlab and Pyton”.  A CV will accomplish the same goal using a section titled “Software Proficiency” with a list that reads, “Matlab, Python”. Simply put, a CV seeks to document your activity to justify your credibility. A résumé carries a tone of “this is what I can do”, and a CV conveys “this is what I have done”; ideally, a list of what you have done is validation of your qualities and strengths, and no self-promotion is necessary. 

One benefit to the CV is its format allows for length. As a CV accumulates over a career, it is not uncommon for it to become dozens of pages long. As a student just starting to build a CV, it may feel difficult to fill out even a single page worth of appropriate content. Do not add content just for length; this can be referred to as “fluff”, and fluff does not belong in a CV (save it for the résumé – zing). The goal of a CV is to be concise, yet thorough. At minimum, all CV’s should contain the following components: (1) your name and contact information, (2) institution affiliations, and (3) past work/research/internship experience. When applicable, other useful sections may include: (4) research and teaching interests, (5) awards, scholarships, grants, and fellowships, (6) published papers or conference proceedings, (7) relevant coursework, and (8) unique proficiencies (e.g., other languages, computing programs, or technical skills). 

Attached here is a template to guide the process of developing an effective CV. Also attached here are examples of successful students who have used the template as a model.