In this final post on PhDs and careers, we are looking into one of the most underrated elements of the PhD: the academic CV. The main reason you will likely create an academic CV is because you wish to apply to academic jobs. However, creating a record of your achievements obtained throughout your PhD can also be a very valuable exercise when working out which of your skills and experiences translate into non-academic roles. There are many formats that academic CVs take and everyone tends to have their own preferred method. Read on for some tips on which sections you might wish to include and how an academic CV may compare with a non-academic CV.
What should an academic CV do?
Similar to a resume for a non-academic job, an academic CV needs to showcase to potential employers why you are the best candidate for the role you are applying to. It needs to highlight your research and teaching experience, any publications you may have, conference papers or lectures you have given, professional associations, and awards. However, there are several differences to consider when writing an academic CV compared with a non-academic CV.
General standard practice is to list your experiences in reverse chronological order. This ensures that your most recent and current achievements are at the top of the list. You will also need to consider how you order your headings. More often than not, education, employment history and publications will be near the top because these details are what employers are most interested in.
An academic CV is generally much longer than a standard resume. This is because you need to include all of your publications, conferences and experience. The exception to this is if the job states that there is a page limit to your CV, in which case, you will need to consider which of your activities to include. Even though academic CVs tend to be longer, it is still important to consider the relevance of your activities to the role.
Tailor your CV to the role you are applying to, and if you know them, the people who are likely to interview you (most likely within the department). Some institutions or departments have different focuses than others. For example, some are more research and publication orientated whereas others have a greater teaching focus.
Skills and Qualities
While there will be a large focus on your academic output and activities, employers for academic positions are still interested to know how your skills and qualities make you the best candidate for the role. Examples include specific or technical skills you have gained during your PhD or if you speak multiple languages. These can be included under a designated heading or within a personal statement summary.
As with most roles, you will likely be required to provide at least two references. You will need to state their names, job title, address, email and phone number. It’s good practice to check with your references if they are happy to be included on your CV before you apply for any roles and to give them the details of the role beforehand.
Format or Example Headings
- Personal details: State your name (first name and surname), address and contact details at the top of your CV. Make sure that your name stands out.
- Personal Statement: An optional section where you can include your current research interests, skills and qualities. You may also wish to include future goals or ambitions that may relate to the role. This section should be to the point, and a maximum of three to four sentences.
- Education: Include your degrees and dissertations in reverse chronological order. You may wish to provide some detail about your dissertation(s), including the topic and research question(s), the names of your advisors, and any relevant modules taken. Make sure to include the institution and the duration of the degree.
- Employment History: It may be helpful to break this section down into sub-sections, such as ‘Teaching Experience’, ‘Research Experience’ and ‘Administrative Experience’. You can also include non-academic roles if relevant to the post you are applying to, under ‘Other Professional Experience’. Include key details of what the role involved. Bullet points are useful to ensure clarity and that key information is communicated.
- Publications: Include all books, book chapters, articles and book reviews in reverse chronological order. State the complete publication information for each record. If you are early in your career, highlighting publications that are either under review or in preparation helps to show employers what you are currently working on and your potential output.
- Conferences & talks: List any presentations (including poster presentations) you have given and any conferences or conference panels you have organised in reverse chronological order. It is often useful to state the name of the paper, the name and dates of the conference and the location.
- Honours & awards: Include all awards you have received related to your work
- Fellowships & grants: Include the organisation, and the title of the fellowship or grant and the dates. If listing a grant, it is optional to include the amount awarded.
- Professional associations: List all professional organisations that you belong to. These include societies and associations for your subject. Include any board commitments.
- Other qualifications: Here you can list relevant qualifications that you may have which you think will be useful in the role.
- Skills: Highlight any additional skills relevant to the role. This might include any languages, Microsoft Office, specific software or project management tools, website design and maintenance, and research skills such as archival or lab-based experience. If you have had experience with online or hybrid meetings or conferences, include it here.
When putting together your CV, it is useful to have others read through it to proof read and offer feedback. Ask if your supervisors will take a look, or your peers. Alternatively, your University Careers Service can offer advice through 1:1 appointments.
Try not to wait until the final stages of your PhD to write your CV. Your final year is likely to be very busy with finishing and submitting your thesis, undertaking your viva, and making any corrections. Thinking about what to do after your PhD in your final year and applying to jobs or post-doctoral positions at the same time can be challenging. If you already have a draft CV that you update regularly, this process will be much easier.
It is important to remember that your PhD provides you with many possibilities for employment across both academic and non-academic sectors. Spending some time to consider your choices based on your interests and skills is a valuable investment of your time, and will likely make the transition between your PhD and what comes next smoother. Going forward, talk to your supervisors about opportunities, and make use of your University Careers Service, who can offer advice and guidance in finding the right pathway for your goals and ambitions. While this is the final article in this mini-series, with luck, the topics covered have provided you with some starting points to think about when considering post-PhD routes.
Domonique Davies is a full-time PhD student in the School of English Literature and Languages at the University of Reading. Her project, part-funded by the Reading Regional Bursary, looks at the relationships between 20th century poetry and the current ecological crisis. She works part-time at the University of Reading Careers Service as a Careers Information and Events Assistant.