How to Write an Academic CV [Complete Guide for 2021]

Writing an academic CV is a fundamental step in your application process right after you’ve shortlisted the places to apply. It is the foremost document to demonstrate your knowledge, areas of expertise, and proof of work to further your candidacy in academic jobs or research programmes.

Before learning how to write an academic CV, let’s first take a look at what it means:

An academic CV is a formal document outlining your educational background, teaching or research experiences, publications, awards, grants, fellowships, and any other relevant accomplishment in the field you’re applying for.

As we can see from its definition, academic CVs differ from generic ones.

How so?

First and foremost, a standard CV is a brief outline of your professional skills and background to showcase to your employer that you’re the right fit for the job. On the other hand, an academic CV is a detailed document that delves deep into your work experiences in various academic projects to showcase what you’ve learnt along the way.

Second, generic CVs run to a maximum of two pages. In contrast, academic CVs have no bar on length, and they often range between four and five pages.

Last but not least, the point of difference between an academic CV and its generic counterpart lies in the order of sections. The academic CV format follows a reverse-chronological arrangement of positions of responsibility and accomplishments.
But a typical CV is generally ordered to suit the job position that’s up for grabs. So, the most relevant sections are pulled to the top, followed by others.

How Should a CV Be Laid Out?

Model CVs feature a format that ideally directs recruiters’ attention to what’s essential. Clarity and readability are of the essence.

So, how do we work out the layout?

Here are a few general guidelines:

1. Use a considerable margin on both sides of the page.

The margin coherently aligns your text, and consistent alignment helps to focus attention. For example, if you’re going to use center alignment for a section heading, don’t shift to a different kind of alignment for other headings. Keep those headings consistent.

2. Your name should appear at the top, in large letters, followed by your contact details.

Most people go wrong with the contact details. They either overdo it or forget about it.

What to avoid:

An academic CV is a professional document, which does not require a photo. Links to Facebook accounts or any other social sites are strictly not allowed here.

What not to forget:

Include your professional or personal email address and contact number. Depending on the kind of position you’re applying to, you may also include your LinkedIn account. To further emphasise your skills, you may include a link to your online work portfolio.

3. Avoid using underlining and italics in your academic CV format.

They make it harder to focus on the points highlighted.

What to do instead? It’s simple:

Use bold fonts to highlight important parts. For example, use larger fonts for CV headings.

4. Most academic institutions have their own set of guidelines about the content and layout of CVs.

This is especially applicable for those writing an academic CV for PhD programmes, especially overseas. So, it’s always a good idea to research rules and requirements beforehand.

5. General tips on how to format a CV include:

  • A balance of texts and white spaces
  • Some space between the headings and the texts underneath
  • Professional look and feel
  • Consistency is key

How Long Should a CV Be?

how to write an academic CV

When it comes to professional resumes, there aren’t any hard and fast rules about how long it should be. That’s great, right?

Yes and no.

Remember not to include unnecessary details in your CV. Instead, include only those details about your academic career that may be relevant. The typical academic CV length is four to five. That said, the length depends on your discipline, the number of publications under your name, the number of projects you’ve been involved with, and so on.

Simply put:

[bctt tweet=”Your CV is bound to grow over time as you accomplish more and more in academia.” via=”no”]

What Is Included in an Academic CV?

Different posts demand vastly distinct skillsets, even within the same discipline. So, you should adjust the contents of your CV at every turn depending upon the course or job you’re applying for. What’s more, most university, sixth form college, and general academic job postings have eligibility requirements which you should read before applying with your CV. This is a surefire way to reorganise sections of your CV in a way that you score a seat.

For example, a research assistant’s CV should position their past research projects at the top, followed by a list of publications, and so on. Alternatively, if you’re applying for a teaching assistant position, your CV will look different. Then it’s wise to place your teaching experience at the top. An online teaching job puts particular emphasis on information and communication technology (ICT) skills, and so on.

Now let’s discuss what to include on a CV:


A vital section in an academic CV, this information is typically located in the foremost position, right after the name and contact details. You should list your degrees in reverse chronological order, including the department, institution, and year of completion. If applicable, you may choose to mention the title of your PhD thesis in this section, along with the name of your advisor(s).


On an academic resume, this is one of the key areas. It is imperative that you professionally display your publications. The publications that make a difference in the academic job market are peer-reviewed journal articles, which should be listed together and first. If you work in a STEM field, you might like to lead with peer-reviewed original research articles, followed by review articles.

Alternatively, you can choose to classify this section into books, edited volumes, peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters, book reviews, web-based publications, and so on. You might also want to make your name stand out by making it bold so that first-author articles are easily recognisable.

The status of the publication should be clearly stated, especially in the academic CV of a PhD candidate. Papers should be accompanied by tags such as ‘submitted’, ‘under review’. or ‘accepted for publication’, with as much information as possible. In general, publications should always be in reverse chronological order.

Conference Papers

If you’re experienced in presenting papers in international conferences or webinars, adding those details while writing an academic CV is a definite plus! List the titles of conferences you have attended, the name of the professional organisation that ran it, and the dates and locations. Attach a brief outline if applicable to your speciality. For a consistent and professional appeal, use the format prescribed by the university or organisation you’re applying to.

The rationale for including conferences and talks you’ve attended/organised as one of the CV headings is singular:

It shows your recruiter that you’ve been actively networking outside of your institution or even your country.

Grants, Awards, and Prizes

Highlight merit-based and need-based scholarships (regional, national, or international) that you may have received in this section. Awards for academic excellence or service also deserve mention here. Provide the award’s name, a brief description of its intent, as well as the award date for each one.

While a standard CV has no requirement for details of grants you’ve received, that’s not the case here.

Let’s explain:

If you’re using your CV to apply for research grants, then one or more grants you’ve received in the past may be counterintuitive when it comes to how to write an academic CV.

Why is that?

Well, if one or more grants or scholarships on your CV are active at the time of application, some universities offer a deducted amount than initially listed. That’s why it’s always best to check the university brochure to find out if such rules apply.

Include information about any grants/prizes you have been awarded for your research, including dates, names of the awarding body, and the amount awarded.

Research Interest & Skills

The research interest segment is a salient feature of a postdoc CV. If the research statement is affixed as an additional document with the CV, it can run between one and three pages. But when you include it as part of your academic resume, try to limit it to 400 words.

This area will outline your research experience until now, your interests, and your plans.

If you’re a researcher making your CV, then you can leverage this section in a number of ways:

  • You can let your employer know that your research interests align with their vision.
  • You can demonstrate your independent research capabilities.
  • You can sketch out and define your future career path.

When writing this section, describe the match between your interests and skillset and the department/lab you’re applying for. Write in clear, concise terms, and you’re good to go!


List the employment positions you’ve held that demonstrate your abilities and knowledge. Just like in a traditional resume, mention the title, the company, and the dates for each job, along with a bullet-pointed description of your responsibilities.

To amplify your academic resume, you can classify your academic experience into relevant areas like research, teaching experience, administrative roles, and so on. Make use of action verbs while writing this section to drive impact.


Belonging or leading esteemed societies and clubs during your tenure at a university enhances the worth of your CV. So, add these details in brief by starting with the names of the organizations, your roles and responsibilities, and dates of operation.


Academic CVs typically contain information about three to five referees. Here a few things to bear in mind while writing this section:

First, include all the contact details for the letter reference. This pertains to their mailing address, phone number, and email. Include their full name, title, and institution. It is customary to attach a title (Mr, Mrs, and Ms) or post-nominal letters (PhD, MD, CPA, etc.) with the person’s name if they prefer to do so.

Second, carefully choose which referees to feature in your CV; for example, you should select the people who you believe will provide the best, most favorable references to help you take things forward. Also, contact your referees beforehand and make sure they’re actually happy to write you a letter of reference. That being said, if the employer asks for certain references, list them at the top.

Third, double-check to make sure your referee information is current and that the names are spelled correctly.

Additional Information

Depending on the purpose of your CV, you may add other relevant information that might positively impact your application. For instance, you may choose to mention non-academic achievement examples, languages you’re proficient in, and training you’ve undertaken.

If you plan to submit your research to be evaluated by the Research Excellence Framework in the UK, you should include details about the wider impact your work makes beyond academia (on ‘the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life’).

How to Write an Academic CV: Writing Tips

Some tips and tricks to remember:

  • Keep it professional. No text message lingo or unnecessary abbreviations should appear in your CV.
  • Be consistent with the font style and font size. Go for formal fonts like Times New Roman instead of, say, Comic Sans. Use 12 pt fonts for the texts and scale them up higher for the headings.
  • Strategically place the most important information near the top and/or left side of the page. Place the name of the position, title, award, or institution on the left side of the page and associated dates on the right.
  • Maintain a count of page numbers by using footers.
  • Tailor the contents of your CV to suit the specific job you’re applying for. Shift or delete or expand upon certain CV sections as you evolve in your academic career.
  • Keep your CV relevant to the demands of the job at all times.
  • Check for grammar, spelling errors, and other inconsistencies.

In Conclusion

An academic CV is basically a resume that’s shaped to show your academic qualifications. Besides a covering letter and a work portfolio, academic CVs are the strongest proof of your academic calibre. While the market is constantly evolving, it remains the most popular tool for screening candidates in today’s competitive job market.

The guidelines presented here can help out starters in the game and those looking to bring their CV up to date. In addition, you can check out some academic CV templates here.

As a parting word of advice, we’d like to remind you:

A model CV showcases your skills and your academic and professional achievements concisely and effectively. It’s well-organised and readable, and it appropriately displays your most significant accomplishments. Don’t be ashamed of your achievements, but be honest about them as well.

Bottom line:

If you’d like to secure your dream job in research, teaching, or academia in general, knowing how to write an academic CV is the right place to start.

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