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What Is a CV? Definition (Curriculum Vitae Meaning and Use)

What Is a CV? Definition (Curriculum Vitae Meaning and Use)

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What is a CV? What does CV stand for and why the confusion?


It’s a real problem.


“CV” has two different meanings and definitions, depending 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 a CV is in England or America.
  • What CV stands for & where to use it.
  • Why CV meaning differs by location.
  • How to write either kind of CV.


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


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



What Is a CV Document?


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 CVs and their definitions: 


What Is an American CV?


In the United States, a CV document is 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?


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.



What is a CV for Jobs?


A CV for jobs 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 Jobs


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.



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?




Take your finger off the panic button.


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


What is the Format of a CV?


  • 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.



Write a CV Letter


Let’s clear this up:


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.


What is 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 Tip: Start 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.


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!


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Tom Gerencer, CPRW
Tom Gerencer, a Certified Professional Résumé Writer (CPRW), is a career expert 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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