What's a CV, and How Does It Differ from a Resume?

Don’t make the mistake of using these terms interchangeably.

What's a CV, and How Does It Differ from a Resume?

CV is short for curriculum vitae, Latin for “course of life.”

Most American job seekers can tell you what a resume is—after all, it’s your golden ticket to capturing the attention of hiring managers—but fewer are familiar with its proverbial relative, the CV (which stands for curriculum vitae, Latin for “course of life”).

Here’s what a CV is not: a resume. If you’re confused, don’t worry. Both job seekers and hiring managers alike make the mistake of using the words CV and resume interchangeably. Though they have a lot in common, they’re two distinctly different documents. Think of it like this: They’re sisters, not twins.

What Is a CV?

While a resume focuses on skills and work experience, and only has a small section dedicated to education, a CV includes detailed information about your professional training and education. It’s most commonly used for academic jobs.

CVs often include these sections:

  • Education/Degrees
  • GPAs
  • Academic awards and honors
  • College courses taken
  • Theses or dissertations
  • Research experience
  • Teaching experience
  • Fieldwork
  • Published works
  • Patents
  • Licenses
  • Certifications
  • Presentations and lectures
  • Grants and scholarships
  • School affiliations (i.e., Phi Beta Kappa)

Because CVs offer a complete picture of your career credentials and academic history, they tend to be two to six pages—or longer depending on your level of experience—as opposed to the standard one- to two-page resume. Generally, your CV grows over your lifetime.

When to Use a CV Instead of a Resume

CVs are most commonly used when you’re applying to jobs in academia or in the scientific or medical fields, such as researcher, professor, or teacher positions.

Imagine you’re a registered nurse applying to work in an emergency room. Your work experience isn’t going to be the deciding factor. While experience is of course important, your future employer will first look to see that you have the necessary education, training, and certifications before they can consider you for the job. A detailed CV is the way to go.

Now, consider you’re a marketing professional. Your education and certifications are important, but the hiring organization will be much more interested to read about your professional experiences and skills.

International CV Versus a U.S. CV

As you’ve learned, in the US, a CV and resume are different documents. However, in many other countries, the words “CV” and “resume” are used interchangeably.

For example, in most European countries, the UK, and Asia, CVs are used in all contexts; the word “resume” is rarely used in these regions.

Have a look at CV templates on Monster’s UK site and Monster’s German site and compare them to U.S. resume templates—they more or less provide the same types of information. So if a British employer asks for a CV and you, the American, send your resume, you’re giving them what they’re expecting to see.

That said, don’t take chances. If you’re applying to work outside of the US, it’s worth clarifying exactly what document the hiring employer prefers.

How to Write a CV

All of your professional job application materials should be crafted carefully. These tips will show you how to make a great impression. For additional guidance, take a look at this sample CV for a research scientist.

Follow this standard outline:

  • Name and contact information: Be sure to include your full name, address, phone number, and email.
  • Summary statement: This is your chance to share your professional goals and anything that makes you particularly perfect for the role.
  • Education: Include details on your undergraduate and post-grad schools attended and degrees earned.
  • Employment: Provide employer names, dates of tenure, and descriptions of responsibilities. For clarity, you can create separate sections, say one is “Teaching Experience” and another is “Research Assistant Experience.” Provide a comprehensive history—not an overview. For example, if you tutored undergraduate students while in grad school, you might specify on your CV the subjects you taught, how many students you tutored, and what skills you personally gained from tutoring.
  • Academic honors and awards: Use specifics when possible. For instance, if you earned straight A’s every year in college, you’d write “Dean’s List (all semesters).”
  • Certifications: Include all licenses, accreditations, and certifications, plus the dates completed.
  • Conferences: List any invited talks or presentations you gave and/or organized, plus the dates.
  • Publications: Studies, papers, books, chapters, reviews, articles, etc. Include the title of your work, the publisher/outlet (if applicable), and date.
  • Professional affiliations: If you belong to a board, society, association, etc., list it here, making note if you held/currently hold any official position.

Make Your CV and Resume Stand Out

Don't apply to any jobs without getting your CV or resume checked out and polished by the pros. Need some help? Get a free resume evaluation today from the experts at Monster. It's a quick and easy way to make sure your credentials are strong, professional, and ready to get you an awesome new job.