Americans almost always use a resume when applying to jobs. In fact, the American resume is often more akin to what some countries view a CV. Yet, there are circumstances where employers and job seekers in the United States use a curriculum vitae. So, what is the real difference between a resume and a CV? And, when should a job seeker use a resume and when should they use a curriculum vitae in the US?


The most noticeable difference between a resume and a CV is the length. A general rule for resumes is that there should be one page for every 5 years of experience. An entry level resume should almost always be 1 page, but a resume no matter your experience level is never more than 2 – 3 pages.  (Check out tips to write an entry level resume here). A resume must be tailored to the specific job that you apply to and it is common for people to have many different resumes. (Find out if you need more than 1 resume).

Yet, a curriculum vitae is frequently significantly longer than 3 pages. It is longer because it is a detailed account of that person’s professional background. What makes a CV so long?


The biggest reason is that the content only gets longer as you grow. A resume is intended to dramatically change with each position and to capture only the most relevant portions of what you did in each role. To do this, you need to capture the right keywords and focus on the role you are applying to. (Check out how to write a resume that beats the ATS). 

Yet, a curriculum vitae is written using a different writing style and tone than a resume. A CV is a static document that only gets longer over time as you add achievements to it. The more achievements the better when crafting a CV. Here are some of the most common achievements that get added to a CV:

  • Courses Taken. An in-depth list of your most relevant courses taken is expected on a CV no matter your experience level.
  • GPA. Include your GPA for each degree on your CV. Unlike a resume, this information will stay long into your career.
  • Courses Taught. Adjunct and educators will typically include the names of the courses they have taught as part of their body of work.
  • Continuing Education. Include a list of the names of courses, seminars, or other workshops taken since graduation.
  • Competencies. This would be a list of substantive areas of expertise, tests administered, examinations, conditions worked with, surgeries performed – really a list of substantive knowledge within your field.
  • Grants. Receiving a grant to support research or other work is an accomplishment to be listed on your CV. Make sure to include the name, amount, and awarding body of each grant.
  • Awards. Make sure to include the name of the award, awarding body, a brief explanation of why you received it, and the year.
  • Scholarships. Akin to a grant, include each scholarship received on your CV with a brief explanation.
  • Speaking Engagements. List every speaking engagement on your CV. This should include the topic title, a brief explanation of the topic if not self-evident, location/conference presented, and year.
  • Presentations. Defending your dissertation? Presenting the findings from a recent research project? These are examples of presentations that would get listed separately on your CV.
  • Articles Published. Include a list of titles of articles that you have written or contributed to in any way. Consider adding hyperlinks to the titles of the articles if they are hosted somewhere that will be universally (and continuously) hosted online.
  • Works Published. Composers, authors, and directors will all have different types of works that will get published beyond a brief article. Make sure to include the title of each of these works separately, the body publishing the work, and the year.
  • Professional Memberships. Include a comprehensive list of all current or recent memberships in all outside professional groups. Make sure to identify any leadership roles in such groups.
  • Committee Memberships. Add all committee involvement, the purpose of the committee, the method of your involvement (volunteer or appointment), any titles you have held on the committee, and years.


A resume is nearly always appropriate in the US when applying to a job or responding to a recruiter’s request. Yet, there are times when the applicant should know that they are expected to submit a CV – even if they were asked to provide a resume (since Americans use the term “resume” loosely and interchangeably with “CV”). So, when is a CV the expectation?

  • Academia. Professors (tenured or not), adjunct professors for nearly every subject, and anyone looking to work as research or teaching assistants should have a CV to apply for the desired role. Using a resume to apply for these types of roles will only serve to expedite your rejection.
  • Higher Education. People looking at roles in higher education administration that are not faculty track (particularly department leadership roles) are often expected to provide a CV instead of a resume. This is often true for people looking to work in administration for prestigious schools of any size.
  • Medicine. Doctors, surgeons, dentists, psychologists, and other medical providers (other than nurses) will be asked to provide a CV rather than a resume. This is especially true when applying to roles within a university or teaching hospital, but a bit looser when looking at roles in long-term care or clinic settings.
  • Research. Anyone applying to a fellowship or in R&D should have a CV. Basically, anyone that will be working in a capacity to create or validate the innovation funded by the special funding should be prepared to produce a CV.
  • Science. People applying to roles as a scientist are often expected to provide a detailed account of their professional experience and methodologies. This wouldn’t be a “lab scientist” role, but instead a role in a particular discipline as a scientist (i.e. hydrologist, cryogenics, biologist, data scientists, etc.) In some cases, people applying for such jobs may be asked for more of a hybrid CV/resume than a true CV.

Not sure if you should submit a CV or a resume? Or, feeling overwhelmed in writing either? Submit your resume for a free expert review to find out if you are on the right track. The Contingent Plan resume experts can help assess what you are doing right, identify areas of improvement, and provide guidance on whether to use a CV or resume.


With years of experience in the job acquisition field, Kathy has delivered exceptional service by providing in-depth knowledge about recruiting qualified employees, and crafting the perfect resume. The Contingent Plan comprises a team of expert recruiters, resume writers, and outplacement experts—all ready to help you! Read Kathy’s blogs, and discover simple tricks and tips to help you land the job of your dreams.