Building a Standout Graduate School Resume

Examples and Advice on Curriculum Vitae & Grad School Resumes

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Graduate school often requires a resume or curriculum vitae for admission. Understand the difference and see examples of how to create a standout graduate school resume or CV.

Nearly all graduate programs require a grad school application resume. Prospective students need to craft a curriculum vitae (CV) or an academic resume showing their educational background, employment history, research experience, internships, volunteer work, and academic achievements.

A resume for applying to graduate school needs to make a strong impression quickly. According to research from Glassdoor, recruiters look at a resume for just six seconds before deciding whether to reject an applicant. The guide below offers future graduate students help with creating a CV or resume. Students can peruse templates, advice from experts, and other resources to create a standout resume that should impress an admissions committee and lead to a positive decision.

Graduate School Resume vs. Curriculum Vitae

Most graduate schools request a CV or a graduate school resume as part of the admissions process. While fundamental differences exist between a CV and a resume, both can help an admissions officer understand an applicant's background, experience, and knowledge. Therefore, using a good curriculum vitae template or following excellent grad school resume examples can boost a prospective student's chances of admission.

 

The following table provides more details about the differences and similarities between a CV and a resume.

 

Curriculum Vitae

Resume

Length

2+ pages

1-2 pages, depending on academic experience

Content

Covers a student's complete academic history; more detailed than a resume

Covers a student's professional history and skill set; more concise than a CV

Purpose

Used to highlight academic accomplishments, such as academic research, honors or awards, fellowships, and scientific positions

Used to highlight nonacademic accomplishments that relate to the graduate program

Ten Characteristics of a Standout Graduate School Resume or CV

For a graduate student's resume or CV to stand out, it must catch the interest of the admissions team. The following checklist can help keep a resume or CV on track.

  • Keep It Focused: A resume should highlight career achievements and academic work. Avoid including irrelevant experiences and save most descriptors for cover letters and interviews. Bullet points can help sharpen a resume's focus.
  • Include Internships and Volunteer Work: A resume can include more than paid employment. Internships and volunteer work that demonstrate skills and talents needed for the prospective program or job can boost a resume's content.
  • Mention Academic Accomplishments: A CV or resume can include a student's GPA, a list of academic awards, or even a sample of coursework. However, make sure included information is relevant to the target program.
  • Employ an Easy-to-follow Format: Every so often, a creative new resume format appears online. However, many managers and admissions officers find these formats confusing since they are accustomed to reading resumes in one of four or five standard styles.
  • Error-free Text: Admissions committees facing a stack of resumes often use errors as a way to sift through the pile. A well-proofed resume should contain no spelling errors, and it needs to demonstrate consistency in spacing and alignment.
  • Include Technical Competencies: Listing relevant technical skills, such as proficiency with programming languages or operating systems, can help make a resume stand out. Specific examples should support any claim of technical competency.
  • Call Out Awards, Grants, and Honors: Many potential graduate students have received awards, written successful grant proposals, and/or achieved an academic honor. Resumes can include this information -- either in a separate section or embedded in the standard education or employment sections.
  • Use Professional Styles: An easy-to-read style often trumps a creative presentation. Students should write resumes and CVs using 12-point font, bolded headlines, bullet points, and Times New Roman or another serif font.
  • Makes Use of Strong Verbs: As in all writing, verbs form the basis of powerful expression. The best resumes rely on verbs instead of adjectives to demonstrate a robust educational and professional background.
  • Flows Logically: An admissions team wants to see that a candidate can organize information in a systematic and logical way. Doing so on a resume can set a candidate apart as a clear and organized individual.

Templates of Successful Grad School Resumes and CVs

Writing a resume or CV can feel daunting, especially when you are trying to stuff years of education and research into one or two pages. Thankfully, you can organize your information logically by using a template. Look over the following examples of academic resumes and CVs from various institutions.

Academic Resumes

Templates

Completed Examples

Curriculum Vitae

Templates

Completed Examples

Need to write your statement of purpose?

Use this guide to learn what academic departments look for, how to structure a winning statement, and what our expert has to say on the matter.

Writing a Successful Grad School
Statement of Purpose

Expert FAQ: Additional Answers About CV and Grad School Resume Building

Erin Lewis, Career Liaison

Erin Lewis

Erin Lewis has worked in the Center for Career and Professional Development at Clarion University for the past 12 years and currently serves as a career liaison to education and training, arts and communication, and human services. As a professional staff member who specializes in resume writing, Erin trains and supervises the peer resume review team at Clarion University and has developed a resume assessment rubric for use with multiple courses.

Erin has an interest and specialty in online career services. She created virtual delivery of services through the university's online learning platform, which includes topics on the basics of resume writing, applicant tracking system resumes, keywords on resumes, and customizing resumes for a job search. Erin also created video resume reviews for students who are unable to meet in person for resume consultations.

What problems do you see grad students running into a lot when they are building out their resume?

A common problem for graduate students who are just building a resume is becoming overwhelmed. They have acquired many skills and experiences and don't know where to begin, what to include, or how much to include.

What advice do you give grad students who are building a resume but might not have a lot of job experience?

When I work with graduate students who might not have a lot of job experience, I first work with the individuals to assess and inventory their skill sets. From talking with employers, we know that a high value is placed on candidates who possess communication, critical thinking, teamwork, problem-solving, information technology application, and leadership skills; professionalism; and career management and global/intercultural fluency.

Candidates who can provide evidence on their resume of how they have gained these skills and applied them in a multitude of settings can be just as successful as candidates with work experience. Job experience is beneficial, but students should never discount the skill sets they have gained from clubs and organizations, volunteerism, classroom projects, or study abroad experiences.

Using the right words to articulate your skills on a resume clearly and concisely is extremely important. Incorporating industry-specific keywords and highlighting your KASE (knowledge, achievements, skills, and experiences) is critical to stand out in today's competitive job market!

Should grad students include a line about their references in their resume?

A line about references really depends on each application. If you are applying to a position that has already requested your references, it is not necessary to include any phrase on the resume regarding references -- simply include them in your application materials.

If you are attending a career fair or similar networking event, a line regarding references available upon request is acceptable but often unnecessary.

What kind of licensure or certifications should grad students list?

Every resume should be customized and tailored for each specific application. Your first priority is to include any licensure or certifications that the position description lists as required. Your second priority is to include what is preferred, followed by any additional licensure or certifications that will help to differentiate you from the competition!

Keep in mind MORE does not always mean BETTER. Employers, on average, spend 6-8 seconds on your resume. Include what is most relevant and keep descriptions clear and to the point.

Should someone's resume look different if they are an undergrad student vs. a working professional?

Every resume is as unique as the person who is writing it! Even students who sit in the same classes together are going to have varying experiences to include on their resumes. This means that while the basics of resume writing are the same for all individuals, working professionals may have different section headings and a different content order compared to a traditional undergraduate student. Additionally, working professionals will most likely have more work experience and content to include on their resume.

If you are a working professional looking to revise your resume, consider listing your work experience section first -- employers typically place a high value on this section. Additionally, any other relevant skills and experiences that relate to the position you are applying for should emphasize abilities and qualifications that match the job description. Remember, one of the most critical actions you can take with your resume is to tailor it to the company or position to which you are applying.

Should students always include a cover letter? Or just when it is indicated in an application description?

A cover letter is almost always important, even when it isn't specifically indicated in an application description. If you email your resume to a particular individual, the body of the email becomes your cover letter. If you upload your resume into an online database and there is no space for a cover letter, it is best to copy and paste your cover letter into the comment box of the application.

Be cautious with your writing communication. Your correspondence with potential employers should always be professional -- whether via email or online forms.

What is the best format to send a resume in?

The best format in which to send a resume is how the employer requests it. Be sure to read the job posting for specific application instructions. If there is no request for a specific type of document format, save the file as a PDF and send it as an attachment.

The name of your resume file matters! If you use a file name such as "resume" or "new_resume," you won't stand out and your file can be difficult to sort. It can also give the impression that you don't really care about the job enough to pay attention to details. Instead of a generic file name, use a format such as "Firstname_lastname_resume" to make it easier for an employer to find your documents.

When you are emailing your job documents, be sure to use a clear subject, such as "First Name Last Name Application." Carefully proofread all of your documents and correspondence to avoid errors.

Additional Resources for CV and Resume Help for Grad School

The list below includes a selection of articles from various websites related to job searching, resume writing, and bridging the gap between graduate school and the work world. Some websites target the general population, while others specifically focus on the academic community.

  • CareerOneStop: Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, this site offers extensive job search resources. Students can find a wealth of articles on writing resumes, crafting cover letters, and acing interviews.
  • How to Write a Curriculum Vitae: Published by the American Academy of Family Physicians, this guide provides a template for graduate students to use when creating a CV for jobs. The article includes a list of headings along with formatting tips.
  • How To Write Your Human-voiced Resume: Published in Forbes, this article offers a new take on creating a resume using storytelling, person-to-person language, and anecdotal evidence for career claims. The advice in this article could also help a student write a cover letter.
  • Resume Builder: Resume Builder helps users craft an effective resume using its online tool. The site also offers templates, examples, formats, and tips for writing both resumes and cover letters.
  • Resume Help: This site provides a variety of resources for job seekers, including a free tool that lets users put data into a professional resume template and then export the result to Microsoft Word or to a PDF.
  • Succeeding in Grad School: PhDs.org is a data-based site that helps doctoral students choose a program and achieve success. It published this list of 10 articles discussing success in grad school, including advice on finding a job.
  • Tips, Ideas, and Advice for Making the Most of Graduate School from GoGrad: This site offers extensive resources for graduate students across a variety of subjects, including how to write a winning personal statement and how to write a successful statement of purpose.
  • Versatile PhD: A total of 62 higher education institutions participate in the Versatile PhD -- a site that helps doctoral students create a bridge to professional careers. Users can use the site's tools to identify career options, participate in events, and learn about career searches.
  • What Predicts Grad School Success: This article from the American Psychological Association looks at the various factors that research shows are keys to finishing a graduate program, including curiosity, conscientiousness, native intelligence, and emotional intelligence. 
  • Writing the Curriculum Vitae: One of the internet's most extensive and authoritative resources for academic writing, the Online Writing Lab at Purdue University published this comprehensive article on writing a curriculum vitae.