Academic Skills

Writing a successful academic CV (and a free template)

Academic CVs differ from conventional CVs. Learn what’s important for effective academic CV writing, and which sections to include, and have a look at Master Academia’s free academic CV template.

Writing an academic CV for the first time

The target of an academic CV is to present an all-round accomplished academic. Writing such a CV can be nerve-wracking, especially for master’s and PhD students.

Compiling an academic CV for the first time can create a lot of confusion and insecurities.

A major reason for this insecurity is the fact that academic CVs differ considerably from ‘normal’ or ‘regular’ CVs. This means that much conventional wisdom on how to write a good CV is not applicable when it comes to academic ones.

An academic CV has to follow specific academic conventions.

However, information on how to write a successful academic CV is scattered and templates of real academic CVs (which helped people to land academic jobs) are hard to come by.

Therefore, this post compiles the most important information and provides an academic CV template with secured academic positions.

Length of an academic CV

Length is the most obvious difference between academic CVs and conventional CVs. Academic CVs can be long. I mean, real loooooong. 5, 6, 8, and 10 pages long. In contrast, conventional CVs are best in the form of a one- or two-page resume.

What makes academic CVs different? Academic CVs are not always selective in what they present. In a conventional CV, you are often removing experiences that do not entirely fit the job description. While you do the same in an academic CV (no one cares whether you worked in a coffee shop as a grad student), for some sections the rule is: the more, the better.

This is particularly true for your publication section. As academic careers are strongly influenced by the number and quality of an academic’s publications, academic CVs tend to list ALL publications of a person in chronological order.

Layout and style of an academic CV

To all the creatives out there, I am sorry to disappoint: Your academic CV should not be a creative outlet. Instead, go minimal. And traditional. No fancy fonts, no crazy backgrounds.

Academic CVs should be neat, and readable. Especially when they are very long, different sections should be easily identifiable. Therefore, headings can pop out a bit, and spacing should be appropriate.

Thus, a bit of design is possible and admirable. Some titles in colour are also okay but opt for more serious colours like dark blue, dark brown or dark green. All in all, your CV should make a serious impression.

Personal information to include in an academic CV

In many academic contexts, is not common anymore to include a picture of yourself in an academic CV. Especially in the social sciences, there are many discussions about biases and discrimination. Thus, applying to some faculties or departments with a picture might even be weird.

You are also not obliged to include your nationality or marital status in your CV. Very often, you submit academic job applications via a university’s online system. Sometimes, they ask about nationality or marital status there. So no need to include this information in your CV.

However, caution is advised. This might differ depending on the context where you apply! Therefore, it is best to contact someone who already works in academia in the context that you target. Ask him/her what the local conventions are in terms of personal information. To be on the safe side.

Lastly, in addition to the address, email address and phone number, make sure to provide links to your various online profiles. LinkedIn would be the more standard one, but also put specifically research relevant ones, such as your ORCID ID or Google Scholar account.

Sections to include in an academic CV

The guiding sections to include in an academic CV are

  • Academic qualifications (When applying to a PhD programme, include your high school information. When applying to a postdoctoral programme, start with your bachelor’s studies).

  • Professional positions (List your positions for which you had employment contracts. They can be non-academic positions if they are relevant to your academic profile).

  • Publications (List all your publications, grouped into categories, and preferably in reverse chronological order).

  • Conferences (List your conference contributions, grouped into categories of activities such as conference presentations or session organisation).

  • Teaching experiences (Provide an overview of your teaching experience, including course coordination, guest lectures, and thesis and research supervision).

  • Academic Service (The academic service section provides space for varied academic tasks such as peer reviews for academic journals, editorial tasks, or wider dissemination projects).

  • Funding Applications (External money is funding a lot of research in today’s universities. Therefore, a track record in funding applications is a big plus. List all your awarded grants, scholarships and funding applications here).

  • Professional Affiliations and Membership (Show your engagement with the wider academic community by displaying your professional affiliation and memberships in research networks, thematic conference groups, etcetera).

  • Other Skills and Qualifications (Did you complete a teaching diploma? Did you participate in a PhD summer school? Are you an SPSS wizard, or good at coding? List it here if it is relevant to your academic profile).

  • Languages (Quite self-explanatory. But languages do matter, for instance when you collect data in different countries for your research).

  • References (A good academic CV has already two academic references included. Refrain from simply writing “references upon request”. Be proactive and reach out to your potential references before applying and ask for permission to share their contact details in your CV).

The order of sections can differ depending on the job. If you are applying to a predominantly teaching position, highlight your teaching and supervision experiences by putting these sections first. If you apply to a more research-heavy job, emphasise your publications, your track record of funding applications and other research-related activities.

Proofreading your academic CV

Final advice: Print your CV to proofread. Your brain works differently when you read on paper. So when preparing an academic job application, go through the effort and print out your CV. Then read it on paper several times. Top to bottom. I promise you will find mistakes (like extra space here and there, a missing letter, etc).

Free academic CV template

Download your free Master Academia academic CV template here:

Good luck with your application!

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