Your curriculum vitae (CV) is a representation of your scholarly identity and trajectory in your field.
A CV is used to apply to research roles or other academic positions. It shows your academic credentials and achievements, experience conducting research in your field, and other experience relevant to the opportunity you’re targeting.
Your goal is to convey your interest in the field, as well as the relevant skills and knowledge that will prepare you to excel in the target opportunity.
When might I use a CV as an undergraduate?
You may be asked for a CV when you’re applying to a research position, to a fellowship, or to graduate school in the sciences. If you’re applying to a research position in industry, pay attention to whether they ask for a resume or a CV in their posting, as they may prefer a resume. In your cover letter, you can let them know that a CV is available upon request.
Many faculty may be happy to receive either a resume or a CV from undergrads looking to conduct research with them. Remember that in this case, whichever document you submit should still be tailored toward research in their field! If you haven’t done research before, convey your interest and preparedness by showing the transferable skills and knowledge you’ve built through your coursework and other experiences.
What should my CV look like as an undergraduate?
Unlike your one-page resume, your undergraduate CV can be two pages.
Sections on a CV
The sections on a CV are designed to feature the experiences that academics (like professors or researchers) acquire over time. As an undergrad, the sections on your CV will depend on the experience you’ve had so far—and the professors or researchers interested in hiring undergrads won’t expect you to have graduate-level experience. So, don’t worry if you don’t have information to go in all of these categories!
Start with these mandatory sections:
Include your name, address, phone number, email address, and professional website or profile (if you have one).
Include the degree-granting institution and school, the degree you’re receiving, your major or concentration, and your expected graduation date. If you’re writing a departmental thesis, include the title and the names of your your thesis advisers. You can include relevant coursework, which we generally recommend keeping to two lines of text or less.
If you have additional higher education, you can also include it. If you’ve studied abroad, for instance, you can include the institution name, the month and year range you attended, and relevant coursework you took during this program.
Your CV may include some of the following sections:
Include the name of the lab or department and institution, the position you held, the location, and your dates of involvement. We recommend including a brief description of the project, your role, the primary methods used, and key findings.
This section includes scholarly publications such as journal articles, book chapters, and published conference proceedings.
Format each bibliographic entry according to your discipline’s style guide, with the article or chapter title, journal name, and publication information. Include authors in publication order, bolding your name.
Include publication status if the piece is not yet published—e.g., in preparation, under review, forthcoming. We recommend listing the DOI if the article has been accepted but does not yet have page numbers.
This section showcases scholarly presentations you’ve made, usually at conferences or symposia.
Include the author(s) and title of presentation, the conference or symposium name, and the location and date (or month if a range) of the presentation. Specify the format of the presentation—e.g., poster or oral presentation.
Grants / Awards / Academic Honors
List any academic awards, fellowships, grants, or funding received. In each entry, include the award name, award-granting institution, and year of the award.
If the nature of the award will not be clear based on the award name, you can briefly clarify parenthetically.
Include the name of the course and institution, the position you held (e.g., Teaching Assistant, Instructor of Record), the location, and month-year range of the teaching engagement. We encourge you to include a brief description of your role.
Additional Professional Experience
On a CV, you may include recent professional experience that is pertinent to your scholarly trajectory. You can title this section by the job area if helpful—e.g., Additional Engineering Experience, Editorial Experience, Museum Experience.
Include the name of the organization, your job title, and the location and month-year range of the experience. You can include a brief description of your role and accomplishments to highlight relevant transferable skills.
Leadership / Activities / Service / Volunteer Work
Include the organization, your position title, the location, and dates of your involvement. You can include a brief description of your role and accomplishments.
Professional Memberships or Affiliations
List any memberships you maintain to professional organizations in your field. Many scholarly associations have low-cost student memberships.
Include any relevant certifications or licensures you hold.
Create categories for your skills, such as languages, technical or computer (software, hardware, coding languages), laboratory, machining, and design. In each category, list the relevant items—e.g., language names, tools, programs. For languages, we recommend indicating your proficiency level. Keep each category to 3 lines maximum.
This includes a list of relevant references, including their name, title, institution, and contact information (phone and/or email).
How should I format my CV?
CVs typically have a much simpler format than resumes. You’ll left-justify the content, use one-inch margins all around, and a size 11 or 12 font. Use bold and italics sparingly, and avoid extra design elements. Include a right-justified header includes your last name and page numbers (#/#).
How should I describe my experiences on my CV?
Typically, undergraduate CVs include short descriptions of your experience that focus on field-related content such as a description of the research project and the methods you used. Remember, your reader is likely another scholar in your discipline who will be able to interpret this technical language. It is more common to display these descriptions in paragraph form, but some people prefer bullet points for clarity.
Learning About CV Conventions in Your Field
Many professors, postdocs, and graduate students post their CVs on their departmental or lab website. Their CVs will be a lot longer than yours—some professors’ CVs run up to 15 pages. You may notice that faculty CVs will be, in most cases, less detailed than your undergraduate one, with fewer descriptions: they may be serving as records of research and teaching conducted, rather than job-search documents. Nevertheless, these CVs can help you understand trends and conventions in your discipline.
Can I see what a CV might look like?
Sure! We’ve created a couple of sample undergraduate CVs for your reference.
Where can I get feedback on my CV?
You can get feedback on your CV from your previous research mentors (faculty, postdocs, grad students), instructors of relevant courses you’ve taken, career counselors, fellowship advisers, or writing consultants.
We recommend always seeking feedback from mentors in your field, as they will be able to offer discipline-specific insights and tips.