Curriculum Vitae Definition & Purpose
Marcy just received her Ph.D. in astrophysics. Now, she has to get a job. She wants to work as a professor at a university where she can teach and research.
Her first step in applying to the academic positions she desires is to prepare a curriculum vitae, often referred to as simply a CV. Curriculum vitae is a Latin phrase that means 'course of one's life,' which gives you a good hint about what a CV is. A curriculum vitae is a detailed biographical overview of a person's education, relevant experience, and other information that demonstrates the person's professional qualifications. A CV is much longer and more detailed than a resume, which is written to be shorter with a focus on the specific job one is seeking.
While many people, just like Marcy, compose their initial CV to apply for a job, CVs are used for other purposes too. For example, CVs are used for:
- Research grant applications
- Submissions for publication
- Consulting work
- Demonstrating qualifications for professional presentations
- Leadership positions
Structure & Content of a CV
Marcy has collected all the information about her education and professional experience and is ready to write her CV. She knows organization is important in order to send a clear message to her readers. She decides to include the following sections in her CV:
- Marcy includes a relevant section giving her general identification information, including her name, address, phone, fax, email, and her professional website.
- She includes her educational background, including all academic degrees, the institution where she received each degree, and the year each degree was conferred.
- Marcy includes her dissertation abstract and her past and current postdoctoral research as well as a short statement of her research interests under a 'research experience and interests' section.
- Marcy lists all the awards and academic honors she received during and after graduate school, including the years each was received and the conferring institution.
- She also lists the fellowships she has held and grants she has been awarded, including the relevant dates and institutions for each.
- She lists all the academic work that has been published as well as a subsection on her work in progress that has not been published under a publications section.
- Marcy lists all the presentations she has given at professional workshops and seminars.
- Marcy includes her teaching experience as a graduate assistant as well as her teaching interests.
- Marcy happens to be fluent in Japanese so she includes it under a languages section.
- In a professional training section, she includes workshops and seminars she has attended and all academic certificates she has received relevant to her field.
- Marcy lists her memberships to relevant professional organizations under professional affiliations.
- She lists her community service activities and any leadership roles she has held.
- Marcy includes three references.
You should note that the content and structure of Marcy's CV is not the only way to compose a CV. CVs are very personal by nature. Remember, it's about the course of your life, and nobody's life is the same. For example, Marcy holds no patents, but many scientists and engineers do, and they would include a patent section in their respective CV. Additionally, some fields may expect your citizenship be noted on a CV, usually for purposes of seeking grant funding. Finally, one generally doesn't include other professional experience in a CV unless it is relevant. For example, the fact that Marcy was an executive chef in a prior life has pretty much no relevance to a scientific teaching position in astrophysics.
Formatting & Style
Just like organization, structure, and content, there really is no universal rule on how a CV must be formatted. Marcy pretty much formats her CV using common sense with an eye towards a professional looking style:
- The CV uses one-inch margins, though the margins could be as large as one and a half inches without diminishing the professionalism.
- Marcy chooses a clean professional font that is familiar to readers, such as Arial or Times New Roman, with a 12-point size; going bigger than 12-point may not look professional, and going smaller than 11-point becomes cumbersome to read.
- She uses italics and bolding sparingly - only to emphasize important information and for headings and subheadings.
- Dates are placed to the right side of each entry, rather than at the left as the first item on the line.
- Each section is in reverse chronological order - newest events or information first.
- She uses footer or header for each page after the first page, which includes her name and page number.
- She also is aware of the importance of whitespace, which is a portion of a page left unmarked, and makes sure there is enough of it to avoid reader fatigue.
- Her formatting and style remains consistent from page one to the end.
Let's review what we've learned. A curriculum vitae is a biographical document summarizing a person's education, relevant work experience, and other professional qualifications. It is used to support an application for a job, grants, publication submissions, and professional presentations among other things. While there is no standard form for a CV, common content sections include:
- Honors and Awards
- Grants and Fellowships
- Teaching Experience
- Professional Affiliations
- Community Service
Just like content, there are no hard and fast rules about formatting a CV, but it should be formatted with an eye towards common sense, professionalism, and consistency.