CV vs. Resume: Key Differences (Plus How To Write a CV)
Updated July 10, 2023
An illustration shows a CV and a resume side by side, with boxes above that read, "Curriculum Vitae vs. Resume." Next to the documents, there's a list of these qualities
Length of document
Level of detail
As with a resume, a CV (or curriculum vitae) is often an employer’s first impression of your professional and academic credentials, so it’s important to structure it in a way that best showcases your accomplishments and experience. Certain jobs in academia or in medicine might require you to submit a CV instead of a resume, and a CV can also open doors for grant applications, fellowships and jobs outside the United States.
In this article, we offer a guide to writing a powerful CV that will help you stand out to employers, along with easy-to-follow examples.
What is a CV?
A CV—short for the Latin “curriculum vitae,” meaning “course of life”—is a detailed document highlighting your professional and academic history. CVs typically include information such as your work experience, along with your achievements, awards, scholarships or grants you’ve earned, coursework, research projects and publications of your work.
A CV is typically two or three pages long, but it’s not unusual for it to be much longer for mid-level or senior job applicants as a CV serves as a full outline of one’s career accomplishments. When it comes to CVs, though, don't cut crucial information just to save space.
Related: What To Include in Your CV
What is a resume?
A resume is a formal document providing an overview of your professional background and relevant skills. Standard sections on a resume include your work history, education, a professional summary, and a list of your skills. The three resume formats are reverse chronological, functional and combined.
CV vs. resume differences
As noted, a CV and resume are similar in that they’re both formal, details documents that summarize your professional history, education, skills and achievements. They’re also both documents you may provide an employer for consideration for an open position. This said, there are differences and it’s important you know when a CV would be preferred and how to properly create one. Here is an overview of how CVs compare to resumes:
Latin: curriculum vitae or “course of life”
French: résumé or “abstract” or “summary”
Emphasis placed on academic credentials
Emphasis placed on experience/skills
Used when applying for positions in academia (education, science and research), fellowships or grants and jobs outside the U.S.
Used when applying for most jobs (non-academic)
One main format
Three formats: reverse chronological, functional and combined
Two to three pages is typical (but not unusual to be longer)
Typically one page in length (no more than two)
The education section always begins a CV
The education section appears toward the bottom of resumes (with experience)
Kate Palmquist has eleven years of HR experience with various companies. She's had roles from generalist and business partnering to consulting in multiple industries. She discusses the differences between these two documents here:
While a resume and a curriculum vitae (CV) are similar, they do have differences in their delivery. It's more common to use a CV in an academic setting. A CV displays the certifications and credentials you have. CVs are typically multiple pages in length and provide further details on project work or publications.
The CV format
While your CV should be specific to your background and tailored to the job for which you're applying, there are several steps you can take to ensure you write an effective CV. To start, most CVs include the following sections:
Qualifications and skills
Awards and honors
Grants and fellowships
Licenses and certificates
Personal information (optional)
Hobbies and interests (optional)
Read more: CV Format Guide: Examples and Tips
How to write a CV
When creating your CV, consider following these steps and remember, a curriculum vitae should be as detailed as you need it to be to explain your background and credentials:
1. Include your contact information
This includes your full name, phone number and email address. Including your address is optional. If you do include it, only list city, state and ZIP.
2. Detail your academic history in reverse-chronological order
This section can include your post-doctoral programs, graduate school, undergraduate school and high school. Only include your most recent two educational experiences. Dates attended is only recommended if you’ve graduated in the past five years.
Tip: With a CV, employers are more interested in learning about your professional experience, so it's best to ensure the reader’s focus is on that information.
3. Record your professional experience
List the company (or organization), job title and dates employed starting with your most recent job. List your job duties, your experience gained and your achievements. Start each bullet point with an action verb to demonstrate your responsibilities.
It's also best to use numbers to measure your impact when possible. This shows employers the exact results you’ve gained for other organizations. To do so, consider the following:
Dollar amounts ($): How much more revenue did you help bring in annually? How much money did you save the company and over how many years?
Percentages (%): By what % did you increase the efficiency of a process? By what % did you help reduce errors? By what % did you exceed your sales goals?
Numbers (#): How many employees did you manage? How many calls per day did you answer? How many offices/locations did you coordinate with on a project?
For example, instead of writing “Responsible for drafting proposals on muscle cell motility studies,” you might say, “Developed research proposal on structural studies of muscle cell motility in collaboration with a 6-person research team that secured a $20K federal grant.”
4. Include relevant skills and qualifications
This can be part of a separate skills section. Reread the job description to highlight the most important skills employers are looking for. These can include both hard and soft skills that make you the best candidate for the job.
5. List honors and awards
Use this section to outline your achievements in the field related to your application. Start with the award name followed by the year it was awarded, the organization that gave you the award and details about the award such as how often the award is given, how many people receive it, etc.
Honors and Awards
UT Teaching Awards, 2018, 2019, 2020
Brazil Study Abroad Grant, Summer 2017
Dissertation Fellowship, 2016
6. Include relevant publications and presentations
Include relevant citations of presentations, papers, studies, books or other publications important to your professional history. For publications, include authors, the date published, a summary, volume, page and DOI number. For presentations, include the title, date and location of the presentation.
Book Gonzaga, Joseph. “The Business of Affordable Housing." Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press (forthcoming)
Peer-Reviewed Journals Gonzaga, Joseph. “The Case for Building a Life on Mars.” International Journal of Astrobiology, vol. 36, no. 2, 2018, pp. 101-108.
Gonzaga, Joseph. “How affordable is affordable housing?” European Journal of Housing Policy and Debate, 2017
2020. Gonzaga, Joseph. “Building in the Valley.” Hispanic History Association Annual Conference, Los Angeles, CA
2019. Gonzaga, Joseph. “The Future of the Projects: Building a Home, Not Just a Project.” Housing and Urban Development Annual Conference, Chicago, IL
7. List your professional associations and affiliations
This should include the name of the organization, geographic location or chapter and dates of active membership.
Memberships and Affiliations
National Society of Black Engineers (2015–Present)
German Association of Women Engineers (2016–Present)
National Association of Multicultural Engineering Program Advocates (2019–Present)
Note: In India, South Africa and Australia, the terms CV and resume are used interchangeably.
8. Proofread your CV for errors
Before submitting your job application, be sure to thoroughly review your tailored 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.
Note, some employers, especially post-secondary 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 CV and application, look for any special CV guidelines the employer may have outlined. For example, some institutions may make clear you’re only to list relevant coursework, fieldwork, dissertations or professional references.
Make sure you keep your CV up to date. If a need arises where you have to supply a CV, it can be easier to have a document you can immediately use rather than trying to update and recall all the information you've worked on in the past.
While most CV documents share the same basic structure and format, the organization and content of a CV depend on the type of position you apply for. When organizing your CV, list the most relevant sections first to catch an employer's attention, whether that is your work history or an impressive list of publications. Here’s a CV template to reference when creating your own:
[Type of degree]
[Major and minor]
[Name of school]
[Date of attendance]
“Title,” Publication name, date: page numbers.
Use the same citation style for each publication to be consistent
“Presentation Title,” Conference Name, Month Year
[Name of most recent position]
[Start date - end date]
[Name of organization or employer]
Brief description of job duties
Use short phrases to be as succinct as possible
Skills and certifications
Use bullets to list your skills
List the specific name of your certifications and the organization that provided the certification
Awards and honors
And here is a CV example you can reference when composing your own:
1234 Main Street, Atlanta, GA 30308
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Degree, 2018
University of Texas College of Science, Austin, TX
University of Southern California
Professor, Herman Ostrow School of Veterinary Sciences | 2012–2018
Taught multiple undergraduate and graduate courses in veterinary sciences.
Fostered student commitment to lifelong learning and excellence in veterinary sciences.
Acted as a student advisor to first-year veterinary school students.
Skills and qualifications
Fluent in English and Spanish
Specialization in livestock science research and development
Awards and honors
AVMA Advocacy Award, 2018
AVMA Animal Welfare Award, 2016
Publications and presentations
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.
Professional associations and affiliations
American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine (2013–Present)
American Veterinary Medical Association (2011–Present)
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