If you’re applying to graduate school or to a job, you may be unsure whether to submit a resume or a curriculum vitae (CV)—or even what the difference is between the two! In this post, we’ll walk through how to choose which type of document to create, explain how they differ, and give examples of each.
What’s the Difference?
The difference between a resume and a CV is one of degree. Typically, a resume is limited to 1-2 pages, while a CV is unlimited in length and is often more comprehensive. It includes additional, more specialized, categories that are not typically part of a resume. CVs also generally provide three references along with their contact information, or state that references will be available upon request. CVs generally offer more detailed descriptions of research and work experiences than resumes do.
Depending on the type of graduate program to which you’re applying, the content you include on either a resume or CV will vary. If you’re applying to medical school, for example, your resume would include your education, clinical experience, shadowing, research experience, extracurricular activities, volunteer work, honors/awards/scholarships, teaching experience if you have any, and skills. If you also have publications, presentations, or professional memberships, you would create a CV instead. (Note: med school applications do not require a resume or CV, but creating one can be very helpful in organizing your experiences for the activity descriptions on the applications.)
Which to Choose?
For graduate school, the choice between resume and CV will depend on your experience level and degree program. If you’re applying to graduate school right out of college or soon after, chances are the resume would be more appropriate, unless you’ve done significant original research, published articles, and/or served as a teaching assistant or instructor in a meaningful capacity. However, if you’ve taken a number of gap years before applying to graduate school and amassed additional relevant experience, a CV may be warranted.
In addition, if you are applying to a Master’s program, a resume would likely be sufficient. This is particularly true of MBA programs, where resumes are the preferred way to describe your background both as a candidate for admission and as an MBA alum looking for employment. However, if you are applying to a PhD or PsyD program, which heavily weight prior research experience in the admissions process, a CV would be advisable.
As for jobs, if you’re applying within academia—to a post-doctoral fellowship, for example, or a full-time academic position—submit a CV. For most jobs outside of academia—such as at a nonprofit, a consultancy, or a newspaper—submit a resume. There are, however, exceptions to this rule (if you’re applying to work as a curator at a museum, for instance, a CV is appropriate), so make sure to research your particular field and read job descriptions carefully before you apply.
Sample Content of Resume vs CV
We would like to illustrate the differences between representing your experiences on a resume versus a CV, and will use the example of a creative writer who has had teaching experience as well as publications.
Resume. Here is an example of how a creative writer’s teaching experience might be summarized on a resume:
The New School, New York, NY 2016–2020
Part-Time Faculty (2017-2020) Taught fiction and nonfiction courses across the Literary Studies Department, First-Year Writing Program, and First-Year Seminar Program, including “Intermediate Fiction,” “Introduction to Fiction,” “Introduction to Nonfiction,” “Solitude & Community,” and “The Loss of Oneself: Mental Illness Narratives.”
Teaching Assistant (2016-2017) Assisted professors in the Parsons School of Design.
Tutor (2016) Guided students one-on-one at the University Learning Center.
Curriculum Vitae. In contrast, on a CV, this experience could be expanded as follows:
The New School, New York, NY 2016–2020
Part-Time Faculty (2017-2020) Taught fiction and nonfiction courses across the Literary Studies Department, First-Year Writing Program, and First-Year Seminar Program, including the following:
“Intermediate Fiction,” Literary Studies Department, fall 2020
Each unit of this course explored fiction’s capacity for mining the strange with regard to a different element of craft. Strange Minds encompassed fiction that offered unexpected twists on narration and character; Strange Worlds, fiction that played with setting, including magical realism, surrealism, and science fiction; and Strange Forms, stories with atypical structures. Throughout, we considered when, how, and to what extent genre distinctions are useful. Students wrote one full-length story that was workshopped twice, involving substantial revision.
“Intro Fiction,” Literary Studies Department, spring 2020 & fall 2020
This course took as its starting point the idea that, as novelist Susan Choi puts it, “Writing fiction is like dreaming.” We read writers who model not only excellent craft but also imagination, bravery, and novelty on the page. Students engaged in impromptu writing exercises designed to open them up to the surprising and sometimes uncomfortable recesses of their imaginations; these formed the basis for the stories they submitted for workshop.
“Solitude & Community,” Lang First-Year Seminar Program, fall 2019
This course was built on the premise that solitude and community are not in conflict but are mutually reinforcing. We began with essays and nonfiction about being alone; moved onto readings about the formation of communities, from families to creative partnerships; and finished with fictional explorations of the subject matter.
The CV could include additional entries for the other courses and positions the resume simply listed.
Similarly, your publications could be represented in two different ways – on a resume or CV – depending on the type of degree or job you are applying for and the requirements.
Resume. If a resume is appropriate or required – you’re applying to a job outside of academia, for example – you can summarize any publication experience you have, like so:
Freelance Writer, Remote 2010-Present
Nonfiction writer Published in The New York Times Magazine, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Paris Review Daily, New York Magazine’s “Vulture,” Tablet, TED.com, Longreads, The Millions, Bookforum, Curbed, BBC, The Chicago Review of Books, Women’s Health, and Marie Claire.
Fiction writer Debut novel, The Arts Within, published in 2020. Short fiction published in Litro Magazine.
Curriculum Vitae. In contrast, on a CV, this experience could be expanded. A CV would be particularly appropriate if you’ve amassed significant publications. Here’s how this might look, in part:
The Arts Within (Doodle Press, August 2020), a novel
Essays and Criticism
“My Aquaphor Addiction,” Slate, March 22, 2021
“A Brief (But Not Too) History of Literary Constipation,” Literary Hub, September 24, 2020
“Letter of Recommendation: Long-Distance Friendships,” The New York Times Magazine, May 3, 2020
“Poetry and Persona,” Los Angeles Review of Books, May 25, 2015
“In Defense of ‘Indulgent’ Art,” Flavorwire, May 19, 2015
“Writing the Lake Shore Limited,” The Paris Review Daily, February 19, 2014
“Live on Air,” The Paris Review Daily, May 17, 2012
“Can ‘Phone Booths’ Solve the Problem of Open Plan Offices?,” BBC Worklife, August 9, 2019
“Study Behind the Scenes,” Barnard Magazine, Winter 2016
“The Price of Being Single,” TED Ideas, October 21, 2015
“Kids at Play,” The New York Times Magazine, October 10, 2014
“What Can Jeopardy Tell Us About Uptalk?,” Smithsonian Magazine, January 2014
“Decoding Music’s Resonance,” NEA Arts Magazine, November 12, 2013
“The Modernist Viewfinder,” The New York Times Magazine, October 21, 2012
“A Contemporary Freudian Slip,” Tablet, May 7, 2012
“Call Me Eliza,” Litro Magazine, November 29, 2015
This illustrates how your background can be represented differently – but always authentically – depending on your career goals and the intended position.
Planning for graduate school is a complex process. If you would like guidance on any aspect of the application and admissions process, please contact us. As always, we’re happy to help!
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