Are you a student who wants to apply to grad school? The key to a killer cv for master’s program that will make the admission committee take notice is finding the perfect balance between including all of your relevant experience and relevant skills and keeping it concise enough to hold people’s interest– but never fear, we have insider tips on how to perfectly craft a polished CV for your master’s program applications!

Keep reading for an in-depth look into how you can create an amazing application piece that will get noticed by your potential alma mater.

Two resumes for James Bond and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The difference between a curriculum vitae for higher education and a curriculum vitae for a job application

A curriculum vitae for a master’s application should focus more on academic experience since the admissions committee will be looking mainly at your educational background and key skills. It should feature details such as a complete education section with relevant courses taken, research projects completed, honors and awards received, and any relevant extracurricular activities.

The major difference between a CV used for work and a CV for a master’s degree is that the CV for graduate school highlights your achievements rather than describes what you have done in the past. A curriculum vitae for a job application has bullet points that highlight the work experience and the skills gained while you held a paid position. More descriptive in nature, it contains detailed information about any relevant duties or responsibilities from past roles, technical skills, and qualifications.

As you consider writing your CV, you should see it more as a way to demonstrate to admissions committees how you stand out from other applicants than showing how you fit any preconceived notions you might have about what the cv profile of a master’s student should be.

In other words, your CV is meant to give admissions committees a complete picture of how special you are. Keep in mind that admissions committees for master’s programs are looking to build a class, which means that they want master’s students whose experiences and skills will complement rather than blend into each other. Master’s programs aim to build an incoming class that is diverse and combines a multiplicity of perspectives. As you seek advice, beware of recipes, avoid cliches, and stay away from any cv template that you might encounter online. While the writing of your CV should aim to meet specific requirements, don’t let the writing process dim your light and turn you into just another grad school applicant. Be you. It is the best way to make a strong first impression.

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How Important Is Your CV to Your Grad School Applications: The Truth

There are two categories of people who apply to graduate school: people who have experience in their target field- either academic or professional-, and people who are looking for a career switch.

If you belong to the first category and just graduated with an undergraduate degree in the same field, or if you work within the field, your CV will be used by admissions committees to get a quick picture of you and your achievements. Most of the emphasis will be on your essays, grades, GRE, etc.

However, when applying to master’s programs to switch careers or after some time away from school, your CV will be looked at with more scrutiny and a carefully crafted CV can be especially important. As admissions committees review your application, they will want to understand your professional experience and qualifications and will look for relevant work experience. Focus on those positions that have given you the most relevant skills and qualifications for the master’s program you are applying for. This can help show the admissions committee that you have the necessary qualifications to succeed in their program Taking the time to craft your CV will set you up for success and help ensure that your application stands out from the rest. Your CV should highlight transferrable skills from previous roles which could be useful in your target program.

What an Academic CV for Master’s Degrees Should Be All About

Whatever your profile might be, the academic CV for a master’s application should include your full name, and contact information, and should have a professional tone. It should contain sections such as education, research experience, publications, presentations, honors and awards, teaching experience, and other relevant information. The academic CV should be tailored to the specific program you are applying to, highlighting your most impressive and relevant accomplishments. As it serves as a comprehensive representation of yourself, it should provide the admissions committee with the necessary information to make an informed decision about your application.

Blackboard with the word resume written on it.

What Differentiates a CV From a Resume?

The primary difference between a resume and CV for graduate school applications is the length. Generally, resumes are shorter documents that highlight accomplishments, skills, and experiences that are relevant to the position. A CV, on the other hand, is a much longer document that can include things like publications, awards, and other relevant information. A CV typically contains additional details about a person’s background.

When applying for graduate school, it is important to determine which type of document is required by the program and provide the appropriate information. Depending on the program, a CV may be preferred if you have a more extensive academic record, while a resume may be preferred if you are applying to industry-related programs. It is important to tailor your application documents to the program you are applying to.

In addition, resumes and CVs should be written with the field of study in mind. If you are applying to a research-oriented program, for example, it is important to emphasize the research experience you have accumulated. Conversely, if you are applying to a professional program such as a master of business administration (MBA), it is important to emphasize any professional experiences you may have.

Woman standing in front of blue background next to for arms and hands each holding a CV.

Should You Care About Listing Internships and Volunteer Work?

Including internships and volunteer work on a CV for master’s programs can be beneficial for applicants. Internships demonstrate that the applicant is capable of applying their knowledge and skills in a professional environment. It also shows that they are capable of working hard, taking initiative, and managing their time well. Additionally, volunteer work can demonstrate the applicant’s commitment to their community and prove that they care about others and about making a difference.

A master's student outside a university campus with a computer on his knees throwing CVs in the air.

How Long Should The Perfect CV be?

An academic CV for master’s programs should typically be between 1-2 pages long. A shorter CV may be appropriate if you have relatively few research and teaching experiences. However, if you have extensive experience in research and teaching, a longer CV would be more suitable as it will provide the admissions committee with a comprehensive overview of your experiences.

Man holding a cv for master's degree holding a magnifying glass over it.

Your CV Is a Great Opportunity to Show Off Your Writing Skills

When writing an academic CV for a master’s application, it is important to use language that demonstrates your knowledge and understanding of the subject. Use precise, accurate words and phrases to describe your qualifications, experiences. and academic achievements. Avoid using overly casual language or any jargon that could be off-putting to potential employers. Instead, focus on using formal terms and industry-relevant language throughout the document. Additionally, use active words such as “developed” or “created” to demonstrate your accomplishments. By doing so, you can create an effective academic CV that captures the attention of admissions committees.

Girl in a shirt with letter A on it sitting at her desk in front of a white lap top holding a white cell phone .

To ensure that your Master’s application stands out, don’t forget to include this key information in your academic CV!


A list of my academic qualifications in chronological order, starting with the most recent (with relevant GPA scores).


To demonstrate your writing skills, consider including a hyperlink for each paper that you have published so the commission can access examples of your work.

Outstanding Recognition

Highlight only the most impressive awards and scholarships.

Professional Experiences

Outline your applicable experiences in the field (if any).

Computer Skills

Enumerate your expertise with computers and any necessary abilities for the program.

Language Proficiency

Demonstrate your language aptitude with scores from standardized tests such as TOEFL, GRE, etc.

Light bulb with electricity in it in front of blue background.

Academic CV Format Guidelines

For your CV to be successful, it must not only captivate the reader with its content but also reach them in a clear and concise manner. To ensure that this occurs, you’ll want to make sure graduate admissions members can easily comprehend what they read.

When developing and optimizing your CV, keep these helpful formatting and organization tips in mind to ensure success:

  • For a more polished look, maintain the same formatting styles such as indentation, font size and typeface, spacing and grammar throughout your document.
  • Emphasize important details in your writing by employing bolding, italics, underlining, and capitalization.
  • To create an effective résumé, list your experiences in reverse chronological order within each section.
  • Make sure that your most important information is placed at the top and left of each entry, with associated dates conveniently located at the right.
  • Remember to emblazon every page with your last name and the corresponding page number as a header or footer.
  • Incorporate academic wording and phrases into bulleted lists; diversify your phrasing and do not reuse the same terms..
Master's student sitting on a bench outside with sunglasses smiling.

Every Piece of Your Application Should Be Crafted Carefully

A great CV will not get you into a master’s program on its own, but it is one important factor in the application process. If done well, it can give you an edge over other equally qualified candidates by highlighting your accomplishments and showing that you are truly passionate about the field. However, if done poorly, it may drag down your chances of being admitted. As such, be sure to put time and effort into crafting a masterful CV that accurately represents your skills and experience. Not sure where to start? The Admit Lab offers comprehensive services for master’s admissions, from cv writing help to essay guidance. We’re here to help you every step of the way so that you can confidently submit your strongest application possible! Got questions? Sign up for a consultation or send us a copy of your draft for an assessment, it’s FREE!

With a Master’s from McGill University and a Ph.D. from New York University, Dr. Philippe Barr is the founder of The Admit Lab. As a tenure-track professor, Dr. Barr spent a decade teaching and serving on several graduate admission committees at UNC-Chapel Hill before turning to full-time consulting. With more than seven years of experience as a graduate school admissions consultant, Dr. Barr has stewarded the candidate journey across multiple master’s and Ph.D. programs and helped hundreds of students get admitted to top-tier graduate programs all over the world.

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