Q&A: What is a CV? Curriculum Vitae Definition and Examples

A CV (short for the Latin phrase curriculum vitae, which means “course of life”) is a detailed document highlighting your professional and academic history. CVs typically include information like work experience, achievements and awards, scholarships or grants you’ve earned, coursework, research projects and publications of your work. You may be asked to submit a CV when applying for jobs in academia or a job outside the US.

If you need help determining how to write a CV, it can be helpful to consult a template. Here is additional background on the document along with an easy-to-follow CV example template to ensure you craft a powerful curriculum vitae that stands out to employers.

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CV vs. Resume

A CV and resume are similar in that they’re both documents that summarize your professional history, education, skills and achievements. They’re also both documents you might provide an employer for consideration for an open position.

It is important to note that in the United States and most of Europe, resumes and CVs are not interchangeable. A resume is a shorter-form document that provides a concise overview of your previous roles, skills and details about your education. (The French word résumé translates to “abstract” or “summary.”) A CV, on the other hand, is typically a longer, more detailed document focused largely on academic coursework and research.

There are a few exceptions, however. In India, South Africa and Australia, the terms CV and resume are interchangeable.

Related: What’s the Difference Between a Resume and a CV?


How to write a CV

Most CVs include the following information:

  • Contact information
  • Academic history
  • Professional experience
  • Qualifications and skills
  • Awards and honors
  • Publications
  • Professional associations
  • Grants and fellowships
  • Licenses and certificates
  • Volunteer work
  • Personal information (Optional)
  • Hobbies and interests (Optional)

Some employers, especially postsecondary institutions, may offer their own CV template and CV examples to help make sure you include all required information in the format they prefer. Before you submit your application, look for any special CV guidelines the employer has outlined. For example, some institutions may require you to list only relevant coursework, fieldwork, dissertations and professional references.

Related: Curriculum Vitae (CV) Format Guide (with Examples)


CV Example Template

1. Contact information
  • Full name
  • Address (including city, state and zip code)
  • Phone number
  • Email address

  • For example:
    Joe Smith
    1234 Main Street, Atlanta, GA 30308

2. Academic history (in reverse-chronological order)
  • Post-doctoral program
  • Graduate school
  • Undergraduate school
  • High school

  • For example:
    Ph.D. in Sociology, 2018
    University of Texas College of Liberal Arts, Austin, TX

3. Professional experience
  • Organization or institution
  • Job title/position
  • Dates employed
  • Details about duties, experience and achievements

  • For example:
    University of Southern California
    Professor, Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry | 2012–2018
    Taught multiple undergraduate and graduate courses in orthodontics.
    Fostered student commitment to lifelong learning and excellence in dentistry.
    Acted as student advisor to first-year dentistry school students.

4. Qualifications and skills
  • Hard skills
  • Soft skills
  • Accreditations and certifications

  • For example:
    Team leadership
    Seminar instruction
    Fluent in English, Spanish and French
    Certification in Occupational Therapy

Related: Best Skills to Include on a Resume

5. Awards and honors
  • Award name
  • Year awarded
  • Organization that gave award
  • Award details (how often the award is given, how many people receive the award, etc.)

  • For example:
    Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, 2018
    Columbia University
    Awarded for excellence in fiction literature to one individual in the U.S. each year.

6. Publications and presentations
  • Publication citation (including authors, date, summary, volume, page, DOI number)
  • Presentation details (including title, date and place of presentation)

  • For example:
    Yang, J., Sanchez, C., Patel, A., Johnson, L., (2017) “Study of cocoa product component theobromine and danger to canines.” Journal of Modern Veterinary Medicine. 272: 1234-56789.

7. Professional associations and affiliations
  • Name of organization
  • Geographic location or chapter
  • Dates of active membership

  • For example:
    American Cancer Society (2011–Present)
    Society for Cancer Research (2013–Present)


Final thoughts

If you’re practiced in writing resumes, you may be tempted to shorten your CV to keep on one page. However, because CVs require so much information, they’re typically multiple pages in length. In other words, don’t cut crucial details to save space.

Before submitting your job application, be sure to thoroughly review your CV for any errors or inconsistencies. Consider asking a trusted colleague or professional mentor to review it as well—especially if they’re experienced in the industry you’re applying to. A second opinion can be useful in helping you craft a well-polished CV.

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