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How to Write A Great PhD Resume (With a Template)

We share tips on how write an excellent PhD resume, as well as a free PhD CV example.

Feb 4, 2024
  • Education
  • Student Tips
Student working on a PhD resume

✨ 5-second summary

  • Understand your audience and highlight relevant academic and professional history accordingly.
  • Use a professional layout, concise language, bullet points for achievements, clear headings, and consistent presentation.
  • Customize your resume for each application, balance academic achievements with transferable skills, ensure clarity and conciseness, quantify achievements, and avoid using graphical skill assessments to prevent misinterpretation of your capabilities.

Unlike a traditional resume, a PhD resume must showcase an individual's scholarly credentials, research acumen, and potential for academic contribution. With the right approach, your resume can open doors to prestigious fellowships, research assistant positions, and esteemed academic roles.

That said, many people dread having to put together a document like this because it can be overwhelming. Read on to learn how to write an excellent PhD resume without losing your mind!

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Understand who you're writing the PhD resume for

Before you begin writing your PhD resume, it's essential to understand who will be reading it. Your audience may be one of the following:

  • Admissions committees comprised of faculty members from the department you're applying to
  • Research supervisors or principal investigators (PIs) if you're applying for a research position, such as a research assistantship or a postdoctoral role
  • Funding bodies and scholarship panels if you're applying for scholarships, grants, or other forms of funding
  • Human resources (HR) in academic institutions for roles that are more administrative or if the application process is managed through the university's HR department
  • Conference organizers and journal editors if you're submitting an abstract for a conference presentation or a manuscript for publication
  • Industry professionals like hiring managers, team leaders or department heads

Your PhD resume needs to resonate with the relevant audience. This means that you should highlight different aspects of your academic and professional history depending on who you're writing for.

For example:

  • If you're applying for a PhD program, you should highlight your academic and research achievements, as well as any fundraising experience.
  • If you're looking for an industry job, make sure to show how your knowledge and experience has helped solve real-world problems in the industry of the company you're applying for.

How to format and structure your PhD resume

Creating a PhD resume that effectively showcases your academic accomplishments, research experience, and relevant skills is crucial for advancing your career, whether in academia or industry.

Below are formatting and structuring tips to ensure your PhD resume stands out.

Formatting tips

Keep it professional

Use a clean, professional layout with a standard font like Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri, sized between 10 and 12 points. Maintain uniform margins around the document.

Be concise

Limit your resume to 1-2 pages if you're applying for industry roles.

An academic CV for faculty or research positions can be longer to include comprehensive details of your academic achievements.

Use bullet points

Break up text and highlight specific achievements using bullet points, making the resume easier to skim.

Include clear headings

Use bold or slightly larger font sizes for section headings such as Education, Research Experience, Publications, Teaching Experience and others to organize your resume logically.

Avoid including irrelevant information like your hobbies or interests, unless they're directly related to the industry or research areas of the company or institution you're applying for.

Stay consistent

Ensure consistency in how you present information. For example, if you start listing dates on the right side of the page, continue this format throughout.

What to include in your PhD resume

Header: Your name and contact information, including your email address, phone number, and LinkedIn profile or personal website/portfolio if applicable.

Summary: Briefly summarize your qualifications and why you're applying to that company/program.

Education: List your degrees in reverse chronological order. Include the institution, location, degree, and date of completion or expected completion.

Research experience: Detail your research projects, lab experience, and any significant findings. Mention the institution, your role, and a brief description of your contributions and outcomes.

Publications and presentations: Include a list of your published work and presentations at conferences.

Teaching experience: If applicable, list teaching positions, courses taught, and any innovations you introduced or teaching accolades you received.

Skills:

  • Highlight technical skills (e.g., laboratory techniques, programming languages, statistical software) and soft skills (e.g., leadership, project management) relevant to the position you're applying for.
  • Don't include obvious things like time management, critical skills, teamwork and Microsoft Word - everyone already expects you to have those.

Awards and honors: List scholarships, grants, and other recognitions that underscore your academic excellence and research potential.

References: While not always necessary to include in the resume, be prepared to provide references if requested.

PhD resume example / PhD CV example

Below is a free PhD CV example you can use in your own application.

PhD resume example, PhD CV example

Common PhD resume mistakes

Here are the 4 most common PhD resume mistakes to avoid:

1. Not tailoring for the specific role or program

Mistake: Using a one-size-fits-all resume for every application.

Solution: Customize your resume for each position or program to highlight the experiences and skills most relevant to the specific role or academic opportunity. Research the institution or company and the role to understand what they value most in candidates.

2. Only focusing on academic achievements at the expense of transferable skills

Mistake: Concentrating solely on academic accomplishments, such as publications and conferences, without emphasizing skills that are transferable to non-academic settings.

Solution: While academic achievements are important, also showcase soft skills (like leadership, teamwork, and communication) and technical skills (like data analysis, programming languages, or laboratory techniques) that demonstrate your versatility and readiness for diverse roles.

3. Neglecting the importance of clarity and conciseness

Mistake: Submitting overly long resumes filled with jargon and unnecessary detail that obscure key information.

Solution: Keep your resume clear and concise. Use layman's terms to explain research projects and achievements so that non-specialists can understand your work's significance. Aim for a two-page maximum for industry roles, but academic CVs can be longer to comprehensively cover your academic career.

4. Failing to quantify achievements

Mistake: Listing duties and responsibilities without providing concrete outcomes or quantifying achievements.

Solution: Wherever possible, quantify your achievements with metrics, such as the number of people trained, the amount of funding secured, or the impact factor of journals where your work was published. This provides tangible evidence of your contributions and capabilities.

💡 Pro tip

Don't use graphs to showcase your skill level

Lots of modern resume templates include stars, percentage graphs, progression lines like the ones here:

PhD Resume Mistakes

While wanting to make your PhD resume more visually appealing, these could ruin your chance to be accepted at a company or institution you're applying for.

There are two main reasons why these kinds of graphs could work against you:

  • The same "skill percentage" means different things to different people. What you consider 50% of JavaScript knowledge could very well be 75% or even 80% to the person looking at your application.
  • You don't always need to know 100% of a software/skill to do well in a role. If you add these graphs, you're indirectly communicating a lack of confidence in your ability.

SOLUTION: What you should do instead is simply list the skill on your resume, and you can always elaborate on your exact skill level later in the application or interview process.

Conclusion

A PhD resume differs from a standard resume in that it needs to highlight one's academic achievements, research capabilities, and capacity for scholarly contributions.

With a strategic approach, your resume can pave the way to distinguished fellowships, research assistant roles, and respected positions in academia.

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Keystone Team

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The Keystone Team is comprised of experienced educators and advisors dedicated to providing valuable resources and advice to students all over the world.

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