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What Is a CV? Meaning & Definition of Curriculum Vitae

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What is a CV? What does CV stand for and why the confusion? It’s a real problem for job applicants. “CV” has two different meanings and definitions, depending on where you’re from.

Don’t fret. There’s a simple explanation (well, two). Just scroll down to see the CV meaning you need.

This guide will show you:

  • What is a CV in the United Kingdom or America.
  • What CV stands for & where to use it.
  • Why CV meaning differs by location.
  • How to write either kind of CV.

Want to save time and have your CV ready in 5 minutes? Try our CV builder. It’s fast and easy to use. Plus, you’ll get ready-made content to add with one click. See 20+ CV templates and create your CV here.

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Sample CV made with our builder—See more CV examples and create your CV here.

Looking for CV examples? Look no more: CV Examples for Every Profession

What is a CV: Academic CV Example

Lucas Dixon

Researcher

123-456-7890

lucasdixon@email.com

linkedin.com/in/lucas.dixon

Research Objective

A proactive researcher with 10+ years of experience teaching courses on undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Supervised 22 BA and 9 MA theses and published over 30 articles in peer-reviewed journals. Edited and co-authored 3 monographs on contemporary trends in psychology and psychoanalysis.

Education

Ph.D., Psychology

Department of Social Sciences

University of Houston, Houston, TX

September 2005–May 2010

Thesis Title: "The role of cognitive dissonance in decision-making"

Thesis supervisor: Prof. Jane Smith

Professional Appointments

Lead Researcher

NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX

January 2011–Present

Responsibilities encompass overseeing various cognitive psychology research projects, including experimental design, data collection, analysis, and interpretation. Also collaborates with a team of researchers to ensure the smooth execution of studies and significantly contributes to advancing our understanding of the human mind.

Publications

  • Dixon, L., & Smith, J. (2012). Cognitive Dissonance and Decision-Making. Journal of Psychology.

Awards and Honors

  • 2018, Outstanding Researcher Award, American Psychological Association

Grants and Fellowships

  • 2017, Research Grant, National Science Foundation

Conferences

  • Invited to talk at the 2019 American Psychological Association Annual Meeting.

Teaching Experience

  • Cognitive Psychology, University of Houston, 2011-2015

Research Experience

  • Lead Researcher, NASA's Johnson Space Center, 2011-Present

Additional Activities

  • Volunteer, Houston Mental Health Awareness Charity, 2016-Present

Languages

  • English—Native proficiency
  • Spanish—Intermediate proficiency

Skills

  • Data Analysis
  • Statistical Software (SPSS, R)
  • Teaching
  • Empathy
  • Academic writing
  • Qualitative research methods

References

  • Available upon request.

1. What Is a CV Document?

What does the CV stand for? CV stands for Curriculum Vitae or “course of life.” In the US, a CV is a 2–12 page academic document that describes your school career in deep detail. In Europe, a CV is a standard 1–2 page resume for a job, tailored to the position.

In other words, the meaning and definition of a CV depends on your location.

Here’s a quick rundown of both kinds of CV definitions: 

What Is a CV in America?

In the United States, the definition of a CV is a document that's an exhaustively comprehensive rundown of your entire academic career. It’s massive, like a federal resume or academic cv.

Since it’s not tailored to a specific job opening, it adds everything universities might care about. That means every publication, conference, and school project you’ve done.

What Does CV Mean in England & Europe?

In Europe and Ireland, a CV is a resume for a job. It’s 1–2 pages long. It doesn’t list every achievement. Instead, it touts accomplishments that prove key skills needed for the job. It’s similar to American resumes with a few notable exceptions.

Do you need to write a CV or a resume? See our guide: CV vs. Resume: Difference, Definitions & When to Use Which

Pro Tip: What is a Curriculum Vitae? CV stands for those two Latin words. It’s an acronym for “Course of” and “Life.” Your resume is the course of your life in short.

2.What Is a CV for Jobs?

 A CV for a job is the same as a resume for jobs. Europeans and New Zealanders call it a CV, and Americans call it a resume. Either way, CV meaning is the same. It’s just a 1–2 page document showing skills and experience.

How to Write a CV for a Job

Hold up a sec.

If you’re in America, don’t write a job CV. Write a resume instead. Need help? See our guide: How to Make a Resume for a Job [from Application to Interview in 24h]

If you’re in the US and writing an academic CV, see the section below.

If you’re applying for a job in Europe or New Zealand, here’s how to write a job CV:

  1. Choose the right CV format.
  2. Lead off with your contact info.
  3. Write a CV summary.
  4. Add tailored work experience and achievements.
  5. Include an education section that fits the job.
  6. Salt in bonus CV sections to wow recruiters.
  7. Save your work in PDF form.

Americans applying for work in Europe or New Zealand may need to write a job CV. If that’s you, see our guide: How to Write a CV for a Job in 7 Easy Steps

Pro Tip: What is a CV summary? It’s the same as a resume summary. It’s a short paragraph at the top of your CV that gives your key achievements in a nutshell.

When making a CV in our builder, drag & drop bullet points, skills, and auto-fill the boring stuff. Spell check? Check. Start building a professional CV template here for free.

When you’re done, Zety’s CV maker will score your CV and tell you exactly how to make it better.

3. What Is an Academic CV?

We know. It’s daunting. You’re trying to put your whole school life on paper to impress the powers that be. Where do you start? What do you leave out?

Aargh!

Take your finger off the panic button.

Thankfully, writing a CV for academia isn’t thesis-paper hard. (But CV meaning for schools is different.)

How to Make an Academic CV Format:

  • Use 1-inch margins all the way around.
  • Pick one good CV font and stick with it.
  • Make your CV as long as you need.
  • Save your academic CV as a PDF.
  • List education first, then publication, honors, grants, and conferences.
  • Add teaching and research experience.

Want to learn more about the right CV format? Check this out: CV Format: How to Structure Your CV

Pro Tip: Your CV can be two pages long or six or 12 or 15. Just use whatever length lets you show all your academic accomplishments.

4. What Is a CV Letter?

Some people think a CV is a letter. It’s not. It’s a kind of resume. To refresh: in Europe a CV is just like an American resume. In America, CV meaning is: a comprehensive academic resume.

But there is such thing as a CV letter.

A CV letter is a cover letter for your CV. In a CV letter for a job in Europe or New Zealand, it adds achievements that prove you’ll fit the job. With an academic CV, it shows passion and fit for a position or award.

Do you need to write a CV letter? See our guide: How to Write a Cover Letter for a Resume

Pro TipStart your CV letter with a hook. You need to grab the reader right away so they don’t get bored and skip your letter–and your CV.

Plus, a great cover letter that matches your CV will give you an advantage over other candidates. You can write it in our cover letter builder here. Here's what it may look like:

matching set of CV and cover letter

See more cover letter templates and start writing.

Key Takeaway

Summary: What is a CV?

  • In Europe, Ireland, and New Zealand, CV meaning is the same as a US job resume. We just call them different names.
  • In the US, a CV is an exhaustive academic resume, usually 2–12 pages long.
  • Use an academic CV in the US for master’s or doctoral programs. Don’t tailor it to any job or position.
  • Customize a CV for a job in Europe or New Zealand just as you would customize a US resume.

Still can’t figure out the answer to “what is a CV?” Do you have questions about when to use a CV or when to use a resume? Give us a shout in the comments. We’d be happy to reply!

About Zety’s Editorial Process

This article has been reviewed by our editorial team to make sure it follows Zety's editorial guidelines. We’re committed to sharing our expertise and giving you trustworthy career advice tailored to your needs. High-quality content is what brings over 40 million readers to our site every year. But we don't stop there. Our team conducts original research to understand the job market better, and we pride ourselves on being quoted by top universities and prime media outlets from around the world.

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Tom Gerencer, CPRW
Tom Gerencer is a career expert and Certified Professional Resume Writer who has published over 200 in-depth articles on Zety. Since 2016, he has been sharing advice on all things recruitment from writing winning resumes and cover letters to getting a promotion.
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