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Career Handbook

Resumes and CV's: The Difference

Some people confuse resumes and curricula vitae (CV's) because they can be similar and employers may use the terms interchangeably. Some employers may ask for a CV when they actually wish to receive a one- to two-page document others would call a resume.

The primary differences are:

  • purpose
  • length
  • content

To decide whether to submit a resume or a CV, you need to know what the employer, grant agency or graduate or professional school requires. Read application instructions carefully for directions. If the instructions are not clear, you might contact the organization for advice. It is important to note that employers and agencies in different countries have different requirements. At the point of completing a four-year college degree, your resume and CV may be the same.




A resume is a summary of your skills, experience and education related to the position for which you are applying. It is brief and concise.

A resume is a synopsis of the most relevant professional experiences you have for the particular position for which you are applying.

You may alter the resume when you are applying for different positions in order to emphasize different skills and experiences related to specific positions.


A curriculum vitae, Latin for "course of life," is a longer, more detailed synopsis of your experiences than a resume. It is a comprehensive record of all your professional activities including education, teaching, publications, awards and others.


Typically a resume is used to apply for positions in business, industry, government and the nonprofit sector in the United States.


In the United States, a CV is used primarily when applying for academic positions such as faculty openings and assistantships; scientific or research positions; and scholarships, fellowships or grants.

In Europe, the Middle East, Africa, or Asia employers expect a CV for jobs in any sector.


The resume is usually one to two pages for recent college graduates. For candidates with years of experience, the resume may be longer than two pages; it will depend on the field or industry and specific instructions from employing agencies.


In the United States there is no page limit to a CV. It is your whole professional life. If you are using a CV to apply for a position in a country other than the United States, check the requirements for that country.


There are many similarities between the categories on resumes and CV's. See the section in the Career Handbook, "Writing Your Resume or Curriculum Vitae" for a list of categories.


Since in the United States a CV is most often used to apply for positions in academia or research, it is important to include the following categories, in addition to those listed in a standard resume:






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