Friday, February 5, 2010

Resume or Curriculum Vitae? The Eternal Question…

by Laurel Mylonas-Orwig

Recently, a friend of mine decided to leave the workforce after two years and dive back into the world of academia. Since she knew that it was best to give herself plenty of time to gather all of the necessary materials, her first step was to contact former professors to request letters of recommendation. Inevitably, the first question they asked was, “Can you send me your CV?”

My what?

The terms curriculum vitae (CV) and resume are often used interchangeably, but as my friend learned, they are not the same thing. If you’re thinking of applying to graduate school, research fellowships, grants, etc., it is definitely useful to understand the differences between a resume and a CV, and what information should be included in each.

Curriculum Vitae versus Resume

One of the main differences between a CV and a resume is cultural. In the United States, a CV is primarily used when applying to academic, scientific or research positions. Fellowships and grants also generally require a CV. In Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia, however, a CV is submitted for nearly every application. This means that if you’re applying for a job outside of the United States, an employer will likely expect to receive a CV with your cover letter, not a resume.

Another key difference is the information contained in a CV versus a resume. A CV is intended to be a detailed portrait of the applicant, while the resume is a quick snapshot. A CV will contain a complete list of your academic achievements, work experience (both paid and unpaid), teaching and research experience, publications, affiliations, etc. It will also have details not usually listed on a resume, like date of birth and nationality (this is especially true outside of the United States). Because a CV is expected to include so much information, it will be longer than a resume. Curriculum vitaes are generally two pages, but can be as long as five, if necessary.

Finally, there are the nitty-gritty formatting differences. Resumes can be formatted in several different ways, depending on what attributes and experiences you are trying to highlight. They also include significantly less information than CVs. Because a CV incorporates so many different aspects of an applicant, it requires a certain structure. Thus, before you start writing a CV, it’s best to make a list of all your background information and organize it into categories. For a complete, detailed guide on what to include in a CV (since listing it all here would make this post go on forever), please see the CAPS guide to the Curriculum Vitae (CV) and Letter of Application, which can be found at

Key Attributes of a CV:
  • Length: 2 – 5 pages
  • Includes all work experience, paid or unpaid
  • Lists all of your achievements in reverse chronological order
  • Details publications, affiliations, licenses/certifications, teaching and research experience, presentations, honors and awards
Key Attributes of a Resume:
  • Length: 1 page
  • Includes only work experience relevant to the job you are applying to
  • Highlights major achievements, awards and honors
  • May include a short “Skills” section detailing relevant abilities/competencies
Remember that CAPS counselors are always happy to help you write or revise your CV, so don’t hesitate to come see us!

Do you have any CV or resume tips, tricks or suggestions? Leave a comment below!


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