The difference between a CV and resume
There are three main differences between a CV and a resume. Note that the differences listed here are specific to the United States — we’ll cover the international differences later.
- Scope: A CV is an in-depth look at your entire career, back to your first job out of school. A resume is a short highlight reel of your most relevant work achievements and skills.
- Purpose: CVs are used to apply for academic positions or graduate school programs. Resumes are used to apply for all other jobs.
- Length: A CV grows over your lifetime as you add new information, and can run over 10 pages in length. Meanwhile, the average resume length is one page, and only includes your last 10-15 years of work experience.
Still not clear on the biggest differences between a CV and a resume? No problem, we’ll explore them further in the following sections.
What is a CV?
CV is short for curriculum vitæ, which means “course of life” in Latin.
For Europeans, a “CV” follows the same structure as the American “resume”. For this reason, most CV templates and resume templates you find online look roughly the same — they’re one to two-page documents used to apply for jobs.
Yet when most Americans hear the term “CV”, they either A.) don’t know what it means, or B.) think of an “academic CV”, which is a lengthy document highlighting someone’s academic career — their professional achievements, notable research contributions, and publications.
Academic CVs are specifically for applying to universities or college research positions, and include details like your:
- publications and dissertations
- research projects
- attended conferences
- previous academic positions (and non-academic work experience)
- academic qualifications, including GPA, major/minor, educational level (Bachelor, PhD) etc.
- received grants
- professional affiliations (e.g., membership of the IEEE —Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers)
Academic CV sample
This academic CV was written by G. Richard Scott, a Professor of Physical Anthropology at the University of Nevada (the contact details are made up for the sake of his privacy).
Dr. Scott has been part of the American university system for over 40 years, so his CV dates back to the 1970’s. It’s 24-pages long.
What is a resume?
A resume is a one- or two-page summary of your work experience, key skills, and job-related qualifications.
In contrast to a CV, a resume is used to apply for most non-university jobs. So 99%+ of job seekers should learn how to write a resume rather than a CV.
This waiter/waitress resume sample shows how a standard resume should look:
Resume vs CV (international differences)
Outside of the United States, the word “resume” is generally swapped out for “CV”. This has led to some confusion, especially among Americans. We do our best to clear up this confusion here.
The UK and Europe 🇬🇧 🇪🇺
In most European countries (including the UK), a CV is a one or two-page document you use to apply for jobs. The term “resume” isn’t common, but is still understood by most hiring managers across Europe.
CVs for academic positions are also called CVs in Europe. However, you still might hear them called academic CVs since it makes the meaning clearer.
Canadian businesses use the word “resume” in the same way as Americans, likely due to Canada’s status as the US’s neighbor. Similarly, “CV” is used to apply for academic posts.
In Australia, resumes and CVs are both used to apply for jobs. Resumes tend to be one page, summarizing the main highlights of your career, while CVs are around two to three pages and outline all of your professional experience.
New Zealand 🇳🇿
Similar to Australia, a resume is usually one page and a curriculum vitae is two to three pages long in New Zealand. Both are used to apply for jobs.
An “academic CV” will be much longer, like in the US.
South Africa 🇿🇦
South Africa also uses the words resume and CV interchangeably. However, resumes are more common in the private sector (like business or the service industry), while a CV is used when applying for positions in public service or government.
When to use a curriculum vitae vs a resume
If you’re seeking a teaching or research position at a college in the US, use a CV.
The hiring committee will need to know as much about your educational background as possible before making a decision, and the best way to communicate this information is with a thorough curriculum vitae.
For any other positions (within a college or elsewhere), your education is less important, so you should write a resume.