How to Build a Strong CV and Résumé

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How to Build a Strong CV and Résumé


Kendra Redmond, Editor (as the interviewer)

Q&A with Michael “Bodhi” Rogers from the University of Colorado Denver

Bodhi Rogers is chair of the Department of Physics at the University of Colorado Denver. He created and teaches a series of one-credit professional development seminars for physics majors.

Question: Many graduate programs require a résumé or curriculum vitae (CV). Why?

Your transcript is an official record of your courses, the grades you earned, your major and minor, and the degree you received. All of this information is useful for graduate selection committees, but it only reveals one aspect of your academic accomplishments.

On a résumé, the entire contents of your transcript will typically be reduced to a few lines in the education section stating your type of degree, major and minor, the date the degree was awarded, and your GPA (if you choose to include it). The rest highlights your cocurricular activities, such as leadership roles, research, presentations, publications, and work history, and the skills and abilities you gained during your undergraduate career. Together, your résumé and transcript give the selection committee a more complete view of your accomplishments and abilities.

Question: What's the difference between a résumé and a CV?

A résumé is typically short, a couple of pages at most, and highlights your experiences, accomplishments, and skills relevant to the job or program you’re applying to. I think of a CV as an uber-résumé that contains every accomplishment and highlight of your career. This definition is typical in North American academia, although in other usages the term CV may be interchangeable with résumé.

Question: Which one should students write?

I encourage you to create a comprehensive CV (the uber-résumé). Then, when you’re applying to something, just remove the irrelevant lines. I created my CV using LaTex, which makes it super easy to comment out the entries I don’t want on my résumé.

Your CV should include your education; work, research, teaching, and leadership experiences; awards and honors; professional society memberships; presentations; and publications. You should also include your skills and proficiency level, even if it’s hard to classify. The takeaway message is to include everything on your uber-résumé.

Question: How can students strengthen their CV and résumé?

I teach a professional development seminar to students midway through their undergraduate careers. They build a résumé, look at their successes, and identify any gaps. Then they develop an individualized plan for filling out their résumé over the next few semesters. This might include presenting at an upcoming conference, publishing in the Journal of Undergraduate Reports in Physics (JURP), or taking on a leadership role in SPS. The students also build a calendar of deadlines related to their plan—graduation comes fast!

Question: What are some emerging ways students can convey their accomplishments?

A comprehensive learner record (CLR) is similar to a transcript but includes cocurricular accomplishments, such as being a club officer, winning an award, or presenting at a university symposium. Some schools are piloting the use of CLRs to capture and convey more complete pictures of their students.

Using badging to record accomplishments is also becoming popular. You can get a badge by attaining an assessed competency or participating in a workshop or event. LinkedIn’s skill assessments feature is an example. How well do you know how to program using Python? The badge you earn conveys your skill level to others.

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Publish Your Undergraduate Research in JURP

The Journal of Undergraduate Reports in Physics (JURP) is a peer-reviewed SPS publication featuring papers by undergraduate physics and astronomy researchers. Learn more at


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