Writing a well-crafted, detailed curriculum vitae (CV) is essential for college professors, physicians, lawyers, and others who want to obtain research-focused jobs or funding for research. However, creating that document can feel challenging when facing a blank page.

This article will cover what professionals need to know to write a solid CV, including a breakdown of CV sections and format, an overview of what a CV is, and a CV template.

What is a CV?

In Latin, ‘curriculum vitae’ means ‘course of life.” Used primarily by academic, medical, and law professionals, a CV is a detailed document that emphasizes an individual’s educational and research background, with information about work experience, publications, presentations, grants, special achievements, and more.

Due to the amount of information they cover, CVs are typically two to three pages long, although, for experienced professionals, it’s common for them to be longer. Unlike a resume, which emphasizes brevity, a CV is meant to be a thorough overview of an individual’s academic and professional life.

This definition of a CV is specific to the U.S. Throughout the rest of the world, the term ‘CV’ refers to a document that more closely resembles what is known in the U.S. as a resume. Job postings will usually specify whether candidates should submit a resume or CV, but contact the hiring manager to clarify if you’re unsure.

CV or Resume: Which Do You Need?

A resume is an application document focusing on an individual’s relevant work experience for a particular job or opportunity. Applicants typically include their education history in their resume, but the emphasis is on workplace responsibilities and accomplishments.

Resumes are also shorter than CVs, with the standard being one page for most professionals.

In general, unless otherwise noted, if you’re applying for a non-academic or research job, you should submit a resume.

The industries where individuals are usually expected to submit a CV are:

  • Academia — Colleges typically require CVs from those applying for positions as professors, college librarians, or academic researchers to demonstrate their research experience, including publications and presentations.
  • Non-Academic Research — CVs are also commonly used to help organizations assess non-academic researchers applying for grants, fellowships or other funding to support research or research-related jobs in the private sector.
  • Medicine and Law — A CV is also the preferred application document for physicians and lawyers. These are two fields where research and publication are common to maintain credentials and stay current in their fields.

How to Format a CV

Before starting to write your CV, gather all the relevant information you’ll need, including the titles and dates of publications, presentations, and awards. This will streamline the process of adding this information to the relevant sections.

The tone and presentation of a CV is straightforward and professional. Use an easy-to-read, 10- or 12-point font like Helvetica or Calibri. Don’t include any special graphic design elements or format embellishments. You can use bold or caps for emphasis or to distinguish between sections and italics for publication and presentation titles.

The order of sections for a CV is somewhat flexible. Always start with current contact information, so the organization you’re applying to can reach you. After that, list your educational background in reverse chronological order (most recent experience first).

However, beyond that, the order of sections is largely up to the writer. For example, if you’re applying for a professor position, you should prioritize your previous teaching experience. If you’re seeking a research grant, you can list your research experience and publication history higher. If there are areas in which you need more relevant experience or apply to this specific opportunity, you can eliminate them.

Section-by-Section Guide to Writing a CV

Contact information

This section includes your name, location (city and state are typically sufficient), email address, and phone number. Contact information always goes at the top of the page and can be included on all pages of your CV.

Education history

Provide the details of your educational background, including degrees you’ve earned and any you’re currently pursuing. List education history in reverse chronological order, with the most recent degree first. Include the full degree name, the school from which you received the degree, attendance dates, minors or certificates earned as part of the degree, and any additional information, such as graduation honors.

Work experience

Depending on your specific background and the position you’re applying for, this can include a combination of post-secondary teaching experience, professional work experience, and research.

List any relevant full- or part-time jobs, tenured, adjunct, or guest faculty positions, internships, research projects, lab work, volunteer work, and other field experiences. You can break up these sections with headers for ease of reading.


Publications are a key way for CV writers to demonstrate their experience and research integrity. Include any publications you’ve authored or co-authored, including books, book chapters, scientific studies, journal articles, and more. As with other information on your CV, list publications in reverse chronological order. If you’ve been an exceptionally prolific publisher, you can pare back your list to the most relevant publications.

There are multiple widely accepted formats for citations in CVs, with some more common in specific fields than others. Use the Modern Language Association (MLA) format for your publication citations when in doubt.


Similarly to publications, including recent and relevant presentations on your CV demonstrates that you are actively conducting and presenting research in your field. To format presentations on your CV, include the title, date, and location of the presentation. You can include presentations you delivered on your own or with other presenters.

Conference attendance

If you don’t have an extensive presentation record, including conferences you’ve attended can also be helpful. It shows potential employers or funders that you are staying current in your industry and using conferences as a way to increase your knowledge base.

Awards and honors

This section allows you to brag a bit by listing any notable achievements, awards, or honors you’ve received that are relevant to the position you’re seeking.

List awards by including the award or honor title, the year you received, the awarding organization, and any pertinent or significant details about the award, such as how frequently it’s given, how many people receive it, or what you were being acknowledged for.

Grants and funding

Because CVs are commonly used to help researchers secure grants, fellowships, and other types of funding, you’ll want to include any funding you’ve already received. It demonstrates to potential future funders that you’re a worthwhile investment, especially if your previously received funding led to publications and presentations.

Professional organization memberships

If you belong to any industry-relevant professional organizations, either as a regular member or board member, include this information as well. You can list the name of the organization, your membership dates, and any specific roles you’ve performed within the organization, if applicable.

Optional sections

While not a requirement, some CV writers may choose to include some or all of the following, depending on relevancy to the position:

  • Key skills
  • Community outreach
  • Language skills
  • Personal interests
  • References

CV Template/Example

Kate Jordan
Chicago, IL | (123) 456-7890 | [email protected] | LinkedIn


University of Chicago – Chicago, IL

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) – Major | Graduation year
Dissertation: “Title of Dissertation”

Northwestern University – Evanston, IL

Master of Science (MS) – Major | Graduation year
Thesis: “Title of Thesis”
Select Coursework: Course Name | Course Name | Course Name

University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, MI

Bachelor of Science (BS) – Major | Graduation year
Select Coursework: Course Name | Course Name | Course Name
magna cum laude

Research Interests

  • Relevant area of research
  • Relevant area of research
  • Relevant area of research

Research Experience

Position Title, Organization Name, Chicago, IL | year to present

  • Work duty or highlight
  • Work duty or highlight

Position Title, Organization Name, Chicago, IL | year to year

  • Work duty or highlight
  • Work duty or highlight
  • Work duty or highlight

Position Title, Organization Name, Evanston, IL | year to year

  • Work duty or highlight
  • Work duty or highlight



“Article Title,” Publication Name, date | hyperlink
“Article Title,” Publication Name, date | hyperlink
“Book Chapter Title,” Publication Name, date | hyperlink


“Article Title,” Publication Name, date
“Article Title,” Publication Name, date


“Presentation Title,” Event Name, date
“Presentation Title,” Event Name, date

“Seminar Title,” Event Name, date
“Seminar Title,” Event Name, date

Award and Honors

“Award Name,” Granting Organization, Date


“Title,” Funding Organization | $ amount, time span
“Title,” Funding Organization | $ amount, time span
“Title,” Funding Organization | $ amount, time span

Board Memberships

Organization Name
Organization Name