How to write your academic CV for a PhD application

Once you've decided on the department(s) and supervisor(s) you are going to contact and apply to, it is likely you will need to submit an academic CV as part of your application. 

For a PhD position, an academic CV is usually required to demonstrate your ability to undertake a PhD.

A CV which is used when applying for a PhD position varies from a standard CV or resume used when applying for a conventional job.

Your academic CV should provide a concise overview of your academic background and academic accomplishments.

Formatting a CV for a PhD application is fairly simple and straight-forward, but there may be variations across different areas of academia, so it's best to consult with members of your particular department, regarding any specifics attached to your field. 

Your academic CV needs to consist of a detailed subject breakdown of your University undergraduate and postgraduate (if applicable) degrees.

Many applicants also include a brief summary of their GCSE and A Level results, this is not mandatory and should only be included if you feel it is in any way relevant to your application. 

As a general guideline, your academic CV may include the following:

  • Personal Details and Contact Details - This should include your name as the document title, with all other details beneath. 
  • Education and Qualifications - Make sure this is in reverse chronological order. Include any relevant qualifications and/or relevant awards and prizes. 
  • Relevant Work/Research Experience - This can include both full time and part time work, paid or voluntary. Remember to keep this relevant to your application.
  • Skills - Include specialist and technical skills, along with IT skills, plus any skills that would be crucial for the PhD position.
  • Posts of responsibility - Highlight any post of responsibility, such as course organisation.
  • Attendance at conferences and seminars - List any conferences and/ or seminars you have attended or been invited to.
  • Interests/hobbies - Include any journals, relevant to your application, you read to keep abreast of new developments. Other relevant hobbies and interests should also be included.
  • Referees - Include at least two academic referees who have given you permission to be included in your CV.

When writing your PhD application, nothing is more important than realising who will be reading your CV.

Consider the report below, taken on behalf of the ACS International Schools group, when applying for a PhD position:

"University admissions tutors are most impressed by applicants who demonstrate a desire to study independently, a new poll has found.

Almost half of the admissions officers surveyed said that "independent enquiry" was the quality they prized most when assessing personal statements"

It's important to tailor your CV to each PhD you are applying for, different PhD positions will require different specifications.

An academic CV that isn't adjusted for each application, is unlikely to stand out from the crowd. Also, if possible try and keep your CV to no longer than 2 sides of A4.

A great PhD application, along with a well structured, thought out academic CV can be the difference in you receiving a PhD position, or not receiving one at all.

Take your time to write a first draft, then put it away for a few days. After you've written a second draft, show it to a few academics (preferably those who aren't afraid to point out faults!).

Make any necessary changes and double check for spelling mistakes and grammar issues. 

Examples of academic CVs can easily be found by simply searching "Academic CV Template" in Google or Yahoo.

There are also specific companies who are able to offer advice and even help you write your CV.

Further information

For more tips and advice on applying for a PhD, please see: