Academic Careers

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Are you preparing to apply to academic jobs with your PhD? You may find it useful to know the key steps to creating job application materials, delivering engaging stories in academic interviews, and navigating the complex job market within the academy.

This page offers information to supplement the technical and specific support given by departments. Use it to guide your strategies for success.

Craft Your CV


In the United States, the Curriculum Vitae (CV) is primarily used for academic institutions (including community colleges), fellowships and grants, as well as many research, government, and related fields. The CV is a document that offers a comprehensive yet succinct overview of your skills, qualifications, discipline studies, and accomplishments in your academic career.  

You can expect your CV to grow longer as you gain more experience. For beginning Ph.D. students, two to three pages is average. For advanced Ph.D. students, three to five pages is the typical length. While all CVs feature similar formalities, norms exist for specific disciplines, so you should consult a member of your department and/or your advisor after creating your CV. Typical categories include: Education, Awards & Honors, Research Experience, Publications, Teaching Experience, & Professional Associations. Optional categories include: presentations, conferences attended, additional certificates, technical skills, industry/professional experience. 

Depending on where you apply, these categories, along with their emphasis, will change. For example, if you are applying to a research university, your research and publication sections will be above teaching sections, whereas if you are applying to a postdoc research based position, then you may omit your teaching experience altogether For a community college, you would emphasize your teaching section before your research sections. You need to understand what skills the institution values to determine how best to show those skills. We recommend creating a master CV that has all your accomplishments (don’t include high school information). That way, when you need to adjust and reorder sections based on where you are applying you have a good place to start. 

The CV is a “living document,” which means you will add to it constantly throughout your academic career. The good news is once you have a solid start to your CV, ongoing updates should be minor. Here are some helpful tips to ensure your document is capturing your information in the best way possible: 



Write your name centered at the top of the CV. It is also common to put your degree status (e.g., Candidacy, Ph.D. if awarded). Make your name stand out with a larger font size (size 16 or 18 recommended) and special formatting (bold). Below your name, write your department contact information (department name, address, website, typically on the left side) and your personal information (address, email, phone, located on the right). 
Pro-tip: include your website that has your information, whether it's your departmental website, or personal website.

This is almost always the first section. You should list your institutions and month and year of graduation or “expected graduation: Month Year.” This should be in reverse chronological order (most recent first). You can list honors awarded from each institution if it is not listed in another “awards” section. You can also add an emphasis or specializations here as well. Although optional, often students put the name of their advisor(s) here.

If you have completed a thesis or dissertation, you can add this under your Education section or in its own section. Consider putting an additional sentence or two if title is not clear. If you create your own section, you can add one or two bullets describing your topic and what you did (avoid long descriptions).

We recommend using a header that includes one or two of these words (e.g., Awards and Honors) Use whichever words fit your successes best. If you have two or more awards, grants, scholarships and so on, you can create separate subsections to highlight them further.  Don’t be shy this is your time to shine! 
Pro-tip: Optional to include award amounts or state competitiveness of award if it distinguishes you further or would be something that your audience may not know. 

Include a publication section if you can and bold your name (regardless if that is not how you would do it in a reference page). Consider adding subheaders to break up this section, or add asterisks to highlight key pieces of information.

Start by listing your role (e.g., Graduate Student Researcher), the title of the project, the institution, and dates, which are typically listed on the left side in a CV. Below this, add either a few bullets or a small paragraph to briefly indicate your technical skills and work done. Use bullet points sparingly. Instead, use other types of formatting (e.g. white space, bolding, italics) to set apart key information. 
Pro-tip: Be sure to add a section that captures your work as a graduate student when you worked on your dissertation. Often, students forget to add this and will only add positions where they were “paid” by their advisor. Remember that your work (paid/unpaid) is not what counts- you being a student is considered work and often, it's a pretty significant portion of what you’ve done in graduate school.

Depending on the number of positions you held, you can either group your teaching assistant/teaching associate positions together or create subheaders to split up each position. Consider where you will be applying and who will be reading your CV. For more teaching-focused positions, such as with small liberal arts colleges or community colleges, listing a robust teaching experience will be advantageous. List the course name (not course numbers), the dates taught, and the institution where you taught. If needed, you can include a brief course description if course title is not sufficient.  
Pro-tip: Note if you developed course material or lectured extensively in any position.

Include university-wide groups, task forces, campus clubs, committees or other related work you were involved in. Consider department, university, or discipline-specific groups you participated in. Depending your level of involvement, you can list position title, organization, or dates served, or you can add one to two sentences or bullets to describe the position.

List your references on a separate page. Include the references' name, title, address, phone or email (depending on contact’s preference). Three to four references are usually adequate. You can attach this page as needed.

Professional Affiliations (include name and date you’ve been a member), specialized trainings (can be included under a technical skills section, education section, or its own section), languages (good to indicate your level of proficiency), technical skills (important to include subheaders that can help break up your skills), and relevant professional experiences (including non-academic experiences accompanied by brief explanations).

Mechanics and Writing Fundamentals

Check your grammar and spelling. Most computers will catch little spelling mistakes but they will not catch everything. Make sure your CV is reviewed by a friend, colleague, advisor, career counselor, or family member to try to catch mistakes. Your CV is a document that many people will review and will often be a document people use to evaluate your work, so be sure you are putting your best self out there. 

Write professionally and positively. Do not copy from another colleague or advisor. This is your document — make it your own. 


Finishing Touches

How you present your content is just as important as the content itself. Make sure that every section follows the same formatting (e.g., bold all your titles, make sure all the dates are justified on the left side) so it is logical to the reader. Here are a few other tips to ensure you present your document in the best way: 

  • Utilize white space, and put important words and phrases in boldface
  • Use black, 12-point, easy-to-read text with one-inch margins 
  • Attempt to stay between the typical three to five pages for grad students
  • Provide clear section titles with bolding, underlining or italics 
  • Use consistent formatting, including placement of dates
  • Put your name and page numbers in a header or footer on every page after the first page
  • When printing: Print on writing paper (20, 24, or 28 lb) and remove hyperlinks
  • When emailing: Black text is preferred since most people do not print in color. Send in PDF format. Be sure to add in any hyperlinks after you convert to PDF. 



As you craft your CV, review these example documents for inspiration.

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