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Your Guide to an Impeccable Curriculum Vitae for Grad School

Among the common documents required for graduate school admission, a curriculum vitae (CV) will often be a part of your application paperwork. Not all programs require one but if you plan to go into any sort of advanced academic field, you'll still need to create a CV and add to it consistently as you gain experience and publishing credentials. Whether it's for a scholarship, a graduate teaching position, or a job after you graduate, having a well-written CV will be just as important as your resume.

Your CV will be an important document for graduate school admission and post-grad work. Photo by Andre Hunter on Unsplash.
Your CV will be an important document for graduate school admission and post-grad work.

A lot of people get confused between the difference between a CV and a resume. The easiest way to look at it is to understand that the purpose of a CV is to highlight your academic accomplishments and experience, while a resume focuses more on your professional qualifications and work history. There are some elements they'll both have—such as your contact information, any professional degrees you hold and where you earned them—but for the most part, they'll look like two very different documents.

The sections of a CV

The sections you'll want to include on a CV for grad school will likely be different than what you'd include on a CV for a university teaching position. For example, a CV for a teaching position is commonly divided into the following sections:

  • Personal details
  • Education
  • Teaching Experience
  • Research Experience
  • Honors and Awards
  • Grants Awarded
  • Technical Competencies
  • Professional Experience
  • Publications
  • Conference Presentations
  • Academic and Professional Memberships
  • Research and Teaching Interests
  • Community Service, Volunteer Work, and Extra‐Curricular Activities
  • Additional Relevant Skills and Languages
  • References

If you don't have relevant information to include beneath any of these section headings, you'll want to leave out that section, obviously. However, we'll go over what each of these sections should include, and show you an example of what it might look like with the correct formatting.

Personal details

This section is the same as how you'd begin a resume, with your name, mailing address, telephone number and email address. This information should be in a larger, bolder font compared to the rest of your CV to make it stand out.

Joseph A. Smith
1555 Main Street, Apartment 212
Columbus, Ohio 43004
(614) 555-1212 ●


In this section, you should include the academic institutions you've attended, starting with the most recent and working backward. Your high school information should be included, but don't include any information for middle school or elementary school.

As with a resume, you should include the school or college's name, the city and state where it is located, the degree you received (or are currently working on), the Latinate honors you were granted at graduation (if applicable), the program major or concentration, a thesis or dissertation you completed (if applicable), and the dates you attended.

Masters in Education, magna cum laude (June 2017)
Columbus College, Columbus, Ohio
Thesis title: "Reading Strategies for At-Risk, Low-Level Readers"

Teaching Experience

If you're writing your CV for graduate school, you likely won't have teaching experience to include. However, if this section is relevant and you do have teaching experience to add, include the position, the dates you held it, where the position was held, and a bullet list of all of your duties associated with your job.

8th Grade Language Arts Instructor (2016-2017)
Columbus City Schools, Columbus, Ohio

  • Taught state-mandated objectives in English grammar, writing and literature to students identified as intellectually gifted.
  • Conducted writing workshops for faculty and students focused on state writing assessments; developed professional workshops for faculty members on topics relating to writing and grammar.
  • Maintained classroom grades, records, and parent contact.

Research Experience

Having strong research skills and experience is highly useful to academic departments looking to hire graduate assistants. It's also vital if you're going to be a university professor, as research is required of all tenured academic appointments. Here's an example of what your research experience section might look like:

Research Assistant (2015-2016)
Department of English, Columbus College

  • Assisted Professor William O'Reily with primary and secondary source research.
  • Assisted with gathering data and writing methodology of "Methods of Making Reading Relevant for At-Risk Boys," published in the Journal of American Education

Honors and Awards

This is the portion of your CV containing a list of honors and awards you've received. Be sure to include in this section any "President's List" or "Dean's Lists" honors you have earned (along with the years you received them).

  • Award of Excellence in Research, Columbus College, Columbus, OH (2017)
  • Dean's List, Columbus College, Columbus, OH (2015-2017)
  • Phi Beta Kappa Award for Outstanding Achievement (2016)

Grants Awarded

The standard format for listing any grants you may have received is the following:

Current Research (beginning with the most recent one then working backwards)
Grant # (PI Name)
Name of Funding Organization (avoid using acronyms)
Amount Awarded
Period of Grant Award
Title of Project
Role on Project (if not the PI)

Technical Competencies

Your technical competencies are any skills you have beyond your professional and academic experience that would benefit you across industries or roles. For example, your list might look something like this:

  • Project Management
  • Technical Writing
  • Data Analysis
  • Data Mining
  • Database Management
  • Statistical Analysis

Professional Experience

Your professional experience is any experience you have earned outside of academic circles, particularly in the working/career world (if both worlds have co-existed for you). As example might be:

Assistant Editor (2016-2017)
Columbus Flyer

  • Conducted interviews and wrote feature articles related to philanthropy, the Arts, events and people in the Greater Columbus area.
  • Copyedited each month's issue, including calendar/event listings, advertiser contributions and contributions from other writers, ensuring consistency and an error-free publication.

Librarian (2010-2013)
Columbus Public Library

  • Shelved books and restocked missing items.
  • Assisted patrons with finding books, researching, paying library fines, using the computers, and looking through microfiche.


For this section, you should list your publishing credits. This can include both academic and professional or freelance writing, such as the example below:

Smith, J. (2013, June 1). Outreach Opportunities for Volunteers. Columbus Flyer. Retrieved from

Grant, P. & Smith, J. (2017, March 2). Strategies for Teaching Struggling Readers. Journal of Reading Readiness. Retrieved from

Conference Presentations

As with your publishing credits, experiences with conference presentations should be highlighted on your CV, as well. This shows potential employers or academic programs that you are comfortable teaching and instructing others, as well as sharing your findings with relevant audiences. Here's an example of how this section might look:

Poster, November 2015: "Your Cues In Classroom Management."
Undergraduate Educational Arts Symposium, Columbus College.
Paper, November 2016: "There Are More Ways Than You Can Imagine to Teach a Child"
Phi Beta Kappa Annual Conference, Memphis, TN.

Academic and Professional Memberships

This section is a list of the various academic and professional organizations of which you are a member. A longer list shows that you are involved with your field and seek professional development and networking opportunities within it. Your list might look something like this:

  • Modern Language Association
  • International Sociological Association
  • Society of Young Researchers
  • Phi Beta Kappa Society

Research and Teaching Interests

Especially if you are creating a CV for graduate school admissions, your audience should be made aware of any research or teaching interests you have. Your list might look something like this:

  • At-Risk/Low-Level Readers
  • Content Area Teaching and Learning
  • Curriculum and Instruction
  • Developmental Milestones
  • Differentiated Instruction
  • Early Literacy Development
  • Educational Technology and Digital Media
  • English Language Learners
  • Intervention and Prevention
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Sustained Silent Reading (SSR)

Community Service, Volunteer Work, and Extra‐Curricular Activities

Admissions committees and potential employers like to know that you know how to balance your life with activities outside of the classroom or office. This section of your CV might look something like this:

Community Volunteer Mentor (2015-2016)
Public Libraries of Columbus, OH

  • Served on volunteer committee focused on bringing free mentoring and tutoring services to low-income students.
  • Tutored and mentored low-income, at-risk students needing additional support to succeed in school.

Women's Shelter Volunteer (2008-2013)
Women's Shelter of Columbus

  • Assisted with intake of abused and battered women and their children, including counseling, finding suitable clothing and personal toiletry items, scheduling appointments with community outreach services, and leading group sessions.
  • Assisted with shelter upkeep, including cleaning, organization, intake of donations, and food services.

Additional Relevant Skills and Languages

For this section, list any languages you speak, including whether you're a native speaker or are only fluent in writing it (rather than speaking). The section might look something like this:

English (Native)
French (Fluent in speaking and writing)


As with a resume, including references on your CV allows your audience to contact others to learn more about their experiences working with you or knowing you on a personal level.

Tamara Evans, Professor of English,
Columbus College
(614) 997-8273

Lacey Smith, Managing Editor
Columbus Flyer
(614) 543-6372

CV formatting

Finally, here are a few additional formatting rules to consider for your CV:

  • Use an 11- or 12- point, easily readable font, such as Times New Roman.
  • Set your margins to approximately one inch.
  • Think like a graphic designer and include enough white space to make sure your CV is easy to read and scan.
  • Be sure to bold, underline, or capitalize important information, but do it consistently.
  • Include a header with your name and page number on each page.
  • Avoid use of abbreviations and acronyms that others might not understand outside of your field.
  • Only print on one side of each sheet of paper.
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