Academic CVs are usually longer than CVs used in other sectors. Depending on the focus of the job, academic CVs usually highlight your research and/or teaching experience, and other sections that demonstrate your academic independence and leadership such as publications, grants and awards, academic administration and public engagement.
Here are the main steps towards creating an academic CV:
First step in writing your academic CV
Before you even start to write your CV for an academic job, carefully read the job advert and person specification. Every vacancy in the academic job market comes up because the department or faculty who are advertising have a certain set of hiring needs. For example, if they need someone to teach specific modules or courses, they may hire a Teaching Fellow. If they need someone to work on a particular research project, they may hire a Research Fellow. If they need someone to contribute to departmental teaching and to submit research for the REF , they may hire a Lecturer or an Associate Professor.
It is important to understand what the hiring needs of the department, lab, institute, faculty etc. are before writing your CV. This is so that you are able to tailor your CV to show that you can meet these hiring needs, by including your most relevant examples of the kinds of skills and experience they are seeking. This will help you to avoid submitting a research-focused CV for a teaching focused role, for example, and vice versa. Read the job description and person specification carefully to get a sense of what they need. In addition, spend some time researching the lab/ department/ institute/ project that you are applying to join; this could give you some key clues about their current work and priorities. You can then address these priorities by including details within your CV that show how your experience 'fits' with these priorities.
Building sections of your academic CV
Take some time to consider the job description and person specification for which you are writing your CV. This will help you to structure your CV appropriately, making sure the sections with the most relevant information are brought to the fore. If the employer provides CV or application guidelines, read these carefully and include what is requested.
You should include the following:
- PhD: title, date (and submission date), institution, supervisors’ names, examiners’ names.
- Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees: title, date, institution, grade achieved. Don't forget to mention any modules you took or projects you completed that show subject interests and skills relevant to the role.
- Any other relevant awards, e.g. teaching qualifications, technical qualifications. If you have many of these, you may wish to include these in an 'Other Training and Qualifications' section.
If you are applying for an academic job that involves research, it is important to think about how your research interests and experience relate to the vacancy and how this could be expressed succinctly. Highlight any major research achievements, e.g. where you have taken a novel approach to a question or problem, where you have developed something new, or where you have improved an existing process.
You could include your PhD in this section if you wish to go into more detail than you did in your 'education' section.
If the position is asking for experience with particular research methods or techniques, be sure to include any examples of where you have used these (or similar) skills before.
If the position you are applying for is lab-based or highly technical, you could consider creating a seperate 'Relevant Research Skills' or 'Relevant Technical Skills' section on your CV to highlight examples of where you have used these (or similar) methods before.
Publications are an important means to prove the quality of your research output, and to prove your research independence. Be sure to reference your publications fully.
Create an 'entry' (i.e. with role title, place and dates) for each item of your relevant teaching experience. Within these, include details about the courses that you teach and what your responsibilities are for each, e.g. seminar tutor, exam marker, etc., and include any key experiences that might be relevant to the position.
Think carefully about the subject specialisms and teaching skills they are seeking, and make sure you include evidence of these. Read the job description and person specification carefully to understand what kinds of teaching expereince they are seeking. Depending on the employer's hiring needs, other things you may consider including in the teaching section of your CV are:
- Examples of innovative teaching methods you have used, including using learning technologies and online learning
- The sizes and types of classes that you have taught, e.g. small seminar groups, large lectures etc.
- Any examples of where you have been responsible for course design (if applicable)
- Any examples of where you have been involved in course evaluation and responding to student feedback about teaching (if applicable)
Include dates, paper titles, conference titles, and venues. List conference sessions that you have been responsible for organising or chairing.
List any other roles that you have fulfilled, such as editorship of a journal, administrative roles, outreach work, helping with university open days etc. Show that you can contribute to the life of the department beyond research and teaching.
Give details of any funding awards received from internal and external sources, including PhD funding and scholarships, conference grants and research awards. Include nominations made on your behalf, even if unsuccessful.
List the names, postal addresses, phone numbers and email addresses of two referees who know your academic work well and/or have observed your teaching.
Drafting and editing your academic CV
An example academic CV layout on the Prospects.ac.uk website shows the typical key sections to include. However, you should tailor this to the position that you are applying for and make sure that you use the CV to 'tick off' as many of the employer's essential and desirable requirements as possible.
Academic CVs are usually longer than conventional CVs. Their length depends on the number of publications, conference papers or teaching posts etc. you have to include. It is acceptable to attach appendices with more details of research projects, publications etc. (where relevant) and this can bring your CV up to around five sides of A4 paper, depending on your level of experience.
Your CV should be concise, clear and easy to read. Avoid long, wordy paragraphs. Break up the text with headings, bullets, bold type and margins. Hold the CV at arm's length and check that it looks neat and professional. Employers read CVs very quickly, so ask yourself if the most relevant points on your CV stand out if the CV is only scanned for a few seconds.
When describing your experiences, use active words such as organise, manage, persuade, improve, direct, recommend, plan, rather than passive phrases such as ‘involved in’ or ‘required to’.
Spelling and grammar
Check and double check your spelling and grammar; don’t just rely on your spell-checking software.
Getting feedback on your CV
After drafting your CV, contact the PGR Careers Adviser for some impartial feedback or ask your supervisor or academic contacts for their comments before sending it off.