What is a CV: Difference's Between a Resume and CV (+ CV Template) [2020]

what is a cv

A curriculum vitae or “CV,” for short, is a resume format frequently used by academics in four-year institutions, medical professionals, and scientists. The phrase curriculum vitae means "the course of one’s life" in Latin. A curriculum vitae is a functional resume format for presenting a complete academic history of a professional rather than using employment history to judge professional experience on behalf of a prospective employer.

A curriculum vitae is sometimes referred to as an “academic CV” because of its use in the academic field (or four-year institution teaching positions), medical field, and scientific field.

difference between a resume and a cv

What is a CV or Curriculum Vitae

The National Institutes of Health describes a curriculum vitae as a “document that outlines your entire academic history.” And goes on to describe it as being used most often when “applying for faculty positions at colleges and universities, for research-intensive positions at national labs or research institutes, and for fellowships, grants, or awards.”

Furthermore, the University of North Carolina Writing Center describes a curriculum vitae as a "fairly detailed overview of your life’s accomplishments, especially those most relevant to the realm of academia."

CV meaning

According to the University of California, Davis, "Curriculum Vitae (CV) is Latin for "course of life." In contrast, the word "resume" is French for "summary." Both CVs & Resumes: Are tailored for the specific job/company you are applying to."

When to Use a CV for a Job Application

A curriculum vitae is used in the United States when applying for academic positions in four-year institutions or post-secondary employers. A curriculum vitae should not be used when applying for academic positions in community colleges. Furthermore, a curriculum vitae is frequently used when job seekers apply for research-intensive positions in a university.

Tip: It is a common mistake to use a curriculum vitae when writing a resume with no prior work experience. The correct method to replace a lack of employment history is with soft skills and hard skills using a combination resume format or sometimes referred to as a hybrid resume format.

In short, a curriculum vitae is for medical professionals and academics. In the medical field, it is for those who hold a doctorate or are in graduate school, applying for a Ph.D. Higher education institutions evaluate a potential candidate or professional by where and what has been published. These are usually research studies. These published studies display expertise in their field.

There are similarities between the academic and medical fields when it comes to the use of a curriculum vitae. For example, in a research assistant position (an academic position), the job seeker would use a curriculum vitae and cover letter to display their complete academic history to a hiring manager or potential employer, using achievements in their field of study rather than work history.

Job titles that would require a curriculum vitae would include:

Job titles that would not require a curriculum vitae are:

What's Inside of a CV

The University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana describes a curriculum vitae as containing the following sections as part of the format:

Optional sections include:

Tip: Some job seekers who are seeking international jobs might refer to a CV as an "international CV" due to the fact that many international countries refer to a CV as both a resume and a functional format resume that's referred to in the United States. The University of California, Davis, says "In many European countries, CV is used to describe all job application documents, including a resume. In the United States and Canada, CV and resume are sometimes used interchangeably. If you are not sure which kind of document to submit, it is best to ask for clarification."

What’s Inside of a Resume

A resume contains the following sections as part of the format:

Optional sections include:

Resume Formats

There are three types of resume formats:

Learn more about resume formats and how to write a resume.

Difference Between a CV and a Resume

As a job seeker, a common question is, “What’s the difference between a CV and a resume?” While some believe the answer is length, the real difference is the subject matter. A curriculum vitae lists far less work experience than a resume. And is updated when the academic or medical professional’s accomplishments grow. This would be publishing a finding as a scientific study or receiving an award.

A resume is most frequently updated when the professional resigns from a job, counting as employment history. And that’s the key difference between a resume and curriculum vitae; when it is updated. A resume is updated upon the completion of work experience, and a curriculum vitae is updated upon the completion of academic achievements. A second key difference is the layout and purpose of the document.

If a teacher in a four-year academic institution waited to update their resume upon completing work experience, they might only update it every four to six years. This would make their teaching experience seem nominal. But upon updating a teaching resume every time a new academic achievement is made, the resume more accurately reflects the professional’s development and growth in their field. This expands upon their complete academic history and achievements.

The same would go for a research assistant; the document (or resume) would be updated every time a new research study is published or completed, counting as research experience.

The only significant difference in length between a curriculum vitae and a resume is when the complete academic history goes over one-page in length. The professionals at findaphd.com describe that a curriculum vitae’s length should “never exceed four pages”.

How to Write a CV

A CV commonly contains the following information:

Follow these steps to write a Curriculum Vitae. Some post-secondary institutions provide their own CV format to follow. Before submitting a job application, be sure to review the institution's CV guidelines to ensure all required information is included in the CV.

Include contact information

Replace all contact information in the CV. This includes full name, address, contact information, LinkedIn URL, and more.

Detail academic history in reverse-chronological order

Include the full academic history. This would include post-doctoral programs, graduate school, undergraduate school, and high school. Only include the most recent two educational experiences.

Include relevant skills and qualifications

It's encouraged to create a separate skills section of the CV. Include relevant skills that align with the requested skills or requirements in the job description. Include hard skills (like technical skills) and soft skills.

Include honors and awards

Outline academic achievements in its own section. Include the award name, the year the award was achieved, the organization that provided the award, and how many people received the award.

Include relevant publications and presentations

Include presentations, books, publications, papers, studies, research projects, and more. Include the authors, date published, volume, page, and DOI number.

Associations and affiliations

Include the name of the organization, geographic location, or chapter of the membership.

Research experience

Include relevant research experience that shows innovation and academic achievements in the associated field of study.

Non-academic activities

Include relevant non-academic activities that display a willingness to grow, educate, and achieve honors through activities outside of the institution.

Certifications, grants, and community involvement

Include the grant name, the organization that provided it, how many people received it, and more. Include certifications by name, the year the certification was achieved, and how many people received that certification if applicable. Include relevant community involvement that shows merit in the job role or a desire to include communities in parts of the work.


Include professional and academic references as part of the CV, on a new page. References should include faculty, staff, administrators, and other professional colleagues who can vouch for the professional's work experience and academic achievements or merits.

CV Template

John Smith
3332 Main Street Chicago, IL 60610

Doctor of Physical Medicine Degree, 2019
The University of Chicago Urbana-Champaign, Chicago, IL

Professional experience
University of Chicago Urbana-Champaign
Professor, School of Physical Therapy and Kinesiology | 2018–2020

Taught multiple undergraduate and graduate courses in physical sciences and kinesiology.
Fostered student involvement and commitment to learning and excellence in physical sciences.
Acted as a student advisor to first-year students.

Skills and qualifications
Fluent in English and Spanish
Research skills

Awards and honors
PPVA Advocacy Award, 2018
Kinesiology Innovation Award, 2016

Publications and presentations
Sue Kim, R. Konoloy, A. Karlington (2017) “Understanding diet in the act of healthcare.” Journal of Modern Physical Medicine. 121: 321-56789.

Professional associations and affiliations
American Institution of Laboratory Medicine (2013–Present)
American Institution of Kinesiology (2011–Present)

How to Make an Effective CV

Follow these best practices to create an effective CV.

Format the CV document correctly

Use 9pt to 10pt font, the Helvetica or Times New Roman type. Use 1.5" line spacing at the most. With default business letter document margins.

Include relevant keywords

Use keywords in the CV that align with the job description or job advertisement. This includes referencing skills, education, merits, community involvement, grants, publications, and other honors.

Keep the CV under 2 pages

The ideal CV length is one-page. Though, for experiences academics, two-pages are acceptable. Keep the length of the CV under four pages.

Does a CV Require a Cover Letter

A curriculum vitae still requires writing a cover letter unless explicitly stated in the job advertisement or job description. The cover letter should include a story of the professional’s career, explaining the achievements in detail.

This style of a cover letter may be different from the cover letter of a professional on a job search for a Project Manager position, for example. A traditional cover letter may display career achievements and advancing a specific skill set that makes them experienced in that specific job or position. A cover letter accompanied by a curriculum vitae may speak about specific research studies, published works, memberships, and other qualifying factors in academia.

While an older study in 2016 by Jobvite indicates that roughly 50% of all hiring managers don't read cover letters, a cover letter is still important to some prospective employers. In the instance where the hiring manager reads the letter, it allows the author to formally introduce themselves and bring attention to each qualification required to excel in the position. For the hiring manager, this shows them the candidate has “done their research” about the company, role, and expectations of the job.

Sample CV (Curriculum Vitae)

Here is a sample of a curriculum vitae.

Sample CV

Compared to a chronological resume format or hybrid resume format:

chronological resume format

Download and use a functional resume template (sometimes referred to as "CV template") for writing a curriculum vitae.


author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, and many more.


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