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How to Write an Effective Academic CV

An academic CV is an important marketing tool for applying for jobs in higher education. It’s also useful for applying for funding or other professional development opportunities in academia.

With a stronger focus on education than a traditional CV, an academic CV highlights your educational background, professional appointments, research and teaching experience, publications, grants, awards, fellowships, and other key achievements. So how do you write one and what sections do you need to consider including? Read on for more information.

How to format an academic CV

  • Contact information

As with every CV, start with your personal details and your contact information including your name, professional title (for example, researcher), institutional address, postal address, e-mail address and telephone number. Also, include your LinkedIn address, if applicable.

  • Research statement

Your research statement is a brief paragraph where you outline your research proposal and explain how that builds on your current skills and achievements. This is an effective way to capture a recruiter’s attention so that they will want to read the rest of your CV.

  • Education

List academic qualifications, starting with the most recent one first. Include the name of institution, the city, the degree type and major, and the month and the year the degree was (will be) awarded.

Also, include your thesis title and advisor, if applicable.

  • Professional appointments

Follow your education with your professional appointments. Include details of your position, institution, start and end dates and a brief description of your responsibilities.

If you’re a recent graduate, then feel free to skip this section.

  • Publications

List your most noteworthy publications in the following order: books, book chapters, peer-reviewed journal articles, non-peer-reviewed articles, articles presented at prestigious conferences, forthcoming publications, reports and patents.

You could also consider creating a more comprehensive list as an appendix to your CV.

  • Research experience

Include details of your research experience, your findings, the methods you use and your research interests. If you’ve worked on lengthy projects, mention the period of each project as well as the name of the institution where you carried out the research.

  • Awards and Honours

Listing any awards and honours you’ve received is a sure-fire way to impress recruiters. Include the name of the award, the year when you got it and the institution that presented you with it.

  • Grants and scholarships

Mentioning any funding you’ve received for your research, demonstrates that others have valued and recognised your efforts. Include grants, scholarships and funds.

  • Conferences and seminars

List any presentations or talks you’ve given at conferences and seminars. This shows academic institutions that you’re interested in keeping up with developments in your field.

  • Teaching experience

Include any work related to lecturing, supervision, demonstrating, curriculum development, seminar and group work, assessment, etc.

  • Administrative experience

Here, you can include administrative activities such as organising committees, workshops or other noteworthy activities.

  • References

In contrast to traditional CVs, employers will expect to see references on an academic CV.

List at least 2-3 academics who can provide vouch for your research, work and character. Of course, check with them first to see if they would feel comfortable recommending you.

Expert tip:

Keep a master CV that you update with every research project and publication you’ve worked on, every award you’ve received and every conference you’ve attended throughout your career. That way, you can add and remove sections easily, without losing information.

Best practices for writing an academic CV

  • Think about length

Where the academic CV differs from traditional CVs is its length. As you will need to include details about your research, publications, conferences attended, etc, it’s fine for your CV to exceed two pages or as long you need to show your career path.

  • Use page numbers

It’s a good idea to number each page of your CV so that recruiters can follow the order of your CV. This includes using your name as a header on every page. Even if you are sending your CV electronically, numbering it looks professional and will cause less irritation to recruiters scrolling between the different sections of your CV.

  • Tailor your CV

As with other types of CV, the way to impress employers is to tailor your CV to the university or department you want to work at. Does the university place more value on research than teaching? If yes, it makes sense to place the research and publications sections before your teaching experience.

On the other hand, if you’re applying to a college, there’s likely to be more of a focus on teaching, so you’ll need to place sections related to teaching first.

  • Consult someone in your field

Every academic department or institution will have different expectations regarding the structure and contents of your CV. To ensure that your CV is up to standards, it’s a good idea to consult someone in your field or department. You could even ask to see an example of an academic CV which you could use as the basis for your own.

  • Proofread carefully

More so the other CVs, your academic CV should be free of spelling grammar mistakes. Not proofreading your CV carefully shows lack of attention to detail and sloppiness which is the last impression you want to give when applying for a scholarly position.

As it can be easy to overlook errors when reviewing your CV yourself, ask a trusted colleague or friend to look over it as a fresh pair of eyes.

  • Use consistent referencing

The same rules for referencing apply to CVs as for bibliographies in academic papers or publishing. Whichever referencing system you use, consistency is key:

  • Harvard referencing: Author surname, initial. (Year) Book title. City: Publisher.

  • Chicago style: Author last name, first name. “Title of article.” Name of journal volume, no. issue (month/season)

Expert tip:

Avoid using jargon or terminology specific to your institution. Even in academic circles, plain and simple language is preferred. Use action verbs to describe your experience.